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Defense & National Security — Senior ISIS leader killed in US airstrike

Smoke rises over the town of Kobani during airstrikes by the US led coalition, seen from the outskirts of Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The U.S. military announced Tuesday that a top ISIS leader was killed by an airstrike in northwest Syria.  

We’ll talk about the airstrike. Plus, we’ll recap the standout movements from the hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

US airstrike kills top ISIS leader

A top ISIS leader was killed by a U.S. air strike in northwest Syria on Tuesday, the military announced

The strike outside of Jindayris killed Maher al-Agal, the leader of ISIS in Syria and one of the top five leaders of the terrorist group, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. 

In addition, a senior ISIS official “closely associated” with al-Agal was seriously injured during the strike, the statement said without identifying the individual. An initial review of the strike indicated that there were no civilian casualties, according to the military. 

‘A powerful message:’ In a written statement issued by the White House, President Biden thanked the U.S. military officials involved in the strike against Maher al-Agal, the leader of ISIS in Syria, and said that the U.S. and its allies would be safer as a result.   

  • “His death in Syria takes a key terrorist off the field and significantly degrades the ability of ISIS to plan, resource, and conduct their operations in the region,” Biden said.   
  • “This airstrike represents the culmination of determined and meticulous intelligence work and stands as testament to the bravery and skill of our armed forces,” he continued. “It also demonstrates that the United States does not require thousands of troops in combat missions to identify and eliminate threats to our country.”

The latest strike: The strike is the latest the U.S. has carried out in northwest Syria targeting leaders of terrorist groups.   

In late June, Abu Hamzah al Yemeni, a senior leader of the al Qaeda-linked group Hurras al-Din, was killed by a strike in the northwestern province of Idlib. 

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, a senior leader of ISIS, was killed after he blew himself up during a U.S. air raid targeting him.

Panel focuses on Trump tweet, extremist groups

Tuesday’s hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol focused on the link between a December tweet from former President Trump and extremist groups.  

Who testified? The committee heard testimony from Stepen Ayres, who illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, and Jason Van Tatenhove, former spokesperson for the far-right militia group Oath Keepers. 

  • Van Tatenhove told the panel “we need to quit mincing words and talk about truths.” 
  • “What it was going to be was an armed revolution. People died that day … there was a gallows set up. … This could have been the spark that started a new civil war,” he said.   

Shifting strategies: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said individuals around Trump have recently changed their strategy when dealing with the Jan. 6 select committee, opting to blame the “crazies” in Trump’s orbit for his actions. 

During her opening statement at Tuesday’s public hearing, Cheney said witnesses and lawyers connected to Trump have gone from denying arguments and delaying proceedings to blaming outside advisers for Trump’s conduct — a plan that she labeled “nonsense.” 

The December meeting: Former White House lawyers and Trump allies recalled a heated Dec. 18, 2020, meeting in which they fought over whether there was an avenue to proceed with election challenges. 

  • In recorded testimony shown as part of the hearing, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone recalled pressing Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani for evidence of their claims of election fraud but getting none in response.
  • Eric Herschmann, another former White House lawyer, told the committee, “What they were proposing, I thought was nuts.” 

Trump tried to call witness: At the conclusion of the hearing, Cheney said Trump tried to call a witness expected to appear at a future hearing, raising further questions about potential witness tampering. 

“After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation, a witness you have not yet seen in these hearings,” she said. “That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer to the call. Their lawyer alerted us, and this committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice.” 

JUDGE DISMISSES SEAN SPICER’S NAVAL ACADEMY BOARD LAWSUIT

A Washington, D.C., federal judge tossed out former White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s lawsuit against President Biden over his dismissal from the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors last year. 

In a six-page order filed Monday, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich found that federal law “did not insulate” Spicer from removal from his position. Therefore, the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for relief. 

The back-and-forth began in September, when Biden sought the resignations of Spicer and former Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought from the Naval Academy Board. 

Former President Trump appointed them to the board in the final weeks of his presidency as he looked to stock advisory boards with loyalists. Spicer’s term was slated to end in December, and Vought’s at the end of next year. 

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Middle East Institute will host a discussion on “Resolving the Detainee Dilemma II: What Next for the Men, Women & Children of Islamic State” at 9 a.m. 
  • The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a full committee markup at 10 a.m. 
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a full committee hearing on nominations at 10 a.m. 
  • The Hudson Institute will hold a virtual event on “Middle East Missile Defense” at 12 p.m. 
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion on “Security Assistance to Ukraine: The State Department’s Role” at 1:30 p.m. 
  • The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security will hold a hearing on “Protecting Military Servicemembers and Veterans from Financial Scams and Fraud” at 2 p.m. 
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host an event, “Maritime Security Dialogue: Naval Aviation Update” at 3 p.m. 
  • The Foundation for Defense of Democracy will host a discussion on “Degrade and Destroy: The Inside Story of the War Against the Islamic State, From Barack Obama to Donald Trump” at 3:15 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!


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Tags Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi Biden Liz Cheney Pat Cipollone
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