Defense & National Security — US forces kill major ISIS leader | The Hill
U.S. forces stormed a mountain complex in northern Somalia and took down a key member of the foreign terrorist group ISIS.
We’ll talk about the raid, how it went down and why the U.S. was targeting the ISIS leader.
Plus, we’ve got the details on new sanctions on Russia’s Wagner Group and a breakdown of the U.S. tanks headed toward Ukraine.
This is Defense & National Security, your guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Brad Dress. Subscribe here.
US forces take down ISIS leader in Somalia
On Wednesday night, American troops killed a key ISIS leader who helped grow the organization in Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. forces also took down 10 other members of the foreign terrorist group. There were no U.S. casualties.
The death of Bilal al-Sudani in a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia leaves the U.S. and allies “safer and more secure,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“And it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” Austin said in a statement.
A major financier: al-Sudani was an operative and facilitator for ISIS’s international network and a major funder for the terrorist group.
Senior administration officials said he was a key financial backer for foreign violent extremists in Somalia.
His operational and financial role made him a major target for the U.S.
The operation: The U.S. wanted to capture al-Sudani, but said a hostile response led to his death.
Members of President Biden’s national security team were aware of the operation months ago.
Biden, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy CIA Director David Cohen, were briefed on the mission last week.
The president signed off on the operation after asking questions about risks to U.S. troops and civilians and after a recommendation from Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
NEW SANCTIONS FOR RUSSIA’S WAGNER GROUP
The U.S. is continuing to impose heavy penalties on Russian mercenary company Wagner Group, which is overseeing brutal fighting in Ukraine.
The State Department announced sanctions against the private paramilitary group’s infrastructure and front companies, as well as those producing weapons for Russia.
“This action supports our goal to degrade Moscow’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine,” the State Department wrote in a news release.
Targets: The new sanctions target five entities and one person associated with the Wagner Group, including an aviation firm used by the company and a Wagner-based propaganda organization.
Additionally, three members of Russia’s federal prison department were sanctioned for facilitating the transfer of Russian prisoners to the Wagner Group to fight in Ukraine, and several Russian businessmen and entities were also named.
The sanctions further targeted Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, who was scolded by Russian President Vladimir Putin this month for not working fast enough on aircraft contracts.
Roundup: Wagner Group and its leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin, are coming under increasing scrutiny as paramilitary forces wage war in Ukraine.
The State Department last week listed the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization and said any entities or nations doing business with the group would run afoul of the U.S. government.
To others, not far enough: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday to go even further and designate Wagner Group a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
The Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries (HARM) Act would require an FTO designation, which would give the U.S. more jurisdiction against Wagner Group, within 90 days of the legislation’s enactment.
“Where the Wagner Group operates, atrocities follow,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said in a statement.
Ukraine getting latest edition of Abrams tanks
The high-tech, sought-after M1 Abrams tanks heading over to Ukraine in the fall are the top of the line.
Washington will send over to Kyiv the most updated version of the tank, the M1A2, which is considered more lethal and runs on a digital system.
Not a lot of them: These tanks are not in excess in U.S. stocks, so it will take some time to get to Ukraine.
The Pentagon said it will procure the tanks through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).
That means they will buy the heavy combat vehicles directly from manufacturer General Dynamics and ship them over to Ukraine, which could take months.
Training requirements: Deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters the time it takes to ship them over gives the U.S. the ability to train Ukrainians on the equipment.
“These things are going to require training maintenance, sustainment, that is going to take a very long time to also train in Ukrainians on,” she said. “We took that into account.”
Still, the 31 Abrams tanks were a major victory for Ukraine, which had pushed for the combat vehicles for months before the announcement this week.
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