NEW CEASE-FIRE IN SYRIA: A cease-fire in the besieged area around Aleppo went into effect, though there continues to be confusion about the details of how long it will be enforced. The United States and Russia are supposed to be jointly monitoring and enforcing the truce – but the challenge of doing so may be significant, as the two sides don’t always appear to agree about what attacks have happened on the ground.
There are also questions about how the United States and Russia, at odds elsewhere, will be able to smooth over their differences in order to ensure that the skies over Syria stay as calm as possible. In other spheres, tensions between Washington and Moscow only appear to be growing: Russia warned this week, in advance of its Victory Day celebration, that it would be ramping up its military presence in the south and west of the country in order to respond to increased NATO drills and plans to boost troop presence in Eastern Europe, Reuters reports.
AUMF QUESTION PUT TO THE COURTS: An Army captain has filed a lawsuit against President Obama, claiming that the war against the Islamic State is illegal – and effectively taking a long-simmering fight over whether Congress should formally authorize the war into the courts.
The suit openly questions whether the fight against the Islamic State is “the administration’s war” or “America’s war,” given that “Congress is AWOL” on the issue. The administration is currently fighting the war against the group also known as ISIS using legal authority it claims under authorizations for use of military force passed in 2001 and 2002, greenlighting operations against al-Qaeda affiliates and in Iraq. The captain who filed the lawsuit, Nathan Michael Smith, has served in Afghanistan and is currently stationed in Kuwait as an intelligence officer.
BOOTS RUN AGROUND: The United States has been pumping money into the Afghan security forces to the tune of $68 billion over the last 14 years – but troops that are supposed to be holding the line against a resurgent Taliban can’t even keep themselves clothed properly. Boots, in particular, are proving to be a problem.
It’s an example of how procurement can botch up an entire operation when there aren’t reliable standards of quality control – in this case, the Afghan system, plagued by corruption, went with the lowest bid, a Chinese supplier that often sent boots that were shoddily made, sometimes with mismatched sizes. Pumping more money into the country to make sure soldiers get decent footwear isn’t going to break the international community. But it does raise questions about what type of oversight there will be over basic military operations as the United States reduces its footprint in the country.