U.S. Policy Update for Thursday, 19 May 2016

A Carabinieri police officer stands next to a copy of a 1493 letter by Christopher Columbus about the discovery of the New World. (© AP Images)

Today’s topics: / Security / Iraq / Cyber War / Christopher Columbus /  Ukraine /


18 May 2016 Background Briefing on the U.S. Government’s Comprehensive Approach to Atrocity Prevention and Response  It was about four years ago, a little more than four years ago, when President Obama announced that preventing mass atrocities was a national security priority of the United States in addition to being a moral imperative. And it’s since then that we’ve been working through the Atrocity Prevention Board to ensure that the possibility of mass killings of civilians in countries abroad is something that we are constantly scanning the horizon for, that we are ensuring is discussed and placed at the right level of attention within the U.S. Government, that we are developing tools to address and mitigate the consequences of mass casualties, and that we are doing this in a way where we’re consciously learning lessons and institutionalizing the responses to become better both ourselves and as part of a broader multinational community that’s committed to atrocity prevention.


18 May 2016 Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq   Tragically, the recent series of attacks in the city have killed hundreds of civilians.  These attacks appear to be a shift in ISIL’s tactics.  Over the last six months, our enemy has suffered a string of defeats because the ISF is proving increasingly effective.
ISIL wants to throw punches that land.  To do this, they appear to have chosen to revert to some of their terrorist roots.  Thus far, these attacks have not impacted operations on the battlefield, however.  These indiscriminate attacks are heinous, and we grieve with Iraq, but we are undeterred.

18 May 2016 Iraqi Kurdish Official in US to Seek Help Against IS  Najmaldin Karim, the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, is visiting Washington this week, appealing to U.S. officials to help bolster the fight against the group and asking for more assistance for the crippled Kurdish economy. He told VOA that although parts of Kirkuk province remain under the control of IS, one town in particular has become key to the group’s operations.

Cyber war

18 May 2016 Cyber War Versus Islamic State ‘Work in Progress’  For months now, U.S. government hackers have been setting their sights on the Islamic State terror group, intent on wiping the self-declared caliphate from cyberspace much like U.S. and coalition aircraft have sought to wipe it from the face of the earth.  Yet, some of those helping to lead the virtual charge admit it is not yet clear just how effective the cyber efforts have been.

Ukraine steps up its fight against financial crimes


18 May 2016 Ukraine steps up its fight against financial crimes  Ukraine loses more than $11 billion every year in illicit financial outflows. These outflows stem from tax evasion, crime, corruption and other illegal activities. That’s a lot money, and it’s why Yuriy Kardashevkiy and Artem Nikitin work with others across Ukraine’s government to stop this drain on the country’s resources.

Kardashevkiy works in Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), where he heads a team of detectives who collect data that may help identify corruption among government officials. They pay particular attention to signs an official is receiving excessive benefits or enriching him or herself illegally. Launched in October 2014, NABU is working to bring Ukraine’s economy out of the shadows.

Christopher Columbus

18 May 2016 Mystery solved: Stolen Christopher Columbus letter goes back to Italy The United States has returned to Italy a letter written by Christopher Columbus in 1493. A squad of art investigators discovered the letter had been stolen decades ago. The eight-page letter, in which Columbus announced his discovery of the New World to Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, described islands “full of the greatest variety of trees reaching to the stars.” The letter became almost as well-traveled as its famous author.