United States to Allow Families to Pay Hostage Ransoms

The Obama Administration is expected to announce on Wednesday that families of hostages can now pay ransoms without fearing federal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 2339B. Section 2339B provides that “whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.” Although the Justice Department has not utilized this statute to prosecute families seeking to pay ransoms for their loved ones, the issue has received scrutiny since last September when the parents of James Foley accused the Obama administration of threatening criminal prosecution if they began taking steps to pay a ransom for their son who was being held by ISIS.

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Map of ISIS’s Worldwide Attacks

Yesterday, the New York Times released a worldwide map of attacks that ISIS has directed or inspired. In addition to this map, the New York Times also provided a timeline of major attacks and arrests related to ISIS worldwide. It has been a year since ISIS declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, over the territory that it controlled. Since then, ISIS has moved beyond the regional conflict in Iraq and Syria to building relationships with other groups across the Middle East and North Africa as well as recruiting and inspiring individuals in Western countries. Since January 2015, there has been a marked increase in the number attacks outside of its center of gravity in Syria and Iraq. The number of attacks is likely to continue to increasing over the coming year as ISIS influence continues to grow throughout the region.

New DoD Law of War Manual

The U.S. Department of Defense, Office of General Counsel just released the first Department-wide Law of War Manual. The DoD General Counsel, Stephen Preston, states that the manual “is of fundamental importance to the Armed Forces of the United States.” The law of war has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of the American military. This manual continues in the long line of orderly conduct of military operation dating back to General George Washington’s command of the Continental Army. In the foreword, Preston also states that “the law of war poses no obstacle to fighting well and prevailing.” The law of war provides the basis for conducting large wars as well as small wars. By adhering to the fundamental principles within the Law of War Manual, the U.S. Armed Forces protect civilian populations in small wars from atrocities, display fundamental order for host-nation forces to follow, and provide for reasonable order on the battlefield.

The Current Incomplete Strategy for Iraq

Today, President Barak Obama admitted what many have long known; the United States’ strategy for assisting Iraq with ISIS is “not yet complete.” He qualified his statement by stating that the lack of a complete strategy was “because it requires commitments on the part of Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place.” While the President’s remarks were mainly focused on training and equipping the Iraqis, especially the Sunnis, there is growing signals that this administration lacks a cohesive, coordinated effort to combat ISIS in the region. This strategy will continue to be incomplete so long as U.S. servicemembers are withheld from ground combat operations, the U.S. does not focus on reconciling Sunnis and Shias to increase Sunni recruitment in the Iraqi Army, and an AUMF is not passed which signals a lack of commitment to Iraq’s long-term stability.

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Introducing the Small Wars Center

The Small Wars Center is an area for the discussion of law and policy related to small wars, insurgencies, and irregular warfare. These types of warfare are not new; however, since 1945 these wars have come to dominate warfare over the past seventy years. As the world continues to grow more urban, connected, and littoral it is expected that small wars, insurgencies, and irregular warfare will continue to be the primary forms of conflict. Both military and political leaders throughout the world will need to confront a complex group of legal and policy issues in order to be effective in the current operating environment. This site is dedicated to addressing these issues through meaningful commentary to current events and analyzing subjects that influencing how nations approach small wars.