National Security Brief: August 5, 2011

— Syrian tanks continued their onslaught on Hama today as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets around Syria. “From the capital, Damascus, to Deraa in the south and Deir ez-Zoor in the east — demonstrators began rallying after noon prayers on the first Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan — billed by activists as the day ‘God is with us.'”

— Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday that he warned Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that he will face a “sad fate” if he fails to introduce reforms in his country and open a peaceful dialogue with the opposition.

— The U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan — the head of a watchdog which investigates mismanagement of funds in the American reconstruction effort — abruptly resigned on Thursday, leaving the White House scrambling to find a suitable replacement.

— An American initiative to increase the number of visas available to Afghans who have worked with American troops and diplomats has fallen short of its goals having only approved two out of 2,300 applicants.

— The White House will propose $120 million in tax credits for businesses that hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

— NBC News reports that “the Army is going to announce that most combat deployments will decrease from one year to nine months total time on the ground in the war zone.”

— A new study released Thursday by researchers with the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah shows that college students who have served in the military are particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Efforts to provide famine relief aid in Somalia have been slowed by delays in procuring food, raising funds and difficulty in accessing al-Shabab — an Islamist militant group — held territory in the South.