National Security

The refugee problem in Jordan is worse than you think

Panetta announcing: Dunford to Kabul, Dempsey to talk relationships, Larry Korb on suicides and accountability, It wasn’t a “consulate,” and more.

The Syrian refugee problem in Jordan is getting way worse. More than 180,000 Syrian refugees have spilled into Jordan in recent months, posing an overwhelming humanitarian crisis. One military officer who has seen refugees in many countries and has visited Jordan told Situation Report that the refugee problem there is worse than what anybody had thought.

"At this stage, you've basically got all these people who have their world upside down, they sense nobody cares," the officer said. "We are doing what we can."

The NYT reported this morning that the Pentagon has sent a task force of approximately 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the country respond to the humanitarian crisis and to prepare for the potential security challenges presented by the upheaval across the border in Syria.

Last month, Joe Dunford was seen in the Pentagon cafeteria, ordering his own sandwich. In Brussels today, it's being announced that he'll be nominated formally for one of the most thankless jobs available: head of the ISAF mission in Kabul. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced this morning that Gen. "Fighting Joe" Dunford, currently the No. 2 Marine officer, is the president's choice to succeed another Marine, Gen. John Allen, as commander of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Allen has been long expected to be nominated for the job at U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander in Brussels. The Senate is expected to consider their nominations sometime this fall.

Panetta, just minutes ago: "General Dunford... is an exceptionally gifted strategic leader. He is combat-tested. He believes in ISAF and if confirmed will be an extraordinary leader of it."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where we are always on the hunt for gifted leaders to talk to us. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and we'll put you on the list.

Dunford will have the daunting task of defining the U.S.-Afghan military relationship during the next two years of transition and will likely be the one to turn off the lights as American troops leave the country. He'll also have to build a relationship with President Hamid Karzai, as well as with the newish U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Jim Cunningham. He'll have to contend with the Taliban's latest tactic -- insider attacks -- and he'll also be the military commander who lays the groundwork for whatever long-term security agreement is made between the two countries.

Dunford was long seen as Panetta's choice, and the water cooler wisdom is that Allen also aggressively supported Dunford. Dunford is widely respected and liked but also tough and no-nonsense. "He is probably one of the best listeners I've ever known," one military officer who knows him well told Situation Report, adding that Dunford has good analytical skills that will serve him well on the battlefield. "He isn't a lazy thinker, but he's not mechanistic, either," the officer said.

If he has critics, they will question why the Pentagon is sending to Afghanistan someone with no experience on the Afghan battlefield, and at least one Senate staffer expressed concern to us that there would be a lot of "skeptical questions" during his confirmation hearing. But the military officer who spoke to Situation Report dismissed the concern.

"I've seen him on the battlefields," the officer said. "He will sniff the air and be ready to go."

We first met Dunford in Anbar province in Iraq in 2004. During a battlefield tour of a combat outpost we remember him telling us at the time of having to admonish a Marine who'd fallen asleep on post. He said he was sympathetic: life is really tough in war, we remember him saying, but there's no room for negligence.

Dunford bio:

Virginia Senate candidate George Allen is not a Marine general. But we implied as much when we referred yesterday to "Gen. George Allen" when we of course meant "Gen. John Allen." Too many political ads on TV in the morning. We regret the error.

Larry Korb thinks civilian and military leaders should be held more accountable for military suicides. Korb, writing on FP, argues that while commissioned and noncommissioned officers should do their best to take care of the men and women in their charge, "the people who should be accountable are the civilian and military leaders who sent these men and women repeatedly into combat zones without sufficient time at home between combat deployments and lowered the standards for new enlistees in order to meet their recruitment goals." Ultimately, Korb says, it's Bush's fault.

Benghazi Department of FWIW: For the last several weeks, reporters have called the American mission in Benghazi a "consulate," perhaps for lack of a better word. The State Department's murky narrative, especially at the beginning, probably didn't help. But we had been told that in fact the building attacked in Benghazi where four Americans died was never a consulate, which likely would have carried with it certain security protocols, and in fact just a diplomatic mission. We recognize it doesn't much matter anymore, but just saying.

A State Department official told Situation Report this: "We tried to correct the record re this early on, but it seems as if the press has only two settings when it comes to describing diplomatic missions: embassies and consulates. It is not a consulate and never was a consulate," the official said. "Perhaps it gained the air of being a consulate during the revolution because our embassy in Tripoli was closed and our diplomatic presence in Benghazi could be best described as a ‘consulate.'"

State will face the music today at a hearing on the Hill after officials at State briefed reporters yesterday, telling them that video surveillance cameras outside the diplomatic mission in Benghazi did not indicate there was a protest prior to the attack on Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. State Department officials will appear today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating intelligence failures that led to the fatal attack.

Josh Rogin reports on yesterday's briefing:

Dempsey's talking about his relationships. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Marty Dempsey, will speak at the National Press Club this morning about relationship building, engagement, and foreign counterparts. Fond of speaking off the cuff, Dempsey will use notes to deliver his remarks, but according to spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, he's expected to touch on a theme akin to this: "So, why do I invest all this time in relationships, especially with my foreign counterparts?  Simple -- we need them to make our strategy work. We need relationships born of interest and underpinned by trust. We need partners who can bring to bear capability and credibility."

Twelve Years and Counting

If She Survives She Becomes a Potent Symbol

  • Dawn: Taliban bullet removed from girl activist in Pakistan.
  • NYT: Girl shot by Taliban in critical condition.
  • USAT: Pakistani schools protest after shooting.
  • NDTV: Kayani says shooting of girl exposes "extremist mind-set."


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National Security

Panetta argues for staying the course in Afghanistan

Panetta is in Brussels to talk Afghanistan with the allies. Amid the spate of insider attacks and criticism from President Hamid Karzai, Panetta and Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, are attempting to smooth all the ruffled feathers among NATO defense ministers. Panetta told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. and ISAF generally have put measures in place to minimize the chances of more insider attacks, which have frayed nerves and undermined the U.S.-Afghan military bond.

"He's going to forcefully say to allies that insider attacks are a challenge, but this enemy tactic will not deter us from moving forward on successfully implementing the transition strategy," a senior defense official told Situation Report.

The official tells Situation Report that Panetta will discuss a number of other topics at the defense ministerial in Brussels, including NATO capabilities, nuclear issues, and the Kosovo mission. But Panetta recently told FP that world affairs require the U.S. to walk and chew gum at the same time. That'll be necessary even in Brussels as the situation in Syria demands U.S. and NATO attention. The head of NATO reiterated early this morning that the alliance would defend Turkey if the spillover crisis reached a certain point.

"We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said before defense ministers met in Brussels.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report where we're always on the hunt for allies. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and we'll put you on the list.

The take: the Romney speech on foreign policy offered few details but exploited the bounce the GOP contender has enjoyed coming out of last week's debates. But while many a pundit scrutinized his speech, there was one item largely overlooked: the suggestion that he'd have better luck than his predecessors convincing European countries to spend more of their GDP on defense.

Romney: "I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark."

FP's Blake Hounshell: "If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Bruges to sell you!" he wrote. True, European countries have been slow to pony up a lot of cash, and the Libyan campaign last year pointed that up. But what does Romney think he can do differently from other American leaders who have pushed Europe on this issue for years? "In the middle of a never-ending economic crisis -- at a time when the likes of Britain, Greece, Italy, and Spain are implementing what you might call European-style austerity programs -- is Europe really going to cough up a few more percentage points of GDP on Mitt's say so?"

Romney's remarks:

Actually, it is rocket science. The real "reset" between the U.S. and Russia should come in the form of true cooperation on missile defense, argues Celeste Wallander on FP. She says that one of the most "persistent misunderstandings" about missile defense is that Obama scrapped Bush 43's plans for missile defense in Europe to appease Russia. Not true, she says. "Indeed, when I was briefed on the plans for EPAA in the summer of 2009, I told my colleagues in the Defense Department that I expected Russia to like EPAA even less than the previous plan, precisely because its flexibility and the larger number of interceptors would fuel nightmare scenarios in the Russian General Staff. Unfortunately, my prediction has been proved right." she wrote. (By the way, the Russian word sotrudnichestvo = cooperation.)

The contradictions of John Lehman are self-evident, says Gordon Adams, writing on FP, after a Defense News interview over the weekend in which the former Navy secretary -- possibly on a short list as defense secretary in a Romney cabinet -- argued for more ships (15 a year for a 350-ship Navy) and an additional aircraft carrier wing. "He didn't offer any justification for this Navy expansion (perhaps a former secretary of the Navy doesn't need to)," Adams writes. But he also ducked how he would pay for it, says Adams, skirting a central problem among those grappling with defense spending: bloat.

Are there no terrorists left in the U.S.? That could be why DHS can't find any, says John Mueller, who sifted through the Senate's recent report that found problems with Homeland Security's intelligence "fusion centers" but then "amazingly," as he puts it, concluded DHS should get more money to support them. But Mueller, who edited a book on case studies of Islamic extremist terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, wonders aloud if "any [italics his] of the billions of dollars added to counterterrorism policing since 9/11 has been all that necessary." And while many would-be terrorists since that time had grand ambitions, he says, almost all were "incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, inadequate, unorganized, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational, and foolish." He says that many of the plots that were thwarted by U.S. counterterrorism officials were actually in the process of being abandoned by their plotters.

Nukes could cost as much as $661 billion over the next decade, according to Ploughshares, a disarmament group, even while it acknowledges that estimating the cost of nuclear weapons is fraught with difficulty. E-Ring's Kevin Baron looks at the new report.

Are Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE a Trojan horse? Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican from Michigan, and Dutch Ruppersburger, a Dem from Maryland, think so. They released a report that encourages American network providers to use other vendors and suggests the U.S. should investigate unfair trade practices, especially "illegal Chinese government subsidies" to the two companies and other firms. Killer Apps' John Reed writes that the two lawmakers weren't forthcoming about providing evidence of the telecom companies' wrongdoing but cited two American employees of the firms who provided them some details in what they said was a year-long investigation.

Twelve Years and Counting

Monday morning in Libya