National Security

Panetta divulges secrets to make cyber-security come alive

Who will be the next Marine “Ack-Mack?” The scariest moment in history just got scarier, Good-bye to Old Iron Jaw, and more.

Tonight, Panetta will tell a story about what he's called a "Cyber Pearl Harbor" in an effort to bring the issue front-and-center for the U.S. government and the private sector -- and for his own building, in which senior officers are still trying to figure out what DoD's cyber-security policy should be exactly. In speaking in New York to the Business Executives for National Security this evening, Panetta's biggest challenge is to tell a story about an decidedly un-sexy issue that is largely based on classified information. And Pentagon officials struggled to get just enough information de-classified to allow him to make a substantive speech. It's always been difficult: a White House official told Killer Apps' John Reed that telling the story of cyber-security is an intractable problem.

"Protecting ourselves in cyberspace is an important issue we need to talk about, but it's exceptionally difficult to be forthcoming and reassuring when so much of our effort is classified or sensitive," the official told John. The last thing the government wants to do is "harm our ability to protect ourselves by putting al of our tactics, techniques and procedures out in the open" for the bad guys to see.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where we classify almost anything you send us on a need-to-see basis. 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.

Foreign policy may well come up tonight during the veep debate. Joe Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will seek to expose Paul Ryan's lack of foreign policy experience in a debate moderated by Martha Raddatz, herself a seasoned foreign affairs correspondent for ABC. This comes the day after Republicans on the Hill pummeled administration officials with questions about U.S. diplomatic security surrounding the attack in Benghazi -- a potential vulnerability that Ryan, if it comes up, is expected to exploit.

Joe Biden thought his influence on foreign affairs would be weakened when he entered the White House but the opposite is true, writes James Traub on the "Biden Doctrine" on FP: "Biden has played a central role in White House decisions on policy in Afghanistan, Russia, China, Israel, and the Arab world, and his worldly pragmatism has helped shape a White House posture less starry-eyed, and perhaps also less hopeful, than many had expected at the outset of Obama's tenure."

State was "excoriated" by a House panel yesterday for failing to have the proper amount of security in Libya, and witnesses and lawmakers pointed to State Department official Charlene Lamb as the person most directly responsible for rejecting multiple requests for increased security at the U.S. diplomatic missions there prior to the attack on Sept. 11, 2012. The Cable's Josh Rogin reports: "During the hearing, the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August, placed the blame squarely on Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, whom they said was the official who denied those requests."

New Reuters: The Yemeni chief of security at the U.S. embassy was shot dead by a gunman on a motorcycle. The killing had al Qaeda's fingerprints on it, Reuters reported.

Who will succeed Joe Dunford as ACMC? Probably Lt. Gen. Jay Paxton, Jr., but of course we've been wrong before. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that there are other names as well: Paxton, now the commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune and the former J-3 on the Joint Staff, is in the running with Lt. Gen. George Flynn, currently the J-7 on the Joint Staff, and Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commandant for aviation. Any one of them could be chosen to succeed Gen. Joe Dunford, the sitting ACMC, who was finally nominated yesterday to command ISAF in Afghanistan. Both Paxton and Flynn are ground guys and Schmidle is an aviator. Traditionally the ACMC goes to a fly-guy, but since Commandant Gen. Jim Amos is an aviator, the Corps' No. 2 position will likely go to a ground officer. Two aviators at the top would be a bridge too far for the tradition-bound Corps.

ISAF's chief intelligence officer will be replaced by someone who doesn't have Afghan battlefield experience. The Pentagon announced that the head of ISAF's intelligence operations, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Jr., will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter. Potter will leave his post at the Army's Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, Ariz. and head to Kabul; Ashley will leave Kabul and head to Fort Huachuca. Intel historian Matthew Aid writes that Potter doesn't have any recent battlefield experience.

DoD announcement:

Matthew Aid:

One of the scariest moments in history just got scarier. Unbeknownst to the U.S. in 1962, the Soviets had brought about 100 tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba, including 80 nuclear-armed front cruise missiles, 12 nuclear warheads for dual-use Luna short range rockets, and six nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers -- and they were still there in November, long after the Cuban missile crisis was thought to have ended. "Even with the pullout of the strategic missiles, the tacticals would stay, and Soviet documentation reveals the intention of training the Cubans to use them," Svetlana Savranskaya reveals today on FP in documentation that is being published for the first time.

"Old Iron Jaw" takes his last breath. U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley died yesterday at a hospice in Georgia of cancer, a battle one news report said, "he simply could not win." Plumley, of course, was portrayed in 2002's "We Were Soldiers," which depicted one of the first ground battles of the Vietnam War, with Mel Gibson playing Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Sam Elliot as Plumley, based on "We Were Soldiers Once... and Young" written by Moore and Joe Galloway.

"While I never knew CSM Plumley personally, I am terribly saddened and feel like I lost a true mentor," wrote Kerry Patton, combat disabled veteran, in the Examiner. "He was such a heroic man that many of us veterans aspired to one day be like him. He pushed his troops, loved his family and believed in America's greatness. He was the epitome of the American soldier."

Spilling Over

The Girl Child


Reading Pincus

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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