National Security

A novel idea: the U.S. should buy Syria’s WMDs

Afghanistan, open for business; Panetta watch continues; Cyber-missions coming for the services, and more.

If Syria is moving its chemical weapons, is the U.S. closer to intervening? Unclear as of yet. But intelligence reports over the weekend indicate Assad is in fact moving them, which could change President Obama's "calculus" on intervention. The NYT this morning quoted a senior American diplomat who has been active in trying to convince the Syrian regime not to use chemical weapons on its people: "These are desperate times for Assad, and this may simply be another sign of desperation."

Obama, in August: "We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.... We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.... That would change my calculus.... That would change my equation." NYT this morning:

Hillary, this morning, asked about new evidence the regime intended to use its stash of chemical weapons: "We are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur."

A novel idea to prevent WMD from causing problems in Syria: buy them up. We heard from a professor at the University of Richmond who doesn't specialize in weapons of mass destruction or even foreign policy, but who is aggressively shopping this idea around Washington. $80 million could do the trick, he argued in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post in August. "In a bold but prudent effort to help stabilize a post-Assad government and to pre-empt the need for either the U.S. or Israel to raid and secure Syria's WMD stockpiles, the US should offer to buy those WMD now from the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army. As a pre-emptive economic diplomacy carrot, the price should be at least $80 million."

Taylor, a West Point graduate and now a paralegal studies program chair at the University of Richmond, believes the money could be used, Marshall Plan-style, by Syria's opposition forces to begin to rebuild the country post-war. His plan, of course, assumes that Assad is gone and the U.S. or Israel or international community would enter into negotiations with the Syrian opposition. Taylor fears the weapons, on the move, could turn up anywhere, even Gaza, triggering loud alarm bells.

"That's beyond a game changer," he told Situation Report.

Taylor's idea isn't bad, even if the time may not be just right, says the Institute for the Study of War's Joseph Holliday. The Syrian regime's guarantee, as Holliday puts it, is the chemical weapons it possesses. It's not ready to sell. "I don't see any reason why that is out of the realm of possibility, I just don't think we're there yet," Holliday told Situation Report. "It depends on the sequence of how all this plays out."

Besides, he says, look at what happened in Libya after President Muammar Qaddafi got rid of his chemical weapons. Ultimately, the U.S. and the international community went in. Depending on how the situation in Syria plays out, retaining the power WMDs confer upon the owner will be useful until which time when it's not. Holliday says while chemical weapons are top of mind, the roles and missions and make-up of a future peacekeeping force is another huge question. But his greatest fear: the direction the security forces take after Assad falls. "It's scary to think about," he says.

Taylor Op-Ed (paywall):

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list.

Department of Watching Panetta. Word was last week that the Petraeus scandal might keep Panetta in the Pentagon longer than expected -- perhaps as late as summer, multiple people told Situation Report. Panetta and defense officials have long been coy on the matter of just when he would be returning to his California walnut farm. Then yesterday AP reported that a decision on top cabinet positions, to include the Pentagon's top job, could come sooner than expected, and as early as this week. AP listed the usual suspects as possible noms: Chuck Hagel, Michele Flournoy, Ash Carter; then tossed John Kerry's name in the hat, too, even though it's widely believed he wants HRC's job more. An American official told Situation Report that the turnover could be relatively quick: "A change could come as soon as a final decision is made on a new secretary of defense."

AP story:

Carter Ham talks counter-terrorism in Africa. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, will do a panel discussion this morning in Washington on counter-terrorism at George Washington University.

The Pentagon is giving cyber marching orders to the services. Killer Apps' John Reed reports that the Pentagon's Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense are preparing to tell the services what their respective roles will be when it comes to cyber security in the coming years. The Pentagon had already told each of the services what missions they needed to perform earlier this year; but things have changed. Reed: "To this end, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and OSD are deciding what cyber capabilities the individual services will need to bring to the table between fiscal years 2014 and 2020. Once that happens -- as early as next week -- they will tell the service to plan accordingly, accordingly to [Air Force CIO Lt. Gen. Michael Basla]. (Keep in mind that the individual services provide cyber fighting forces to U.S. Cyber Command in the same way they provide traditional forces for the regional combatant commands.)"

Afghanistan is open for business. Afghans want the world to know that despite the war, their country offers huge opportunities for the right investors. And the right investors can help to create opportunity, which creates jobs, which creates stability. The Pentagon recognizes this, and DOD's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations has been actively engaged in assisting the Afghans to build economic development opportunities, from mining to carpet making. Today, the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce continues their conference in Washington, with "networking opportunities" and speakers from Afghanistan, the U.S. government, the international community, and the private sector. Afghanistan is beginning to market itself as a war zone rife with high-risk, high-reward opportunity, the Afghan Embassy's commercial attaché told Situation Report.

"From a foreign investor's perspective, Afghanistan poses real risks, but you have to keep in mind, we're still in the midst of a conflict," Shakib Noori says. "Like in other areas of business, though, the more risky a place is, the more profit you get out of it."

As Afghans contemplate life after 2014, when the bulk of American forces withdraw, the government of Afghanistan is preparing for the transition, seeking to bolster economic development opportunities with American firms in the mining, construction, agriculture and services sector. American firms have the kind of expertise Afghans need; Afghanistan has near unlimited opportunity, they argue.

"This is a very important time for Afghanistan as we take the security lead. That is why we continue to promote and support efforts to cultivate a very strong private sector able to absorb the slowed job growth brought about by the security transition," Noori says.

Memo to Jim Perdue. Right now, Afghanistan imports 90 percent of the chickens sold in its markets -- from places like the U.S., Brazil, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, and Iran. Afghans recognize they could build their own poultry industry with the help of an American partner. And there is huge demand for "everyone's favorite meat" in Afghanistan, Noori says. "With 30 million people in Afghanistan, a lot of open land and an appropriate climate, we could easily produce poultry in country, so why don't we invest in it?" Noori says.
Afghans hope to do for chicken what they did for soda five or six years ago. Until 2006, most soft drinks were imported. Then Coca-Cola and other companies began producing inside Afghanistan. Today, all of the country's supply is produced in country, Noori says.

The Pentagon has been helping Afghanistan with its carpet industry as well, building two cut-and-wash facilities to minimize what it needs from Pakistan to export its rugs. That is helpful, Noori says. But what Afghanistan really needs is a way to export the rugs through Pakistan. Today it can cost between $7-10 per kilogram to ship rugs by air, a cost some rug-makers will pay to avoid Pakistan repackaging Afghan-made rugs with a "made in Pakistan" label. Afghanistan wants to cut deals with Pakistan that enable Afghans to ship their rugs by ground through Pakistan but maintain the integrity of their source.

"Even though we have cut-and-washing facilities, which help increase production, the major problem right now that is the export process out of Afghanistan. It is a major issue because many of the Afghan carpets end up going to Pakistan before being exported throughout the world and inevitably lose their affinity with Afghanistan."
Conference agenda:

The conference:

Benghazi, bureaucracy, Rice and the talking points: how one former analyst sees it. Nada Bakos thinks she knows what happened and blames it on bureaucracy: "On the eve of the attack, the analysts at the CIA are reading reports from regional embassies, watching news reports, and poring over cables from assets as the ridiculous anti-Islam YouTube video sparks protests across the region. As the attack in Benghazi ensues, they scramble to assess the situation and draft products for the various consumers -- the most sensitive pieces go to select people at the White House, Pentagon, Office of the DNI, and National Security Council. If time allows, an alternative product is scrubbed of the most sensitive information for release across various parts of the U.S. government. In other words, the CIA may (or may not) have disseminated two different sets of talking points: one highly classified to protect sources and methods, and a second for broader dissemination."



National Security

Why DOD investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers

Pentagon's Jeh Johnson to AG?; Release the trial balloons: Flournoy as SecArmy; PAO John Kirby on the military and the media, why close relationships matter, and more.

Deadlines, deadlines. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has until tomorrow to send the White House the review of ethics standards among senior officers recently completed by his top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey. A senior defense official tells Situation Report that Panetta has not yet reviewed it but will soon. Panetta's call for the review emerged in the aftermath of the scandal that forced the resignation of retired Gen. David Petraeus from the CIA and put on hold the promotion of ISAF commander Gen. John Allen. But the Pentagon insisted Panetta was thinking of conducting the review long before the scandal broke. Here's partly why:

Pentagon investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers. Investigators at the DOD inspector general's office have seen a rise in the number of investigations against senior officers, typically three- and four-stars (as well as many top civilians) since 2007 - as well as the rate of investigations that actually find that they did something wrong. And the so-called substantiation rate -- meaning that investigators found at least one allegation to be substantiated -- rose from 21 percent in fiscal 2007 to as high as 52 percent in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2011, it was 39 percent. The number of actual cases only went up a little bit between fiscal 2007 and 2011 - 33 in 2007 to 38 in 2011, for a total number of 155 cases investigated over that period. But it is the substantiation rate for each year that took DoD officials by surprise.

"Over the period of years since July 2008, there has been a gradual increase in the number of allegations that were coming in for misconduct," a former senior defense official familiar with the investigations told Situation Report. "Clearly this was going up, [the DOD IG] was getting more." Moreover, the number of allegations against four-star officers in high-profile positions was on the rise, too, the official said. This did not go unnoticed by then Defense Secretary Bob Gates or, after he arrived, Panetta. Asked what might be behind the rise, the former senior official told Situation Report that often it was a lapse in knowing the rules, or common sense, or just bad bookkeeping.

There have been some cases, the official said, in which general or flag officers simply got too big for their britches: "There are people who actually believe that ‘gee, I'm so big, that nobody can touch me.'"

Continued below.

FP partied hard last night with "global thinkers," politicos, foreign policy nerds, and about 300 of its closest friends at a schwank party at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. Adm. Bill McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, named by FP as one of its "Top 100 Global Thinkers" was there and led an informal discussion in one of the conversation pits over tasty but unidentifiable chocolate pods. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at FP's "Transformational Trends" event at the Newseum, co-sponsored by the State Department's Office of Policy Planning.

The Cable's Josh Rogin covered Hillary's speech:

FP's Global Thinkers:

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report where our hat is off to party planners everywhere but especially those at FP for putting on such a lively one. Apologies to the one hostess who had to clean up a broken dish -- even if we weren't the ones to make the mess. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list.

What Leon Panetta wrote on the photo he gave to Ehud Barak yesterday at the Pentagon: "To my friend Ehud - With deepest thanks and appreciation for your friendship and leadership in building a strong military to military relationship between the united states and israel-- working together, we have kept our countries safe and our people secure. Regards, Leon Panetta."

How about a Hispanic in Obama's cabinet? Still unclear if Susan Rice gets the nod for SecState. Meanwhile, if there was one takeaway from the election -- and certainly the GOP is considering this carefully -- it is the rising influence of the Hispanic vote in American politics. So a friend of Situation Report and former government official wrote yesterday to say the Obama administration needs to be "saved from themselves": "Didn't the election highlight the need to appoint at least one more Hispanic to the cabinet? Why not Maria Otero as SecState?" Otero is now the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights at State. The former official also suggests: John Hamre to the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel to CIA, and former Pentagon policy chief and Obama surrogate Michele Flournoy? "Flournoy to SecArmy -- she needs that before she ascends to the top job." And don't forget about Richard Danzig: "He's the one with the brainpower," the former official said.

Otero's wiki-bio:

Clarification-ito: Dempsey and his foreign policy adviser, Joe Donovan, attended the same high school in Goshen, N.Y. at the same time, but they were one year apart. They did, however, run track together.

Could Jeh Johnson be tapped? The Pentagon's top lawyer might be asked to follow Eric Holder as attorney general, reports the E-Ring's Kevin Baron. "Folks at the Pentagon would love to see him stick around, but they also realize that he might be tapped for any number of roles in the second term. He's on anybody's short list for attorney general, for starters," a senior administration official told Kevin. "The sky is basically the limit for someone with his experience and reputation. He's the consummate straight shooter and everyone loves working with -- and for -- him. That's not exactly a mix of skills and traits that a lot of people have in Washington these days."

Navy public affairs officers just got some new required reading: A Forbes magazine piece published last week on "How David Petraeus Mastered the Media" by Willy Stern. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby sent a link to the story to the entire Navy public affairs community of about 2,500 PAOs (plus retirees). The story says a number of things, including that top officers should ignore their PAOs, build relationships with the press on their own, and go to off-the-record lunches to cultivate reporters -- without their public affairs officers.

Forbes piece:

Kirby, the former senior public affairs officer to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent the link to the story with a long note about how he sees the military, the media, and the job of public affairs officers.

"In my view, commanders and PAOs both need to improve.  We need to trust each other more. We need to challenge each other more. And we need to make each other better at our individual responsibilities.

As his Special Assistant for Public Affairs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs trusted me to provide him the context he needed when dealing with the press. And I trusted him to use that context wisely. He never went behind my back to communicate with a member of the media. And I never stood in his way to have that communication when it was the right thing to do. We kept each other informed, always. I can't remember too many times, when a reporter wanted to know what Adm. Mullen was thinking, that I had to go to him and ask. I already knew, because he made sure I knew.

That's really the key and the one thing Mr. Stern seems not to understand. If the commander and the PAO have access to one another and to one another's thinking -- if they talk freely and unreservedly with each other -- relations with the media will flow naturally and appropriately from both individuals. It need not be one or the other. It need not be a shell game or the sort of Machiavellian pursuit Mr. Stern seems to prefer. It should be a team effort, just like everything else we do in the military."

Investigations against senior officers, con't.

"Sometimes, in my opinion, these officers had every intention to always do everything right, but they became so focused on the mission or what they were doing that the issue of crossing the line of misconduct, I think it wasn't always on their minds," the former defense senior official told Situation Report. "But sometimes, they would push the envelope. These are aggressive, highly-talented individuals, that's how they got to where they are, and sometimes, they would push the envelope beyond what they even realized."

Not lost on anybody is the fear that in some cases, no one around a four-star or even a three-star officer will speak truth to power if they see something that might be wrong, the former official said.

By 2010, by the way, the number of DoD IG investigators was increased by half to keep up with the demand and to attempt to accelerate the length of the DoD IG investigations, which are notoriously long.

The More You Know: The DOD inspector general in the first half of 2012: the DOD IG completed 142 cases against senior officials (officers and civilians), dismissed 130 of them, investigated 12, and substantiated three. Across the services, for the first half of 2012:

Army: DOD IG completed 53 cases, dismissed 49, investigated those four, and of those, substantiated one.

Navy: DOD IG completed 16 cases, dismissed 15, investigated one but failed to substantiate it.

Air Force: DOD IG completed 20 cases, dismissed 18, investigated those two, and substantiated only one of them.

Marine Corps: DOD IG completed one case and dismissed it.