National Security

Panetta in Kuwait, says intel on chemical weapons in Syria has “leveled off”

Afghanistan progress still a mixed bag; Vince Brooks to the Pacific; Defense bill requires notification of “successful penetration,” and more.

Panetta says intelligence on Syria's chemical weapons has "leveled off." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who landed in Kuwait this morning, told reporters on his plane that there is no new evidence that the Syrian regime is planning to move or use its weapons. "We haven't seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way, but we continue to monitor it very closely," he told reporters on his plane after it took off from Andrews Air Force Base. "We continue to make clear to them that they should not under any means make use of these chemical weapons against their own population, that that would produce serious consequences." Panetta reiterated an ongoing concern that the apparent success of the opposition against the Assad regime could force it to use chemical weapons out of desperation.

Why letting the Syrian opposition win would be a "disaster." Glenn Robinson, writing on FP: "The exiles may have won the support of the Obama administration and others, but have little chance of holding power in Syria for any length of time, barring international occupation of the country. And nobody thinks the United States has any appetite to occupy another Arab country militarily, even for a relatively short period of time."

Panetta is more sanguine on Pakistan. American officials have been saying they have begun to see a change in the tone from Pakistan and that they are encouraged after recent meetings with the Pakistanis that the country's leaders want to take the terrorist threat more seriously. "Complimentary operations," which had essentially ceased earlier this year, are back on track and there are a growing number of them, a new Pentagon report says. It's far short of a new era of cooperation. For his part, Panetta said "we are more encouraged" that the Pakistanis want to limit the terrorist threat within Pakistan and across the border. "My sense is that they are in a better place, that they understand their responsibility," Panetta said during the briefing with reporters on his plane. "[Pakistan Army Chief of Staff] General Kayani in particular has indicated a willingness to put more pressure on the safe havens." But he couched this new optimism with a bit of pragmatism. "In all cases, actions need to speak louder than words," Panetta said.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report and greetings from beautiful downtown Kuwait City, where we are traveling with the SecDef and you never know where the Doomsday will take us next. Situation Report's inbox arrival will be at odd times for a bit. And additional technical problems delayed us some today. 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. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

This new optimism on Pakistan comes as the Pentagon's own assessment of Afghanistan says safe havens are still an issue and the ANSF still needs to mature. The Pentagon released its bi-annual assessment of the war in Afghanistan, which shows security is increasing in populated areas, even if violence is up. The report also shows that only one of the 23 Afghan National Army brigades is capable of operating independently without air or other military support from U.S. or international forces. A senior defense official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon said the "fighting capability" of the Afghan forces and the fact that they carry out independent operations at many levels, even if those operations require coalition support, means they are far more capable than they were.

The senior defense official at a Pentagon briefing: "Is it going to be a challenge? I'd agree with you, yes, but -- and will there continue to be a need for training and advising after 2014? Yes, that's what NATO agreed on in Chicago and we're going to have a continuing train, advise and assisting force after that. But the combat role is -- already is more and more Afghan and will be -- the objective is to have it be completely Afghan by 2014."

But the report also indicated that Pakistani-based sanctuary for insurgents, including the Haqqani Taliban Network in North Waziristan contributes to keeping the security situation along the border and in Regional Command-East "volatile."

NYT report on DoD assessment and ANSF.

"Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan:"

Why Panetta is in Kuwait: The secretary is on his usual visit to see troops around the region. Today, he is in Kuwait. "It's a tough time of year to be away from loved ones, and since 9/11, obviously so many have spent so many holidays away from home. But I want them to hear directly from me how much I appreciate their dedication, their commitment, their sacrifice, and their willingness to put their lives on the line to keep our country safe, so far away from their families. Our hope is that ultimately one day soon they can be home with their families for Christmas."

This is Panetta's first stop in Kuwait as secretary of defense; former Defense Secretary Bob Gates last visited Kuwait some years ago. U.S. forces in Kuwait conduct joint exercises and training and there are more than 13,500 of those troops still based in Kuwait. "They are an important partner," Panetta said of Kuwait. He had tea at the airport terminal where he was greeted and then his motorcade and the reporters in the press vans took a harrowing ride to a downtown hotel.

Sometimes it feels like it won't be an attack by extremists that will kill us, it will be the driving by high-strung American motorcade drivers who relish the opportunity to drive like maniacs in the name of security.

Reporters on a plane: AP's Burns and Walsh, Reuters' Stewart, AFP's DeLuce, WaPo's Londono, NBC's Kube, Long and Scritchfield, WSJ's Entous, NYT's Shanker, Bloomberg's Ratnam, the Pentagon's Pellerin, CBS' McCormick, Foreign Policy's Lubold.

Spotted at Andrews: the Levin Brothers, Carl and Sandy, returning a trip from their home state of Michigan where POTUS had been speaking.

For the Army, the pivot is starting to get real. Lt. Gen. Vince Brooks is expected to be nominated for promotion to general and head to the Army's Pacific Command, or USAPAC, Situation Report is told. His promotion would elevate the stature of the Army in the Pacific region just as it struggles to find the proper mission in the Pentagon's move to Asia that to some, seems more suited to the air and sea services. Army officials would not confirm the move, but it was said to be made more formally in recent days.

We never tire of reminding people outside the military how to remember ranks for stars: Be My Little General. (Brigadier General, Major General, Lt. General, General.)

Syrian rebels use "DIY" armor and Playstation-controlled guns, Killer Apps' John Reed reports. The video:

John also has this: the defense authorization bill would require DoD contractors to notify the Pentagon of cyber intrusions. John: In case you missed it, buried inside the 2013 defense authorization bill is a clause that would require defense contractors to notify the Pentagon any time they have suffered a ‘successful penetration.' Section 936 of the bill requires that the Pentagon "establish a process" for defense contractors that have classified information on their networks to quickly report any successful cyber attacks against them to the Defense Department. Contractors must include a description of the "technique or method used in the penetration," and include samples of the "malicious software, if discovered and isolated by the contractor," reads the bill.

New report out today on Afghan corruption from SIGAR says there are persistent problems with monitoring cash flow through Kabul airport. SIGAR's Phil Lavelle, in a statement, on the machines meant to counter money-laundering: "These machines, which can record and report serial numbers of currency, are regarded as important anti-money laundering tools. This latest report notes that SIGAR inspectors, on a return visit to KBL, found that the machines did not appear to be in use and were not linked to the Internet, as intended. The report also notes that individuals designated by the Afghan government as VIPs and ‘VVIPs' (Very Very Important Persons) continue to bypass these machines as they depart KBL."

WSJ reports on an effort by Afghans to probe corruption on its borders.


National Security

John Campbell to be nom’ed to be Army vice

Panetta on Afghanistan rescue; Why the Corps isn’t dining out; Global Trends report out this AM: what’s a conflict game changer; A Marine lieutenant colonel may need his major insignias back, and more.

John Campbell is expected to be nominated to become the Army's new vice chief of staff, Situation Report is told. Just days after the Pentagon announced that the current vice, Gen. Lloyd Austin, would be nominated to be U.S. Central Command commander, we're told by two individuals close to the process that Gen. John "J.C." Campbell will be nominated to replace Austin as vice. The final decision was made in recent days. Army officials would not confirm the expected confirmation.

The move would put an experienced operator in the Army's No. 2 spot, responsible for most of the Army's day-to-day management. Considered affable and genuine, Campbell is well regarded across both the Army and the military's joint world for his acumen as a war commander steeped in battlefield strategy and operations.

Campbell was a brigade commander in southern Afghanistan in the early days of the war, where we were told he had a reputation for listening to locals with "grace and attentiveness." Later as a one-star, he was the deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Staff's director of operations. Now serving as the Army G-3, Campbell has been focused on the service's new "regionalized brigade" program in which units are given regional expertise to deploy smarter, more culturally aware soldiers.

On Nov. 15, Campbell had been nominated to be promoted to a four-star and take over U.S. Army's Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., but Austin's nomination to lead Central Command forced a change in the Army's plans. Thought to be an "operator's operator," he will confront a learning curve as the vice, which requires deep involvement in resource and budget issues.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we thank our dear readers for such tremendous support, which is at once humbling and gratifying. 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. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

When it comes to cutting the military, Jim Amos has certain principles that are inviolate. Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos told Situation Report on Friday that the Marine Corps has entered a period of austerity as it attempts to perform its job and pay its bills with reduced funding. It's a question of doing what's "good enough" without sacrificing readiness, manning levels, and capability. But that means fixing old Humvees and buying fewer new vehicles (read: Joint Light Tactical Vehicles) and reducing the number of other nice-to-haves, he said.

"The guidance I gave the Marine Corps: figure out what is good enough. In other words, what will work for us over the next five or six years of austerity," Amos said on his plane on a return trip from Camp Lejeune, N.C. on Friday on which Situation Report and another reporter accompanied him. "The Marine Corps is not eating out."

Earlier this month, a group called the Force Optimization Review Group, which included about 50 "really smart" colonels and lieutenant colonels, gathered at Quantico, Va. to come up with an austerity game plan, Amos told Situation Report. Amos directed them to figure out a way to pay for a force of 182,100 Marines without trimming essentials: high manning rates for units (97 percent for enlisted; 95 percent for officers); a "C-2" readiness rate for deploying units; and maintaining 100 percent of the equipment and training those units need.

On Marine end-strength: "At 182,100, we can do what the nation's strategy expects its Marine Corps to do, just barely," he said. "It's not a fat Marine Corps, it's not an excessive Marine Corps, there's no fat on it."

The Marine Corps has already cut 50 percent of both their conferences and "TAD," or temporary additional duty assignments as part of pre-emptive cost-cutting move, Amos said.

Amos is bullish on Marines and Africa: The Marines now have a Special Purpose Air Ground Task Force sitting off the coast of Sigonella Air Station in Italy for use within the U.S. Africa Command AOR. But in a region in which there is not only a growing extremist threat but also a large demand for relationship-building, the U.S. military is looking at expanding its engagement. Amos said the "marketing" of the U.S. military in Africa in the past could have been better -- some believed the military was turning its back on partners or potential partners there. That has begun to change, with new counter-terrorism initiatives to combat groups in Mali, Nigeria, Libya, and others. But there will also be more training.

The Corps, for example, is in the "concept development phase" of designing a larger force that could be available soon.

Amos: "If this part of the world is going to stay problematic, then how do you address it? Do you have to address it with large, huge forces? I don't think so. But you gotta address it. So what we're going to try to do is build a rapidly employable -- not deployable because they'll already be there -- rapidly employable force that can help the combatant commanders out and we're working on that right now and I think we'll have that in the next 30 days."

Why Amos was at Camp Lejeune on Friday: To open the Wounded Warrior Hope and Care Center, a comprehensive and state-of-the-art gym, conditioning, rehabilitative and transition center for wounded, ill, and injured Marines and sailors and their families. It's very similar to one that was opened on the West Coast and was the brainchild of two Marine spouses, one of whom's officer husband was critically injured. Amos gave repeated props to the women, Shannon Maxwell and Robin Kelleher, for their vision and drive to get the center opened.

Why it's called the Wounded Warrior Hope and Care Center: Because despite efforts by some Marines to change the name to something edgier, like "Devil Dog Warrior Transition Center," or some such, Amos fought to keep the name the women originally wanted: The Hope and Care Center.

Don't call it "Le-shune" or "La-June." Purists continue their campaign to call the Marine Corps' main operational base on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune, "Camp Le-jhern," in respect to the proper French pronunciation of the name of Gen. John Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, of "Marine Corps Birthday Message" fame.

During the opening of the outdoor ribbon-cutting ceremony, Lt. Col. Nick Davis, commander of the Wounded Warrior Battalion East Command, joked about first one helo flying overhead, then another, temporarily interrupting the ceremony. "Leave it to the wing to come. It's what they do to upstage Marine infantrymen," Davis said. "Just like Marine Corps Aviation, it takes two flyovers to find the L-Z."

In the audience: Amos, a fighter pilot. Amos, jokingly, told Davis he might want to find his old major insignia, hinting he might be demoted for the comment. "You'll make a helluva fine major," Amos said.

Meanwhile, Elaine Donnelly is back. The woman who led the charge against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is back with a new-and-improved Web site, announced this morning, to combat what she says is the Obama administration's hard push "to impose even heavier burdens of social engineering on the men and women of our military." The Center for Military Readiness is "analyzing the current research project that General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, announced in February of this year.  Pentagon feminists and their civilian feminist allies are trying to score major victories before Congress has the chance to provide attentive oversight on serious questions, including assignments in direct ground combat (infantry) battalions that attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action."

Panetta thanked Special Operations for the dramatic rescue of the American doctor from a development organization who was captured by the Taliban Dec. 5. The rescue resulted in the death of one American SEAL. "I was deeply saddened to learn that a U.S. service member was killed in the operation, and I also want to extend my condolences to his family, teammates and friends. The special operators who conducted this raid knew they were putting their lives on the line to free a fellow American from the enemy's grip. They put the safety of another American ahead of their own, as so many of our brave warriors do every day and every night. In this fallen hero, and all of our special operators, Americans see the highest ideals of citizenship, sacrifice and service upheld. The torch of freedom burns brighter because of them." CNN story:

New "megatrends" will change the way the world looks over the next several years, according to the National Intelligence Council's  new "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" report, out this morning. Those megatrends include: individual empowerment ("Individual empowerment will accelerate substantially during the next 15-20 years owing to poverty reduction and a huge growth of the global middle class, greater educational attainment, and better health care."); diffusion of power ("The diffusion of power among countries will have a dramatic impact by 2030."); demographic patterns ("We believe that in the world of 2030 -- a world in which a growing global population will have reached somewhere close to 8.3 billion people (up from 7.1 billion in 2012) -- four demographic trends will fundamentally shape, although not necessarily determine, most countries' economic and political conditions and relations among countries." They include aging, a shrinking number of youthful societies, migration, and growing urbanization); growing food, water, and energy nexus ("Demand for food, water and energy will grow by approximately 35, 50 and 50 percent respectively owing to an increase in the global population and the consumption patterns of an expanding middle class.").
But the report also includes a game-changer, "potential for increased conflict," particularly due to intrastate conflicts in countries with mature populations that contain politically dissonant, youthful, ethnic minorities. "Strife involving ethnic Kurds in Turkey, Shia in Lebanon and Pattani Muslims in southern Thailand are examples of such situations," the report's authors wrote. "Looking forward, the potential for conflict to occur in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to remain high even after some of the region's countries graduate into a more intermediate age structure because of the probable large number of ethnic and tribal minorities that will remain more youthful than the overall population." The Global Trends report:

Noting This Morning