ISAF's change of command ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 10, Situation Report has learned. Commander Gen. John Allen will be succeeded by Gen. Joe Dunford, who has been the Marine Corps' No. 2 officer and who will now preside over the withdrawal of tens of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan more than 12 years after they first arrived. Meanwhile, Allen awaits the outcome of the Pentagon investigation into e-mail exchanges he had with Jill Kelley of Tampa. Many believe he will be exonerated and be re-nominated to head U.S. European Command since his initial nomination essentially lapsed after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta initiated the investigation. The timing of the change of command in Kabul is unrelated to the investigation, defense officials have said.
Even as Americans are focused elsewhere, two big questions remain: the size of the force that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and the "slope" of the drawdown over the next year -- i.e., how quickly the approximately 66,000 American service members now there come home. Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters yesterday that the administration is focused on answering the first question first. The NYT this morning reports that Allen provided three options to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, likely with risk factors for each: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000 troops. President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington next week may provide him and President Obama an opportunity to announce the size of the post-2014 force jointly. Otherwise, Obama may announce the number during the State of the Union address. NYT: http://nyti.ms/135ij7t
Not the Onion (The Duffel Blog): "U.S. Military Divorcing Afghanistan for Hotter, Sexier War," a headline this morning on the joke site, written by "G-Had," who writes: "The U.S. Military has already released a statement saying, ‘While we appreciate all the love and support Afghanistan has given us, particularly in justifying our defense budget, after over a decade together conflicts sometimes just get boring and stale. We're not a one-war kind of service.'" http://bit.ly/RuDf5k
Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report and Happy 2013. It's good to be back. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at email@example.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN 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.
Fiscal cliff deal leaves Pentagon sour, the E-Ring's Kevin Baron writes. Baron: "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former White House budget director and chairman of the House Budget Committee, in a statement wryly thanked Congress for finding additional time to avoid sequestration, which was due to take effect on Jan. 2. Congress has had more than one year to find a way to address the 2011 Budget Control Act's call for across-the-board defense spending cuts totaling $600 billion over 10 years, or nearly $60 billion this year alone, which military officials have said would cripple national security functions."
Panetta, on Congress' move to avoid the fiscal cliff: "For more than a year, I have made clear that sequestration would have a devastating impact on the [Defense] Department," Panetta said, in a statement. "Over the past few weeks, as we were forced to begin preparing to implement this law, my concerns about its damaging effects have only grown." http://atfp.co/130M9Ll
The Pentagon will make only a cameo appearance in the coming fiscal cliff sequel, Gordon Adams argues. For the Defense Department, this week's fiscal cliff "resolution" was a little anti-climactic, after fears that the New Year would bring devastating cuts for DOD. But the issue of spending was kicked down the road to March 1, about the same time that the United States will once again come up against its debt ceiling.
"This is not going to be the same kind of fight," Adams writes on FP. "The markets are not going to bounce up and down about the spending issue, not in the ecstatic way they bounded up today. The economic consequences of billions of dollars in added taxes are not the same as the consequences of spending cuts this year ($109 billion) that are less than 1 percent of overall federal spending." http://atfp.co/Zdh72M
Panetta in pictures. The Pentagon posted a link to a slideshow of the secretary's past year on the job, from briefings in the building, to talking to Jay Leno, to chatting up wounded warriors, to traveling to six continents -- and staring down Kiwi warriors. http://bit.ly/ZcAjh2
Paul Wolfowitz isn't pushing Flournoy for SecDef per se, he tells Situation Report, despite the laudatory op-ed he published in the WSJ on Dec. 30. But the former Pentagon policy chief likes Flournoy -- herself a former Pentagon policy chief -- whose name is still being bandied for secretary of defense. Conservatives who dislike Hagel may be out to boost Flournoy's chances, but Wolfowitz says he's not exactly taking a position, at least a public one, on which of the current slate of candidates should be the next Sec-Def.
Wolfowitz's admiration for Flournoy started over a Saturday morning breakfast in Washington -- with Gen. Bill Caldwell. The op-ed stemmed from a conversation he had with Caldwell when the general, then in charge of training Afghan troops, told Wolfowitz that Flournoy had pushed for more resources to build the Afghan force. Struck by what she had done, Wolfowitz called the Pentagon switchboard that very morning to see if he could be patched through to Flournoy, but he didn't expect her to pick up. To his surprise, she did. He thanked her for what she had done to help build the Afghan forces. After a brief conversation, she asked him if that's all he wanted, and he told her yes, all he wanted to do was to thank her.
Wolfowitz to Situation Report: "To my surprise, she got on the phone, then she was surprised that I was calling only to say ‘thank you.' She thought I was calling her on a Saturday morning to complain about something."
Chuck Hagel is still thought to top the list to replace Panetta, but the White House has been unable to make a decision. Criticisms of Hagel from the right and the left, including concerns about his stance on Israel, is keeping other options for secretary alive -- Flournoy being the primary alternative (in addition to the Pentagon's No. 2, Ash Carter, who may otherwise go to lead the Department of Energy). Wolfowitz said he doesn't know enough about Hagel either way -- though he likes Joe Lieberman for the job. Whoever goes to the Pentagon, it should be someone who cares about the mission in Afghanistan, Wolfowitz said, adding that this administration has done more to train the Afghan force than the Bush administration ever did (though he mostly gave credit to Caldwell, who served as his military assistant when he was in the Pentagon). ICYMI: Wolfowitz' op-ed. http://bit.ly/Zf9Cbz
The U.N. says new estimates put the number killed in Syria at about 60,000. The new estimate shows that 59,648 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking," said U.N. High Commissioner Navi Pillay. U.N. news story on new analysis: http://bit.ly/X2NBJ1
Enduring image of the impact of the fighting in Syria: a man holding the body of his dead son in Aleppo in October: http://bit.ly/TyvJGj
CNAS's Kristin Lord is headed to USIP. The U.S. Institute of Peace announced Wednesday that Kristin Lord, now executive vice president at the Center for a New American Security, will become USIP's executive vice president. She starts at the big 23rd Street building with the "dove" roof on Jan. 28. Former special assistant to President Obama Linda Jamison, who has been in the acting role as EVP at USIP since April, will stay on at the Institute as a senior adviser.
Lord: "At a time when Americans seek to understand a world that grows ever more complex, and to prevent and mitigate violent conflict that is all too frequent, the mission of the United States Institute of Peace could hardly be more important," Lord said. "It is a tremendous honor to join the Institute at this critical moment and be part of an organization that strives to represent America at its very best."
Former CNAS-er John Nagl, to Situation Report, on Lord: "Dr. Kristin Lord has been an unsung hero at CNAS for the past four years. Kristin was one of the first people I brought on board the team, and her intelligence and dedication to excellence show in everything CNAS has done since. USIP is gaining a dynamic talent who will make everything she touches better."
Full disclosure: Situation Report used to be a USIP-er, where we even became a blue badger.
- Time: Afghanistan's IED complex: inside the Taliban's bomb-making industry. http://ti.me/UIlQWr
- BBC: Father of Pakistani activist Malala gets diplomatic post in U.K. http://bbc.in/WlaYuW
- AP: Taliban declares U.S. departure a "declare victory and run" strategy. http://bit.ly/W2vO1w
- AEI/FP: (Pletka) What the GOP must do on foreign policy. http://atfp.co/TvtYth
- Brookings: Defense spending and national security strategy event Jan. 7. http://bit.ly/TF0wU5
- CSIS: (Cordesman) Afghanistan and the Uncertain Course of the War. http://bit.ly/Vjgpvw
- AP: Panetta allows O'Reilly, accused of bullying subordinates, to retire as a three-star. http://bit.ly/1352LR3
- Secrecy News: Intelligence oversight steps back from public accountability. http://bit.ly/9wG0ig
- Reuters: Top Pakistani militant Mullah Nazir reportedly killed in drone strike. http://bit.ly/S5o4AZ
- CNN: American journalist James Foley kidnapped in Syria. http://bit.ly/10OvsTM
- The Times of Israel: Yemen's opposition says Saleh must leave country. http://bit.ly/UfPbdx