National Security

U.S. watches French intervention in Mali warily; Hagel is no Luddite on cyber; Why the DOD IG feels ignored; Mil suicides exceed combat deaths; Wal-Mart to hire 100k veterans, and more.

The Pentagon is facing legal hurdles as it attempts to assist the French fight against Islamic extremism in Mali. A defense official told Situation Report that, as the Pentagon readies support, it is swimming through legal issues stemming from the fact that it severed ties with Mali after a military coup in March. But it expects to resolve the issues soon to provide airlift for troops and materiel from France to Mali and also to provide intelligence support.

Panetta said no ground troops in Mali, but maybe some planes. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, traveling in Europe, said the fight in Mali is important but that the U.S. was not planning to put any American military personnel into the mission. He didn't rule out using American aircraft on the ground in Mali to help with France's logistical needs. "There is no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time," he told reporters at a press conference in Lisbon this morning.

The U.S. ignored Mali. The successive elections in Mali over the years may have contributed to the notion that the U.S. could ignore it as a place that could become a haven of Islamic extremism, experts say. And despite fears that terrorism and the extremism from which it feeds could create regional instability, the U.S. has been hesitant to get involved, even as militants gathered strength there. Now the West may be stuck, as neither forces in Mali or in the region are as yet incapable of wresting the north back from the extremists. "The U.S. perhaps didn't engage on that aspect enough, or call out the former president, [Amadou Toumani Toure], who hadn't been taking a very proactive engagement in the north," Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa Program at CSIS in Washington, told Situation Report.

French officials maintain that they don't want to get mired in an operation in northern Mali, but they may not have a choice, Cooke said. "It may get more and more pulled in and entangled in this and have a more longer term role in support of the African Union when they do go in," she said.

"There is layer upon layer of problems in dealing with this," she said.

Panetta in Europe. The SecDef is wheels up from Lisbon this morning, headed for a day-stop in Madrid and then staying overnight in Rome. In Madrid, he will meet with the crown prince, the president, and the minister of defense, and he will hold his second press conference of the day, Situation Report is told. In Portugal, Panetta visited Air Base Lajes, a base with about 1,100 U.S. and Portuguese personnel that is shrinking and will be further affected by the downsizing of the mission in Afghanistan at a savings of $35 million per year, Situation Report is told. Panetta also visited Strike Force NATO, a U.S.-led command in Portugal that conducts maritime security operations.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we are struck by Indonesia's plan, in the name of Sharia, to require women to ride motorcycles side-saddle, increasing dramatically the risk to their safety. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.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.

"Answering All Bells." The Surface Navy Association's national symposium begins today at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City. http://bit.ly/W4TOCT

Why the DOD IG feels ignored. The Pentagon's inspector general has a roster of 63 cases of mismanagement, poor accounting, and other issues that have not been resolved, sometimes for several years, writes the E-Ring's Kevin Baron. "The list reveals how the inspector general is trying to make the Pentagon a somewhat more efficient $600 billion-a-year behemoth. It also is a microscope into bureaucratic minutiae preventing it from happening. At DOD, the IG does not publish full reports until the corrective actions are completed, so the public has no way of knowing exactly what actions have been taken as long as the case remains ‘pending.'"

Michael Smallberg, who tracks inspector general performance for the Project on Government Oversight: "Our position is agencies should either implement IG recommendations in a timely fashion or make very public in the record why they disagree." http://atfp.co/V1vgve

Hagel has his work cut out for him on cyber, but he's not a Luddite, we're told. If he's confirmed, Hagel is expected to jump right in and begin making decisions on cyber issues, including whether to elevate Cyber Command into an independent combatant command and iron out final deets on the military's rules of engagement in cyberspace, Killer Apps' John Reed tells us. Hagel, who made millions founding and then running Vanguard Cellular, a cellphone provider later purchased by AT&T, will make buying the right cyber technology and capabilities a priority, according to two officials with whom Reed spoke. An Obama administration official told Reed: "Senator Hagel gets cyber, he's not a guy who thinks the Internet is a series of tubes, he's going to be a leader here." http://atfp.co/SA56mh

The campaign against Chuck Hagel took form in another full-page ad, this time on page A-7 of the NYT this morning, quoting former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Rep. Eliot Engel, Alan Dershowitz, Rep. Shelley Berkley, and the WaPo editorial board. The ad is paid for by the Emergency Committee for Israel. It urged readers to call New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to urge a no vote. Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) met with Hagel and issued a statement of support: "I asked him about a number of issues -- including America's special relationship with Israel, the threats posed by Iran to the world and the treatment of women and gay and lesbian members of our military -- and his answers were reassuring and show a sensitivity and understanding of these issues." On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said while he had concerns about Hagel, he would not block his nomination.

In 2012, military suicides exceeded the number of combat deaths in Afghanistan, and the trend could get worse, AP's Bob Burns in the Pentagon reports. Pentagon figures show that there were 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year -- up from the 301 the year before. That was more than the 325 the Pentagon had projected. "Last year's total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the AP's count. Some in Congress are pressing the Pentagon to do more." Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): "This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored. As our newest generation of service members and veterans face unprecedented challenges, today's news shows we must be doing more to ensure they are not slipping through the cracks." http://n.pr/TWanmc

Wal-Mart today will commit to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years -- and hire any veteran who wants a job as long as they have left the military within the previous year and did not receive a dishonorable discharge. The NYT: "The company has also been aggressive about hiring veterans because it views them as good employees, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of the book ‘The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.'"

William S. Simon, a Navy veteran and president and CEO of Wal-Mart, will say this today in a speech to the National Retail Federation, according to the NYT: "Let's be clear: Hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions any of us can make. These are leaders with discipline, training and a passion for service." http://nyti.ms/VGN5lM

Hagel's contentious nom could actually be good for foreign policy and national security, writes John Arquilla on FP. In "Less Beef, More Chuck," Arquilla says: "This could be just the sort of confirmation fight that is needed to raise the level of public discourse about military and security affairs. These matters were hardly discussed, much less debated, in the nearly substance-free presidential campaign last fall. It is high time that we should shift our gaze back to the Iraq war once again, that we should parse its key lessons for Afghanistan, and that we should think very hard about whether to keep the Pentagon spending spigot wide open." http://atfp.co/SA48GM

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