National Security

Obama to troops: you’ll have gear and strategy; Was Mattis pushed out? Drones get extended discussion; Sinclair to enter plea today, and more.

Obama made a bold case for embracing climate change, ensuring equal rights for all people, and reaching out to friend and foe alike. Analysts believe he was had countries like Iran on his mind when he talked about the end to "perpetual war" and the beginning of engagement with "sworn enemies." Obama, during his inaugural speech: "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends -- and we must carry those lessons into this time as well. We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully -- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to ABC's Martha Raddatz, translates after the speech: "I think it does mean that we're going to have to work with other countries to develop the kinds of alliances and partnerships that bring other countries into the challenge of how we preserve peace. It just can't be the U.S."

Obama, at the Commander in Chief's Ball: "I want you to know that when I was standing on the steps of the Capitol today, looking out at close to a million people, the single biggest cheer that I always get, and today was no different, at my inauguration, was when I spoke about the extraordinary men and women in uniform who preserve our freedom and keep our country strong. So know that every single day we are thinking of you; we're going to make sure you got the equipment, the strategy, the mission, that allows you to succeed and keep our country safe; know that we are going to be looking after and thinking about your families every single day and when you get back home you will be greeted by a grateful nation."

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just drop 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.

Was Mattis pushed out? Speaking of Iran, some in and out of the Pentagon believe the CENTCOM commander, Gen. Jim Mattis, is leaving his post early -- March, perhaps, instead of August when his three-year tour would be more likely to end  -- in part because he is seen as having bellicose views toward Iran than don't square with those of the administration. Best Defense's Tom Ricks outlines the reasons why pushing Mattis out now, if indeed that is the case, is wrong:

"Timing: If Mattis leaves in March, as now appears likely, that means there will be a new person running CENTCOM just as the confrontation season with Iran begins to heat up again. Civil-Military signals: The message the Obama Administration is sending, intentionally or not, is that it doesn't like tough, smart, skeptical generals who speak candidly to their civilian superiors. In fact, that is exactly what it (and every administration) should want. Had we had more back in 2003, we might not have made the colossal mistake of invading Iraq. Service relations: The Obamites might not recognize it, but they now have dissed the two Marine generals who are culture heroes in today's Corps: Mattis and Anthony Zinni. The Marines have long memories. I know some who are still mad at the Navy for steaming away from the Marines left on Guadalcanal. Mattis made famous in Iraq the phrase, ‘No better friend, no worse enemy.' The Obama White House should keep that in mind."

In a follow-up post over the weekend, Ricks writes that disagreements between Mattis and the White House, and perhaps in particular National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, weren't just about Iran, but also about Afghanistan and Pakistan and the U.S. response to the Arab Spring. Read Ricks' back-and-forth with NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Sinclair's arraignment starts tomorrow. The proceedings against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, charged with sexual misconduct and other offenses, begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 22 at the Fort Bragg courthouse. Sinclair was a commander in Afghanistan, had five combat tours, and now faces prison time if convicted on some of the most serious charges against him, which include forcible sodomy, wrongfully engaging in inappropriate relations, and fraud.  He is set to enter his plea today, according to the AP.

Sinclair faces Col. James Pohl, who has presided over some of the military's highest-profile cases, including trials of the 9/11 planners, the men who attacked the USS Cole, and the soldiers accused of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, according to the Fayettville Observer.

Former DNI Dennis Blair and CFR's Micah Zenko (also an FP columnist) talk drones today. The two will be on a conference call at 11 to talk drone strike policies, how they've affected U.S. security interests, and how Obama should reform drone ops in the future. Zenko believes that current policies may be radicalizing local populations and increasing the number of terrorists. Zenko points to a connection between the number of radicals in Yemen and U.S. drone operations there. Zenko: "[T]here appears to be a strong correlation in Yemen between increased targeted killings since December 2009 and heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to [al-Qaeda]."

Zenko's special report, "Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies," here:

Watch Dave Deptula talk drones on PBS tomorrow night. Deptula, according to a NYT review of the PBS program, "Rise of the Drones," says: "Where we are in terms of unmanned aerial vehicles is about the same place we were with biplanes right after World War I."

The NYT: "It's an eye-opening statement because, based on what is shown in the program, the current state of drone technology is pretty astonishing. The episode looks at the use of drones for reconnaissance, spying and killing, detailing these different types of unmanned planes now in use and dropping in on a training exercise. And it explores the controversy surrounding the planes, which have been credited with killing some top terrorists but have accidentally killed civilians as well. The planes, as several experts note, are dramatically speeding up the World War II-era timetable of intelligence gathering and laboriously planned bombing runs, and in the process are altering the very definition of warfare."

NYT listing and mini-review:


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National Security

FP NatSec Exclusive: Mutiny among guards at the Kabul embassy; Panetta just met with David Cameron on Algeria; How Mike Vickers delivered for “Zero Dark Thirty”; Was Petraeus the last smart Army general? Dempsey meets with the Russians, and more.

Panetta had a last-minute meeting with British PM David Cameron about the crisis in Algeria. With several countries still in the dark about just what went down and who is where after Algerian troops raided the natural gas complex to end the hostage standoff, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is in London this morning, had an unscheduled meeting with Cameron within the past hour. Situation Report learns that Algeria and Mali issues took up about half the meeting, which was "more a policy than a tactical discussion," we're told by senior defense officials. "There was an in-depth discussion of the current, unfolding situation in Algeria... and ‘compared notes,'" we're told.

Panetta, in a speech this morning EST at Kings College in London: "We are working around the clock to insure the safe return of our citizens." He also said that anyone who looks to attack the U.S. will have "no place to hide."

The outgoing defense secretary is also calling for NATO to help out on cyber-security issues. Pentagon press secretary George Little: "The Secretary's speech today about the future of the transatlantic Alliance calls for resolve in the face of a myriad of security threats facing the US and Europe, and calls on European allies to help transform NATO to meet those common challenges. In particular, the Secretary is calling for the US and Europe to work together on cybersecurity and Asia-Pacific security issues. These are priorities he has made for the Department of Defense, and on his final trip to Europe, he believes they are paramount for the alliance as well."

Panetta is now at "The Ship & Shovell" pub in London with staff. He'll head to a meeting with several members of Parliament later today. He drank Tangle Foot ale at the pub, we're told.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report, where there is always money in the banana stand. Read here about the 14 new episodes of Arrested Development, due out together, in May: Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just drop 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.

FP NatSec Exclusive: There are serious security issues at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. FP and the Project On Government Oversight have published a striking piece about poor security around the embassy despite a $500 million contract with the security firm Aegis. A sensitive State Department document from this past July, obtained by POGO, describes a "mutiny" among guards who defend the embassy.

POGO's Adam Zagorin: "In July, dissatisfaction boiled over when more than 40 members of the embassy's Emergency Response Team signed a petition sounding an alarm about embassy security, people familiar with the document said. The petition, submitted to the U.S. State Department and Aegis, expressed a ‘vote of no confidence' in three of the guard force leaders, accusing them of ‘tactical incompetence' and ‘a dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.' Two guards say they were quickly fired after organizing the petition, in what they called ‘retaliation.'"

A guard serving at the U.S. embassy in Kabul said last November: "[I]f we ever got seriously hit [by terrorists], there is no doubt in my mind the guard force here would not be able to handle it, and mass casualties and mayhem would ensue."

Jim Amos is meeting with his general officers this week. Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos has been meeting with his three- and four-stars at Quantico since Tuesday. Deets about the agenda were few, but we're guessing ethics -- a topic on which Amos had already been reaching out across his senior officer corps in the wake of recent scandals -- and budgetary issues were somewhere on the schedule. How Mike Vickers "delivered" for Hollywood. FP and the National Security Archive yesterday posted the transcript of the interview that Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal had with Mike Vickers. The under secretary of defense for intelligence, with approval from Leon Panetta, raised the curtain on a number of operational details about the raid that killed bin Laden.

National Security Archive's Nate Jones: "The Vickers transcript is more important than that, however. It reveals the deep uncertainty among intelligence analysts over whether it was actually bin Laden hiding in the Abbottabad compound, and it provides the most complete and specific inside history of the creation, planning, training, and approval of the U.S. strike that killed the man behind the September 11 attacks."

The probability percenters: who thought what about bin Laden raid: "The Vickers interview was the genesis of the scene at the crux of Zero Dark Thirty. As Vickers tells it, two weeks before the raid, a ‘red team' composed of officers from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the CIA, and the DIA tried to ‘come up with alternative hypotheses' as to who was living at the compound. (One member of the red team had gotten married the day before and had to ‘ruin/cancel' his honeymoon.) The red team's chief naysayer was dubbed ‘Mr. Forty Percent.' Michael Morell believed the chance bin Laden was at Abbottabad was 60 percent; Vickers himself, and others in the NCTC, were ‘in the 80 camp.' Vickers never specifically mentions the analyst Bigelow has dubbed ‘Maya,' but he does reveal that the estimates ranged from ‘95 percent down to forty.' In the film, Maya informs her taken aback superiors that there is a 95 percent certainty that the Abbottabad shut-in is bin Laden." More on FP:

More ZD30 documents from the National Security Archive: "Lifting the government's shroud over the mission that killed Osama bin Laden."

A cyber whodunit: Hunting Red October. This week, Kaspersky Lab, an IT security firm, announced they had uncovered "Red October," a new cyber spying operation that targets a range of diplomatic facilities, defense companies and energy firms around the globe, and it may mark an "evolution of the cyber black market," writes Killer Apps' John Reed.  Kaspersky has said the perpetrators behind Red October "appear to be Russian-speaking, but the lab can't provide evidence that this is an official Kremlin-backed operation. The lab also can't eliminate the possibility that private hackers are responsible. That's right, we may be seeing the rise of private spy agencies, think SPECTRE or whatever Raoul Silva, Javier Bardem's character in the latest 007 film, calls his organization."

Dempsey met Russia's new chief of the General Staff. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron tells us that "with tensions between Moscow and Washington at higher-than-usual levels, the top military officers of the United States and Russia met for the first time in person this week while attending a NATO meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, diving right into a discussion of ‘irritants' between the two powers." Dempsey met Gen. Valery Gerasimov at a time when many in the arms control community expect the U.S. -- with the help of likely new defense secretary Chuck Hagel -- to press Russia for more reductions in nukes. In the meeting, Gerasimov and Dempsey "discussed issues the Russian Federation considers irritants to the relationship," his spokesman, Col. David Lapan, told the E-Ring. "We had a productive and candid discussion on a variety of subjects," Dempsey said on his Facebook page. More here:

David Petraeus: the last smart general in the Army? FP's Rosa Brooks asks the question after reading "The Insurgents," the new Fred Kaplan book. She wonders if the spate of copy lately, from Tom Ricks and others, about the services' lack of strategic thinking is a spreading cancer across the U.S. military. "There are a lot of disgruntled grunts out there -- and a widely shared complaint is that This Man's Army (and Navy, and so on) may pay lip service to creativity, vision, and big ideas, but in reality, big ideas are as welcome in the military as ants at a picnic."

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