National Security

Panetta never read the Allen e-mails; The U.S. military begins Mali airlift; Hagelians push back on nuke critics; CSIS gets some love; Kaplan at Politics and Prose tonight, and a little more.

Panetta didn't read the Allen e-mails. The DOD inspector general's exoneration of Gen. John Allen means his promotion to the top job in Europe can move forward if the White House re-nominates him. With Pentagon press secretary George Little expressing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's "complete confidence in the continued leadership" of Allen, it seems unlikely the White House would think twice about sending his name back to the Senate, where there has been no indication that Allen would face substantive opposition. One indication that Allen was expected to be cleared: there never was a Plan B -- another person who was being seriously considered for the job in Europe -- and still isn't, an American official told Situation Report. (There are other options, however -- the Air Force's Gilmary "Mike" Hostage being just one.)

Still, defense officials told us there was a sigh of relief when the news came that Allen had indeed been cleared and they are hopeful his career will move forward. "This news came as a relief to Pentagon insiders and people are rooting for him to head to Europe as SACEUR," one Pentagon official told Situation Report this morning. "He's a stand-up guy who commands great respect from civilian and military officials alike."

Allen was caught up in the scandal with David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell when the FBI stumbled onto emails between him and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, but it quickly seemed that Panetta had acted out of an abundance of caution in calling for an investigation. In private, U.S. officials conceded they thought Allen would be cleared. At no point did Panetta even read the e-mails, Situation Report is told, leaving it to "legal professionals" and investigators to determine if there was wrongdoing.

But it was still unclear which way it would go for Allen. It took more than two months for the DOD IG to investigate the emails -- and the clock was ticking for Allen because if he hadn't been cleared in the next month or so, he would have risked reverting to a two-star rank, since federal regs dictate that a senior officer can't be unassigned for more than 60 days, and his career may not have recovered. But investigators were taking care to avoid the perception that they had rushed through an investigation of a senior officer and then cleared him, perhaps mistakenly. "The last thing you want is to go through an investigative process that clears someone only to have someone pop back up and say, 'Well, what about this?'" one U.S. official told Situation Report.

The U.S. military got off its hands on Mali. After days of wrestling over how it could legally support France in its bid against Islamic extremism in Mali's north - since the U.S. severed ties with Mali's government after its most recent coup -  U.S. military operations are now in full swing. We're told that there have been five C-17 sorties from France to Bamako, moving more than 120 tons of equipment and supplies and more than 80 troops. Pentagon officials expect 2-3 sorties or mission-trips, per day for the duration of the U.S.-supported airlift. And the expectation, Situation Report is told, is that the mission will be completed in the next two weeks.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where lip-synching is not an option. 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 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.

Fred Kaplan is at Politics and Prose tonight. The author will read from his new book, "The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War," at the Washington bookstore at 7 p.m.

Rising star goes to work for the military's special operators. Maj. Gen. Mike Nagata has been assigned to command special operations forces at U.S. Central Command. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that Nagata has been one to watch, first gaining attention when he was the head U.S. military officer in Islamabad. "Operating from the shadows in support of the fight against al Qaeda and the affiliate's senior leaders," said Frank Kearney, now retired, who at one time had the job Nagata is about to step into. "General Nagata has developed inter-agency, country team and U.S. embassy relationships throughout CENTCOM and the Horn of Africa," he said, describing him as "unassuming and affable." His experience makes him the "perfect choice" to lead, Kearney said. http://atfp.co/UkmbyV

CSIS gets some love from Penn. CSIS was chosen for the second time as the world's "top security and international affairs think tank" by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies program. For more: http://bit.ly/10OU1kL

The most worrisome fight against Hagel is now about nukes. As Situation Report reported Jan. 9, some critics of Chuck Hagel have targeted things he has said about disarmament. His signing on with Global Zero, an advocacy organization that supports the elimination of nuclear weapons, was seen as a problem by some of his critics, including Rep. Mike Turner, the Republican from Ohio,, even though the group has many notable backers.

The attacks, however, are concerning to the Hagel camp, who say those individuals are "totally misrepresenting" his record on nuclear policy. They have now begun to defend his record by actively promoting his record. "The fact of the matter is that his views are perfectly in line with the President's," we were told. "He believes in an effective deterrent and a strong arsenal as long as America faces nuclear threats." Hagel's confirmation hearings are scheduled for next Thursday. http://1.usa.gov/XdShct

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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 gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN 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. http://atfp.co/UFDc5y

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.  http://huff.to/TfgTGT

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. http://bit.ly/VPsdb1

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: http://on.cfr.org/13gavzN

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: http://nyti.ms/10CWiOV

PBS: http://to.pbs.org/RCus2j

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