National Security

What Chuck Hagel will say; Eighty Hagelians sign letter; The Navy’s new Special Warfare Group; Why “pirouette” was the word of the day at the Pentagon, and a little more.

More than 80 former Hagel staffers have signed a letter in support of their old boss and are submitting it to SASC for Thursday's hearing. The staffers, none of whom are still active in government, wanted to put to rest rumors of staff discontent promulgated by people like Sen. Bob Corker, who mentioned such concerns in an appearance on a Sunday show. The letter, Situation Report is told, will not rebut specific criticisms of the senator, but will outline the ways in which Hagel inspired staff to be bigger than themselves -- and inspired their loyalty.

Hagel is confronting three groups on Thursday: generally supportive Dems, Republicans who are privately supportive but not yet publicly so, and then the Republicans who either have a problem with Hagel himself or distrust the White House when it comes to nukes, budget cuts, or Iran and Israel. Of that last group, some have publicly criticized Hagel before even meeting with him, individuals familiar with the confirmation process tell Situation Report - rendering the subsequent meetings unproductive due to the earlier public posturing. Nevertheless, an individual familiar with the confirmation preparations said that there's been "good progress" in Hagel's many calls to senators. On Thursday, he will attempt to set the record straight on Iran, nuclear issues and budget cuts. "You're going to hear Hagel reject the idea of simply containing a nuclear Iran, as he has done in private meetings with senators," the individual told Situation Report. Hagel has already made many of the same arguments to senators in recent weeks, including in a letter to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. "You begin to see in those pieces the outline of many of the points Hagel is going to make in a forceful way in the hearing."

Sam Nunn and John Warner will introduce Hagel. The two former SASC chairmen will appear before the committee Thursday to tell the panel that Hagel should be confirmed. "This is from two people who no one would accuse of being weak on defense," the person told Situation Report.

From the Department of Retweets: "@pricefloyd: @glubold No one from this era was available?"

The Hagel camp was gratified that Sen. Thad Cochran, the Republican from Mississippi, announced yesterday that he would support Hagel, making him the first Republican to do so. The announcement came after Hagel met with Cochran, ranking member of the powerful Senate Approps committee, who is seen as old-school Senate and willing to build bridges and cut deals when necessary. The Hagel camp needs people like Cochran who will help Hagel to surpass the 60-vote threshold of a GOP filibuster and elevate the final vote to as much as 70 ayes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, however, said he would block Hagel's nomination until Panetta testifies on Benghazi. The South Carolina Republican and SASC member is demanding that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testify on what happened before and on Sept. 11, 2012, or he will stop Hagel's nomination. SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, (D-MI) said that such a hearing was already "in the works."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. 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.

On his way out the door, Gen. John Allen is calling for a "substantial military presence" in Afghanistan through next year's fighting season. In an interview in Kabul with the WSJ, Allen outlined his thinking for drawing down the force in Afghanistan. "We'd like to maintain our campaign so we're as pervasive in our touch this fighting season, because this fighting season Afghans are going to be moving into the lead operationally," Allen told the WSJ's Maria Abi-Habib. "We'd like to be with them through the fighting season and then you'd see our numbers come down and then stabilize across the election." Allen will leave his post as ISAF commander in Kabul Feb. 10 when another Marine, Gen. Joe Dunford, replaces him after 19 months. There are about 66,000 American troops in Afghanistan now, and the White House has not announced a withdrawal "slope" yet. But the command is expected to want as much of that force as possible for the last leg of the war in Afghanistan. Allen is arguing for as robust a presence as possible, citing the lessons learned from the Soviets years ago. Allen: "What we've sought to do is learn from the post-Soviet experience.... It was as the Soviet Union began to come apart, when the advisers first were withdrawn and...when the resources were ultimately withdrawn, that's when we first began to see that [Afghan security] force polarize along ethnic and tribal lines and then everything began to come apart."

An investigation recently cleared Allen of any impropriety after investigators stumbled onto e-mails between him and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. Although the White House has signaled that it will re-nominate him for the top post in Europe, it has yet to do so.

Afghans will not be in charge of all media embeds as some outlets had reported. The Air Force Times' Jeff Schogol writes that, contrary to other reports, NATO will continue to embed U.S. and international reporters who want to cover NATO operations.

The Navy just created a new in-house think tank. It's called the Navy Warfare Group and it's designed to think about the future of the Navy across different disciplines and departments. According to a Navy message it will be dedicated to "evaluate, develop and implement new strategic concepts" that will be useful to the service. The group will mirror a group the Marine Corps created last year called The Ellis Group, named after Maj. Earl Ellis, the "father of amphibious assault," which resides at Quantico, Va. The group, comprised of 10 majors and lieutenant colonels and led by a full-bird, looks at Marine Corps-Navy issues. Now the Navy has its counterpart. The Navy's group had stemmed from a conversation that CNO Adm. Jon Greenert had with Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos more than a year ago. But the Navy had been slower to put this group together, Situation Report was told.

‘Pirouette' was the word of the day in the Pentagon after Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio asked the Pentagon press secretary a question yesterday about how the engagement in Africa seemed to be a turnabout from the pivot to Asia. Capaccio: "How does this engagement fit into the pivot to Asia strategy? ... Secretary Panetta and all the officials who crafted the Asia -- the Asia pivot, did they envision maybe a pirouette to Africa to incorporate some of the aid and the assistance the United States is providing there?" The question followed George Little's introduction to the briefing -- all spoken by Little French before the English portion of the Q&A as he outlined the extent of the public assistance the U.S. has been providing the French in their campaign against Islamic extremists in northern Mali. Little's answer to Capaccio's question: "Tony, I had no idea you were such a dance expert. Look, we have made it very clear that even as we rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region as part of our strategy that we're not going to keep our eye off the ball on security threats that we face in other parts of the world, to include terrorism, terrorism wherever it crops up, in Africa or elsewhere. And it's not zero-sum. It's not Asia and then we withdraw from other places.  We are going to sustain relationships throughout the world on every continent." The two went on to use the word two more times in yesterday's briefing.

$7.3 million and for what? The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report yesterday on the Imam Sahib Border Police station in Kunduz province in Afghanistan, which was designed for 175 people but to which only 12 people have been assigned. "No one was aware of any plans to move additional personnel to the facility," a SIGAR spokesman said. "The personnel did not have keys to many of the buildings and most of the facility appeared to be unused." The report points out apparent waste but also suggests that the series of border stations, a linchpin of Afghan-Pakistan relations, is not that strong. Although the border situation has been characterized as more positive lately, the report doesn't suggest that in Kunduz, at least, there is a very robust cross-border cooperation. Here, a photo of the facility. 

Arab Winter

  • Bikya: Egypt's military says country faces political collapse. 
  • ABC: Who's who in Egypt's latest political crisis. 
  • The Cable: Clinton says Benghazi was her biggest regret. 
  • NightWatch: Egypt, Libya, Mali. 
  • Al-Monitor: Egypt's post-democracy nears point of no return.

Noting

  • Danger Room: Drone investigator: if facts lead to war crimes, so be it. 
  • Battleland: Time for some fearless leadership on women in combat. 

Into Africa

Hardware

  • Bloomberg: F-35B grounding traced to crimped tubing: Pentagon.
  • AFP: Philippines to buy 12 South Korean fighter jets.
  • Jane's: USAF requests proposals for next-gen ICBM.

 

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