National Security

Allen speaks about the day the Afghanistan campaign almost ended; Kurt Campbell, making moves; Panetta, working it at NATO; How Hagel might seek revenge; Retired AF brass: find an alternative to sequestration; and more.

John Allen appeared for the first time publicly since deciding to pass on the top military job in Europe, speaking briefly on the record before a group of about 100 invited guests to the Institute for the Study of War's "Welcome Home" dinner at the Hay-Adams last night. Open bar downstairs, followed by dinner on the ninth floor with a movie set view of the White House and Washington Monument that served as a dramatic backdrop to Allen and Kim Kagan's conversation before dinner. During the on-the-record portion of the evening, Allen said, as he has many times, that he believes the campaign in Afghanistan is "on track" and that the plan to shift security to the Afghans will work. He expressed confidence in the plan to withdrawal 34,000 troops over the course of the next year.

Governmental reform, institution building and strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces are all important to keeping Afghanistan on track, Allen said. But perhaps the biggest challenge is countering the uncertainty Afghans perceive. Allen: "Uncertainty is a challenge that we must face and the more we are able to articulate our commitment to Afghanistan's future, the less likely we'll see hedging strategies domestically, hedging strategies regionally, the more we can get on with the business with convincing the Taliban that their narrative of defeat of us, their narrative that we are leaving on the first of January 2015 is in fact specious."

Allen spoke of some of the "pretty dark moments" during his 19 months in Kabul, including the day almost a year ago when the Korans were burned, igniting one of the deepest challenges he had to confront as commander. "When that phone rang early that morning, I believed that we likely were going to see the end of the campaign...but the advice I received from friends, relationships that we had developed, all of those things together, I think saved the campaign," he said.

Allen, joking about the advice he received from his wife, Kathy, who sat at a table nearby: "Kathy said, don't tell any jokes because you're not a very funny general."

DC Seen: The guest list included: Mark Fox, Catherine Dale, Scott Miller, Jon Greenert, Chris Brose, Mike Barbero, Amb. Ron Neumann, Bud McFarlane, John Nagl, Dave Close, Arnie Punaro, Jack Keane, Mike O'Hanlon, Bill Kristol, Eric Edelman, and Jeff Dressler.

The Eats: Allen joked about being the only thing between the guests and dinner, saying that when he saw the menu, he understood why so many people came. A salad with "roasted plum tomatoes" was followed by "Duet of Petit Filet Mignon and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Cheddar and Scallion Mashed Potatoes, Chardonnay Beurre Blanc, seasonal vegetables." Dessert: "Belgium Dark Chocolate Tart, Maldon Sea Salt Caramel."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where we're hoping it's not the kind of day where you put your hands under the automated water faucet and nothing comes out. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here or just shoot me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot.

Gordon Adams breaks down each of the services' sequestration plans in a piece on FP called "How Like the Services." Each service has released documents that detail their Plan B if sequestration hits March 1. The Army's plan, according to Adams is "classic Army," the Navy's plan is "more succinct and more honest" and the Air Force's plan is "blunt and in your face." Adams writes: "The trouble is, of course, that sequester has not happened. The secretary has not made choices; priorities have not been allocated. But the services have been let out to make the worst case they can. Only the Navy is straightforward in saying these are "potential" impacts, and that is true not only because sequester has not happened, but because the decisions and prioritizations have not been made."

The Air Force Association is on record against sequestration. And in a letter to Reid, Boehner, McConnell and Pelosi, obtained by Situation Report, the AFA says: "American military personnel have put their lives on the line repeatedly in near-continuous combat engagements throughout the past two decades. They take this risk with the firm belief that our Nation's leaders will do everything possible to equip them for success. The combined effects of the continuing resolution and sequestration will break that pledge." Signed by more than 25 top Air Force officials, now retired, including: Whit Peters, James Roche, Mike Wynne, Duncan McNabb, Charles Wald, Victor Renuart and others.

In Brussels today, Panetta had his first face-to-face with Joe Dunford since the general became the Afghan war commander. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta received an update from Dunford while in Brussels for the NATO defense ministerial both men are attending this week. Panetta reiterated afterward: "Joe is the right guy for the right time." In Brussels, Panetta is holding bi-lats with the Italian defense minister, the Afghan Defense Minister BK Mohammadi, and the German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, as well as meeting with the NATO secretary general -- all before the formal NATO sessions begin. This afternoon, Panetta will meet with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, their first face-to-face since operations in Mali began.

During today's NATO sessions, ministers will discuss something called the "Connected Forces Initiative," which we're told is "how bi-lat agreements support NATO readiness." The ministers will also discuss U.S. support for the NATO Response Force and receive an update on how nations are supporting what's called the Chicago Defense Package, including "common funding and capabilities sharing" for NATO members. Tonight's dinner in Brussels will focus on the future of NATO and "how the alliance needs to think about future operational environments," Situation Report is told.

George Little provided a readout from the meeting between Panetta and Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola: "[They had] a productive and warm meeting that followed up on Panetta's recent visit to Rome. They discussed the transition process in Afghanistan, this year's fighting season, and the path to an enduring presence beyond 2014. The Secretary noted Italy's strong participation in ISAF. They also discussed NATO capabilities, budget pressures in Europe and the United States, and the looming prospect of sequestration. The Secretary emphasized how devastating sequestration would be for US defense and national security."

Campbell joins the 100,000 Strong Foundation today. Later today, the 100,000 Strong Foundation will announce that Kurt Campbell, who recently stepped down as State's top diplomat for Asia, is joining the foundation. He is said to have been a "longtime supporter" of what had been the 100k Strong Initiative since it was begun at State in 2010. Now, Situation Report is told, he will be providing "strategic guidance and regional expertise" to the new foundation, launched Jan. 24 with Hillary Clinton."

From the "About Us" at 100,000 Strong: "The 100,000 Strong Foundation's mission is to expand and diversify the number of Americans studying Mandarin and studying abroad in China. The goal is to bridge the gap between cultures, strengthen the US-China economic and strategic relationship, and enhance global stability."

Situation Report corrects. In our item yesterday about Bob Work going to CNAS we said incorrectly that Campbell was on the board of CNAS, which he helped to found in 2008. He is not. And Michele Flournoy, of course, is but one of 14 board members. BUT Situation Report has learned that Campbell will in fact be joining the CNAS board, TBA in the coming days, so there you have it.

Texas, are you listening? How Hagel can exact revenge. The Center for American Progress' Larry Korb and Lauren Linde, writing on FP, say that once Chuck Hagel gets into the Pentagon, he can stop playing defense and go on the offense against his political opponents in the Senate, like newly-minted Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who questioned whether Hagel had received money from U.S. enemies, like North Korea. He could close bases, move forces from one state to another, or halt weapons programs that provide jobs in red states, like Texas or Oklahoma or South Carolina.

"Neither Hagel, nor any secretary of defense, can close military bases unilaterally, but he can have a large impact on which bases are part of the list that is sent to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. In 1995, then-Secretary of Defense William Perry resisted pressure from some in the Air Force to place two major logistics bases in Texas and California on the list. When the commission overruled Perry and put them back on the list for closure, Perry mitigated the economic impact on the states by privatizing the bases. Similarly, even before unveiling his list in 2005, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld made it known that Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota would be on the closure list. Although the commission refused to support this, the commotion surrounding the decision undermined Minority Leader Senator Tom Daschle's 2004 reelection bid, which he lost."

But Korb and Linde also argue Hagel may be above it all: "Given this record, Senator Hagel can be depended upon to put his country first, unlike many of his critics."

A combat veteran and "total badass" will speak about women in the military today. Combat veteran Kayla Williams, author of a book called "Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army," will speak at the Center for National Policy and the Truman Project about women in combat and women's changing roles in the military today at noon at the newly merged think tank's offices on Massachusetts Avenue. The panelists will include Williams and Mike Breen, executive director of Truman CNP and a former Army captain. RSVP here: Watch the event livestream. 

The Pentagon announced it may furlough as many as 800,000 civilian employees if sequestration goes through. Although significant, the furloughs are not as dramatic as some reports suggest. According to the Pentagon's plan, the majority of the 800,000 civilians would be told they had to take one day off per week for 22 weeks, between April and September, when the fiscal year ends. And each military service has until early March to ask for specific exemptions on behalf of employees deemed critical. Our E-Ring post here.

"No fair!" After we ran the piece from Danger Room about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently getting fooled by a story about GI benefits for Gitmo detainees, we got a note from a Situation Report reader, Phil Christenson: "NOT FAIR [CAPS his] to McConnell or the poor kid who sent the letter to the Pentagon.  Senators get thousands of letters a week from their constituents and they have unpaid interns or practically unpaid kids right out of school who do nothing but send letters on to agencies for their response without the senator or more senior staff seeing any of it. Unless you are foolish enough to believe that the Secretary of the Treasury signed every dollar bill in your wallet, you should not act as if routine transmittal letters are anything other than automatic signatures on machines that spit out hundreds or thousands a day."[Note that the initial post said Christenson is McConnell's press secretary, which is of course incorrect.]

OutServe-SLDN announced new chapter president, a retired colonel. Col. Gary Espinas will serve as OutServe-SLDN's first director of chapter and member services for the military advocacy group for actively serving LGBT community, OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Espinas is now a military professor of national security affairs in Monterey, California and will assume his new duties at OutServe-SLDN beginning April 30 after he retires.



  • The Atlantic: Hagel detractor supports Fascistic Vision of Israel.  NY Daily News: Reporter Dan Friedman explains his role in the "Friends of Hamas" and a birth of a rumor.
  • Politico: Chuck Schumer: Hagel almost had tears in meeting.

The Stan

National Security

Panetta, putting the band back together; Who instead of Allen? Chuck Hagel isn’t bringing an ‘Entourage’ to the Pentagon; No, Mitch McConnell, Marines in Afghanistan aren’t preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse -- and Gitmo detainees aren’t getting GI benni

By Gordon Lubold

Europe, the final tour: Panetta put the band back together for the last time -- really. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is one place he hoped he'd never be -- back on the so-called Doomsday plane and headed to Europe this morning. He returned to an all-but-empty office, as the E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports, after last week's tearful farewell. But the failure to get Chuck Hagel confirmed before this week's NATO ministerial means Panetta flew back from California to represent the U.S. in Belgium. It's the kind of meeting that top Pentagon officials sometimes joke about since almost every minister feels compelled to make a speech. But the meeting, which runs Thursday and Friday, is an important assembly of allies -- the first since President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next year.

Staffers on a plane: Panetta Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash, Military Advisor Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, Special Assistant Bailey Hand, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia David Sedney, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, and Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog.

Reporters on a plane: AP's Baldor, AFP's Rabechault, Reuters' Stewart, Bloomberg's Ratnam, WSJ's Entous, NYT's Shanker, and VOA's Ramirez.

Wanted: A four-star who knows Europe, can work on a tight budget, a lotta travel required. With Allen stepping aside, Topic A is, who goes to NATO? It's a burning question, at least inside the Pentagon, where Allen's decision to withdraw from consideration for the top military job in Europe results in a scramble for what remains a coveted position. Prerequisites for the job tend to be someone who is already a four-star and ideally it is someone who knows something about Europe. And a love for the road is important: the job requires the commander to be on travel for as much as 25 days per month. Names already being floated for the job in Europe include Gen. Jim Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps; Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, now commander of Air Mobility Command; Gen. Phil Breedlove, the current top Air Force commander in Europe; Adm. Bruce Clingan, the current top Navy commander in Europe; Army Gen. Chuck Jacoby, who commands Northern Command; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnifeld; Gen. Robert Cone, the commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Gen. Gilmary "Mike" Hostage III, commander of Air Combat Command; and Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Fact: Breedlove graduated from Georgia Tech in 1977; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld, graduated in 1978. Breedlove has European experience, is already a four-star, and the Air Force is likely looking at that spot carefully since the service doesn't have any other geographical combatant command jobs at the moment.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where for the record we've removed ourselves from consideration for the job in Brussels - just not a good fit. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here or just shoot me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot.

Furloughs. The Pentagon's Comptroller, Tony Hale, and Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright will brief today at the Pentagon at 1p.m. on civilian furloughs.

Allen's decision to pull his name came down to the wire. Situation Report was the first to report last week that Allen was having second thoughts about the top military job in Europe. After a 19-month tour in Afghanistan, he had to weigh his needs and that of his wife, Kathy, who has had chronic health issues, including an autoimmune disorder. The job in Europe would have required him to be away as much as 20 to 25 days per month and that surely played a part in his thinking. Allen had also been swept up in the scandal that felled David Petraeus, after FBI investigators looking into his affair with Paula Broadwell stumbled on e-mails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. That prompted an investigation into the potential impropriety of some of those e-mails, an investigation that ultimately cleared Allen. Had Allen gone forward, there was the potential that those e-mails would have become public. But we're told that wasn't his reasoning.
Marc Chretien, Allen's longtime civilian adviser, told Situation Report in a brief phoner: "Where 100 different people can cite family reasons as the reason for their retirement, General Allen is one out of 100 who is doing it exactly for those reasons."

The WaPo's interview with Allen Monday night included this bit about how Obama and Allen agreed on the 34,000 troop withdrawal:  "The path to the president's decision to withdraw 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by February 2014, announced during last week's State of the Union address, illustrates the relationship between Obama and Allen, according to senior U.S. officials familiar with the matter. Allen's staff had recommended that no more than 25,000 troops be removed this year, an assessment the general initially supported. But when the White House made it clear to Allen that the president wanted to remove half of the 68,000 troops now in the country, the general developed a plan to satisfy Obama: Allen recommended the withdrawal of 34,000 troops, but he also asked Obama to push the deadline back by two months - from the end of the year to February 2014, allowing his successor, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., to avoid pulling out more than 25,000 troops by the autumn, when Taliban fighters typically begin their winter rest. Obama concurred with Allen's plan. That allowed both parties to get what they wanted: White House officials could say that the decision to remove 34,000 troops was in line with Allen's recommendation, while the general could remain close to his initial withdrawal target."

Mitch McConnell, fooled by the Duffel Blog. The good folks over at Danger Room posted something yesterday for our candy dish this morning: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, responding to a letter from a constituent concerned that Gitmo detainees were receiving GI Benefits, seemed to have been fooled by a story in "Duffel Blog," the widely-read military spoof site. On November 14, 2012, McConnell contacted Elizabeth King, the Pentagon's congressional liaison, with an unusually credulous query. "I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits," McConnell wrote in a letter acquired by Danger Room. "I would appreciate your review and response to my constituent's concerns." Danger Room's Spence Ackerman: "Um, Guantanamo detainees getting GI Bill benefits? Yes, that's from the Duffel Blog, as McConnell's constituent clearly states, complete with the reference URL. Said constituent even notes that he or she can't find any information about the alleged government payouts to suspected insurgents and terrorists. The Defense Department does a lot of inexplicable things at Guantanamo Bay -- there's a resume-building workshop for detainees, for real -- but paying detainees GI Bill benefits is not one of them." Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale told Danger Room: "The very idea that the U.S. government would extend GI Bill benefits to enemy detainees is a patent absurdity." The letter from McConnell to King. 

Read in the Duffel Blog: Marines in Afghanistan Spending All Their Savings on Zombie Apocalypse

This isn't ‘Entourage': don't expect Hagel to arrive at the Pentagon with a big team. It's early yet -- and of course Chuck Hagel has yet to be confirmed -- but when he does come, he probably won't bring a lot of his own people into the building. The flurry of Hagelians who have supported the boss through the contentious confirmation process -- which really began more than two months ago -- created an impression that Hagel would bring perhaps dozens of people with him to the Pentagon if and when he was confirmed as defense secretary. But some of those former staffers say they were spurred into action to help their former boss simply because of what one described to Situation Report as the egregious character assassination of Hagel.

In reality, there are only one or two people who will go with Hagel - at least for now. So far, the only Hagelian who will play a large role is Aaron Dowd, whom we've described as a quiet, self-deprecating Nebraskan who started with Hagel as an intern from Marquette University. We've been told in the past that he is not only close to Hagel, but knows him well. Dowd will get some job that is somewhere between body man and chief of staff, but probably not either. And Eric Rosenbach, another Hagelian, but one who is already installed as the Pentagon's deputy secretary of defense for cyber, will likely assume a larger role once Hagel rolls up, Situation Report is told.

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that many of Panetta's people will stay put, including Derek Chollet, Mark Lippert, and Liz King. Marcel Lettre will be acting chief of staff. Baron: Lettre leads a growing list of Panetta holdovers expected to stay in place at the Defense Department under Hagel. Lettre ran Panetta's transition from CIA director to the E-Ring in 2011 and has been a frequent world traveller with the SecDef. Previously, Lettre was principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. Before coming to DOD, he was senior defense and intelligence advisor and, later, senior national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)." And Marine Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser will also remain as senior military adviser to the SecDef, Situation Report is told.

Could Dems lose Levin? In "The Price of Hagel" on FP, Heather Hurlburt writes that there are potential costs to the Dems in pushing Hagel through. One possibility? Sen. Carl Levin, the Democrat from Michigan who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, may not run again in 2014, when he will be 80 and Michigan could turn red. Hurlburt: "No one thinks he would have trouble winning if he wanted, but the ugly back-and-forth with Senator Jim Inhofe, McCain's replacement as ranking member, and Levin's evident frustration with Inhofe's demands for unprecedented levels of documentation from Hagel, cannot have strengthened his desire to stay on."

Bob Work is headed to CNAS. The Center for a New American Security will announce this morning that the Navy's No. 2, Bob Work, who is stepping down from his position at the service, will become the CEO of CNAS. The Cable's Josh Rogin reports that former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, who founded the think tank in 2008 and today sit on its board of directors, chose Work Tuesday. Flournoy, in the release Rogin obtained early: "Bob brings to CNAS his vast substantive expertise on many of the most critical defense issues facing the nation, along with the leadership experience and management acumen gained in running the day-to-day operations of the Department of the Navy. Bob's incisive intellect and strategic vision will be invaluable as he leads CNAS into its next phase. I enjoyed working with him immensely during our time together at the Pentagon and look forward to working with him again as he assumes his new role."

Sink or Swim: Why doesn't State train its people? The Foreign Service has many young officers who aren't adequately trained for the jobs they fill, and some of these officers feel like they are being thrown into the deep end to learn how to swim. Or so writes Nicholas Kralev on FP. From the lede: "Imagine the following scenario: A 29-year-old restaurant manager becomes a U.S. diplomat. Five years later, he is appointed the founding director of the Arabian Peninsula office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a major State Department program aimed at creating and strengthening civil society in a region vital to global stability. Even though he is considered a good officer in general, the young diplomat has little idea how to do his new job. He speaks no Arabic and has never managed people or a budget outside a restaurant -- let alone $2 million of taxpayers' money. He has minimal knowledge of democracy promotion, institution-building, or grant-making, but he is expected to identify suitable NGOs in eight countries and award them grants to build an alternative to the authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. Despite the diplomat's obvious inexperience, he is sent to his new post in Abu Dhabi without a day of training. The State Department expects him to learn how to do his job by osmosis -- to watch colleagues, figure things out on his own, improvise, and rely on luck." Kralev: "There is no need to imagine this scenario -- it actually happened in 2004 to a U.S. Foreign Service officer named Hans Wechsel."


  • WSJ: A palace rift in Bahrain bedevils U.S. naval base.
  • All Africa: Somalis enjoy first major music concert in two decades. 
  • The Atlantic: The Civil War and WW II: the worst guides to the War on Terrorism.
  • Defense News: Navy paints a bleaker picture on sequester.
  • AP: U.S. to strike back against Chinese cyber attacks.    
  • Foreign Affairs: (registration) McChrystal talks about modern warfare, killing and why mandatory public service makes sense.