The Army will leave $6 billion worth of gear in Afghanistan; Hagel’s first foreign defense minister visit is Israel’s Barak, today; DHS goes commando; How will Hagel be with the press? And a little more.
By Gordon Lubold
The U.S. Army is planning to leave about $6 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan after 2014. The service is in the middle of planning a major "retrograde" that will account for the bulk of the vehicles, gear, and other materiel after more than 11 years of war. Situation Report is told that the Army has approximately 1.38 million pieces of equipment in Afghanistan valued at roughly $28 billion. Of that, it plans to bring home about 757,000 pieces, or about $21 billion worth of materiel, and "divest itself" of about 628,000 pieces of equipment valued at about $6 billion, according to Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. "We will bring back those items that will support the Army's approved force," Hall told Situation Report. "We will also bring home items with security trade restrictions." We're told the Army will leave behind in Afghanistan equipment that is obsolete, does not meet criteria to return home, or is not "cost effective to return."
The Army has about 28,000 vehicles and trailers that must be shipped out of the country, and there are another 90,000 shipping containers of equipment the Army expects to be recovered, identified, and repacked for shipment, Situation Report was told by an ISAF spokesman in Kabul. "In cases where the material is excess to the needs of the Army or transport costs exceed fair market value, the materiel will be donated or disposed of." The Pentagon is planning a VTC briefing from Kabul with top logistics brass on retrograde on Wednesday.
Buds reunite: Israel's Ehud Barak arrives at the Pentagon this morning. The Israeli defense minister will arrive at the building's River Entrance at 10 a.m. to meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel -- his first meeting of a foreign defense minister, and by design. After a confirmation process that called into question Hagel's commitment to Israel, the new SecDef wanted to make sure Barak would be the first visit. Hagel has known Barak for more than a decade, since he was prime minister. "It's expected to be a meeting of old friends, ready to keep up the great work accomplished in the past few years under Panetta," Situation Report is told by a defense official. The two will discuss how to "continue to address potential threats from Syria and Iran" and how the Pentagon will maintain its support for Israel, including rocket and missile defense development "in this time of fiscal uncertainty," we're told. "These programs cost a lot of money and department leaders are grappling with how to still provide urgent funds after Congress failed to resolve sequestration." The meeting will include Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey.
Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where contrary to the wishes of some in the DC area, we are looking forward to the "stripe of snow" and hope it actually happens. . But just to make sure, we've got a tray full of ice for the toilet. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
DHS goes commando. The Department of Homeland Security is now using MRAPs -- like the Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles the military uses in the war zone, Killer Apps' John Reed reports. "This MRAP has been modified to carry ‘operators' (not officers -- it's as if we're sending SOF teams to serve warrants now) riding shotgun on the outside of the vehicle or inside the heavily armored truck while they service ‘high-risk warrants.' Notice the firing ports below the windows, which are thick enough to stop a .50 caliber bullet," Reed writes. "Whether justified by the criminal threat or not, the notion of MRAPs loaded with ‘operators' who are tricked out in what used to be special-ops gear performing law-enforcement duties -- like serving a warrant -- seems excessive, if not a little creepy. Wouldn't the normal armored trucks that SWAT teams have used for the last 30 years cut it?"
Uncle Sam Wants You -- to look at this retrospective of 150 years of military recruitment, in posters, here, from "Men Wanted for the Army" in WW I to an Air Force poster of a badass-looking airman from 2011: "It's not science fiction."
There's no stronger force than a spouse scorned. The Pentagon's tone on sequester has changed slightly. Since Hagel assured the public last Friday that the Pentagon would be able to protect the nation despite the "unnecessary" political standoff, the building has begun to argue that the sequester will have other effects. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron writes: "The Obama administration seems to be deploying a new argument for its first post-sequester message bomb: Since images of abandoned missile silos didn't seem to work, cue the clips the schoolchildren of deployed troops, their teachers locked out of their jobs, and their poor, young military mothers pushing shopping carts through government-run grocery stores in search of slightly discount-priced diapers and ground beef. Don't laugh. If the specter of nuclear disarmament can't move John Boehner and Gene Sperling, skeptics think military spouses just might."
When it comes to the press, Chuck Hagel will probably be more careful than Panetta -- but not because of his bruising confirmation fight. He's likely to be more circumspect because that's just how he is, we're told. Whereas Panetta was gregarious, happy, savvy in the ways of the source-press dynamic, Hagel's interactions with the news media have always been less animated. In the Senate, Hagel wasn't known for being overly friendly, or unfriendly, to the press, just a straight shooter, a former Hagel staffer told Situation Report. Hagel knew some journalists personally but he didn't necessarily have an interest in building a press "posse," a group of reporters with whom he had a special relationship, we're told. But: "He understands everybody has a job to do and that you know there is an important symbiotic relationship between the media and him," the former staffer told Situation Report.
Situation Report is also told by a senior defense official: "You can expect regular and direct engagement with the press. He knows that as Secretary of Defense, this is extremely important. He's the consummate straight shooter, and that will serve him well."
China watchers' fears confirmed: As $46 billion gets lopped off the Pentagon's budget, China's new leader protects his growing military from cuts. Alas, Chinese President Xi Jinping's military budget is a paltry $114 billion -- but that's up almost 11 percent from the year before, reports the WSJ this morning: "It is the first budget since Mr. Xi took over as Communist Party and military chief in a once-a-decade leadership change in November. Military spending has increased at a similar rate for most of the past two decades, but this year's increase comes as China's overall economic growth begins to slow. Diplomats and analysts say Mr. Xi has moved faster than expected to establish himself as a strong military leader, making a series of high-profile visits to army, navy, air force and missile-command facilities in his first 100 days in office, and launching a campaign to enhance the armed forces' ability to ‘fight and win wars,' according to diplomats and analysts."
- AP: U.S., China, agree on sanctions for North Korea
- Reuters: North Korea to scrap armistice if U.S., South Korea continue drills.
- Time: Could Denis Rodman's visit affect U.S. policy?
- AP: China destroys nearly two tons of Ikea chocolate cake.
- Duffel Blog: Hipster joins Army to be ironic.
- Defense News: Despite sequester, House panel proposes budget hike for Pentagon.
- Danger Room: Army outsources defense strategy, armchair generals wanted.
- Reuters: France says 15 militants killed in overnight fighting.
- Daily Mail: Belmokhtar killed in Mali.
- All Africa: Al-Qaida confirms French killed AQIM leader Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.
- Ahram Online: Chad emerges as regional superpower in Mali conflict.
- CS Monitor: Iran nuclear talks: Saudis, IAEA, voice doubt over Tehran's intentions.
- WSJ: A political murder in Tunisia upsets progress in a rare Arab spring success story.
- The Telegraph (blog): Why Obama may be changing his mind on Syria.
- Time: Inside the chaos of the anti-Assad rebellion in Syria.