National Security

Dunford, Karzai agree on Wardak; Amazon works for the CIA; Carter reaffirms the pivot; Levin backs no-fly zone; Kelly talks Iran in Southcom; and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold

ISAF and the Afghan government have reached an agreement on Wardak. Gen. Joe Dunford, the ISAF commander in Kabul, announced overnight that he and President Hamid Karzai had reached an agreement over the issue in Wardak after Karzai abruptly declared that U.S. Special Operations Forces were to cease operations and to leave the province. Karzai alleged abuse of Afghans at the hands of the American troops, charges that were never fully explained. Dunford, confronting one of the largest crises with the Afghan government - since taking over recently for Gen. John Allen, met with Karzai in the presidential palace. According to the agreement, Afghanistan will soon begin to move Afghan National Security Forces into Nerkh District in Wardak to provide security, replacing an Afghan Local Police force and U.S. forces. It was a tough situation in which Karzai may have bought a line from local leaders in Wardak. "This was really about local leaders feeding a narrative to Kabul that wasn't exactly on the mark," and American official told Situation Report. "Once the facts were settled, it was possible to move ahead with an agreement."
"I am pleased to announce that following a very constructive series of talks with the President and the leadership of the MOD and MOI, we have come to agreement on a plan for Wardak that continues the transition of this critical province and meets the security needs of the people and the requirements of our mission.
Dunford: What success looks like. "
I want to thank President Karzai for his leadership. This plan meets the President's intent and leverages the growing capacity and capability of the Afghan security forces to meet the security needs of this country. This solution is what success looks like as we continue the transition to overall Afghan security lead."

Obama is visiting Israel today.  In his two-day visit, Obama is expected to strengthen the Obama White House.-Israeli relationship and talk security issues confronting the region, from Syria to Iran to "Israel's neighbor," the Palestinians. He quickly was driven across the airport to see a battery of the Iron Dome air defense system. So proud of the system, credited with intercepting more than 400 rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli towns, the Israelis brought the battery to the airport after it was determined Obama wouldn't have time to go see it closer to the border.
The NYT:
"The president's inspection of the mobile air-defense battery was the first in a series of carefully choreographed stops meant to convey a single message: The president of the United States cares about the Israeli people and will do whatever is necessary to protect them from threats, near and far."
Obama, earlier, on the tarmac:
"I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations."
Hagel spoke with the new Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon
. On the eve of Obama's visit to Israel, Hagel spoke by phone with the new defense minister, congratulating him on taking office and generally vowing to work closely with him in the years ahead. From Pentagon pressec George Little's readout: "Secretary Hagel stated that he looks forward to meeting with Minister Ya'alon both in the Pentagon and in Israel in the near future."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. 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.

Carl Levin likes the idea of a no-fly zone for Syria. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he thought a no-fly zone could work, reports The Cable's Josh Rogin. Levin asked outgoing SACEUR and EUCOM commander Adm. Jim Stavridis what he thought, and Stavridis acknowledged that it was under discussion but said there was no unified NATO position on the issue.
Rogin: Stavridis said that the NATO Patriot missile batteries currently deployed in Turkey have the capability to shoot down Syrian military aircraft in a radius of 20 miles. McCain pressed Stavridis to give his personal opinion as to whether or not establishing a Patriot battery-enforced no-fly zone in northern Syria would speed the end of the conflict." Stavridis: "My personal opinion is that would be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime," Stavridis said.
Levin: "You could protect that kind of a zone with these Patriot missiles, leaving the missiles in Turkey but having the zone inside the Syrian border," he said. "It is a way without putting boots on the ground and in a way that would be fairly cautious, that would put additional pressure on Assad and also create a zone where Syrian people who are looking for protection and safety could come without crossing the border and becoming refugees."

Will the link be unbroken? Yesterday's edition included at least two links to some of FP's coverage of the war in Iraq. We received a number of e-mails from folks who wanted to access the material but couldn't. We're sorry you experienced problems. Here are the unbroken links.
Excerpts of the FP-RAND event on Iraq that included a sharp discussion between folks like Gen. John Allen, Doug Feith, Paul Pillar, John Nagl, and Steve Hadley. Read it here.
FP's 10 most iconic images of the Iraq war,

Amazon is building the CIA a cloud. Apparently Amazon, that giant of commerce, is building a cloud-computing network for the agency in McLean. Federal Computer Week reported the agency will pay Amazon $600 million to develop its own private cloud over the next 10 years. Killer Apps' John Reed writes: "This would make plenty of sense. Amazon is well-known for providing cloud-computing services to the private sector, and government agencies dealing with classified information are pushing to adopt cloud services as a way of consolidating thousands of network ‘enclaves' that are hard to defend. The Pentagon, for example, is building what it says will be a defendable, upgradable network, known as the Joint Information Environment."

Ash is wheels up. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter finished up his Asian tour, leaving Jakarta this morning Washington time. He attended the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue, met with defense leaders from Southeast Asian nations and presented his remarks about the Asia and the "new geopolitics" there. Just two days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new review of the current defense strategy, in which the "pivot to Asia" figures prominently, we're told Carter "reaffirmed the strategic importance of the U.S. rebalance."

On the way home to D.C., Carter will stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and meet with service members there. Hagel's other recent announcement, about the new ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, is bound to be a topic of discussion.

Don't forget about Southcom. Lingering problems in the Middle East, the drawdown in Afghanistan, and the pivot to Asia doesn't mean U.S. Southern Command doesn't face challenges. Today Gen. John Kelly, Southcom commander, briefs reporters at the Pentagon at 3 p.m. We're told Kelley will be talking about the effects sequestration has on the Southcom mission and the impact that Iran and China have in his region, which includes the Caribbean and all countries in the Americas south of Mexico. Kelley, who testified yesterday on the Hill, is expected to take questions about Guantanamo Bay.
Kelly, yesterday on Iran, at the Senate Armed Services Committee: "Who knows where they're going? It's not a huge threat now. But I think anywhere they go, particularly when they go to a region that is completely different than they are culturally, religiously and all the rest, I think they -- they bear watching."
On China: "What's the ultimate goal? I think the ultimate goal is, certainly, commercially is just, they're huge, powerful and they're -- and they're going to penetrate any market they could penetrate. That's not a bad thing, necessarily. It's a good thing for most of the nations that I'm talking about. I don't see it as a huge threat, but as we -- as we back away or -- or it's harder and harder for [partner nations] to buy our military equipment, they go to other, easier-to-deal-with countries, and China is certainly one of them."
And Kelly gives a shout out to Colombia: "There's a great deal of cocaine produced, and all of that cocaine comes to the United States, primarily from Colombia. And I have to give them a shout-out. They have done a tremendous job working shoulder to shoulder with us. They have tremendous appreciation for what the United States government and its people have done for them over the years to -- to defend against the traffickers and the insurgents that they've dealt with. They are now -- they've fallen, if you will, to the number-three producers of cocaine in the world. Number one and number two are Peru and Bolivia. The vast majority, in fact, I would say 100 percent of that cocaine goes into Brazil. Brazil's now the number two consumer of cocaine, and also is the traffic path, if you will, to Africa and then further to, to Europe."

CNP and Truman asked a bunch of veterans and national security experts what the anniversary of the Iraq war means to them. A.J. Gales, a Truman Project member and a Marine: "We, as a nation, have learned so much from the past 10 years. As a nation we have learned what failed leadership and a purist mentality can lead us into. That's why this anniversary isn't just a mile marker for me, but a key pillar in my future. A future where I will always fight to ensure we no longer use the military as a pawn, but as a strategic weapon. That we never view it as weak to utilize both soft and hard power, but rather as the fundamentally right thing to do. Serving in Iraq has forever shaped my future. I have seen firsthand the impacts of the war, and understand the need for public servants who understand America being strong is not just about having the largest military. It's about utilizing all our strategic weapons, from diplomacy to boots on the ground." Here's what others said. 

Can DOD address the "structural drivers of military spending"? Gordon Adams of Stimson, Todd Harrison of CSBA, Clark Murdock of CSIS, and Arnie Punaro of Punaro Group discuss at American Enterprise Institute Thursday morning at 9. Deets here.

CSIS' Maren Leed hosts H.R. McMaster today. Leed speaks with Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the famed counterinsurgency expert and formerly a close aide to David Petraeus, as part of CSIS's "ground forces dialogue." After more than 10 years of two major ground wars, the series explores the issues confronting the Army and Marines, the role they'll play, what capabilities they need, and so on. Today at noon. Deets here.


  • Al Jazeera: Girl activist Malala back at school.
  • Spiegel Online: U.S. backs away from strong role in Middle East.
  • Defense News: McCain, Feinstein, split over shifting strike UAV capability to military.
  • Juan Cole: As Israelis press Obama on Iran, remember they urged Iraq war, too.
  • Danger Room: After the carrier, three alternatives to the Navy's vulnerable flattops. 

Into Africa

  • All Africa: Al-Qaeda in Africa says it beheaded French hostage.
  • BBC: France host talks post-war development in Mali.
  • All Africa: Leaders say deadly car bomb will not stop progress in Somalia.  
  • Time's Battleland: Are today's vets better off?
  • WaPo: After decade of war, troops still struggle to find jobs.
  • AP: U.S. still making payments to relatives of Civil War veterans.
  • NPR: Veterans face red tape accessing disability, other benefits.       


National Security

Condi had her doubts about the surge; Whither the pivot?; Budgets and nukes: Low-hanging fruit? Dempsey to China; Furloughs to be in full-swing; and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold

New this hour: Six Marines killed in Nevada at explosion at Army depot. NBC: "Six U.S. Marines were killed and at least eight wounded when a mortar exploded during a live-fire training exercise overnight at an Army munitions depot in the Nevada desert, military officials told NBC News. There were conflicting reports about what happened. According to one account, a 60-millimeter mortar shell exploded in a tube as Marines were preparing to fire it. Another account said that the shell exploded as Marines were picking it up to load it. The accident happened at Hawthorne Army Depot, a 147,000-acre ammunition storage and training facility just east of the California line."

On the Iraq surge, Condi had her doubts, according to a new transcript of a Saturday morning "brainstorming" session in November 2006. Revealed for the first time, a new, classified transcript of a conversation between then Secretary of State Condi Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and others in his office shows there were deep divisions within the administration as to how to proceed in Iraq, where sectarian violence had crumbled the military success of the invasion three years before. Writing on FP, NYT reporter Michael Gordon quotes Rice: "'What can we really do?' asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who wondered aloud if the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad might be "playing us for a sucker.'" Gordon: "Much of the discussion, which is chronicled in a classified transcript described in detail here for the first time, was dominated by Rice's argument that the United States should abandon a strategy in which "nothing is going right" and instead focus on "core interests" like fighting al Qaeda and contesting Iranian influence. Instead of trying to stop the burgeoning sectarian violence, Rice suggested, the American military might concentrate on averting "mass killings" --attacks on the order of Srebrenica, the 1995 massacre in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed.

Hadley pushed for the surge. "But Hadley and his aides on the National Security Council were pushing in the opposite direction and making the case for sending more troops. ‘On force numbers in Baghdad, we have never had a level of forces that historical case studies, such as those conducted by Rand, find to be necessary,' said Brett McGurk, an Iraq hand on the NSC. "There is an argument that coalition forces are not only critical to preventing mass killings, they are also critical to establishing the conditions for a political deal."

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we remember those heady days 10 years ago, at an airbase in Kuwait. FWIW, below. Our remembrance of that heady time, FWIW, below. 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.

Did the Iraq war begin today or tomorrow? There is always a little bit of confusion. But it was a time zone issue, of course. From Tom Ricks' "Fiasco," page 116: "Combat commenced on March 20, 2003 in Iraq - it was still the evening of March 19 in Washington, D.C."

Link to FP-RAND conversation last week on Iraq, 10 years later, with Gen. John Allen, Doug Feith, Steve Hadley and a dozen or so others who planned, executed and analyzed the war, here.

FP's selection of the 10 most iconic images of the war in Iraq, which includes one of the statue, the crying baby girl with blood spattered on her dress, and a plane full of Fort Stewart, Ga.-based 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, the first unit to enter Baghdad and one of the strongest images: Getty photographer John Moore's capture of a woman lying next to her fiancé's gravesite at Arlington, sobbing. All here. 

Hagel, whose position on the Iraq war contributed to his confirmation troubles, released a statement this morning on the 10th anniversary, that betrayed none of that but honored the sacrifices of service members. It read in part: "The American people will always honor the sacrifices of the 4,475 U.S. service members who died in Iraq, and the more than 32,000 who came home wounded.  Every man and woman who served in Iraq carries with them the scars of war.  As we remember these quiet heroes this week we are also reminded of their families and their sacrifices, as we also honor and thank them."

The Pentagon spends $31 billion on nukes. That could be low-hanging fruit in a budget crunch, say experts. A new fact sheet being released today by the Arms Control Association looks at the money the Defense Department spends supporting 1,700 deployed strategic warheads and their associated missiles, subs, and bombers -- as well as the other 3,000+ warheads in the active U.S. stockpile -- and suggests options for budget savings. "The U.S. Navy wants 12 new ballistic missile submarines with a lifetime cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force is seeking up to 100 new, nuclear-armed strategic bombers that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles (price unknown). The Pentagon and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have been pursuing a costly, $10 billion plan for upgrading B61 nuclear bombs in Europe, which may no longer be there by the time the upgrades are finished," according to the paper.

Panel today at 9:30. A group from ACA and Stimson will talk about "sustaining U.S. nuclear forces in a tight budget" this morning and will present estimates on the "actual cost of the nuclear stockpile." The discussion will focus on the $50-58 billion in savings they suggest could be achieved between 2013 and 2022. Who? Barry Blechman, Russell Rumbaugh at Stimson, and Tom Collina and Daryl Kimball at ACA. Their new fact sheet, here. Deets of the event here.

Ash Carter is still in Asia. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter wrapped up a series of meetings in the Philippines and is now in Indonesia, where today he will attend the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue with other senior international defense officials, Situation Report is told. While there he will speak on "The Rise of Asia and the New Geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific Region."

There's a reason the QDR has been in limbo. Defense officials yesterday announced that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the Pentagon to take a second look at its defense strategy, the one President Barack Obama announced himself more than a year ago at the Pentagon. That strategy, which helped create the "pivot to Asia" - or rebalancing - will probably not be completely overhauled. But with fewer resources, the Pentagon now must see if it can afford what Obama set out to do last year. But a separate exercise, the Quadrennial Defense Review, the congressionally mandated look at the department's capabilities, strategies and focus, is entirely predicated on the defense strategy now getting a second look. But the QDR has been held up as the officials waited for the new secretary -- and then, once Hagel was in the building, his guidance on how they should proceed. The Pentagon's announcement yesterday of a review of the defense strategy, called "The "Strategic Choices and Management Review," will look at "all past assumptions, systems and practices," and will define the major decisions to be made in the next decade "to preserve and adapt our defense strategy, our force and our institutions...under a range of future budgetary scenarios" [italics ours]. "The results of this review will frame the Secretary's guidance for the fiscal year 2015 budget and will ultimately be the foundation for the Quadrennial Defense Review due to Congress in February 2014," according to a statement from the building. The whole thing is due May 31.

Point man for the review? Ash Carter, deputy secretary of defense, working closely with Gen. Marty Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Tony Cordesman of CSIS today will talk about his recent trip to Afghanistan. He will talk about the "critical role of a change of government" and making transition work - the changes in the threat assessment, strategy and the approach to shaping the Afghan National Security Forces and the serious economic risks inherent in the transition process, Situation Report is told. Today at CSIS at 9:30.

Here are some "broad options" for cutting Defense Department spending, according to the CBO. The Congressional Budget Office issued a report that looks at options for trimming the DOD budget to "align projected costs with available funding." The CBO found that the cost of implementing DOD's plans through 2021 would exceed the funding allowed under the budget caps "by a large margin," and that the Pentagon will have to cut back on its forces and activities more and more each year to meet those caps. Also, "policymakers could reduce costs by cutting the number of military units, funding to equip and operate the units -- or both." Read "Approaches for Scaling Back the Defense Department's Budget Plans," available here.

Dempsey's pretend convo with the Ayatollah: What are you thinking? Gen. Dempsey spoke yesterday at CSIS, reports the E-Ring's Kevin Baron, and talked briefly about what he would ask Iran's supreme leader if he had the chance: "If I had a chance to sit with the ayatollah, I would ask him what exactly you are hoping to achieve... I'd like to hear it from him," Dempsey said. "What it is that they believe the future holds for the region?"

Dempsey also said the American commitment to security in the Persian Gulf remains strong, despite the uncertainty around the Pentagon budget. The U.S. and the Gulf region, which includes Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman, have shared interests. "I came here today with a message of assurance - a little peace of mind in the context of uncertainty," he said. Dempsey's speech here.

Also, Dempsey's headed to China. Kevin also learned of an upcoming trip Dempsey will take to China next month. Details are few this far out, but staffers are working it out now.

Situation Report corrects -- When we attempted to answer our own question, "Who is Juan Garcia?" in yesterday's edition, we goofed. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Juan Garcia was a Texas state representative, not a member of Congress. Apologies for the error.

Furlough notices are going out for defense civilians. Sequester means as many as 800,000 DOD civilians will be forced to take unpaid leave between now and September, equating, typically, to one day off per week for 22 weeks. The furlough does not affect uniformed military. This week, furlough notices were sent to civilian employees of the Defense Department, and those employees have seven days from the day they received them to appeal those notices or otherwise reply. Between March 29 and April 24, "furlough decision letters" will be sent to employees, and then the actual furlough period begins April 25. The furlough period extends for 11 pay periods, between April 21 and Sept. 21. "These dates," said a Pentagon spokesman, "are subject to change."

Remembering Iraq. There will be a lot of remembering about the war in Iraq today, some selective, some expansive, some emotional, some political. Here¹s mine, in brief: It was 10 years ago today that we were an embedded reporter, positioned at Al Jaber Air Base across the border from Iraq in Kuwait, feeling like we picked the short straw since we were embedded with a Marine Harrier squadron when we really wanted to be with a unit on the ground who would actually cross the L-O-D. After some awkward days of relationship-building - ­ the first ones under the formal embedded media program -­ the Shock and Awe campaign began. But from where we stood, it felt like neither. The Harrier pilots with whom we were embedded feared talking to the media could spoil their shot at the show and we were blinded to what was really going on on the ground: our soda straw view of the war came from a place where Haagen Dazs was available in little containers in the Air Force cafeteria and the only sense of war was the pounding explosions far away - and the occasional false alarm that required us to put on our gas masks and run for cover.

The war, such as it was, didn¹t feel like much until four days after it all began. That¹s when a small group of reporters went to the neighboring air base to cover the memorial service held for four Marines killed in a helicopter crash ­ the first casualties of the war. We stood in a packed hangar, listening to fellow Marines, failing to hold back tears, as they spoke of the dead men. At that moment, all the hassles of the embedded media program, the bad Internet, the long, dark walks to the head in the middle of the night and the antiseptic-ness of modern conflict fell apart. War became real.

Weeks later we¹d hear something else about that day that told us all we needed to know about the disconnect between Washington and the field. The Marine color guard who had attended the service in the hangar had worn white slings over their cammies - ­ the wrong color, apparently, they should have been black - and a sergeant major at headquarters Marine Corps who had seen images from the service had sent an angry message back: even during war, Marines were supposed to be in uniform.

The Stans

  • CNN: Pakistani officials arrest man in connection with Daniel Pearl slaying. 
  • AP: Taliban rescind offer of peace talks with Pakistan.
  • AP: Dunford: Team working to resolve issues that anger Karzai.
  • VOA:U.S., Afghanistan, struggle to agree on Special Forces.
  • NYT: Objections to U.S. troops intensify in Afghanistan.


Emerging Conflict