National Security

Attention Africa; Troops wavering on war; Warning from Mali; What Army brain drain?; Amnesty on GTMO, and more.

By Kevin Baron

Pentagon gets serious about Africa. When four African heads of state visit Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon early Thursday morning, the administration hopes to showcase countries where democracy and security are flourishing. But for Pentagon planners, African security has become a growing and complex challenge right as resources are tightening. 

"You can tell our bosses we work very, very hard," said a senior defense official who briefed FP's The E-Ring in an interview on Wednesday. Pentagon officials plan to raise the issues of extremism, terrorism, narcotics and other trafficking, and border security with the visiting delegation, whose countries DOD officials hope can be models for other African nations.

"All four of these countries, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Cape Verde, are all examples in their own right of how to reform your security sector and how to start developing a healthy civil-military relationship in Africa," the senior defense official said. 

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where we're starting to appreciate strong coffee and alarm clocks. While your regular point man Gordon Lubold is soaking up rays, you get me, Kevin Baron. I'm also the author of The E-Ring, FP's blog about the Pentagon's power corridors. Follow me on Twitter @FPBaron and email me at Sign up for Situation Report here or just ask and we'll put you on the list. And as always, if you have something to ask or tell, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. Nevermind the censors, just send it.

Hagel coming out. The new defense secretary and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will hold their first full dual press conference together, today at 2:30 pm, in the Pentagon briefing room.

Why trafficking. Drug flows across North Africa have DOD's attention because a) the narcotics are the main concern of Senegal and Cape Verde, and b) the drugs mostly end up in Europe, which Pentagon says is a security threat. "We have a border problem, so the same transit routes in the Sahel, for example, that will use drug smuggling might also use it for arms smuggling and other illicit trafficking," the official said.
Setting the scene.
The delegation's meeting with Hagel is scheduled to include 12 African visitors, including the heads of state, the defense minister of Cape Verde, foreign ministers of the other three countries, a political counselor, and one of the presidents' fathers.

Military diplomacy needed post-Arab spring. Thursday's visitors are among several African military and political dignitaries making a pilgrimage to the Pentagon. The president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, visited last year, and a delegation from Tunisia is due in April with Moroccans expected in early summer. DOD is trying to renew key relationships in Africa, especially after the Arab awakening. "Everything is sort of new to the Tunisians and the Libyans, certainly," the official said. "We're new to them and some of them are new to us."
Good news, bad news
. "I think on some level the relationships have gotten even better and stronger than they were previously, because you have a more open environment in which to have truly strategic discussions with these partners." But defense officials are struggling to nail down additional training and exercises: "In Tunisia and Libya, unfortunately right now we're on such limited staffing at the embassies.... It does unfortunately impact our ability to do more, faster."

Most troops think U.S. will fail in Afghanistan. For the first time, a majority of U.S. troops surveyed in an annual poll believe the U.S. is unlikely to accomplish its goals in Operation Enduring Freedom, signaling a significant shift in attitudes toward the campaign. The results of the annual Military Times poll of troop attitudes, published this week, show just 32 percent of troops think the U.S. is "likely to succeed" in Afghanistan, which is down from 47 percent a year ago. Roughly 54 percent believe Iraq was a success, which is down from 72 percent in 2011, the last year troops were deployed there.
Officers vs. enlisted. Unsurprisingly, officers are more satisfied with life in the military, including their pay and leadership. Amusingly, nearly four out of five officers rated themselves excellent or good, whereas the enlisted guys and gals rated fewer than two of five officers that highly. Less than half of the enlisted men surveyed felt they were paid a fair wage; the result falls to just 33 percent in junior ranks.
No girls allowed.
More than half of all respondents, 52 percent, said they would discourage their daughters from joining the military, while 39 percent said opening combat to women would have a negative impact on readiness.

Gay equality, captain? The guys over at Duffleblog are having a little fun with the popular movement to change one's social media profile picture to the gay rights symbol, a red equal sign. If you rotate the sign... well, enjoy

Speaking of's Bob Geldof. In a cool podcast via the Center for Global Development, Geldof recounts the early 1980s when he feels the world first took serious notice of Africa, how Band Aid changed things, and the excitement he sees today on the continent. Asked by Development Drums' host Owen Barder, "Why haven't you just walked away?" Geldof replied, "Because you can see things change." Geldof works with a private equity firm, and says he avoids NGOs because he feels they are slow and he likes to move fast. Hmm, wonder what he feels about development and aid money used in COIN or as an anti-terrorism tool for Africa's ungoverned spaces? What do you think?

Yochi in Mali. In an article for FP, "Welcome to Cocainebougou," Yochi Dreazen, veteran war correspondent just back from a bumpy trek across the vast North African country, explains why winning any war in Mali won't come easy. Well, a senior Malian military official in Bamako explains it, and Dreazen writes: "Smugglers and Islamists have been traversing the terrain for decades, he said, and the Malian troops will be deploying there in force for the first time. ‘I would like to say we'll be able to stop the smuggling, but that would be a lie,' he told me. ‘They know every cave and every little path. We'll be lucky to find half of them. But every shipment we stop will help starve the terrorists of money.'"

Ben Hodges brushes back Barno. In a big "not so fast my friend" article freshly posted on FP, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges rejects retired Lt. Gen. David Barno's recent assertion that all of the good talent is leaking out of the military. "What an insult to the thousands who are in fact staying," he retorts. Hodges is commanding general for NATO's Allied Land Command, in Turkey, but is known back in the Pentagon from his days on the Joint Staff running the Af-Pak Cell under Adm. Mike Mullen's chairmanship.

Tuition Assistance is back. In one of the quickest turnarounds in Pentagon history, officials reversed their decision to cut back tuition assistance benefits for troops as a way to meet the mandated spending cuts of sequestration. The Pentagon is essentially following Congress' orders, after lawmakers passed language in last week's continuing resolution barring the cutbacks. Read more in the E-Ring, here.

Remember GTMO? Amnesty International does. "Talk is cheap. It's time for President Obama to take real action to fulfill his Guantanamo promise," said Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights Campaign, in a statement on Wednesday. Johnson was reacting to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who said "the administration remains committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay." But that's not what the hunger strikers at GTMO believe.  
Where is President Obama? In testimony before Congress and at a Pentagon press briefing, Gen. John Kelly, the commander of Southern Command, which includes Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said roughly two dozen prisoners were on some form of hunger strike to protest President Obama's silence on closing the detention center. Obama made no mention of GTMO in his State of the Union or inauguration speeches. Amnesty's Anne Fitzgerald, director of research and crisis response, last Friday sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a three-page letter pleading for the new Pentagon chief to make something happen.

"It should not be difficult for any human being to imagine the sense of hopelessness such silence could compound in a detainee population held for years in indefinite detention," Fitzgerald wrote. She notes that Obama did reference human rights and dignity in both speeches, which she contends should be reason enough to compel the president to move on closing the facility.

"I urge you in the name of universal rights, human dignity and justice to ensure that a new and redoubled close the Guantanamo facility and end the detentions there." 

Acrimony in Asia

  • VOA: US Sends B-2 Bombers Over Korean Peninsula
  • NYT: North Korea Cuts Off the Remaining Military Hot Lines With South Korea
  • USA Today: Chinese navy makes waves in South China Sea


  • Daily Beast: Yeah, We Broke the Internet: The Inside Story of the Biggest Attack Ever
  • FP: Esquire stands by its Osama bin Laden story amid storm of criticism
  • FP: Navy moving ahead with its stealth attack drone program
  • FP: Obama to Mexico; Kerry to Asia

National Security

Petraeus is sorry; Why the Marines; British invasion; African visitors; China’s J-20 weaps; Civilian subjugation, and more.

By Kevin Baron

Petraeus apologizes, his way. Without specifically mentioning the extramarital affair that cost him his job and public reputation as one of the most beloved military officers of the past 100 years, retired Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director, apologized publicly for "such a mistake." His career broken, for now Petraeus' penchant for stagecraft seems intact. The man who loved to court Washington's elite elected to deliver his first public mea culpa in a speech to ROTC students on the other side of the continent, in Los Angeles. "Needless to say," he said, after an introductory standing ovation, "I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago. I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret -- and apologize for -- the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters." The general said Tuesday's event, an ROTC dinner at the University of Southern California, was "not about me," and then spoke about the difficulties of transitioning from the military back in to civilian life.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where nobody's perfect. Gordon Lubold is still on vacation. I'm Kevin Baron, and in my day job I'm also the author of The E-Ring, FP's blog about the Pentagon's power corridors. Follow me on Twitter @FPBaron and email me at Sign up for Situation Report here or just ask 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. That off-beat, interesting, entertaining and poignant bit of information you know about? We call that candy. We like candy.

The British are the Pentagon. U.S. and U.K. military leaders are in talks at the Pentagon this week in what are billed as the first serious strategic discussions between the "special" allies in some time. Pentagon officials are tight-lipped about what's on the table at the summit, which is being hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, among others, has the meeting on his Wednesday schedule, we're told.

The Africans are coming, too. Four African presidents and prime ministers scheduled to meet with President Obama on Thursday also will meet Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon, press secretary George Little confirmed for us. Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Macky Sall of Senegal, Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde will visit "the building," where Africa is appearing on many a radar screen, thanks to Mali, the spread of terrorism, drone warfare, and post-Arab awakening destabilization fears. On Friday, the group will talk democracy at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

Marine Corps identity crisis? Even though Commandant Jim Amos has been telling the world for years he wants the Marines to return to their amphibious roots, the top Marine officer in charge of the Pentagon's important four-year review seems to think the Marine Corps has another future: the air.
From a sea base, inland.
"I think it's Brigadier General Jim Mattis launching off the Pakistan coast, striking deep into southern Afghanistan. No amphibious vehicles crossed a beach in that operation," said Maj. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, at the Defense Writers' Group, an occasional breakfast for top defense officials to meet reporters in Washington, organized by the Center for Media and Security.

Can the Marines survive? Whether by air or by sea, the idea of massive formations of Marines invading anything, one officer says, is no longer a serious one. Not when drones, missiles and other over-the-horizon weapons are able to knock on enemy doors long before the Marines need to come kicking them down. "There's an elephant walking around the Pentagon these days and everyone is trying to ignore it. No one wants to talk about the fact that land forces, as currently organized, are becoming increasingly irrelevant," writes Lt. Col. Lloyd Freeman, deputy executive assistant, Expeditionary Warfare Division, U.S. Navy, in a bold article on With today's precision-guided weapon technology -- see: Air-Sea Battle -- large forces maneuvering across any battlefield will "only play a secondary role. Land forces will no longer win wars. Computers, missiles, planes, and drones will."
Every Marine a JTAC. "To operate in small teams that can coordinate a massive precision-engagement campaign, Marines will have to change the way they fight and train. The ethos of ‘every Marine a rifleman' will shift to ‘every Marine a JTAC,' or joint terminal air controller.
Still clinging to WWII.
Freeman argues the technology challenges the very purpose of maintaining a modern Marine Corps, at all. "If the door is going to be kicked in by a cruise missile, an unmanned aircraft, or other platform delivering precision munitions, why does the Marine Corps insist on maintaining such a large amphibious forcible entry capability based around the same Marine who stormed ashore at Tarawa?"
Not special enough. For Freeman, the Marines blew it by resisting the request to form special operations units earlier in the past decade. Indeed, a common phrase heard across the Corps and in the Pentagon was that the Marines, by virtue of what they do, already were a special operations force. "The future of the Marine Corps is as a special operations force that functions in a sustained combat mode." 

China's J-20 ready for weaps test? In a new video on "the Chinese internet" (yes, that's a thing), Killer Apps' John Reed says that China's first alleged stealth jet appears ready for weapons testing. The video shows doors opening, missile rack out, then doors closing again with the missile still outside -- something the F-22 Raptor can't do. It still doesn't mean the J-20 is actually "stealthy," and it's taken two years from the first rollout of a shell on a runway to this point. But if you're into Chinese fighter jets, today's your lucky day.

Airmen fall for online "sextortion" scam. We'll start this one by letting Air Force Times' Jeff Schogol's lead sentence speak for itself: "You should really think twice if an attractive woman you've never met asks you to perform a sex act in front of a webcam." Alas, some airmen did not, and scammers in the Philippines and Singapore got an eyeful of American sexiness -- and then threatened to post the videos on social media sites unless the airmen paid up. "Multiple incidents of sextortion involving USAF members have been reported in Japan, South Korea and Alaska, one in Portugal, and one in Guam," an Air Force investigative office reported, according to Schogol.

"Militaristic civilians" rapped for coziness with power. An instructor of future military leaders charges that the military, its civilians, and defense contractors are guilty of being dazzled by the military's powerful role in foreign policy. NDU's Greg Foster said not enough people question the military's assumptions. As the Boston Globe reports: "If you want to be a recognized, credible, card-carrying member of the national security community what you have to do is buy into the received truths of the establishment and continue to perpetuate that stuff," said Foster. "This is what I call civilian subjugation to the military."
Globe's Bender gets a blog.
The notable rant was brought to us by Bryan Bender, longtime military reporter for the Boston Globe. Bender, who has a book out this fall about an Iraq war veteran's search for a World War II pilot's remains, has gone short-form, having just launched a new blog on called War and Peace. Check it out, and good luck, Bender!

Credit where due. About that fancy graphic about drone strikes we featured yesterday -- Alice Ross at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism wanted us to share that while the data came from them, the graphic and art was built and designed by others. "We feel duty-bound to point out that the stunning animation isn't ours. It was actually the work of Pitch Interactive, and was built mainly using the Bureau's data, except for the 'high value target' category, which was drawn from the New America Foundation's drone-tracking work." Thanks for the clarification, Alice!

Great journalists read FP. Spotted in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's tips for foreign, military and conflict reporting: "I would recommend Foreign Policy." We agree. (And proudly note that Rajiv works for our parent company, the Washington Post.)

Af-Pak Good Enough

  • WSJ: Afghanistan Says Pakistan Ties Are Fraying
  • NBC: Pakistan intelligence agency claims Afghanistan supports Taliban splinter groups
  • AP: Joint NATO-Afghan Operation Kills More Than 20 Insurgents

You say Burma, I say Burma

  • Reuters: Myanmar general lauds army's democratic role as troops patrol
  • BBC: Aung San Suu Kyi attends Burma's Armed Forces Day

Yapping SEALs

  • CBS: Ex-SEAL: Americans know too much about bin Laden raid
  • Examiner: Bin Laden shooter dispute: Esquire interview sparks SEAL Team 6 controversy


  • AP: McCain, other US senators to tour Mexico border
  • GovExec: Pentagon Hopes to Reduce Furlough Days
  • News12 Westchester: Furloughs possible for West Point employees