National Security

New rules at the Pentagon; An attack in Kabul; Kerry reassures India; Snowden wants his computer; Casey: where’s the strategy for Syria?; The Hollywood treatment for China’s J-20; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

An attack rocked Kabul near CIA headquarters and the Afghan presidential palace. Last night about 10 p.m. EST, Taliban militants stormed a number of key buildings, resulting in a 90-minute firefight. Situation Report was told that there had been a press conference scheduled that morning, since cancelled, and that there were initial reports, as yet unconfirmed, that insurgents had used ISAF credential to get past a primary checkpoint before being stopped at a second checkpoint. "Then all hell broke loose," Situation Report was told.

From Reuters: "A Reuters reporter at the palace said the attack began soon after 6.30 a.m. (10:00 p.m. EDT) when at least one man opened fire with an automatic rifle close to a gate to the palace in central Shash Darak district. The fighting was over before 8 a.m. Reporters at the palace gates for security checks took cover when the firing started. A senior government official told Reuters four or five attackers had used fake identify papers to try to make their way through security gates in the Shash Darak district, which leads to Kabul's most tightly guarded areas. One car made it through, but a second vehicle was stopped and those inside began shooting. Grenades were thrown. The area is home to the presidential palace compound, the Ministry of Defense and an annex of the U.S. embassy at the old Ariana Hotel. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's Afghanistan station is based there."

Kerry tries to reassure allies as they wait (and wait and wait) for the Obama administration to publicly articulate a strategy for Afghanistan after 2014. Many Afghan hands will tell you that when it comes to Afghanistan, the administration's inability thus far to commit publicly to a troop presence is making it harder for allies - or the U.S. military itself - to see the way forward there. Still, Secretary of State John Kerry was in New Delhi, assuring India and "other concerned partners," as the WaPo put it this morning "that the United States plans to continue supporting Afghanistan's military and to keep American forces in the country ‘under any circumstances' after the scheduled 2014 combat troop withdrawal." The WaPo: "India is particularly worried that the U.S. pullout will leave an ongoing war in Afghanistan between Taliban fighters backed by Pakistan and other forces that have sought aid from India and Central Asian countries to combat any Taliban attempt to regain power. India also has questioned U.S. plans to conduct peace negotiations with the Taliban in a new political office for the insurgents established last week in Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. An inaugural session of the talks was put on hold last week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected to the Taliban labeling the office an outpost of ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the name under which the Taliban ruled the country until they were ousted by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001.' Read the rest, here. Read Situation Report's bit on "Where is the decision on Afghanistan?" here.

Jim Dobbins in Kabul. Dobbins, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, met Monday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to talk about peace talks with the Taliban, an initiative that appeared to have stumbled out of the gate immediately after they were announced last week after the Taliban raised a flag and erected an "Islamic Emirate" plaque on the wall, a nod to the moniker used before 2001. Dobbins was vague as to the outcome of his meeting with Karzai, saying only that it was "quite positive" and that the two countries were eager to see if the Taliban want to talk. But it is as yet unclear when the talks might be rescheduled.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report.

From the Times is Tough Department: New rules at the Pentagon. The budget crunch is having its way with Pentagon support and facilities. According to a memo provided to Situation Report, beginning July 8, bus schedules are truncated, building entrances will be closed, the Pentagon gym will be shutting two hours early on weekdays, and the executive motor pool, which provides vans, SUVs and sedans for some Pentagon types, will see changes. "Customers who use the Army Executive Motor Pool will see impacts to service requests as the availability of drivers will be reduced during the Furlough period," wrote Pentagon building manager Michael Bryant in the June 24 memo. Bryant: "The purpose of this circular is to inform building occupants about the primary impacts the impending DOD-wide Furloughs will have on services at the Pentagon Reservation.  The following changes are not made lightly, but the temporary reduction in manpower results in a temporary diminished capability to deliver multiple access, building, security, and transportation services."

The memo includes an aerial view of the Pentagon with arrows for the entrances with reduced hours and services. The Metro visitor entrance, for example, will only have one screening line; Corridor 3 entrance for those lucky enough to have parking in the South Parking lot, closed. The River Entrance hours are reduced to 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, closed weekends. "This is not a comprehensive list of all the impacts that the Furlough may have on services that our DOD customers are used to receiving.  Personnel shortages due to Furlough may be further exacerbated by sick leave and other personnel absences," Bryant wrote.

China's J-20 stealth fighter is going Hollywood. Killer Apps' John Reed reports that China seems poised to give its new stealth fighter all manner of publicity, with a bunch of new photos. Reed: "The J-20 is China's first stealthy fighter plane, the grainy amateur photos that leaked of the jet in late 2010 were a signal to the world that China was ready to start challenging, at least a little, American dominance of the skies. The Chinese government has a habit of allowing plane-spotters to hang out on the perimeter fences of airfields belonging to two of its major military aircraft builders, Chengdu and Shenyang, when the government is ready for images of a new project to leak out. In the two and a half years since the J-20 emerged we've seen another stealth jet, the J-31, and a stealthy drone, the Li Jian unveiled in similar fashion. This new crew? They're no amateurs. Maybe this means the plane will merely star in the next Chinese version of Top Gun. It may also be a harbinger of big news for the plane."

Democratic Senator: Obama has no articulated strategy on Syria. In an interview with the Cable's John Hudson, Sen. Bob Casey, the Democrat from Pennsylvania, said he's frustrated that the Obama White House doesn't seem to have any plan. Casey to Hudson: "For too long there really hasn't been a clearly articulated strategy... The administration has yet to make it clear to the American people what's at stake here... With Tehran and Hezbollah taking the offensive, a bad result in Syria could greatly strengthen the Iranian regime and make it more difficult for us to constrain their nuclear ability." Read the rest, here.

Read Situation Report's story on same, last week, here.

No computer? "Totally intolerable." As their cell phones sat inside a refrigerator to prevent eavesdropping, lawyers representing Edward Snowden sat around in the apartment in which he was staying, chowed on pizza, fried chicken, sausages and Pepsi to plan his escape from Hong Kong. But Snowden was informed by the lawyers that he could spend years in prison during litigation over whether he would be granted asylum in China or elsewhere, or be surrendered to the U.S. But he was told he might not have access to his computer. From the NYT: "Staying cooped up in the cramped Hong Kong home of a local supporter was less bothersome to Mr. Snowden than the prospect of losing his computer. ‘He didn't go out, he spent all his time inside a tiny space, but he said it was O.K. because he had his computer,' said Albert Ho, one of Mr. Snowden's lawyers. ‘If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable.'" Read the rest, here.

The Stans

  • NYT: Pakistan Premier says Musharraf will be charged with treason.
  • Washington Times: High expectations: Fledgling Afghan air force pressured for readiness.

Thinking Syria

The Pivot

  • Reuters: China, U.S. war over Snowden, no lasting damage seen.
  • The Guardian: North and South Korean websites shut down amid hacking alert.
  • Chosun Ilbo: Teachers want more education about the Korean war. 

Noting

  • Marine Corps Times: 8th and I welcomes first female sergeant major.
  • Breaking Defense: Foreign arms sales, sequestration and the future of aerospace companies.
  • Stripes: Navy captain relieved for "improper relationship."
  • Defense News: Officer: No "plan B" for Bahrain naval base.
  • Small Wars: Leader-imposed stress.
  • Stripes: Veterans' uphill road back, struggle with suicide.      

 

National Security

Hagel making big choices this week?; a new inspector general for the Pentagon; Where in the world is Snowden; The Brits are spying on US; Majority of sexual assault victims are men; Ron Paul on Afghanistan; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Where in the world is Edward Snowden? For now, he's in Moscow, after he left China. At least, we think so. He was allegedly accompanied there by WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison, a close adviser to WL's Julian Assange, but his stay there will probably only be brief. He is believed to be headed to Ecuador, where country officials there have confirmed that it was considering an asylum application for Snowden. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London for just over a year.

"Drama" at the airport in Moscow, per NBC News: "[Snowden] arrived in the Russian capital on Sunday. No direct flights were scheduled from Moscow to Ecuador's capital Quito on Monday. However, Aeroflot personnel at Sheremetyevo airport's gate 28 threatened to take journalists' telephones and blocked the view of a plane ahead of a flight to Havana. The aircraft departed around 6:30 a.m. ET but it was not immediately clear whether Snowden was on board."  AP is reporting now that Snowden was not on the Cuba-bound flight from Moscow. 

This morning, Kerry said it would be "deeply troubling" if Russia or Hong Kong had advance notice of Snowden's departure from China and still allowed his travel. Kerry: ‘‘It would be deeply troubling, obviously, if they had adequate notice, and notwithstanding that, they make the decision willfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law."

Want to make it an asylum seeker? Follow these five simple rules. Writing on FP, Brendan Koerner suggests some guidelines for those who may find themselves needing to seek asylum, like "staying quiet," finding "allies on the ground," and others. But rule No 1? Clearly define your political motive. Koerner: "Extradition treaties typically include exceptions for crimes of a "political character." In theory, these clauses are meant to protect political dissidents from being sent back home to face prosecution for acts such as organizing protests or penning anti-government tracts." Read rules no. 2-5, here.

Read more on the NSA, Snowden, etc., below.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report.

At the Pentagon this week, it's all SMCR, all the time. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will receive a number of briefings on the Strategic Choices and Management Review which will lay the way groundwork for massive cuts to the DOD budget. A senior defense official tells Situation Report that Hagel will receive a series of briefings and hold meetings on the review this week. The briefings are led by Christine Fox, director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, with DepSecDef Ash Carter and a representative from the Joint Staff. Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld has been a regular at many of the meetings.

ICYMI, Paris Air Show edition: The coolest pics from the Paris Air Show in what FP's headline writers called "Just Plane Amazing." See ‘em, here.

The White House will nominate Jon Rymer as the next DOD Inspector General. Officials announced Friday that the administration had given the nod to Jon Rymer, who has been an IG of the FDIC, interim IG of the SEC and now the chair of the CIGIE Audit Committee. Rymer has served more than 30 years in the active and Reserve components of the U.S. Army.

Former DOD IG Gordon Heddell, to Situation Report, over the weekend, by e-mail: "I've known Jon Rymer since 2006 when he assumed the role of Inspector General at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  He was a professional colleague; and we served together as co-members on the Executive Council of the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency. Jon is known for his personal integrity and good judgment.  I am confident in his ability to lead one of the most important and challenging agencies in Government."

From the WSJ's Notable & Quotable today, Gen. Curtis "Bombs Away" LeMay, in a 1945 speech to the Ohio Society: "It is beyond my powers of description to picture to you the difference between the bomb-blackened ruins and the desolation of our enemy's cities and the peaceful Ohio cities and landscape, untouched and unmarred by war. I can only say to you, if you love America, do everything you can do to make sure that what happened in Germany and Japan will never happen to our country. Our preparedness for war should be the measure of our desire for peace. The last war was started by air power and finished by [air power]. America, if attacked, must be able to take the initiative immediately."

Fifty-three percent of sexual assault victims in the military are men. The NYT this morning has a story about sexual assault that counters conventional wisdom: most victims are men. The NYT's James Dao: "In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men. Though women, who represent about 15 percent of the force, are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted in the military than men, experts say assaults against men have been vastly underreported. For that reason, the majority of formal complaints of military sexual assault have been filed by women, even though the majority of victims are thought to be men."

And: "In interviews, nearly a dozen current and former service members who said they were sexually assaulted in the military described fearing that they would be punished, ignored or ridiculed if they reported the attacks. Most said that before 2011, when the ban on openly gay service members was repealed, they believed they would have been discharged if they admitted having sexual contact - even unwanted contact - with other men." Read the rest, here.

What Sen. Rand Paul thinks we learned from Afghanistan: Not much, according to a piece published this morning on antiwar.org. Paul:  "The long US war in Afghanistan never made any sense in the first place. The Taliban did not attack the US on 9/11. The Authorization for the use of force that we passed after the attacks of 9/11 said nothing about a decade-long occupation of Afghanistan. But unfortunately two US presidents have taken it to mean that they could make war anywhere at any time they please. Congress, as usual, did nothing to rein in the president, although several Members tried to repeal the authorization. Afghanistan brought the Soviet Union to its knees. We learned nothing from it." Read the rest, here.

What Joe Dunford thinks the ANSF has learned: ISAF Commander Gen. Joe Dunford issued this statement over the weekend, noting June 18 as a milestone. "The ANSF have made tremendous progress and are now clearly ready to assume the lead.  In fact, they have been increasingly in the lead for the past several months.  The capability and credibility of the ANSF is tangible evidence that Afghanistan is on the path to peace and prosperity.  All Afghans should be proud and confident that their security will be provided by the sons and daughters of Afghanistan."  And: "Longer term, the United States and other members of the coalition remain committed to a strategic partnership that will benefit the Afghan people for many years to come.  We are committed to helping you build a better country; and we are committed to defeating those who threaten your future."

Snowden, et al, con't.

"Irreversible and significant damage:" NSA's Alexander, on Snowden. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander spoke on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, saying the system did not work to stop someone such as Snowden from leaking what he did. "The system did not work as it should have," Alexander told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "What Snowden has revealed has caused irreversible and significant damage to our country and to our allies," Alexander, who has been in office SINCE 2005, has never before been on a Sunday news show. Alexander, on the "two-man rule" and other actions - "We are now putting in place actions that would give us the ability to track our system administrators, what they're doing, what they're taking, a two-man rule. We've changed the passwords. But at the end of the day, we have to trust that our people are going to do the right thing. This is an extremely important mission defending our country. When they betray that trust, well, then we have to push it over to the Department of Justice and others for the appropriate action." "This Week" transcript, here.

Fresh Leaks: The Brits are spying on us.  Killer Apps' John Reed, from Friday: "...We're learning that Brits are snooping on us, too -- tapping the world's telephone and Internet traffic, and sharing that info with the United States. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's version of the NSA, is allowed to tap more than 200 fiber-optic data cables running through British territory, giving the organization access massive amounts of telephone and Internet data, according to the Guardian, who revealed today that Snowden provided it with a document detailing the UK spy agencies efforts to collect phone and web data. GCHQ cable taps allow it to gather recordings of phone calls, email content, Facebook entries and any Internet users web browsing history -- not exactly the anonymous metadata that we've been hearing about on the U.S. side of the Atlantic." Read the rest, here.

David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald if he was an accomplice to Snowden's crimes. On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, host David Gregory asked Greenwald, who did the heavy lifting in breaking the Snowden story: "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?"

Greenwald: "If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal, and it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States."

 

Syria, Year Two


  • Al-Monitor: Syria in "free fall."
  • Al-Jazeera: Syria: peace talks not for transferring power.
  • NYT: (Bill Keller) Inching into Syria.
  • The Olive Branch: (Steve Heydemann) Syria negotiations: surprising hope after G-8 negotiations?

The Stans

  • CS Monitor: Pakistan: Militants kill 10 mountaineers in ‘well-planned' attack.
  • Mother Jones: Subcontractors in Afghanistan do crazy things when they don't get paid.
  • BBC: Will hope or fear triumph in "rollercoaster" Pakistan? 

Noting


  • AP: Mandela in critical condition. 
  • The New Yorker: Why China let Snowden go.
  • Defense News: Virginia is the center of U.S. shipbuilding industry.
  • Duffel Blog: Air Force implements "don't be a dumbass" safety campaign.
  •