National Security

The Pakistani military saw bin Laden raid on TV; Afghan security forces done good; 50 bottles of ketchup; The Do’s and Do Nots of Furlough; Chaos in Egypt; Will Booz Allen suffer? and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Karzai versus Obama: Frustration, accusations, and a bad VTC. The U.S. may accelerate the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan in part due to the souring relationship between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama. The NYT reports this morning that Obama has become increasingly annoyed, especially after the prospect of peace talks stumbled out of the gate last month. A video teleconference between the two men, aimed to defuse tensions, only worsened them. Now the "zero option" for a residual force, long thought to be a negotiating tactic, is back on the table. The NYT: The option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was gaining momentum before the June 27 teleconference, according to the officials. But since then, the idea of a complete military exit similar to the American military pullout from Iraq has gone from being considered the worst-case scenario - and a useful negotiating tool with Mr. Karzai - to an alternative under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul.

"The officials cautioned that no decisions had been made on the pace of the pullout and exactly how many American troops to leave behind in Afghanistan. The goal remains negotiating a long-term security deal, they said, but the hardening of negotiating stances on both sides could result in a repeat of what happened in Iraq, where a deal failed to materialize despite widespread expectations that a compromise would be reached and American forces would remain."

A senior Western official, to the NYT: "There's always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option... It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path."

The Pakistanis blame themselves. A new, leaked report, that reached Western media outlets yesterday, candidly reveals a number of things about what the Pakistanis knew about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, the raid, and the aftermath. The report shows that Pakistan blames itself for failing to determine that bin Laden was living for years in Abbottabad, and points to intelligence failures among Pakistan's security forces that were "rooted in political irresponsibility."

The four-member Abbottabad Commission spent two years studying the raid, which embarrassed a country and suggested collusion between its forces and bin Laden. Commissioners interviewed more than 200 people before the secret report was published by Al-Jazeera yesterday. FP's John Reed pored through the report and found that the Pakistani Air Force learned about the U.S. raid from a television news report about the infamous U.S. helicopter crash that night during the raid.

Reed: "The commission says the Pakistani military never saw the raid coming because of the American choppers' stealthy, noise-reducing equipment, the skill of their crews at flying below radar, and the fact that Pakistan's air defenses are focused on its border with India, not Afghanistan. The U.S. "was never expected to commit such a dastardly act," the commission's report quotes the unnamed deputy chief of Pakistan's air staff for operations (DCAS) as saying. The raid was so unexpected that the Pakistanis had no radars looking at the valleys along their northwest border with Afghanistan that the U.S. troops used to fly from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan, according to the report."

In Wardak, the Afghan security forces done good; U.S. interpreters, not so much. Afghans, especially in Wardak Province, praised the arrest of a U.S. Special Forces interpreter, an Afghan, over allegations that he was involved in the killing, torture and abuse of local residents in a sign of the increasing maturity of the Afghan forces. The arrest of Zakaria Kandahari, in Kandahar, also helps ISAF, which had had to fend off reports that coalition personnel had been involved in the attacks. In an interview with the WSJ, Khalilullah Ibrahimkhil, a tribal elder of Ibrahimkhil village of the Maidan Shahr district in Wardak, called the detention of Mr. Kandahari a "good deed" by Afghan security forces. "He has done inhuman deeds here," he told reporters Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil. "His detention will bring people closer to the government." Read the rest, here.

We need you, you need us: Hagel met with Kazakhstan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov. The two met yesterday. Kazakhstan, of course, is critical to the U.S. retrograde effort from Afghanistan. The readout, from Pentagon pressec George Little: "Secretary Hagel praised Kazakhstan for its support for the coalition in Afghanistan and for hosting the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). Secretary Hagel reiterated the Defense Department's desire to continue working with Kazakhstan to further develop the bilateral security relationship.  He also reaffirmed the United States' enduring commitment to security in Afghanistan and the region beyond 2014."

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we note that the new owner of Hostess Twinkies has come up with a miraculous way to extend the shelf life of the Twinkie - to 45 days. 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.

About 50. Speaking of food, 50 is roughly the number of bottles of ketchup WaPo reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran has received from military spouses and others still angry over his article some weeks ago that showed the political challenges of closing commissaries as part of a larger issue of reducing military benefits during the Pentagon's budget crunch. Chandrasekaran has received some 50 bottles in multiple shipments (here's some, on the Tweeters, last month - #ketchupgate). Folks got so upset they started an effort in which they would send him ketchup after his story pointed out all the varieties available in a modern commissary. He will soon schlep them to a food bank, as he'd first vowed to do.

On furlough? Here's what you can do - and what you can't. (Hint: don't touch that BlackBerry.) This week, the forced vacation plan began across the Defense Department and Situation Report has already run into defense civilians unable to talk or e-mail due to the new rules by the Office of Personnel Management. While on furlough, individuals remain employed by the federal government, therefore, so don't take any outside work unless you've consulted your ethics official, Situation Report was told in an e-mail, so don't forget that part. And, we're told: "Furloughed employees will not be authorized to work remotely or off-site, to respond to DoD-provided digital devices, or conduct official business when in a furlough status."

Full guidance from OPM, here. Ethics guidance, here.

It's now easy to use "chaos" to describe the situation in Egypt.  Writing on FP, Evan Hill describes the rampage and the situation generally, from Cairo: "It was around 3:30 a.m. in Cairo on Monday morning and time for fajr, the first of the day's five Muslim prayers. In an hour and a half, the sun would rise. Now, it was still dark. On a wide boulevard running in front of the heavily guarded gates of the Republican Guard club, a few hundred protesters were entering the fourth day of a sit-in demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. They had been waiting, sleeping in sparse shade through the hot days, believing their president was held inside the compound. On Monday morning, they formed into lines, their backs turned to the soldiers guarding the gate, and began to pray. Less than two thousand feet away, in a high-rise apartment on the other side of the sprawling club, Salah and his family awoke. They prepared for fajr. Then they heard gunshots." Read the rest of "Shot in the Back," here.

And read here about how ugly Egypt's media war has become. Al-Jazeera and other media outlets have come under fire for what's being termed their overly sympathetic portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood. FP's David Kenner writes: "Among American stations, CNN has come in for the most grief for what anti-Morsy demonstrators view as its unsympathetic coverage. Protesters criticized the network's immediate decision to call the events a "coup" and blasted the network for labeling an anti-Morsy demonstration in Tahrir as supporting the deposed president. Some protesters have carried signs reading "CNN supports terrorism," while Egyptians in New York City organized a march to protest the network's coverage."

Full FP coverage of Egypt, here.

Venezuela mum on asylum for Snowden as the deadline passes. Venezuela, which seemed poised to accept NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden, has not said anything about asylum for Snowden, still holed up in Russia. NBC: "The Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow said it had no information on whether the fugitive NSA leaker had completed a deal that would allow him to leave the transit area of an airport in the Russian capital. In Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro confirmed late Monday that Venezuela had received an official request for asylum from Snowden, telling reporters at a news conference that the self-declared leaker "will need to decide when he will fly here," according to Russia Today." Read the rest, here.

Why Snowden may not make it harder for Booz Allen. It's not the first time the large consulting firm has had to confront concerns over its employees. In 2008, the WaPo reports, the company had that embarrassing episode in which a Booz Allen employee at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida had been granted the highest level, "top-secret" security clearance even though he had been convicted a few months earlier of lying to government officials in order to sneak a South African woman he'd met on the Internet into the country. And, the paper reminds us of the other incident last year in which the Air Force temporarily suspended the San Antonio division of the company from future contracts after it was discovered that it had obtained confidential bidding information that gave it the upper hand. The WaPo: "Those incidents had little or no impact on Booz Allen's success in recent years or on its ability to compete for federal contracts, which last year provided 99 percent of the company's $5.8 billion in revenue. Booz Allen now faces a greater test: Lawmakers and other officials are asking whether the company should be held to account for Edward Snowden, a former employee who had obtained national security documents and leaked them to the news media while at the firm. But if the past is a guide, the government is not likely to scale back its reliance on Booz Allen or other large contractors soon, industry officials and policymakers agree. Although intelligence agency reliance on outside firms has declined some in recent years, the latest available estimates still show that about 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on contractors. And big, well-established companies continue to have outsize influence."

Judge: Obama can stop the force-feeding at Gitmo, even if I can't. A federal judge yesterday ruled that she can't force the government to stop force-feeding detainees at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but she all but urged President Obama to. Currently, 45 detainees are on a hunger strike and are being force-fed by the government. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler: "It is perfectly clear . . . that forced-feeding is a painful, humiliating and degrading process." McClatchy story, here.

HuffPo's video of what it looks like to be force-fed (Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def as the model), here. It shows a painful-to-watch demonstration of an attempt to put a feeding tube put up Bey's nose, with his grunts and groans and pleads not to go further as he is restrained. "Please stop, I can't do it," he says. Later, he explains the burning he felt after the first tube is inserted. "I really couldn't take it."

Manning Manning

  • LAT: Defense opens in Bradley Manning's court-martial.
  • AFP: Manning was troubled over plight of Iraqis: witness.
  • NBC: Manning defense begins by painting picure of naïve, "go-to guy."

Syria, Year Three


  • BBC: Syrian opposition government head Ghassan Hitto resigns.  
  • Al-Jazeera: Presence of al-Qaida raises tensions in Syria.
  • CBS: U.N. calls for Ramadan cease fire in Syria.
  •  

Noting


  • AP: Afghan commander says soldier opened fire on Americans.
  • Military Times: Generals expected on stand, in jury, for Sinclair's sex assault case.
  • Battleland: Dracula's missile defense.
  • Av Week: Latest missile defense test an embarrassing failure.    

National Security

A massacre in Cairo; Pentagon furloughs start; What worries Dempsey; DOD’s MIA Department is MIA; Flournoy on procurement; Afghans arrest a terp; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

It's getting very ugly in Cairo. A protest to push for the reinstatement of Mohamed Morsi turned violent today and now at least 42 people have been killed in what has been termed a "massacre." FP's David Kenner reports from Cairo that the Egyptian military opened fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators who had gathered to call on the release of the deposed president. Kenner: "It is unclear what precipitated the attack. While the overwhelming majority of those killed were pro-Morsy protesters, one army officer was also reported dead in the violence. Military officials are claiming that protesters attempted to storm the military building and kidnapped two soldiers. Morsy supporters, meanwhile, say the army opened fire on the sit-in during morning prayers. Many of the injured were taken to a field hospital at the pro-Morsy demonstration near the Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque. The area is expected to be the site of pro-Morsy protests later in the day, and the Egyptian military has moved its forces close to the sit-in -- raising the potential of further clashes later in the day. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood's political party released a statement in response to the attack calling for an ‘intifada,' or uprising, against those who would ‘steal their revolt with tanks and massacres.' The implications of this bloodshed are going to be severe -- both in the political realm and on the street."

Read Evan Hill's piece on how the Islamists in Egypt seem to be kissing up to the military that is gunning them down. An excerpt: "Two days after a popular military coup put a stunning end to Morsy's presidency, supporters of the one-time engineering professor and Muslim Brotherhood apparatchik said they felt betrayed and disappointed that the "legitimate" leader of Egypt had been deposed by force. They proclaimed that they were resolved to a seemingly impossible task: restoring Morsy to the presidency. To do so, their leaders -- those yet to be arrested in a spreading crackdown -- have once again entered into a dance with the very generals who brought them down. They're praising the military as brothers even as rank-and-file supporters call for the execution of the defense minister, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who delivered Morsy's coup de grace. For its part, the military is reaching right back out to the movement that it just threw out of power -- even as the generals move to neuter the Brotherhood's leadership." Read the whole piece, here.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we note that 66 years ago today there were first reports of a flying saucer, or something, crashing at Roswell (thanks Doctrine Man). 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.

Forced vacations at The Defense Department begin this week. The first day of furloughs for about 650,000 Defense Department civilians begins this week amid efforts to mitigate the impact of furloughs on employees - and the Department. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other defense leaders are expected to provide Capitol Hill with details of how the furlough program, which is expected to save the DOD as much as $2.1 billion, will affect the military. As he prepares to provide those details, defense officials are scrambling to see if there is still a way to reduce the number of furlough days from 11 to something short of that, Situation Report is told. We've also been told that some of the circumstances that forced the Pentagon into furloughing its workers may have changed, thus allowing the Department to rethink the scale of the furlough program.

AP reports that furloughs this year could result in layoffs next year. "But while defense officials were able to shift money around to limit the furloughs this year, thousands of civilian, military and contract jobs could be on the chopping block next year. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to provide senators with more details early next week on how the next wave of across-the-board budget cuts will affect the department, said Pentagon press secretary George Little. But while defense officials have not yet released details on the impact of the cuts, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, has warned that as many as 100,000 more active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers could lose their jobs if Congress allows billions of dollars in automatic budget cuts to continue next year."

Dempsey appeared on CNN yesterday and spoke to a wide-range of issues. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey spoke to CNN's Candy Crowley "State of the Union" on veterans, Syria, Egypt, and the Taliban. He didn't make huge news, but the interview reflects the way the top military adviser thinks on a number of key subjects.

Dempsey, on military-to-military contacts with Egypt: "Well, to your question about the nature of the relationship with the Egyptian armed forces, it was actually trending very - even more strongly than it had been for maybe the last 10 years, because we committed to that to try to help them find their way in a new system. They went from being - the armed forces ran the country for several decades. And they were transitioning themselves into their role in a democracy. I'm not in the know about exactly what they're going to do. My conversations with them have been principally about - I wanted to hear, get their assurance that they would protect our U.S. citizens and they will. I wanted to encourage them to protect all the Egyptian people, not to take sides in any particular issue, and to ensure that they were a part of the resolution of this, but in their proper role as a military which is to ensure stability, but not try to influence the outcome."

Is he confident of those assurances that that's what they'll do? Dempsey: "Well, I feel confident that we have a close enough relationship that they listen. At the end of the day, it's their country and they will find their way, but there will be consequences if it's badly handled. There's laws that bind us on how we deal with these kinds of situations."

Dempsey, on the Pentagon's opposition to making changes to the military's procedures for reporting sexual assaults: "First, let me assure you, we're not in opposition to anything. That's not my role. It's not the role of the chiefs to oppose. It's rather our role to recommend."

Crowley: "Do you know how difficult that is for somebody to report it?"

Dempsey: "I do, but I know how unique we are. And again, by the way, if this all passes in Congress, you know what our response will be to salute and execute. But you asked me for my recommendation. And we've solved a lot of problems over the years that people thought were unsolvable. Early in my career, race. Middle of the career, drugs. And we didn't do it with the exclusion of the commander. We did it by making the commander take responsibility. And I still believe that's the right way to do this. But it's a recommendation, and I understand that well-meaning people have a different opinion about that."

Dempsey, on veterans: "I don't want to have this generation's young men and women, the warriors, seen as victims somehow. This conflict has been a source of strength as well for many, many veterans. And I would like the American people to give veterans the opportunity, not as a handout, but rather to recognize what they might bring to the workplace, what they might bring to their communities. So I want it to be a positive image. But there's moments when it feels as though it's slipping to a negative image."

Gratuitous orneriness? At one point during the interview, Crowley asked Dempsey a question after the general noted that American society views its veterans differently after each conflict and how he thinks a lot about the way America will "imagine" this generation of warriors. Dempsey displayed his characteristic, half-joking, half-not combativeness.

Crowley: "Do you worry at all about what that imaginary will be in a decade or so?"

Dempsey: "Well for one thing, if I do have a worry, you keep trying to talk me into worrying."

Crowley: "I'm sorry. I don't..."

Dempsey: "There's plenty to worry about. But it's that this generation of veterans may be seen as somehow victims."

The full interview, here.

Keeping the faith: Does the military have a new debacle in its MIA program? The department at the Pentagon responsible to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars is "so inept mismanaged and wasteful" that it risks "total failure," according to an internal study obtained by AP's Bob Burns that he reports was "suppressed by military officials." The story suggests that the Pentagon could be confronting problems of the same scope, magnitude and gravity it did when early reports about the problems among gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery first surfaced. Burns: "Largely beyond the public spotlight, the decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor, the report says. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the internal study after Freedom of Information Act requests for it by others were denied.

The report paints a picture of a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, a military-run group known as JPAC and headed by a two-star general, as woefully inept and even corrupt. The command is digging up too few clues on former battlefields, relying on inaccurate databases and engaging in expensive ‘boondoggles' in Europe, the study concludes.

Salting the sites? "In North Korea, the JPAC was snookered into digging up remains between 1996 and 2000 that the North Koreans apparently had taken out of storage and planted in former American fighting positions, the report said. Washington paid the North Koreans hundreds of thousands of dollars to ‘support' these excavations. Some recovered bones had been drilled or cut, suggesting they had been used by the North Koreans to make a lab skeleton. Some of those remains have since been identified, but their compromised condition added time and expense and ‘cast doubt over all of the evidence recovered' in North Korea, the study said. This practice of ‘salting' recovery sites was confirmed to the AP by one U.S. participant."

And: "The AP obtained two internal memos describing the decision to bury the report. The memos raised no factual objections but said the command would not consider any of the report's findings or recommendations. The failings cited by the report reflect one aspect of a broader challenge to achieving a uniquely American mission -- accounting for the estimated 83,348 service members still listed as missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Why this is important, per Burns: "This is about more than tidying up the historical record. It is about fulfilling a promise to the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and sons and daughters of the missing. Daughters like Shelia Reese, 62, of Chapel Hill, N.C., who still yearns for the father she never met, the boy soldier who went to war and never returned. She was 2 months old when heartbreaking word landed at her grandmother's door a week before Christmas 1950 that Pfc. Kenneth F. Reese, a 19-year-old artilleryman, was missing in action in North Korea. To this day, the military can't tell her if he was killed in action or died in captivity. His body has never been found.

Reese, on the father she never met: "It changed my whole life. I've missed this man my whole life." Read the rest, here.

Michele Flournoy, never too far from the conversation, arguing this morning for an overhaul of the defense procurement system. The former Pentagon policy chief is out in the WSJ this morning with a piece on how to fix the Pentagon's broken procurement system and how the current budget crunch runs the risk of slashing defense spending in the wrong ways. Flournoy: "Today's acquisition system often penalizes program managers who don't spend every last dime of their budget before the end of the fiscal year. If you don't spend all of the money allocated, Congress will likely appropriate less for your program next year. And presiding over a shrinking program is not a recipe for career advancement. Imagine a world in which program managers were evaluated on whether or not they could meet program milestones while saving taxpayer dollars. Those who found more cost-effective ways to manage their programs would receive awards and accelerated promotions. This would be one important step toward creating a more cost-conscious Pentagon culture." Read her full argument, here.

Afghans arrest a terp they say is responsible for torturing and killing civilians while working for an SF unit in Afghanistan. Afghan officials confirmed that they had arrested and were questioning Zakaria Kandahari, an interpreter, who had been sought on charges of murder, torture and the abuse of prisoners. Maj. Gen. Manan Farahi, the head of intel for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said Kandahari, who escaped from an American base in January had been captured. Per the NYT: "Afghan officials had accused the American military of deliberately allowing Mr. Kandahari to escape, a claim that American officials rejected. American officials said Mr. Kandahari had no longer been working for them at the time and was not an American citizen. Since his arrest, Mr. Kandahari has not been in contact with the United States Embassy, an American official said. Some human rights advocates believe Mr. Kandahari is being held in the National Directorate of Security's Unit 124, which they have denounced as a prison where torture is routine. Unit 124, across the street from the American and NATO military headquarters in Kabul, is one of the Afghan detention sites on a proscribed list by the American military, which is not allowed to transfer prisoners to facilities where torture is believed to be used. However, that ban does not apply to the Central Intelligence Agency, which often has personnel in Unit 124, activists say." Read the rest here.

Noting


  • Dawn: Findings of the Abbottabad Commission: How the U.S. reached Osama.
  • Stripes: After two decades of sexual assault in the military, no real change in the message.
  • Defense News: Three options for JIEDDO.
  • Military Times: "Deadliest solider" under fire for controversial memoir.    
  • Small Wars: Economic and religious influencers in the age of population-centric warfare.
  • The Atlantic: The problem with "privacy moderates."