National Security

U.S. to Egypt: We heart you but we’re keeping our $560m; Fisher House to the rescue; What the duck-rabbit says about snatch-and-grab; Missing October 7; Marines: “the failure of the few” and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The U.S. ends most of its aid to Egypt. FP's Yochi Dreazen: "The Obama administration is trying to send a message to Egypt's generals by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S aid. The only problem is that it isn't entirely clear what the message actually is. U.S. officials said Wednesday that the administration would delay planned deliveries of F-16 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and M1A1 tanks. The officials said they would also suspend a planned $260 million cash transfer to the Egyptians; Congressional aides briefed on the matter said that a $300 million loan guarantee would also be held back. (The U.S. gives Egypt roughly $1.5 billion per year in total aid.) The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. was ‘recalibrating' its aid to Egypt in response to the military's continued killing of unarmed protesters demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsy as well as the arrests and detentions of key opposition leaders. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Army chief who has ruled the country since removing Morsy from power, has promised to hold new elections and take other steps to restore Egypt's nascent democratic system, but the officials said the military was taking too long to follow through on its assurances." Read the rest here.

Hagel delivered the news to al-Sisi. CNN first reported Tuesday evening that the U.S. was considering ending most of its massive assistance package to Egypt. After the White House tried to delay the new storyline, mostly unsuccessfully, by yesterday it was clear the formal decision was imminent. Mid-afternoon here in Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has built a relationship with al-Sisi in more than two dozen conversations, jumped on the phone again. This time it was to deliver the news to al-Sisi that the aid package was ending, Situation Report is told. The two had a 40-minute conversation that was described as "professional and courteous" and it was all about informing al-Sisi about the assistance but also how to move the U.S.-Egyptian relationship forward. "The U.S. wants to maintain close ties with the U.S. military," a senior military official said.

The campaign for Islam in Egypt, by the WaPo's Stephanie McCrummen, who quotes Emad Shahin, a professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo as saying: "This is the new regime trying to create an official Islam, a state Islam, which doesn't exist within the Islamic tradition...It's providing a religious justification to tolerate the killing of possibly thousands of people, and it is sending alarming signals into many segments of society. This is exactly what you call fascism." Read her piece here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at and we'll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

A guy who never served in the military directed his foundation to step in and front the Pentagon the money to pay death benefits for those who gave it all. The government shutdown meant the Pentagon could not pay out the $100,000 death gratuity payment to the families of fallen service members, typically within three days of the death. Pentagon officials pointed this out Sept. 27, when DOD Comptroller Bob Hale explained the possible impacts of a government shutdown three days before it came to pass, said: "We would also be required to do some other bad things to our people. Just some examples, we couldn't immediately pay death gratuities to those who die on active duty during the lapse..." Fast forward to a few days ago, when Hagel met with service chiefs days after he directed most defense civilians to return to work. The Secretary and the chiefs discussed that despite the return of civilians there were still spending issues that remained unresolved - namely the lack of authority to pay the death benefits. That's when Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia, helped bring Fisher House Foundation to pay the death benefit on behalf of the Pentagon.  Fisher House builds houses for the families of service members to stay in as their loved ones recuperate from combat injuries in VA and other medical centers. Its founder, Zachary Fisher, never served in the military. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon would reimburse Fisher House Foundation after the government reopens. A piece on Fisher, here.

Hagel in a statement: "I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner."

Five service members have been killed in Afghanistan since Oct. 1. And 19 more have died elsewhere since that time - their families are all eligible for the gratuity.

Fisher House's Montel Williams (a former Marine, sailor and Naval Academy grad) goes off on critics of Hagel. Williams, on CNN's Piers Morgan:  "I don't know where to begin. When I came out you were interviewing and talking to two congressmen. One of them had the audacity to take a shot at the secretary of Defense Hagel and say he did this for a political reason or he had the authority to do so. If he had the authority to do so, he would have done so without passing a bill today." Rough transcript, here.

The House GOP ponders ending the impasse. The NYT's Jonathan Weisman: "House Republicans, increasingly isolated from even some of their strongest supporters more than a week into a government shutdown, began on Wednesday to consider a path out of the fiscal impasse that would raise the debt ceiling for a few weeks as they press for a broader deficit reduction deal. That approach could possibly set aside the fight over the new health care law, which prompted the shutdown and which some Republicans will be reluctant to abandon. In a meeting with the most ardent House conservatives, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out a package focused on an overhaul of Medicare and a path toward a comprehensive simplification of the tax code." More here.

Situation Report corrects - Yesterday we referred to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon as prime minister. Hashtag ofcourseweknowbetter.

We missed this altogether. This week marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, which began Oct. 7 when the U.S. began a bombing campaign in Kabul and the CIA and the military launched ground operations. It's significant that in anniversary-hyper American culture the day marking the beginning of the Afghanistan war, in which more than 50,000 American troops still fight, was itself overlooked. Elbowed out by military operations in other countries, an enduring war inside Syria, a government shutdown at home and the now clichéd idea of a war-weary nation, many in the national security community know the war is all but forgotten to many Americans. This month marks an important one, however, as the U.S. and Afghanistan negotiate an important security agreement that will define the relationship and perhaps the region far into the future. This brief but vivid (and graphic) photographic retrospective in Time offers a reminder of whence the U.S. came. Worth the click, here.

How Wittgenstein's duck-rabbit explains/doesn't explain the snatch-and-grab missions in Somalia and Libya. FP's Rosa Brooks: Consider the duck-rabbit. As art, it ain't much. But as a metaphor for the legal conundrums created by the war on terror, it's pretty good. The humble duck-rabbit has an impressive pedigree: In the 1930s, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein sketched it for his Cambridge University students to illustrate his theory of language games. "I shall call the following figure ... the duck-rabbit," he declared. "It can be seen as a rabbit's head, or as a duck's." So -- naturally -- when I read reports on the recent U.S. "snatch and grab" operations in Libya and Somalia, I immediately thought of the duck-rabbit... Were these law enforcement operations, military operations, or something else? Were the targets (Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, alias Ikrima) wanted criminals or enemy combatants?"

And: "Legal experts have debated the very same questions for well over a decade now, starting way back when the Bush administration first began to send detainees to Guantanamo and then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales quaintly pronounced the Geneva Conventions " quaint." Were the 9/11 attacks crime, or war? Is the legal framework applicable to combating terrorism a matter of international criminal law and human rights law, or the law of armed conflict?

"I think it's time to face up to an uncomfortable truth: These questions have no answers. They sound like they should have answers, but they don't, they won't, and they can't. In fact, they're the functional equivalent of arguing about whether the duck-rabbit is a rabbit or a duck." Read the rest of her bit and, of course, see a picture of the duck-rabbit, here.

Libyan prime minister kidnapped, then released. Read that here.

Shabab is gaining a foothold in Kenya.  The NYT's Nicholas Kulish and Josh Kron, from Nairobi: "When the United States tried to capture a powerful militant in Somalia last weekend, it did not go after the leader of the Shabab extremist group, but a Kenyan national whose ties were as much in his native country as in the Horn of Africa. Outside of Somalia itself, Kenya sends more fighters to the Shabab than does any other country, analysts say. Young Kenyan men have ridden buses to the border in large numbers for years, local Muslim leaders say, drawn by payments of up to $1,000 to cross into Somalia and fight for the group. But ever since the Kenyan military stormed into southern Somalia two years ago, many Kenyan fighters have been coming back home, local leaders and experts say, creating a larger, increasingly sophisticated network of trained jihadists in a country where people from around the globe gather in crowded, lightly protected public places."

The Atlantic Council's J. Peter Pham to the NYT: "The growing number of militants in Kenya is a serious concern - or ought to be - for both U.S. policy makers and their Kenyan counterparts." Read that whole piece here.

It's time to geek out with FP's John Reed.  He writes: "Imagine a day in the not too distant future when American commandos won't have to pull back in the face of enemy fire as they did in Somalia this weekend. Instead, they'll wear armor that allows them to literally walk through a hail of AK-47 fire and snatch their target away. Who will need drones when you can snatch a guy off the street with minimal risk of U.S. casualties? This scene, straight out of a sci-fi movie, might be real someday soon -- if U.S. Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven has his way. The nation's top SEAL last month asked defense for technology to build a suit of armor, called the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), that does everything from provide the wearer with night vision and superhuman strength to protecting them from gunfire. Click for the rest and for the cool video, here.

Jim Amos wants to "reawaken" his Corps. Marine Corps Times' Dan Lamothe: "Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos wants to ‘reawaken' the service after a dozen years of combat, calling for a period of transition in which standards are reinvigorated and Marines see a variety of long-dormant standards brought back. The commandant delivered his plan to senior officers at the General Officer Symposium, held here Sept. 23-27. It calls for a variety of initiatives, including the installation of security cameras in every barracks, the incorporation of more staff noncommissioned officers and officers on duty, and the arming of staff NCOs and officers on duty, according to briefing slides from the commandant's address.

"Amos' briefing slides say that while the Corps has been successful fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "we are now seeing signs that are our institutional fabric is fraying." He cited sexual assault, hazing, drunken driving, fraternization and failure to maintain personal appearance standards among his concerns. In a statement provided to Marine Corps Times late Sept. 25, the commandant, who was not available for comment, expanded on his concerns. ‘It is impossible to overstate my pride in the brilliant performance of our Marines through 12 years of sustained combat,' Amos said. ‘As the Corps resets itself for the conflicts and crises to come, the magnificence of the many has thrown into sharp relief the failure of the few to live up to our high standards. Rather than wait for a creeping complacency to set in, I'm turning to my leaders at all levels to refocus Marines on what we do and who we are.' The commandant's briefing slides were more blunt. ‘We have a behavioral problem within the Corps - a small, but not insignificant, number of our Marines are not living up to our ethos and core values,' one of Amos' slides says. ‘They are hurting themselves, their fellow Marines, civilians and damaging our reputation.' Read the rest and see the picture of Amos' grimace, here.


National Security

Egypt, losing most American assistance; CIA, back to work; Obama on the U.S.-China scorecard; Susan Rice’s moment; House members want Dempsey on sequester; Hagel and Ya’alon, staying in touch; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Most aid to Egypt is being suspended. The White House is expected to end most financial assistance to Egypt in the coming days except for that which is targeted for counter-terrorism operations and the defense of Israel. Despite protestations from the White House, which is not expected to make the announcement until later this week, the suspension of the aid is expected to include tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

The WSJ: "The U.S. decision, while not a full aid cutoff, is likely to further strain Washington's relations with Cairo's military-backed government, as well as the Arab states that have showered Egypt with billions of dollars of new economic aid in recent months."

The NYT: "The administration's move follows a lengthy review that began in August after days of bloody attacks on supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, which left hundreds of people dead. The administration had already frozen the shipment of four F-16 fighter jets and canceled joint military exercises with the Egyptian Army. The United States will also suspend nonmilitary aid that flows directly to the government, but not support for other activities like education or hospitals, the officials said."

NSC spokesperson Caitlin Hayden: "The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false. We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the President made clear at UNGA, that assistance relationship will continue."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at and we'll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. Remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Libya approved of the commando raids. The NYT's Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt: "The Libyan government in recent weeks tacitly approved two American commando operations in its country, according to senior American officials, one to capture a senior militant from Al Qaeda and another to seize a militia leader suspected of carrying out the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi." More here.  

For Susan Rice, the war on terror just got personal. FP's Yochi Dreazen: The covert raid in Tripoli this weekend that nabbed an al Qaeda operative with links to the devastating 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania is more than just a professional triumph for National Security Advisor Susan Rice. It's also a deeply personal one. Rice was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs when simultaneous truck bombs tore through the two embassies, killing more than 200 people. Colleagues from the time said the magnitude of the attack and its enormous human toll left Rice deeply shaken. They said her memories of that bloody day may have made the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi particularly gratifying. ‘It was a searing experience for all of us who were involved,' said Daniel Benjamin, who was the National Security Council's director for counterterrorism when the strikes occurred. ‘I'm sure there was some satisfaction for her that this guy will be brought to justice.'" More here.

Five takeaways from the raids in Libya and Somalia, by James Kitfield on Defense One, here.

A whole bunch of Congressmen want to see Dempsey brief them in a classified setting before another round of sequester. A bipartisan group of fifteen House members are requesting that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey come to Capitol Hill to give them a "high-level classified briefing on military readiness" for all members of Congress prior to another sequester. The group is led by Rep. Randy Forbes, the Republican from Virginia, who has said in the past that he fears members of Congress, especially those who do not serve on Armed Services committees, do not fully appreciate the impact cuts will have on military readiness. He and 14 other members sent a letter to the House leadership requesting that they support holding a classified briefing by Dempsey to edumucate all the members. "I am deeply disappointed by the lack of discussion of national defense in the ongoing budget debate," Forbes said in a statement. "The U.S. military is facing its most serious readiness crisis since the Vietnam War, with the chiefs of all four services declaring that continued sequestration will prevent them from resourcing our national defense strategy."

From the letter: "When asked whether their service can meet the requirements necessary if we continue sequestration the way it is currently moving forward, all four service chiefs - General Odierno, Admiral Greenert, General Welsh and General Amos - said ‘no.' The Committee has received one frightening briefing after another; however, only a fraction of the Members of this body are aware of the full impact that cuts to our national defense will have on the security of the country, and readiness of our Armed Services."

American spies are getting back to work today. FP's Shane Harris: "It's back to work for some of America's spy force left furloughed by the government shutdown. Starting [today] the Central Intelligence Agency will begin recalling some employees "who are necessary to carry out the CIA's core missions," John Brennan, the CIA director, said in a message to employees on Tuesday. Those missions include foreign intelligence collection, all-source analysis, covert action, and counterintelligence. Approximately 12,500 CIA employees have reportedly been out of work since the government shutdown began.

"Brennan said he decided to bring back some employees ‘because of the potential adverse cumulative and unseen impact on our national security' from the shutdown, which is entering its second week. Brennan said that the CIA had been staffed at "dramatically reduced levels" over the past week and that keeping employees off the job ‘would pose a threat to the safety of human life and the protection of property.' Other agencies a have found a way to keep more national security workers on the job. The State Department never furloughed more than few hundred people. The Defense Department kept all of its uniformed personnel at work and recalled all of its civilians days ago." More here.

How'd it go with Hagel and Ya'alon? The Pentagon's readout of the meeting yesterday with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, the third face-to-face in the last six months, but one held without an honor cordon to greet him (#shutdown): "On Iran, Secretary Hagel noted that while the United States intends to test the prospect for a diplomatic solution with Iran we remain clear eyed about the challenges ahead and will not waver from our firm policy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons."

On Syria: "Secretary Hagel applauded the announcement by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria has started. While much works remains to be done, this recent progress is a step in the right direction to eliminating this threat."

The two also discussed some of the "advanced capabilities" the U.S. has helped to provide Israel in a package of platforms the U.S. is selling Israel from earlier this year. That and the two promised to "stay in touch."

FP in re-runs: Our story, "The Mensch," about the relationship Hagel is cultivating with Ya'alon, from August, here.

Speaking of Iran, are we playing checkers when the Iranians are playing three-dimensional chess? It's a clichéd question to be sure, but it's the very one that Aaron David Miller and Mitchel Hochberg ask in this piece on FP, "Advantage: Iran." They write: "This is not to say that the Iranians are diplomatic and strategic geniuses. After all, if they were that clever, they wouldn't be reeling under the impact of nation-crushing sanctions that are destroying their economy. Nor would everyone's favorite mullah -- President Hasan Rouhani -- be sending Rosh Hashanah tweets to all his would-be Jewish friends. The checkers reference is also not meant to suggest that the Obama administration is clueless about how to deal with Iran. While the president's handling of the Syrian chemical weapons issue did at times resemble a Marx Brothers movie, the administration knows the stakes on Iran are higher -- and that, precisely because of Syria, it must be more disciplined, focused, and deliberate." Read that piece here.

Did China just beat the U.S.? Obama's missed opportunities in Asia. Asia bubbas are still mourning Obama's choice to skip important meetings in Asia this week even while they acknowledge he had little choice given the government shutdown. In his news conference yesterday, Obama acknowledged again that he should have been able to go. Obama: "Already this week I had to miss critical meetings in Asia to promote American jobs and businesses. And although as long as we get this fixed that's not long-term damage, whenever we do these things, it hurts our credibility around the world. It makes it look like we don't have our act together. And that's not something we should welcome. The greatest nation on earth shouldn't have to get permission from a few irresponsible members of Congress every couple months just to keep our government open or to prevent an economic catastrophe."

To the question of whether the U.S. loss in not attending meetings there is China's gain, Obama answered: "You know, I'm sure the Chinese don't mind that I'm [here] right now, in the sense that, you know, there are areas where we have differences and they can present their point of view and not get as much of push-back as if I were there, although Secretary of State Kerry is there, and I'm sure he's doing a great job. But I've also said that our cooperation with China's not a zero- sum game. There are a lot of areas where the Chinese and us agree," he said. "On trade in particular, though, here's an area where part of what we're trying to do is raise standards for, for example, intellectual property protection, which sometimes is a big problem in China. And if we can get a -- a trade deal with all the other countries in Asia that says you got to protect people's intellectual property, that'll help us in our negotiations with China."

Chinese media delight at Xi's appearance, and Obama's no-show, in the WaPo today, here.

Full transcript of yesterday's Obama presser here.

Speaking of the "war in the Pacific," here's Frank Hoffman's take, posted on War on the Rocks: "In my last article, I discussed the U.S. Pacific submarine offensive during World War II.  The "Silent Service"-as our submarine force came to be known as-did a great job of learning and adapting under fire to unexpected demands.

This case study is not merely of historical interest.  There are lessons here relevant to the arguments presented for and against AirSea Battle.  China's own energy requirements today are clear, and especially its reliance on imported oil supplies.  In 2011, China acquired 60 percent of its oil needs overseas - some 5.7 million barrels per day - and that maritime shipping imported 90 percent of that oil.  China's energy dilemma could be its Achilles' heel - and the Chinese know it.  They are seeking alternatives and storing oil to enhance their ability to withstand a crisis in supply.  They also realize their supply chains are extended. Geography is very critical in this argument. The importance of islands, as a containing wall, not stepping stones, is just as clear." More of his bit here.

Hagel announced the appointment of Paul Lewis on Gitmo. Days after American commandos snagged Abu Anas al-Libi, the al-Qaida computer guru from Libya, and some politicos are calling for him to be sent to Gitmo, Hagel announced the appointment of Paul Lewis as special envoy for Guantanamo closure. The capture and the appointment are unrelated, of course, but Abu Anas' detention on board the U.S.S. San Antonio in the Med points up the future of Gitmo. President Barack Obama is trying to shutter the facility even as the demand signal, at least from some quarters, to send new tenants there has risen again. "Special Envoy Lewis brings a wealth of experience from his previous position as the Minority General Counsel of the House Armed Services Committee where he oversaw Guantanamo related issues," a Pentagon statement said yesterday. "In addition to facilitating transfer determinations for Guantanamo detainees, he will oversee efforts to transfer third country nationals currently held by the United States in Afghanistan." Lewis, who has served as director of the Legislative Counsel's office at the Pentagon, begins his job at the Pentagon Nov. 1.