National Security

FP’s Situation Report: In Afg., is there a deal or what?; The Navy saw red flags in Fat Leonard; Kerry gets props; The 10 most ridiculous military regs; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Does the U.S. and Afghanistan have a deal - or not? Depends. Numerous reports indicate the two countries are inching closer to a bilateral security agreement that would define the relationship for years to come and potentially allow a number of U.S. troops to remain in the country until 2024. The NYT and the WSJ had on Page One (and the WaPo on A12) had stories indicating an accord had been reached. The NYT's Thom Shanker and Rod Nordland: "Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday that the United States and Afghanistan had finalized the wording of a bilateral security agreement that would allow for a lasting American troop presence through 2024 and set the stage for billions of dollars of international assistance to keep flowing to the government in Kabul. The deal, which will now be presented for approval by an Afghan grand council of elders starting on Thursday, came after days of brinkmanship by Afghan officials and two direct calls from Mr. Kerry to President Hamid Karzai, including one on Wednesday before the announcement." More here.

But early this morning East Coast time, Karzai said the whole thing should be delayed: "I don't trust the Americans, and they don't trust me." The WSJ's Nathan Hodge and Yaroslav Trofimov: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the security deal with the U.S. should be deferred until after his successor is elected, even as he boasted of securing key concessions from President Barack Obama. ‘The agreement should be signed when the election is conducted, properly and with dignity,' Mr. Karzai told the opening session of the Loya Jirga assembly that he convened to consider the deal. ‘I don't trust the Americans, and they don't trust me,' he added." Read the rest of the WSJ piece here.

This is how the war in Afghanistan could be lost this week, by FP's Dan Lamothe and Yochi Dreazen: "...It remains to be seen, however, whether the deal will be approved by the loya jirga. And therein lies the rub: Unless Karzai can corral enough support in his last full year in office to hold the line on his plan with the U.S., the future of Afghanistan remain in doubt. (Well, even more in doubt than it would have been without the deal.) The loya jirga's views are not officially binding, but Karzai has said repeatedly that the tribal elders there will decide some of the most controversial pieces of the new security agreement, most notably whether U.S. forces will be granted prosecutorial immunity. Iraq's unwillingness to do the same resulted in the U.S. pulling all of its troops from that country in 2011, setting the stage for widespread bloodshed there this year." That piece, here.

Validation after 12 years of war: Former Marine Mark Kustra, a member of the military's Afghan Hands program, writes in the WSJ today that the agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan is a win. His BLUF: "The costs of playing out a winning Afghanistan endgame will be significant, though a fraction of the expenditures of the past dozen years. The costs of blowing the endgame would have been inestimable, and now both countries are on the brink of avoiding that dismal fate." Read the whole piece here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up for Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here. As always, 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, you gotta say something -- to Situation Report. One more thing: please follow us @glubold.

FP Exclusive: The U.S. and some allies are trying to kneecap an effort within the United Nations to promote a universal right to online privacy. FP's Colum Lynch, citing diplo sources and an internal American government document: "The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations." More here.

Rabid dogs, nuclear rights and fussy Frenchies: A tablesetter on the U.S.-Iran talks from FP's Yochi Dreazen, reporting from Geneva. "American and Iranian negotiators settled into a luxury hotel here for several days of talks designed to hash out the final details of what could be a historic nuclear deal. Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign secretaries are watching the talks closely, ready to fly to Geneva at a moment's notice if an agreement is reached. U.S. officials say they're cautiously optimistic these talks will pan out. The two sides came exceptionally close to a deal earlier this month, but those negotiations ended with Kerry and his colleagues boarding their planes and flying home without an agreement. This time around, officials from both sides believe that many of the disputes that gummed up the last round of negotiations have been at least partially resolved. Don't take out the champagne just yet, however. Some significant differences remain, and it's not at all clear that the negotiators will be able to bridge all of them. Below are three key issues worth watching as the talks get underway." More here.

Kerry gets props. The NYT's Mark Landler and Michael Gordon: "...If the United States and its five negotiating partners come within striking distance of an interim agreement with Iran, Mr. Kerry is likely to fly to Geneva at the end of the week to try to seal the deal. It would be a rare win for a White House that has been reeling from the botched rollout of the health care law, a stalled legislative agenda and doubts about Mr. Obama's credibility. It would also ratify Mr. Kerry's status as the biggest surprise of the president's second-term cabinet: a hyperactive diplomat who plunges into seemingly intractable problems, improvises furiously along the way - making gaffes from time to time but occasionally devising solutions that have helped Mr. Obama out of messy situations like the impasse over a security agreement with Afghanistan." More here.

Hagel urges the Senate to approve the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Hagel, in a statement released by DOD: "...One of the legacies of the past twelve years of war is that thousands of young Americans will carry physical wounds for the rest of their lives. These wounded warriors deserve to have the same opportunities to live, work, and travel as every other American, and to participate fully in society whether at home or abroad. Joining this treaty will allow the United States to help shape international practices for individuals with disabilities that are consistent with our own high standards for access and opportunity. It will also help personnel who have family members with disabilities, who often have to choose between their families and their careers when considering assignments in other countries...Failing to approve this treaty would send the wrong message to our people, their families, and the world. Approving it would help all people fulfill their potential. That's why I strongly support swift Senate action."

Are Air Force nuclear misileers suffering from burnout? AP's Bob Burns: "Key members of the Air Force's nuclear missile force are feeling "burnout" from what they see as exhausting, unrewarding and stressful work, according to an unpublished study obtained by The Associated Press. The finding by researchers for RAND Corp. adds to indications that trouble inside the nuclear missile force runs deeper and wider than officials have acknowledged. The study, provided to the AP in draft form, also cites heightened levels of misconduct like spousal abuse and says court-martial rates in the nuclear missile force in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. These indicators add a new dimension to an emerging picture of malaise and worse inside the intercontinental ballistic missile force, an arm of the Air Force with a proud heritage but an uncertain future." The rest here.

Were you curious how the U.S. is strengthening its mil-to-mil ties with India? If so, DepSecDef Ash Carter explains how it's coming to be in this piece he wrote for FP. Carter: "...As someone who has watched our bilateral relationship mature over a number of years, I've come to believe that the United States and India are increasingly natural partners on the world stage. Though we may not always share identical policy prescriptions, we do share a common set of values and objectives. These include a commitment to democratic governance and human rights; to free and open commerce; to a just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law; to open access by all to the shared domains of sea, air, space, and now cyberspace; and to the principle of resolving conflict without the use of force."

And: "...while the deepening of U.S.-India defense cooperation may not be as visible as some of our other efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, it is a key example of how the Department of Defense under Secretary Chuck Hagel is executing our role in the rebalance." Read the rest of that bit here.

No more easy wars: Scott Gerber argues on FP that the U.S. is resurrecting the same strategy that failed in Iraq. Read that here.

The Navy seemed to have suspicions about the man known as "Fat Leonard," but it awarded $200 million in contracts. Now he's at the center of the Navy's huge bribery scandal.  The NYT's Christopher Drew and Danielle Ivory: "...But as his reputation for lavish parties spread, so too did warnings about his business practices, according to Navy officials and court documents. Emails obtained by criminal investigators show that from 2009 to early 2011, several ship crews and contracting officials filed complaints about his "gold-plated" fees for fuel, port security and other services. In 2010, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service opened investigations into questionable charges in Thailand and Japan by his company, documents show. Despite those red flags, in June 2011, the Navy awarded Mr. Francis $200 million in contracts, giving him control over providing supplies and dockside services for its fleet across the Pacific." The rest here.

A snooping wife sinks a Navy captain aboard the Vinson. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Jeanette Steele: "The snooping wife of a junior sailor brought down the top pilot aboard the San Diego aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, a Navy investigation has revealed. The story would read like a TV sitcom plot, if real lives weren't involved. Capt. Jeffrey Winter was removed from command of the Vinson air wing on Sept. 20 for an affair with the air wing's female medical officer. The affair was exposed when a petty officer second class brought home a portable computer drive containing work files - including Winter's emails to the female lieutenant.

The sailor's wife found the portable drive and looked through the files. She told a Navy investigator that she snooped because she was ‘extremely suspicious of her husband's activities on exercises and deployments due to past marital issues.' But it wasn't her husband's wrongdoing that she found." That story here.

Click bait and Listicile Alert: The 10 Most Ridiculous Military Regs, Customs and Courtesies, per Business Insider include: "no chilling with hands in your pockets" and "special parking privileges for colonels, generals and senior enlisted" and our favorite, "doing Operational Risk Management (ORM) paperwork for pick-up basketball." Read the rest of that bit here. And, you might also enjoy: "The 10 Military Habits that Stay with you Forever," here. 


National Security

FP’s Situation Report: No apologies: Rice says U.S. not planning to apologize for mistakes; Exclusive: Stuxnet’s evil twin; Reid backs Gillibrand on sex assault; Marco Rubio, swimming upstream?; A little help here, Mr. Secretary?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Will negotiators be able to close a deal on a bilateral security agreement very soon? Unclear. Some reports show that a last-minute issue has been resolved after the U.S. agreed to put into writing assurances the Afghans demanded, including a pledge that U.S. troops will enter Afghan homes only in exceptional circumstances to save lives, as the WaPo's Karen DeYoung and Tim Craig report: "The assurances will include a pledge that U.S. troops will enter Afghan homes only in exceptional circumstances to save lives, as well as what has become a standard U.S. expression of regret for Afghan suffering and the loss of innocent lives in the 12-year-old war. The proposed letter is to be read to an assembly of more than 2,500 Afghan elders and officials, scheduled to start Thursday in Kabul, that will consider whether to endorse the long-term security agreement with the United States. Obama's final decision on signing the letter will depend on wording that is still under discussion. The president ‘is not averse to signing,' said a senior administration official, one of several who discussed the talks on the condition of anonymity. ‘One way or the other,' the official said, ‘it's going to be worked out in the next 24 hours.'" More of the WaPo piece here.

Susan Rice said on CNN re: Afghanistan and a letter of apology: there will be no such thing. CNN's Chelsea Carter and Elise Labott: "Reports the United States is on the verge of a security agreement with Afghanistan that includes a formal letter of apology for past mistakes by American troops are completely false, the National Security adviser told CNN on Tuesday. The statements came amid claims by Afghan officials that the Obama administration offered to write the letter as part of an effort to keep a small number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan well past the 2014 deadline to withdraw.No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan,' National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on CNN..." The rest here.

Here's a potential list of who's attending the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan that is starting tomorrow, according to a list published in Afghan media that is probably a tad inaccurate: 351 members of the Afghan Lower House and the Senate; 155 members of the Provincial Council (representing 34 provinces); 34 provincial governors; 250 religious scholars; 65 women leaders; 533 tribal elders; 80 Nomad representatives; 140 civil society representatives; 40 disabled group representatives; 120 representatives of the Afghan Refugees in Pakistan; 60 representatives of Afghan Refugees in Iran; 30 representatives of the Afghan Refugees from other countries; 64 businessmen and industrialists; 80 political scientists/lawyers and journalists; 10 approved presidential candidates and 488 members of the past Loya Jirga.

Meanwhile, did you know that Stuxnet had a secret twin? No, maybe not. But David Langner tells the exclusive story on FP of the real program to sabotage Iran's nuclear facilities was way more sophisticated than anyone realized.  Langner: "Three years after it was discovered, Stuxnet, the first publicly disclosed cyberweapon, continues to baffle military strategists, computer security experts, political decision-makers, and the general public. A comfortable narrative has formed around the weapon: how it attacked the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, how it was designed to be undiscoverable, how it escaped from Natanz against its creators' wishes. Major elements of that story are either incorrect or incomplete. That's because Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet's smaller and simpler attack routine -- the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and "forgotten" routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security. And strangely, this more sophisticated attack came first. The simpler, more familiar routine followed only years later -- and was discovered in comparatively short order." Read the rest of this FP exclusive, here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up for Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here. As always, 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, you gotta say something -- to Situation Report. One more thing: please follow us @glubold. Yahoo e-mail people: we are working on the problem that is delaying delivery of Situation Report each day. Bear with us - and thank you.

Al-Qaida take credit for bombing in Beirut and Iran blames the Zionists. FP's David Kenner in Beirut: "...Increasingly, Iran and its allies publicly portray Israel and their Sunni rivals as two sides of the same coin -- describing them as sharing the same goals and even acting in concert against Tehran. This trend, which gained momentum with Iran's involvement in the Syrian war, has become a dominant aspect of pro-Iranian groups' rhetoric in recent weeks. In his speech to commemorate the Shiite holy period of Ashura, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that it was ‘regrettable' that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had emerged as "the spokesman for some Arab countries.'" The rest of his report here.   Has the Pentagon grown relatively silent on Iran during negotiations? FP's Yochi Dreazen: "With American and Iranian negotiators streaming into Geneva for the next round of nuclear talks, there's been no shortage of official rhetoric coming from Washington. The Obama administration argues that the deal wrests real concessions from the Iranians in exchange for only modest sanctions relief. The State Department says an agreement would freeze Iran's nuclear program while buying time to hash out a permanent deal. And the Pentagon -- well, the Pentagon has stayed relatively silent. Which is kind of odd, since the man in charge of the Defense Department is one of Washington's better-known advocates for talks with Tehran.

"Secretary of State John Kerry has been the administration's point person on Iran, as he was during September's Syria crisis. He dominated recent joint appearances on Capitol Hill with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, answering questions more forcefully, and with more specificity, than his colleague. Hagel, like his predecessors, has said that all options are on the table when it comes to Iran. But during a recent round of public appearances, Hagel has largely deferred to Kerry when the subject of Iran has come up. ‘The president has said, Secretary Kerry has said, a bad deal is worse than no deal,' Hagel told the Reagan Defense Forum over the weekend. ‘As we all know, this is Secretary Kerry's area of responsibility,' he said during an October joint appearance with the Secretary of State in Tokyo." More here.

An historic selfie: the first female Marines to complete infantry training, taken by Pfc. Harlee "Rambo" Bradford, here.

The Army's PR push for "average looking women." From Politico's own Kate Brannen, who wrote yesterday that her jaw dropped when she received an internal Army e-mail: "The Army should use photos of "average-looking women" when it needs to illustrate stories about female soldiers, a specialist recommends - images of women who are too pretty undermine the communications strategy about introducing them into combat roles. That's the gist of an internal Army e-mail an Army source shared with POLITICO. ‘In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead,' wrote Col. Lynette Arnhart, who is leading a team of analysts studying how best to integrate women into combat roles that have previously been closed off to them. She sent her message to give guidance to Army spokesmen and spokeswomen about how they should tell the press and public about the Army's integration of women." Read the rest here.

Gillibrand now has 50 public supporters for her plan to fundamentally change the military's UCMJ. Politico's Darren Samuehlsohn: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's endorsement of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's military sexual assault proposal gives the New York Democrat a 50th public supporter on her controversial change to Pentagon policy. But she still remains well shy of the 60 votes she needs to secure a win on the Senate floor for her amendment that would remove the chain of command from prosecuting sexual assaults and other major military crimes. With the debate just days, or hours away, two closely watched players - Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the White House - declined to weigh in on the Gillibrand proposal. Reid detailed his decision to reporters on Tuesday following the Senate Democrats' weekly closed-door luncheon, saying he wasn't satisfied with the sexual assault provisions produced in Sen. Carl Levin's Armed Services Committee. The Nevada Democrat had met in recent days with Pentagon officials and also military members who are victims of sexual assault." Read the rest here.

As the list of options for destroying Syria's chemical weapons shrinks, the U.S. is looking out at sea. Reuters' Anthony Deutch and Michelle Nichols: "Syria's chemical weapons could be processed and destroyed out at sea, say sources familiar with discussions at the international body in charge of eliminating the toxic arsenal. Four days after Albania rejected a U.S. request that it host a weapons decommissioning plant, Western diplomats and an official of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at The Hague told Reuters the OPCW was studying whether it might carry out the work at sea, on a ship or offshore rig. Confirming the discussion, the OPCW official stressed there had been no decision: ‘The only thing known at this time is that this is technically feasible,' the official said on Tuesday." Read the rest here.

Attackers from the Shabab militant group assaulted a police station north of Mogadishu, leaving 28 dead; the NYT, here.

Meet the rebel commander that Assad, Russia and the U.S. all fear, by the WSJ's Alan Cullison, here.

At a time when the package of military benefits are under review, Marco Rubio is proposing a bigger pay raise for the troops. Military Times' Rick Maze: "Senate debate on the $625.6 billion defense budget for 2014 could include a discussion about whether there is enough money for a slightly bigger military raise. The basic bill includes the 1 percent raise proposed by the Obama administration and supported by defense and service leaders. But Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has filed an amendment that would bump the raise to 1.8 percent. That is the same amount included in the House version of the defense bill and would match average private-sector wage growth last year, following a long-standing federal pay formula... Administration and military leaders have defended a smaller military raise as a necessity in a time of tight budgets. In its statement of administration policy, the White House praises the Senate for supporting the 1 percent raise. Rubio, however, doesn't buy it. Rubio in a statement: "The men and women of our military make huge sacrifices for our nation and have earned the chance to be compensated accordingly... passing this amendment will have a direct positive impact on our military volunteers and their families." Read Maze's bit here.

A little help here, Mr. Secretary? A Marine officer under fire in the infamous Marine urination saga is asking Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to review the case. Marine Corps Times' Hope Hodge Seck: A Marine officer facing the end of his military career over an inappropriate war-zone video has asked Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to review the decision, saying it was unfairly influenced by a top general's alleged desire to see him punished. Following an administrative hearing in October, a panel of senior Marine officers recommended Capt. James Clement should be separated from the service with an honorable discharge for allegedly failing to supervise a group of scout snipers who in 2011 made a video that showed them urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan. Clement's defense counsel, John Dowd, wants Mabus and attorneys from outside the Marine Corps to review the case, which was overshadowed by claims that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos and others close to him sought to influence its outcome." More here.

Want to know how the FBI keeps tabs on foreign diplomats? Former spook Matthew Aid tells us how, and it has everything to do with spy copters, lasers and "break-in teams." Writing on FP, Aid:  "Between 2006 and 2009, surveillance helicopters conducted daily flights over northwest Washington, D.C., taking high-resolution photographs of the new Chinese Embassy being constructed on Van Ness Street. The aircraft belonged to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which wanted to determine where the embassy's communications center was being located. But the Chinese construction crews hid their work on this part of the building by pulling tarpaulins over the site as it was being constructed. The FBI also monitored the movements and activities of the Chinese construction workers building the embassy, who were staying at a Days Inn on Connecticut Avenue just north of the construction site, in the hopes of possibly recruiting one or two of them. According to one Chinese diplomat, his fellow officials detected individuals who they assumed to be FBI agents covertly monitoring the construction materials and equipment being used to build the embassy, which were stored on the University of the District of Columbia's soccer field across the street from where the Chinese Embassy currently stands. The diplomat added that Chinese security officials assumed that the FBI agents were trying to determine whether it was possible to plant eavesdropping devices inside the construction materials stored at the site."

"...All told, there are almost 600 foreign government embassies, consulates, missions, or representative offices in the United States, all of which are watched to one degree or another by the counterintelligence officers of the FBI. Only eight countries do not maintain any diplomatic presence in the United States whatsoever, the most important of which is nuclear-armed North Korea. Every one of these embassies and consulates is watched by the FBI's legion of counterintelligence officers to one degree or another. But some countries' receive the vast majority of the FBI's attention, such as Russia, China, Libya, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Venezuela. The Cuban and Iranian interests section in Washington -- and their missions to the United Nations in New York -- of course receive special attention as well." Read the rest here.

The Reserve Officers Association publishes the ROA's SmartBrief each day that includes stories "tailored to provide all the information needed to balance Reserve life in and out of uniform" for "essential news which affects them, their families and their military careers." It's free and you can sign up here.

The Air Force is trying to figure out a successor to the A-10 Warthog attack plane. War is Boring's Dave Majumdar: "Short on cash and determined to prioritize new stealth warplanes, the U.S. Air Force is busily trying to rid itself of all 350 of its slow- and low-flying A-10 Warthog attack planes-this despite the heavily-armed twin-engine jet's impressive combat record stretching back to the 1991 Gulf War. But the flying branch still needs to support American troops on the ground-the Warthog's raison d'etre. With that in mind, around 20 highly experienced A-10 pilots and engineers are working on unofficial specifications for a successor to the Warthog. The group started off with using the original A-X program requirements that resulted in the Warthog starting nearly 50 years ago. Even though technology has advanced since the 1960s, the fundamentals of what is required for the close air support mission have not changed." Read the rest here.