National Security

Is China planning more zones?; Afg accuses coalition of withholding support; Peace talks ‘tween Af-Pak progress; The Dutch double down in Mali; The Duffel Blog, unmasked, and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold 

Is China planning more air defense zones as Biden heads over? Defense News' Wendell Minnick, Jung Sung-Ki and Paul Kallender-Umezu: "China's establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last week over the East China Sea has given the US an unexpected challenge as Vice President Joseph Biden prepares for a trip to China, Japan and South Korea beginning this week. The trip was scheduled to address economic issues, but the Nov. 23 ADIZ announcement raised a troubling new issue for the US and allies in the region. China's ADIZ overlaps the zones of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Sources indicate China's ADIZ could be part of its larger anti-access/area-denial strategy designed to force the US military to operate farther from China's shorelines. China might also be planning additional identification zones in the South China Sea and near contested areas along India's border, US and local sources say." More here.

Did the U.S. defy Japan on China's air defense zone? The WSJ's Yuka Hayashi and Andy Pasztor:  "Japanese officials on Sunday played down publicly-but complained privately-that the U.S. isn't following Tokyo in rebuffing Beijing's demands for foreign airlines to file flight plans when navigating through China's new air-defense zone.

The developments came as Japan openly questioned the Chinese military's ability to police the zone. Beijing said on Friday that it had dispatched fighter jets to monitor the area after the U.S. and Japan said their jets had entered in defiance of China's demands for notification. ‘Based on our evaluations, there was no Chinese fighter jet that came into close proximity of our planes. We did not experience anything unusual,' Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in an interview with national broadcaster NHK... While visiting a regional city on Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, ‘We have confirmed through diplomatic channels that the U.S. government didn't request commercial carriers to submit flight plans.' Speaking privately, Japanese officials said Washington has yet to coordinate views among government branches and come up with a unified stance that can be conveyed to Tokyo properly." The rest here.

For the Pivot, it's all about sea power. CNN's Paul Armstrong: "By his own admission, one of the U.S Navy's top commanders says his Pacific fleet ‘gets all the best stuff' when it comes to state-of-the-art weaponry -- an undeniable reflection of President Barack Obama's so-called pivot towards Asia.The flagship of its 7th fleet, the Nimitz-class USS George Washington aircraft carrier boasts a formidable arsenal; from the latest FA-18 fighter jets, to anti-submarine helicopters and early-warning surveillance aircraft. Add to this the fleet's numerous missile destroyers, cruisers and submarines and the statement of intent is clear to see -- Washington is serious about its role in the region. ‘It's a long-term effort for us here,' Fleet commander Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas, told CNN aboard the giant vessel amid the muffled roar of jet engines from the flight deck directly above. ‘From a policy perspective it's a shift in balance of not only our resources but our thinking across diplomatic, information, economic and military lines to the Pacific.'" Read the rest here.

T.X. Hammes on Real Clear Defense about how to deter China, here.

Cra cra cute: the new name of the new panda is Bao Bao. It means precious or treasure, according to the WaPo's Michael Rosenwald, and it's pronounced "bough BOUGH." Rosenwald: "At a National Zoo ceremony on Sunday, complete with lion dancers and Chinese snacks, Smithsonian officials and Chinese diplomats celebrated the giant panda cub's first 100 days of life by revealing the results of an online vote to name her... ‘Ni hao! And hello,' Michelle Obama said. She stressed the panda caretaking and research partnership between China and the United States, without noting that traditional diplomatic activities remain tense."

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where unlike Amazon, we'll never have plans to ever deliver our product by drone. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  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, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And please follow us @glubold.

How Obama went nuclear. FP's David Kenner: "In the wintry days of January 2009, as Barack Obama prepared for his inauguration, he was briefed on how to unleash the weapons that could destroy the planet many times over. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright conducted the briefing on the ‘nuclear football,' the 45-pound briefcase containing the codes that allow the president to launch America's arsenal of over 5,000 nuclear weapons. In the tumult before the inauguration - not to mention a global economy heading toward meltdown - Obama wasn't certain he would remember each step to launch the world's most dangerous weapons. Shortly after taking office as the 44th president, he contacted his defense secretary, Robert Gates. ‘You know that guy who scared the shit out of me?' he said, according to James Mann's The Obamians. ‘Can I talk to him again?'

Almost five years later, non-proliferation has emerged as the centerpiece of Obama's agenda in the Middle East. In Syria, he signed off on a Russia-brokered agreement for President Bashar al-Assad to gradually destroy his chemical weapons. In Iran, he inked a controversial agreement that will see the Islamic Republic stall its nuclear program for six months, in exchange for roughly $6 billion in sanctions relief. Such steps represent significant victories for the president's non-proliferation agenda -- but have also disappointed those who wonder if they come at the cost of America's other interests in the world." More here.

Afghanistan's military and police say the coalition is withholding fuel and other support to coerce Karzai into signing the security agreement. The WaPo's Tim Craig, in Kabul: "...Coalition officials strongly deny the allegation, the latest disagreement between the Karzai government and U.S. military leaders. According to a statement from Karzai, the issue arose during a meeting of his national security council Sunday. Military and police commanders complained that their forces are struggling with a fuel shortage and said they suspect that the United States is using the resource as leverage over Karzai. ‘This deed is contrary to the prior commitment of America,' Karzai's statement said. ‘Afghan forces are facing interruption in conducting of their activities as a result of the cessation of fuel and supportive services.'

"But coalition officials say they are baffled by the claim. ‘There has been no stoppage in the delivery of requested fuel," the coalition said in a statement. "We remain committed to supporting our ANSF partners and will continue to do so." More here.

Amid the crisis over the security agreement between Washington and Kabul, Pakistan and Afghanistan signal headway on peace talks with the Taliban. The WSJ's Nathan Hodge: "Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed progress this weekend in efforts to bring Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency to the negotiating table but gave few specifics about how they planned to advance the peace process. Messrs. Karzai and Sharif met Saturday in Kabul for bilateral discussions on a range of topics, from trade ties to regional energy projects. Outreach to the Taliban leadership, however, was at the top of the agenda. The Afghan president said he and Mr. Sharif discussed ‘practical steps' to breathe new life into the peace process with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents. But the discussions appeared to leave unresolved an important symbolic issue for Afghanistan: The release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's former second-in-command, who has been in Pakistani custody since his arrest in 2010. Afghan officials have pressed for Mr. Baradar's release, believing that he could serve as a negotiating channel between the government of Mr. Karzai and the Taliban. Mr. Sharif said Saturday during the talks he would discuss access to Mr. Baradar with the Afghan president." The rest here.

The Dutch are doubling down in Mali. FP's Colum Lynch: "The Dutch military is planning to deploy a team of dozens of military intelligence operatives in Mali in the coming weeks, part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission charged with stabilizing the terror-afflicted northern part of the country and preventing the resurgence of Islamist militants that only year ago held sway over much of the country, according to the Dutch military. The Dutch contribution -- which will also include a team of special-forces troops and four Apache attack helicopters -- marks a rare return by a European power to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Africa, where debacles from Somalia to Rwanda triggered a retreat in the late 1990s. But what is perhaps even more striking is that the U.N.'s top brass are privately acknowledging that the U.N.'s blue helmets will be engaging in the business of spying." Read the rest here.

Unstuffing the Duffel Blog. The WaPo's Ernesto Londono: "...When the Duffel Blog launched a couple of years ago, its creators said their only ambition was to lighten the mood among a generation of war-weary veterans who felt somewhat disconnected from civilian America. But it has turned into much more, regularly attracting more than half a million unique visitors per month. Its brand of satire often conveys grievances and contrarian views that are widely held among those in uniform. The articles have also helped bridge the country's civilian-military divide, the blog's writers say, by sparking conversations and portraying troops in ways that defy stereotypes."  

Who's behind it? "Paul Szoldra, a former Marine sergeant, came up with the concept almost by accident. While developing a Web site designed to help veterans succeed in college, he penned a couple of satirical posts that got far more attention than his tips for student vets. ‘When I first started it, it gave me a board to vent and be funny about things in the military that were kind of dumb,' Szoldra, 29, said in a phone interview from San Francisco, where he works for a business news site. ‘Other people started recognizing the power of that.' Szoldra soon began getting e-mails from veterans around the country who wanted to play a role, allowing him to build a group of roughly 50 regular contributors, about half of whom are on active duty."

Jim Mattis to Londono: "Duffel Blog is a beautifully crafted response to an increasingly stuffy environment in today's America... Duffel Blog reminds us of much of what we in the military fight for - the freedom to think our own way and to laugh about the absurdities without being mean-spirited. Read the rest here.

The Duffel Blog today: "North Korea Expands Air Defense Zone to Include Eastern United States," here. (And yes, dear readers, we know it's a joke! But thanks for the heads up just the same.)  


National Security

FP’s Situation Report: Bombers play chicken in China’s “ADIZ;” A workaround for Afg.?; The NSA tracked radicals’ porn; Logan suspended from 60 Minutes; Mike Morell goes to Beacon; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The U.S. may try to bypass the recalcitrant Karzai. The Los Angeles Times' David Cloud and David Zucchino: "U.S. officials seeking to resolve a tense standoff with Afghan President Hamid Karzai were exploring on Tuesday whether they could bypass him and get other senior officials to sign a security deal authorizing American troops to remain in the country after 2014.?A day after Karzai abruptly said he would not sign unless Washington agreed to additional conditions, the Obama administration was pushing for Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani or another official to endorse the agreement on behalf of the government in Kabul, several U.S. officials said. The Pentagon has been saying for months that it needs the security pact in place by the end of the year to give planners time to draft deployment schedules and secure funding for post-2014 operations." More here.

Checkers or chess? Karzai seems to be playing poker while the U.S. claims it is playing for keeps. The NYT's Rod Nordland and Alissa Rubin: "In the face of a warning delivered in person on Monday by the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, that the United States would consider leaving no troops at all in Afghanistan past 2014 if Mr. Karzai did not promptly sign a long-term security agreement, he has made it clear that he considers it a bluff. Not only did he refuse to sign, he added conditions, including the release of all inmates from the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. He is, in effect, betting billions of dollars in international assistance that the United States does not want to go. His close aides have echoed that assessment through the recent days of diplomatic crisis. (‘We don't believe there's any zero option,' his spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said recently.)

"But their optimism was not widely shared in Afghanistan on Tuesday, as Ms. Rice flew back to Washington with no promise of the follow-up talks Mr. Karzai said he wanted to pursue. Even many of Mr. Karzai's friends were criticizing his refusal to conclude a deal." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday's pre-hiatus edition of Situation Report. We wish you a great Thanksgiving, we thank you for reading and we'll see you first thing Monday. 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.

The U.S. sends two B-52 bombers through China's new air zone to show Beijing what's what. WSJ's Julian Barnes and Jeremy Page: "The U.S. moved forcefully to try to counter China's bid for influence over increasingly jittery Asian neighbors by sending a pair of B-52 bombers over disputed islands in the East China Sea, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The B-52s took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and flew more than 1,500 miles northwest, crossing into what China has declared as its new air-defense identification zone, at about 7 p.m. ET Monday. The U.S. deliberately violated rules set by China by refusing to inform Beijing about the flight, officials said. China had warned of military action against aircraft entering the zone without notification, but didn't respond to the B-52s, which weren't armed and were part of a long-planned military exercise. A U.S. official said there was no attempt by the Chinese military to contact the B-52s... Wednesday morning, in Beijing's first public comment on the flight, the Ministry of National Defense said in a faxed response to the Wall Street Journal that the Chinese military monitored and identified the U.S. aircraft." WSJ story, including helpful map, here.  China responded to the B-52 flight - WSJ online post here.

It's not a coincidence that China's national defense posture looks a lot like America's. FP's own Issac Stone Fish: "...China's publication of the [ADIZ] is undeniably a provocation (so, too, the U.S. response). But it is also, in Chinese eyes at least, in line with international norms of airspace and transparency. The United States has a clearly defined ADIZ; the website of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warns of ‘use of force' in the ‘case of non-compliance.' (Secretary of State John Kerry said in a Nov. 23 statement that the United States ‘does not apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. national airspace.') On Nov. 25, Yang Yujun, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, responded to a question about the U.S. government ‘concern' about China's decision. ‘Since the 1950s the United States and more than 20 other countries,' including Japan, have set up ADIZs, he said. For the United States to oppose this is ‘utterly unreasonable.'" More here.

Flournoy, who may have a Pentagon in the future weighs in on all of this. Defense News' John Bennett: "Michèle Flournoy... provided some comments about the future of the U.S.-China relationship just minutes after news broke that the U.S. flew two B-52 bombers over a massive swath of ocean China now says it owns - and claims the right to defend with force, if necessary - without notifying Beijing. During an Aspen Institute-sponsored luncheon in Washington, Flournoy offered "two lessons" from past U.S. defense drawdowns that followed American wars she believes should drive the current one. Flournoy called the relationship with Beijing ‘the most important strategic question we will face in coming decades.' What's more, Flournoy hopes U.S. officials (her former colleagues) will soon finalize "a vision" for U.S.-Sino relations ‘beyond 2014.' Washington must ‘support China' in becoming ‘a more responsible stakeholder globally,' she said." Read the rest on DN's "Intercepts" blog here.

Air Force up-and-comer Gen. Hawk Carlisle of "PAC-AF" talks about the role of engaging Asian partners as part of the Pivot. Breaking Defense's Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake: "Both in his presentation as well as during the interview, the general highlighted the importance of practical steps to enhance allied collaboration. He highlighted in the public presentation the growing role of collaboration among the Pacific allies and the importance of that for U.S. policy as well... he noted that the U.S.-Japanese relationship is undergoing a fundamental transformation. The Japanese are clearly rethinking their defense posture and he argued that the U.S. was working much more deeply and comprehensively with the Japanese defense forces than even two years ago." More here.

Did the NSA spy on porn habits of radicals? Apparently so. On HuffPo, Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Grimm and Ryan Gallagher: "The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as ‘exemplars' of how 'personal vulnerabilities' can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority. The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. ‘A previous SIGINT' -- or signals intelligence, the interception of communications -- "assessment report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent," the document argues. Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited are ‘viewing sexually explicit material online' and ‘using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.' More here.

Who's really running the NSA? FP's Shane Harris tell us it's Fran Fleisch, the NSA's executive director. Harris: "Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, and his deputy, Chris Inglis, along with a number of other senior-level staff are frequently out of the office as the agency grapples with the public and political fallout of the unprecedented series of leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden. They spend much of their time in meetings at the White House; answering questions for lawmakers and congressional staff; giving public speeches and press interviews; and responding to voluminous official requests for information about the agency's programs amid ongoing investigations and reviews. Fleisch is almost never with them when they leave the agency's headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland -- the recent day on the Hill was a rare exception. It's her job to stay behind and keep the United States' biggest intelligence agency online while its leaders are putting out fires." Read the rest of that bit here.

Rosa Brooks on the Iran deal: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the slightly less crummy of the realistic alternatives." Brooks: "...The choice we truly face is less appealing:  Do we want a bellicose Iran that has the ability to produce nuclear weapons within a matter of months and is unremittingly hostile to U.S. interests? Or do we want an Iran that has the ability to produce nuclear weapons within a matter of months, but is no longer as unremittingly hostile to U.S. interests? I'll take the latter, thanks very much. It's not perfect. It's not even good. But it's a whole lot better than the alternative." More here.

Lara Logan and her producer are suspended from '60 Minutes' for the discredited Benghazi report. CNN's Brian Stelter: "...Logan's longtime producer, Max McClellan, is also taking time off. CBS suggested that the leaves of absence were punitive measures for the shortcomings in the Benghazi report, which has stung the reputations of both Logan and the program that televised her report, ‘60 Minutes.' With the staff announcements on Tuesday and the release of an internal review, CBS tried to demonstrate that it has figured out what went wrong with its Benghazi report and taken steps to stop similar mistakes in the future...But the network declined to comment further on what changes were being implemented or on when Logan might return to work. Logan has not talked publicly about the Benghazi report since she apologized for it on November 10, and it looks unlikely that she will talk anytime soon... [Al Ortiz, the head of standards and practices for CBS] also faulted the ‘60 Minutes' staff with keeping its interview to itself - something that outside critics said weeks ago when questions about the report were first raised. ‘The fact that the FBI and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to '60 Minutes' was knowable before the piece aired," Ortiz wrote. "But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It's possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.' Full story here.

Ash Carter moves on. DepSecDef Ash Carter is headed out of the Pentagon Dec. 4. The NYT's Thom Shanker: "Amid the awards and decorations on display in the Pentagon office of Ashton B. Carter, the departing deputy secretary of defense, is a metal bearing, larger than a golf ball, which wears the scars of battle. If the signature weapon of tenacious insurgents over the past decade-plus of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was the improvised roadway explosive, then the signature weapon of the American response was the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, or MRAP. The ball bearing so prized by Mr. Carter came from one of the vehicles, easily recognizable by their angular shape, to deflect blast, and outsize outside armor. First as the Pentagon's under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, and then as the department's deputy, Mr. Carter played a central role in the initiative to rush MRAPs to Afghanistan for the troop surge, circumventing the calcified procurement system that traditionally takes years to move a weapon from idea to the front lines.

Carter: "I very much hope we can retain that agility...Rapid fielding - not on a Cold War schedule of years and decades, because that's how slowly the Soviet Union changed, but on weeks and months, because that's how fast the battlefield has changed in Iraq and Afghanistan." The rest here.

Urination video saga: Duncan Hunter asks Mabus to review the case of Capt. James Clement. Marine Corps' Times Hope Hodge Seck: "A California congressman has reached out to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on behalf of a Marine captain facing discharge for his role in the scout sniper urination scandal. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote Mabus Nov. 26 asking that he consider the appeal of Capt. James Clement, the former executive officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Clement, who was not present for the urination incident, served as the radio operator on the 2011 patrol in which scout snipers were filmed urinating on enemy corpses and engaging in other questionable battlefield behavior. During a board of inquiry at Quantico, Va., on mid-October, a panel of three colonels determined that Clement failed to demonstrate leadership required of an officer of his grade and failed to properly discharge the duties expected of his grade and experience. They recommended that he be honorably discharged." The rest here. The letter Hunter sent to Mabus, provided to Situation Report, here.

What former official isn't working for Bash, Reines, Allen and Shapiro, right? Beacon Global Strategies, home to a slew of former administration officials, including from State, DoD and the White House, has hired former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell as counselor. Beacon, a "strategic advisory firm" works on international policy, defense, cyber, intel and homeland security issues. "Mr. Morell will be an invaluable resource to the firm's clients, particularly those working to strengthen our nation's cyber security." Last week, the firm announced it had hired Julianne Smith and Josh Kirshner and had brought on Brian Hook as the firm's first advisory board member. Press release here.

Did a former Marine-waitress in New Jersey pretend customers slighted her because she was gay? Unclear. But it seems possible at this point. More here.