Hagel in Beijing and a U.S.-China divide exposed; Fears of extremism and ethnic violence in Africa; Can you laugh at the military?; and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel
A three-part series by FP's Colum Lynch investigates how the U.N. mission in Darfur failed - and why, and how Washington turned its back on a foreign policy triumph. The last in the series is Blood Oath. FP's Colum Lynch, this morning: "A decade ago, Darfur, a distant expanse of territory in western Sudan, became a household name in the United States and posed a stark moral question for American policymakers, generals and diplomats: should Washington risk American lives to try to prevent genocide in a remote backwater that had no obvious strategic value to the United States? The answer, in part, was a clumsily named peacekeeping mission, the African Union/United Nations hybrid operation in Darfur, or UNAMID, that the United States helped create in 2008 to offer peace and security to the more than 2.7 million people driven from their homes in a government-sponsored scorched earth campaign. Then-President George W. Bush's top Africa diplomat, Jendayi Frazer, hailed the deployment of this 'large, robust peacekeeping force for Darfur' as a triumph of American diplomacy. The United States, she vowed, would be 'watching closely' to ensure the government of Sudan extended 'nothing less than full cooperation.' Read the rest of Part III here.
Drawing from a massive trove of highly confidential U.N. documents obtained by FP, Part One reports on the U.N.'s failure to protect citizens kidnapped in Darfur. In Part Two, Lynch reveals the Sudanese government's complicity in a April 2013 assault on a U.N.-African Union compound in Darfur and the U.N.'s subsequent inaction called Now We Will Kill You. Read an excerpt from Part II of Lynch's series, published yesterday, at the bottom.
In Africa, the Pentagon worries about extremism and ethnic violence. VOA's Jeff Seldin: "...deep concerns remain about the growing nexus of extremists, especially in northeastern Mali and southwestern Libya. [Africa Command Commander Gen. David Rodriguez] points to the 2013 attack on a gas facility in Ain Amenas, Algeria, where three al-Qaida-linked groups joined forces. 'They're also transferring things that are very worrisome like the IED technology, and tactics, techniques and procedures,' said Rodriguez. In addition, U.S. defense officials say they and their African partners worry about the flow of extremist fighters to Syria and their eventual return across sometimes porous borders." More here.
Read the transcript of the briefing at the Pentagon yesterday with Rodriguez and DASD Amanda Dory, here.
CNA Corporation and the Center for Complex Operations at National Defense University released The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism, here.
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The U.S.-China divide is revealed during Hagel's visit. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is winding up his Asia tour and is today in Beijing. AFP's Dan De Luce: "Visiting US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese military chiefs traded warnings and rebukes Tuesday as they clashed over Beijing's territorial disputes with its neighbours, North Korea's missile programme and cyber espionage. Both sides were clearly at odds over a litany of issues, despite Hagel and his counterpart General Chang Wanquan calling for more dialogue between the world's strongest and largest militaries, with the American coming under hostile questioning from a roomful of People's Liberation Army officers.
"One member of the audience told Hagel the United States feared China's rise and was sowing trouble among its Pacific neighbours to 'hamper' Beijing because one day 'China will be too big a challenge for the United States to cope with.'
"The Pentagon chief denied the US was trying to hold China back but the tough questioning contrasted with the deferential reception given to his predecessor Leon Panetta at a similar event two years ago. Hagel faced a blunt reprimand in an earlier meeting with a senior officer, General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, according to an account from the official state news agency Xinhua. Referring to critical comments by Hagel earlier in his Asia trip, Fan said the 'Chinese people, including myself, are dissatisfied with such remarks'.
"Hagel's press secretary acknowledged the two 'shared a very frank exchange of views.'" More here.
Full transcript of Hagel's visit to the National Defense University in Beijing and the PLA's questions here.
Ahead of POTUS visit later this month, Japan moves closer to the US. The NYT's Martin Fackler in Tokyo: "In one of the clearest signals that Japan is trying to allay fears that it is whitewashing wartime atrocities - and to repair somewhat frayed relations with the United States - the foreign minister said on Tuesday that his government would not try to push revisions of that history." Full story here.
China might actually seize Japan's southern islands. The Naval War College's James Holmes for FP: "In a speech in Tokyo on April 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a not-so-subtle reference to China's aggressive behavior in the disputed Senkaku Islands, warning that countries cannot ‘redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation,' whether that be ‘small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe.' Two days later, Hagel's Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan fired back: China, he said, has ‘indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu' -- as the Chinese call the islands -- while noting that the ‘Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.'" More here.
The administration implements START, despite tensions with the Kremlin. The WSJ's Julian Barnes and Adam Entous: "The Pentagon said Tuesday it would sharply cut the number of U.S. submarine and bomber-launched nuclear weapons, and preserve most of the nation's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles to comply with the New START treaty with Russia. The Pentagon announcement of sharp reductions in the nuclear forces comes at a seemingly incongruous moment, as tensions with Russia are mounting over its takeover of Crimea and its deployment of troops to the eastern border of Ukraine." More here.
Far-Right Nationalists and Communists brawled in the Ukrainian Parliament yesterday, a video and FP's Elias Groll's post here.
The US Army Guard agrees to a controversial Apache plan. Defense News' Paul McLeary: "In a surprising move, the head of the US National Guard Bureau has given his blessing to the US Army's plan to move all of the Guard's Apache attack helicopters into the active force while receiving several hundred Black Hawk and Lakota multi-use helicopters in return." More here.
Congress should avert delays in the Army's aviation restructuring plans. Heritage's Dakota Wood and Brian Slattery in Issue Brief #4194: "The Army's decision to transfer AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to the active force has sparked a debate that ultimately concerns the roles, missions, and contributions of these ground components. Congress should prevent unnecessary delays in the implementation of these plans while making a stronger commitment to providing the resources that the armed forces need to maintain national security." More here.
A Marine guard at the main gate of Camp Lejeune shoots and kills a fellow guard. The Marine Corps Times' Hope Hodge Seck: "Military officials are investigating after a Marine gate guard killed a Marine colleague with his M4 service rifle Tuesday evening aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. The incident is not being considered an act of terrorism or an active-shooter scenario like last week's deadly rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, officials said." More here.
Obama heads to Fort Hood today. The Houston Chronicle's Sig Christenson: "President Barack Obama will appear at a memorial ceremony Wednesday on Fort Hood's Sadowski Field as the post mourns the deaths of three soldiers lost in last week's mass shooting. Roughly 2,000 soldiers, their families and Army civilian workers, as well as well as others invited to the ceremony, are expected to gather on the sprawling parade field in front of the III Corps headquarters, Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway said." More here.
What do you say to vets and what do you not say? Some pointers from NationSwell's Feifel Sun about how to talk to vets returning from combat. Do ask specific questions with genuine interest and don't just say "thank you for your service." But don't "tread too gently around vets because you assume everyone has experienced trauma," or don't ask them to "put difficult experiences behind them." More here.
ICYMI - America used to love laughing at the military. When did it become so taboo? Stephen Walt for FP: "War is not a funny topic, but military life used to be a bountiful source of comic inspiration. The grim reality of the battlefield prompts plenty of black humor and the rigid orthodoxies of modern military organizations have been ripe fodder for satire in the past. Given that the United States has been at war for two out of every three years since the end of the Cold War, you'd think there would be lots of dark comedy and irreverent commentary on military topics, and not just when some randy commander gets caught with his pants down. Yet Americans no longer see the military as a worthy target for political satire. Instead, we treat the armed services in almost reverential terms: Politicians rarely say anything remotely critical of the troops or their bemedaled commanders and it is hard to think of any important plays, movies, or television shows that poke serious fun at the Pentagon. Congress, organized religion, Wall Street, Hollywood, doctors, lawyers, teachers, sports teams, and just about every other institution in America is ripe for ridicule these days, but not the American military." More here.
The second part of FP's Colum Lynch's series on Darfur; Yesterday, Part II, Now We Will Kill You. Lynch: "Last April, in the dead of night, five men dressed in Sudanese military uniforms and armed with AK-47 rifles swaggered up to the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping outpost in the East Darfur town of Muhajeria and shot open the front gate's padlock. As they entered the darkened compound, the intruders opened fire, unloading several rounds through the wall of the base's military briefing room, spilling a handful of hot spent cartridges on the ground as they advanced. A lone Nigerian peacekeeper standing sentry at the compound's entrance returned fired as a second Nigerian soldier entered the fray, scuffling with one of the assailants in an attempt to wrestle him to the ground. The attackers finally retreated as reinforcements in an armored personnel vehicle rolled toward the compound, ending the firefight before anyone got seriously hurt. But the night was just getting started." Read the rest of Part Two here.