National Security

FP's Situation Report: Dems getting restless on Syria

Obama at Fort Hood; Hagel comes home; A dangerous legacy in Afg; The effort to build the Iron Man suit; Party like a four-star; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

On Syria, the Dems are getting restless. FP's John Hudson: "Republican critics have long accused the Obama administration of having no Syria strategy. But with tens of thousands dead and millions more fleeing the country, even some of the White House's closest allies are calling for the administration to do more to lessen the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Dem of Virginia, to Hudson: "I don't hesitate to point out that we're not happy with the way things are going... I don't view it as a criticism, but I do view it as a prod."

"In recent weeks, Kaine has joined forces with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to demand that the administration outline a plan that will address the growing humanitarian disaster in the country. Kaine's resolution requires the president to submit to Congress within 90 days a "more robust U.S. strategy for addressing the Syria humanitarian crisis." He introduced it in March and it passed unanimously in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 1. The resolution coincided with a wave of criticisms by Rubio and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that the administration has no Syrian strategy." More here.

Hezbollah says: Assad will remain in power. Reuters this morning: " Bashar al-Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah said his Western foes must now accept he will go on ruling Syria after fighting rebels to a standstill - a 'reality' to which his foreign enemies seem increasingly resigned. Echoing recent bullish talk coming out of Damascus, Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia which is supporting Assad in combat, told Reuters that the president retained popular support among many of Syria's diverse religious communities and would shortly be re-elected." More here.

Syria is missing its chemical weapons deadline. FP's David Kenner: "Amid opposition claims of new Syrian chemical weapons attacks, President Bashar al-Assad is fast approaching an important deadline for removing his stockpiles of the deadly armaments from from the country. It doesn't appear that he's going to meet it." More here.

Welcome to Thursday's we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore edition of Situation Report. We're back in DC but we thank Steve Boylan and the good folks at Leavenworth for inviting us to participate in the military-and-the-media panel. There are a few sure things in life: death, taxes and a robust dialogue between the military and the press. Our message: if there was ever a time when the military has to tell its story, when budgets are shrinking, the wars are all but over and the yellow ribbons are falling off the backs of peoples' cars, it's right now. Good convo. Also - pitch Situation Report all your good stories.

If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. 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 one more thing: please follow us @glubold and @njsobe4.

Hagel is coming home today. He'll make a quick stop in Mongolia before he hits D.C. Before he left Beijing, he asked the Chinese to work harder to reign in North Korea. The WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum, traveling with Hagel: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrapped up a three-day visit to China on Wednesday by urging President Xi Jinping to play a larger role in containing the dangers posed in the region by North Korea. The amicable meeting with Mr. Xi came in contrast to a series of pointed discussions the day before with top Chinese military officials, who criticized U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific. While Tuesday's military talks cast a pall over Mr. Hagel's first trip to China as defense secretary, U.S. officials characterized the trip as a modest success overall in bridging differences between the nations." More here.

Excerpt from the readout Hagel had with South Korea Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin from the Doomsday plane: "Secretary Hagel discussed with Minister Kim the meetings he had in China, noting that on the whole, the talks were substantive and constructive both in terms of the potential for U.S.-China military-to-military cooperation as in the management of differences between the two sides.  Secretary Hagel told Minister Kim that his discussions in China included a focus on North Korea, and the threat to the United States and the region posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile developments. In this context, he also noted his recent decision to send two additional BMD capable Navy destroyers to Japan by 2017."

Hagel, via Mike Allen's Playbook this morning: "While in China, Hagel met with President Xi, visited China's National Defense University. He discussed his own time as a sergeant over lunch with students, receiving praise on his use of chopsticks. Hagel also became the first foreign dignitary to visit China's new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning." Trip pics here.

Some in the Navy question whether the LCS has the speed, range and EW capabilities it needs for Asia. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, here.

Meet the companies building the new Iron Man suit for military. FP's Dan Lamothe: "Will Tony Stark wear Air Jordans? Almost anything seems possible now that United States military has been in discussions with companies ranging from Nike to Boeing as it works to develop a new space-age suit for elite Special Operations troops that could include super-human strength, sophisticated sensors that respond to brain functions, and an exoskeleton made of liquid armor. The system is commonly known as the 'Iron Man' suit, a nod toward the futuristic technology worn by the wise-cracking comic book hero popularized in a series of hit movies starring Robert Downey Jr. With no public notice, the military's Special Operations Command just unveiled a list of collaborators on the project that includes traditional defense contractor titans like Lockheed Martin, athletic apparel companies like Under Armour and Adidas, and a bevy of smaller firms whose specialties range from developing robotics to producing underwater breathing equipment for divers. "Read the rest of it here.

The U.S. Air Force's year-old Special Victims' Counsel Program, which provides legal assistance to victims of sexual assault, won the DOJ's Federal Service Award, here. Our report on the Air Force's possible solution to the sexual assault crisis, the SVCP, in June 2013, here.

FBI report reveals that Russia didn't share all the details on the Boston bombing suspect. The NYT's Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt: "The Russian government declined to provide the F.B.I. with information about one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects two years before the attack that would most likely have prompted more extensive scrutiny of the suspect, according to an inspector general's review of how American intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing." Full story here.

Will Swenson is back on duty. Military Times' Michelle Tan: "Medal of Honor recipient Capt. William Swenson is back on active duty. Swenson, who originally left the Army in 2011, is assigned to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., corps spokesman Col. David Johnson confirmed to Army Times." More here.

John Nagl and Gian Gentile just debated the Iraq war at Lewis & Clark College and they don't totally see eye to eye. Read all about it here.

Obama was at Fort Hood yesterday to honor the victims at last week's shooting. A somber Obama, via the NYT: "Part of what makes this so painful is that we've been here before... This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more, soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they're supposed to be safe. We still do not yet know exactly why. But we do know this: We must honor their lives not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth." The story here.

Is this the fix to prevent another shooting? Lift the ban on weapons on military installations, argues Arthur Berg in the WSJ here.

Among its legacies in Afghanistan, he U.S. is leaving about 800 square miles of land littered with undetonated grenades, rockets and mortar shells. The WaPo's Kevin Sieff on Page One: "...The military has vacated scores of firing ranges pocked with the explosives. Dozens of children have been killed or wounded as they have stumbled upon the ordnance at the sites, which are often poorly marked. Casualties are likely to increase sharply; the U.S. military has removed the munitions from only 3 percent of the territory covered by its sprawling ranges, officials said." More here.

War costs: Iraq and Afghanistan have caused service members a laundry list of other injuries you don't hear about.  More than half of the 2.6 million service members who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11 report that their physical or mental health is worse than before they deployed, according to a poll. The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran yesterday, ticking off a number of veterans with a number of maladies ICYMI: "... Because their injuries were not the direct result of an enemy attack, Crowell, Birdzell, Villavicencio and Meyer were not awarded Purple Heart medals, nor do they show up in the Defense Department's tally of nearly 62,000 service members wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. But their ailments, and similar non-hostile injuries suffered by legions of fellow troops, have become a profound and enduring consequence of the wars." It's something to read, here.

Jim Miller goes cyber. Defense News' Zachary Fryer-Biggs: "Endgame, the cybersecurity firm most famous for selling information about system vulnerabilities, has added former Pentagon policy chief James Miller to its advisory board, the company will announce today. Miller, speaking before the announcement, said that after leaving the Pentagon earlier this year, he wanted to focus on cyber issues." More here.

After an explosion in Islamabad killed 24, vendors say they won't be deterred. Reuters, here.

SitRep book report: Christine Fair's book on the Pakistan military is out. From Amazon: Why does the army persist in pursuing these revisionist policies that have come to imperil the very viability of the state itself, from which the army feeds? In Fighting to the End, C. Christine Fair argues that the answer lies, at least partially, in the strategic culture of the army. Through an unprecedented analysis of decades' worth of the army's own defense publications, she concludes that from the army's distorted view of history, it is victorious as long as it can resist India's purported drive for regional hegemony as well as the territorial status quo. Simply put, acquiescence means defeat. Fighting to the End convincingly shows that because the army is unlikely to abandon these preferences, Pakistan will remain a destabilizing force in world politics for the foreseeable future." Oxford University Press. Amazon here.

Drink like a four-star. A D.C. hotel has a booth its named after Gen. Pershing and that's where you go to drink. Urban Daddy: "You know the saying: old soldiers never die, they just get tables named after them where you can get bourbon-centric, four-course tasting menus. Yup, that's what they say. Introducing The General's Booth, a new semiprivate table at the St. Regis Bar inspired by General Pershing and serving up a parade of bourbon cocktails, taking reservations now. First, the history: after winning WWI, John J. Pershing lived at the St. Regis, where he liked to defy Prohibition by mixing himself a pre-dinner cocktail out of his flask." h/t to Todd Breasseale for his post. Deets here.

Trip Advisor totally offers ratings on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. There are some choice reviews from folks who have been to the beautiful base. Here's one: "I could not suggest a better place to visit in beautiful Afghanistan. North dfac has the best omelets. Warrior Green Bean has the warmest coffee. Yelner dfac has the smelliest TCN's. Dont forget to shop til ya drop at the outdoor bazaar, and get some fresh air over by the burn pit." See all of the reviews of Bagram here. h/t to FP's Elias Groll for the heads up.

It reminds FP's Lamothe of the "Camp Leatherneck Resort and Spa" in Helmand. "If it's night life you're looking for, it doesn't get any hotter... than the smoke pit." Watch that here.




National Security

FP's Situation Report: How Washington turned its back on Darfur

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.

Welcome to Wednesday's Kansas edition of Situation Report. We're at Leavenworth to participate in a military-and-the-media panel and hoping we don't wind up in the pen here. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. 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 one more thing: please follow us @glubold and @njsobe4.

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 planDefense 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.