National Security

FP's Situation Report: U.S. to resume aid to Egypt

Clapper's gag order; U.S. Troops to exercise in Eastern Europe; Nagl deals with a drug ring; Thumb-wrestling for Hagel, who is also wheels up today; McChrystal talks "career curveballs"; and a bit more.  

 

The U.S. to partially resume military aid to Egypt. The WaPo's Ernesto Londoño: "The United States has decided to resume delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday, backtracking on a decision officials made last summer following the country's military coup and its violent aftermath. The Obama administration opted to go ahead with the delivery of 10 aircraft to help Egypt combat cells of extremists in the Sinai, even though Washington is unable to meet congressional criteria for the full resumption of aid. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Egyptian counterpart, Gen. Sedki Sobhy, in a phone call Tuesday that the United States is ‘not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition,' Rear. Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement released at 10 p.m. Hagel urged his counterpart to ‘demonstrate progress on a more inclusive transition that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians,' the statement said." More here.

Show of force: The Pentagon will conduct exercises across Eastern Europe with about 600 troops. AP's Lita Baldor: "U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland to begin a series of military exercises in four countries across Eastern Europe to bolster allies in the wake of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last month. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday that the exercises will last about a month, and initially involve about 600 troops. An Army company of about 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, will start the exercises Wednesday in Poland. Additional Army companies will head to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and are expected to arrive by Monday for similar land-based exercises in those countries. Under the current plan, U.S. troops would rotate in and out of the four countries for additional exercises on a recurring basis. 'We're looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year,' Kirby told reporters, adding that over time the exercises could expand to other countries." More here.

From the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw: "On Wednesday, April 23, a company-sized contingent of U.S. paratroopers from US Army Europe's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) will arrive in ?widwin, Poland, to begin exercises with Polish troops. This new exercise is the first in a series of expanded U.S. land force training activities in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.  This action comes at the request of the host nations and demonstrates U.S. commitment to our collective defense responsibilities." Full statement here.

Gag order, ICYMI: DNI Clapper's war on the media and his own intel folks has received scant attention. Will it work or backfire? McClatchy's Jonathan Landay this week: "Employees of U.S. intelligence agencies have been barred from discussing any intelligence-related matter _even if it isn't classified _ with journalists without authorization, according to a new directive by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Intelligence agency employees who violate the policy could suffer career-ending losses of their security clearances or outright termination, and those who disclose classified information might face criminal prosecution, according to the directive, which Clapper signed March 20 but was made public only Monday by Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

"Under the order, only the director or deputy head of an intelligence agency, public affairs officials and those authorized by public affairs officials may have contact with journalists on intelligence-related matters. The order doesn't distinguish between classified and unclassified matters. It covers a range of intelligence-related information, including, it says, 'intelligence sources, methods, activities and judgments.' It includes a sweeping definition of who's a journalist, which it asserts is "any person . . . engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security." More here.

From the Global Dispatch: "...If the directive succeeds in chilling employees' speech, the public will have to settle for executive branch talking points, which have been repeatedly revealed as drastically misleading if not outright falsehoods. The directive's thinly-veiled true intent is to silence employees, especially whistleblowers, and give the government absolute control over all public messaging related to the powerful, virtually unchecked, and far too secret national security apparatus. If Clapper is interested in stopping employees from exposing blatant wrongdoing, then he would prioritize creating safe and effective internal channels for whistleblowers, not draconian measures aimed at chilling speech." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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. Follow us! @glubold and @njsobe4.

Noting: We would love to bring you a couple other great stories from the WaPo today, including one from the WaPo's Craig Whitlock on Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison being reprimanded in a bungled sexual assault case, or another one on Page One, about how the Navy is trying again on the Marine One helicopter. Alas, the WaPo's paywall is extremely funky and won't allow this home subscriber access despite repeated tries. We totally get paywalls. But those who build them have to make it easy to unlock the door. We hope to get the problem fixed soon.

At USIP today, John Allen, Cameron Munter, Pete Lavoy and USIP's Moeed Yusuf talk counterinsurgency in Pakistan.  Deets here.

At CSIS this afternoon, the Iraqi ambassador talks with Jon Alterman on Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections. Deets here.

Tomorrow at the Atlantic Council, India-Pakistan: The Opportunity Cost of Conflict; more here.

Read the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's report on the State Department's assistance to Afghanistan, here.

You gotta-a se-e the baby: Kim Jong Un's baby pics, revealed. In the WaPo, here.

Vaya con dios: Wheels up for Hagel today. The Defense Secretary is headed to Fort Bragg, N.C., then to Mexico and then on to Guatemala in a short trip that will bring him home by the end of the week.

Staffers on a plane - Wendy Anderson, Deputy Chief of Staff; Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams, senior military assistant; Derek Chollet, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (who recently took over Western Hemisphere policy from Homeland Defense); Rebecca Chavez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; JP Eby, director of Travel Operations; Brent Colburn, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; John Kirby, Pentagon Presssec; Greg Grant, speechwriter.

Reporters on a plane - Just two! AP's Bob Burns and Reuters' David Alexander.

Yesterday, Hagel toured DARPA and saw five technologies that are under development by the Pentagon's R&D arm. According to a pool report by Stripes' Chris Carroll, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar showed Hagel the latest prosthetics technology as demonstrated by an old friend of Hagel's named Fred Downs, Jr., who lost an arm in a landmine explosion in Vietnam. Carroll: "Hagel hugged him and shook his mechanical hand, with Downs joking 'I don't want to hurt you.'... Downs demonstrated how he controls movements of the arm, which appeared to be partly covered in translucent white plastic, with two accelerometers strapped to his feet. Through a combination of movements, he's able to control the elbow, wrist and fingers in a variety of movements, including the thumbs up sign he gave Hagel. It took only a few hours to learn to control the arm, he said.

Downs: "It's the first time in 45 years, since Vietnam, I'm able to use my use my left hand, which was a very emotional time."

Carroll: "Hagel saw another technology before journalists covering the event were escorted out because the three other technologies DARPA wanted to show Hagel were of a sensitive nature. Those included "Plan X," known as "a foundational cyberwarfare program to develop platforms for the Department of Defense to plan for, conduct, and assess cyberwarfare in a manner similar to kinetic warfare;" and "Persistent Close Air Support," a system to "among other things, link up Joint Tactical Air Controllers with close air support aircraft using commercially available tablets;" and "Long Range Anti-Ship Missile," or "LRASM," which is planned to "reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links, and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments."

Wanna see a pic of Hagel thumb-wrestling fellow Vietnam vet Downs, who has a prosthetic arm? You'd have to click here for that.

John Nagl is dealing with a drug ring as headmaster at the Haverford School on Philadelphia's Main Line that was called "Main Line Take Over Project." Nagl, the former Army officer and expert in counterinsurgency who now heads the Haverford School is relooking at his school's drug policy after two former students set up a marijuana distribution network using current students as dealers. The NYT's John Hurdle and Emma Fitzsimmons: "... They enlisted local students to act as dealers, pushing them to sell at least one pound of marijuana a week, prosecutors said. During an investigation into the operation this year, detectives seized marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and several weapons, including a loaded assault rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, according to the Montgomery County district attorney's office.

Nagl, who said he was "shocked and appalled" by the charges, would re-examine the school's drug policy, and noted that drug use at his school was not widespread: "We will make sure that something like this never, ever happens again." More here.

Apropos of nothing: Wanna just totally feel good? You can't not if you listen and watch to Amadou and Mariam's Senegal Fast Food, a longtime favorite, and h/t to Jim Stavridis' FB post pointing it out some years ago. Youtube song and video here.

Stan McChrystal did an interview with Linkedin and talked about the end of his military career, the Rolling Stone article, and his new life in "Career Curveballs": McChyrstal: "The trick is to pick up the spin. Some pitchers vary their delivery slightly, unintentionally signaling a curve. The 5-ounce leather covered baseball is traveling at 90 mph, but with experience, you stay in the batter's box, confident you can predict the trajectory, and either hit or dodge the pitch. But no matter how good you think you are - you often fail. Sometimes you swing and miss; sometimes the ball hits you in the head. Either way, it hurts.
"In June 2010, after more than 38 years in uniform, in the midst of commanding a 46-nation coalition in a complex war in Afghanistan, my world changed suddenly - and profoundly. An article in Rolling Stone magazine depicting me, and people I admired, in a manner that felt as unfamiliar as it was unfair, ignited a firestorm.

"...I was raised a soldier. I was familiar with weapons, tactics, and war. But years on the battlefield had taught me that soldiering is really about people. Weapons don't dig muddy foxholes - people do. War plans don't evacuate wounded comrades - people do. The Pentagon doesn't create the brotherhood of the Army - people do. What I'd learned, above all other lessons, was the importance of those you surround yourself with. That lesson would be with me forever, uniform or no uniform... From starting a company to teaching at Yale, the past few years have been full of incredible experiences shared, most importantly, with true and lifelong friends." More here.

A camp in Libya meant to train "terror-hunters" is instead a safe haven for terrorists and al-Qaeda. The Daily Beast's Eli Lake this morning: "A key jihadist leader and long-time member of al Qaeda has taken control of a secretive training facility set up by U.S. special operations forces on the Libyan coastline to help hunt down Islamic militants, according to local media reports, Jihadist web forums, and U.S. officials. In the summer of 2012, American Green Berets began refurbishing a Libyan military base 27 kilometers west of Tripoli in order to hone the skills of Libya's first Western-trained special operations counter-terrorism fighters. Less than two years later, that training camp is now being used by groups with direct links to al Qaeda to foment chaos in post-Gadhafi Libya." Read the rest here.

State responded to reports that American journalist Simon Ostrovsky has been kidnapped in Ukraine. From State's Jen Psaki this morning: "We are deeply concerned about the reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen journalist in Slovyansk, Ukraine, reportedly at the hands of pro-Russian separatists.  We condemn any such actions... We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to secure the immediate and safe release of all hostages in eastern Ukraine.  We have also raised our concerns with Ukrainian officials as they work with local authorities to try to de-escalate the security situation in and around Slovyansk." A HuffPo story here.

The OSCE Secretary General tells FP that he's concerned about Kiev's planned offensive in eastern Ukraine. FP's John Hudson: "A Ukrainian military push into the country's restive east after the brutal murder of a local politician would complicate efforts to reduce tensions between Kiev and Moscow and prevent further violence in the country, the head of the international organization charged with helping resolve the crisis said in an interview.
"Last week, major powers meeting in Geneva tasked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) with helping end the violence in the country... Lamberto Zannier, the secretary general of the OSCE, said a new Ukrainian effort to oust the militants had the potential to setback international efforts to reduce tensions. ‘The whole spirit of Geneva was promoting de-escalation,' he told Foreign Policy. ‘It's certainly tough at this moment.'" Full story here.

Biden to Ukraine yesterday: ‘We stand with you'. The NYT's Andrew Higgins and Andrew Roth: "Vowing that the United States would never recognize Russia's ‘illegal occupation' of Crimea, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday reiterated America's support of Ukraine, declared that ‘no nation has the right to simply grab land from another' and called on Russia to stop supporting masked gunmen who have seized government buildings across the east of the country. Mr. Biden's remarks, made during a meeting with Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, signaled strong American backing for the shaky new government in Kiev that Moscow does not recognize and condemns as the illegitimate fruit of a putsch engineered by the West." More here.

Also, this: How Russia's president morphed from realist to ideologue -- and what he'll do next. Mark Galeotti and Andrew Bowen for FP: "A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Russian imperialism. When Vladimir Putin first came to power in 1999, he talked ideologically but acted rationally. He listened to a range of opinions, from liberal economist Alexei Kudrin to political fixer Vladislav Surkov -- people willing to tell him hard truths and question groupthink. He may have regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, but he knew he couldn't re-create it. Perhaps the best metaphor is that while he brought back the Soviet national anthem, it had new words. There was no thought of returning Russia to the failed Soviet model of the planned economy. And as a self-professed believer who always wears his baptismal cross, Putin encouraged the once-suppressed Russian Orthodox Church." More here.

Battlefield deaths decline, but military still has to bring grim news. TIME's Mark Thompson: "The wars are nearly over. So it is time for the U.S. military to reboot for one of its most somber tasks: Telling next-of-kin their loved one has died in the service of his or her country. Over the past 13 years, casualty-notification officers have had to take that long walk up to a family's front door, and make that dreaded knock that changes everything, 6,803 times. But with battlefield deaths down to a trickle, the Marines are seeking a new video to help train its Casualty Assistance Calls Officers (each service has its own title for the job) for a future where more will die in peacetime accidents than combat. ‘The current scenario is 100% war-related,' the corps says in a notice posted Tuesday. ‘A more current version is required to meet today's situations.'" More here.

Military Times' Mike Morones' interview with SecDef Gates, on another former spy named Putin, here.

Army Vs. National Guard: who gets those Apache helicopters anyway? NPR's Tom Bowman: "For decades the National Guard has fought hard against the stereotype that it was the place to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, or that it's a place to get college money rather than combat duty. Guard leaders thought that after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq they had finally earned some respect. So it was a body blow when the Army's top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno, unveiled his plan on Capitol Hill to take all of the National Guard's Apache helicopters and move them to the regular Army. The move would shift the nearly 200 Apache attack helicopters from the Guard and replace them with about 100 Black Hawks, the less glamorous, less lethal, troop-carrying helicopter. ‘For me personally, I'm insulted by it. Most guardsmen that I talk to, they feel insulted,' says retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett. He heads the National Guard Association, a lobbying group with a lot of clout on Capitol Hill. ‘They feel like they are now being told after 12 years of war that somehow they are just not the equal to the active guys.'" More here.

Abe's military push may please the U.S. but rattle Japan's neighbors. The WSJ's Yuka Hayashi in Tokyo: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to remove six-decade-old constraints on his country's military, a goal the Obama administration said Monday it supports-but one that could also unsettle the region. When President Barack Obama arrives in Japan on Wednesday, he will find a country fearful of China's rise and worried about America's commitment to protecting its allies.
"To bolster Japan's role in regional security, Mr. Abe wants to change the government's interpretation of the constitution to allow for ‘collective self-defense'-meaning the military could come to the defense of allies such as the U.S. even if the country itself wasn't attacked. In theory, the changes would enable Japan to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile heading toward the U.S. or fire at a Chinese warship scuffling with an Australian cruiser. They would also give it more flexibility in a conflict over Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by China." More here.

China's Taiwan reality check. CSIS's Joseph Bosco for the National Interest: "Beijing has long needed a reality check on its Taiwan policy. Recently, that is what it got from both Taipei and Washington. Massive Taiwanese protests against closer economic ties with China make it clear that peaceful unification under Beijing's present rule will never be acceptable to the Taiwanese people. Having discarded an anti-Communist dictatorship, they have no intention of welcoming the Communist Party variety. At the same time, the U.S. Congress celebrated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). It reaffirmed America's commitment to Taiwan's security and continued existence as a free, democratic country. While the resolution does not have the force of law the iconic TRA does, it reflected Americans' deep emotional and strategic connection to Taiwan. No U.S. Congress, with the power to authorize war, will ever tolerate a Chinese attack on Taiwan without mandating an overwhelming American response. Even a reluctant U.S. administration would be under enormous pressure to react with decisive military action-which, despite current budget constraints, it has the full capability to execute." More here.

 

 

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Obama's drone war in Yemen

Biden to pledge support for Ukraine; Assad still using chems?; Possibly less than 10k in Afg; Dem gubernatorial candidate steps in it; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The U.S. and Yemen conducted one of the largest attacks against Al Qaeda militants in months this weekend. The NYT's Eric Schmitt: "... At least three airstrikes were carried out against Qaeda fighters in a convoy and in remote training camps in southern Yemen. They were militants who were planning to attack civilian and military facilities, government officials said in a statement. Yemen's Interior Ministry said Monday that as many as 55 militants had been killed, but a senior Yemeni official put the figure in the 40s. The government's statement also acknowledged that three civilians had been killed and five wounded in one of the airstrikes on Saturday. Yemeni officials said they were working to identify those killed in the attacks. As part of a campaign using armed drones in Yemen, the United States has been trying to kill Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, and Ibrahim al-Asiri, the group's master bomb maker. But American officials said Monday that those men were not the intended targets in these strikes."

"The drone attacks were the largest barrage of airstrikes carried out in Yemen this year - 11 in all so far, according to The Long War Journal, a website that tracks drone strikes - and one of the largest strikes carried out since President Obama outlined a new strategy last May for targeting Qaeda militants in battlefields outside Afghanistan." More here.

High stakes: Obama's drone war in Yemen. CNN's Peter Bergen: "...Unlike in Pakistan, where President George W. Bush significantly ramped up the CIA drone campaign while he was in office, there was only one drone strike in Yemen during Bush's two terms in office. During Obama's administration, there have been 92 drone attacks, as well as a further 15 U.S. strikes using other forms of weaponry such as cruise missiles, according to a count by the New America Foundation... Indeed, Obama vastly accelerated the drone campaign in Yemen in 2011 and 2012, just as CIA drone strikes in Pakistan began to slow. Forty-seven strikes took place in Yemen in 2012, marking the first time the number of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan reached comparable levels... As of Monday, U.S. drone and air strikes have killed an estimated 753 to 965 people in Yemen, of whom the large majority were militants, but at least 81 were civilians, according to the New America Foundation study. All but six of the many hundreds of victims of the strikes were killed under the Obama administration." More here.

Of course, drone strikes aren't the silver bullet. Reuters' Mohamed Ghobari and Yara Bayoumy: "An intense two days of air strikes on al Qaeda in Yemen may have killed or wounded some of its commanders, but drones alone are unlikely to eradicate the threat the group poses to Yemenis and the West. A weak central government, a rivalry-ridden and poorly equipped security force, endemic poverty and corruption have made Yemen the ideal haven of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), whom U.S. President Barack Obama has described as the group 'most active in plotting against our homeland.' Desperate to prevent AQAP from planning more attacks like its attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner in December 2009, Washington has used drones to kill group members and leaders. A U.S. national security source said on Monday that the U.S. government believed that AQAP is currently plotting attacks against American targets, including the U.S. embassy on Sanaa.

"But analysts say drone strikes do only limited harm to AQAP. They say the group will remain a serious menace unless the government can address challenges such as poverty and inadequate security forces, and curb the occasional civilian casualties inflicted by drone attacks that inflame anti-U.S. sentiment." More here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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. Follow us! @glubold and @njsobe4.

Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby will brief reporters today at the Pentagon at 1pm.

Situation Report corrects - an item we picked up yesterday from the Washington Post about changes to Navy submarine working schedules was not a WaPo story but one by AP, written by AP's Michael Melia. Apologies for the error.

The Dem running against an Iraq war vet for Maryland governor just sort of stepped in it. Fox News: A Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland is defending comments he made Monday in which he suggested his opponent, an Iraq war veteran, was not up to the task of a 'real job.' Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler drew ire from a veterans' group after he made the comments about his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, at an event held by the Tech Council of Maryland. During the event, Gansler was asked what the state had learned from the rollout of ObamaCare...Gansler said the website's woes prove Maryland needs someone who has leadership experience and worked with budgets, someone, he claimed, unlike Brown. What Gansler said: "I'm running against somebody who has never managed anybody, never run anything, his ads are about how he's a lawyer in Iraq, and that's all fine and good but this is a real job." More here.

Syria may meet its next chemical weapons deadline, but new evidence shows that Assad is still using chemical weapons. FP's John Hudson: "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has gotten rid of 80 percent of his chemical weapons, and is increasingly likely to hit a key deadline for the elimination of his entire arsenal by the end of the month. That good news is being partially overshadowed, however, by growing signs that Assad is still waging chemical attacks on communities in rebel-held areas of the country.
"In a briefing at the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States has indications that a chemical attack, most likely chlorine, occurred in Syria earlier this month. ‘We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical' in the rebel-held town of Kfar Zeita, she said. ‘We are examining allegations that the government was responsible.'
"The official statement, while withholding final judgment, gives a veneer of credibility to long-running allegations by Syrian opposition activists that regime helicopters mounted a chlorine gas attack on the town of Kfar Zeita on April 11 and 12. Online videos posted by rebel activists at the time showed ghost-white adults and children struggling to breath in a field hospital. Syrian rebels say the incident injured dozens and is Assad's fourth such chemical attack in the past month alone." More here.

Biden, in Ukraine, will pledge U.S. support. Reuters' Jeff Mason: "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will announce a package of technical assistance focused on energy and economic aid distribution during a two-day visit to Ukraine that began on Monday, a senior administration official said. Biden is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit the country since the crisis with Russia erupted months ago. His trip is largely symbolic. But during talks with Ukrainian leaders on Tuesday he will announce U.S. assistance, primarily of technical know-how to boost energy efficiency as well as production in Ukrainian natural gas fields and extraction of "unconventional" gas resources, a senior administration official told reporters traveling on board the vice president's plane." More here.

The WSJ's Jerry Seib: with oil and gas in hand, Putin holds all the cards. Seib: "Of all the lessons one might draw from Russia's bullying of Ukraine, this may be the most coldblooded of all: If you want to behave badly, it helps to have a lot of oil and gas. Much will be forgiven, or at least ignored. European nations, international energy companies and China are all, in their own ways, driving home the point. The Europeans are afraid of pushing economic sanctions against Moscow too far lest they be cut off from the Russian natural gas that provides a significant share of their energy." Read the rest here.

Under Russia, life in Crimea grows chaotic. The NYT's Neil MacFarquhar on Page One: "After Russia annexed Crimea practically overnight, the Russian bureaucrats handling passports and residence permits inhabited the building of their Ukrainian predecessors, where Roman Nikolayev now waits daily with a seemingly mundane question.
"His daughter and granddaughter were newly arrived from Ukraine when they suddenly found themselves in a different country, so he wonders if they can become legal residents. But he cannot get inside to ask because he is No. 4,475 on the waiting list for passports. At most, 200 people are admitted each day from the crowd churning around the tall, rusty iron gate. ‘They set up hotlines, but nobody ever answers,' said Mr. Nikolayev, 54, a trim, retired transportation manager with a short salt-and-pepper beard. ‘Before we had a pretty well-organized country - life was smooth,' he said, sighing. ‘Then, within the space of two weeks, one country became another.' He added, ‘Eto bardak,' using the Russian for bordello and meaning ‘This is a mess.'
"One month after the lightning annexation, residents of this Black Sea peninsula find themselves living not so much in a different state, Russia, as in a state of perpetual confusion. Declaring the change, they are finding, was far easier than actually carrying it out." More here.

Reading Pincus: In questioning Russia's Putin about surveillance, Snowden misses the point. The WaPo's Walter Pincus. "The question Edward Snowden should have asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday was: ‘Would you please describe how the three versions of SORM operate and what is done with the intercepted phone, ?e-mail and other electronic media those systems collect?'
"The former National Security Agency contractor who in May leaked tens of thousands of highly classified NSA documents that described hundreds of U.S. electronic interception programs, must know about SORM (System of Operative-Investigative Measures), the decades-old but continually upgraded Russian electronic surveillance system." More here.

Post-2014 Afghanistan could have fewer than 10,000 troops. Reuters' Missy Ryan and Arshad Mohammed: "The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 - the minimum demanded by the U.S. military to train Afghan forces - as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials briefed on the matter say. Since Afghanistan's general election on April 5, White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have resumed discussions on how many American troops should remain after the current U.S.-led coalition ends its mission this year. The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 U.S. troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force to contain a still-potent Taliban-led insurgency. The small U.S. force that would remain could focus on counter-terrorism or training operations." Read the rest here.

Listen up, POTUS: some advice ahead of Obama's big Asia trip, which starts today. Jim Steinberg and Mike O'Hanlon for FP: "As President Barack Obama prepares for his trip to Asia this week, he will face questions not just about the administration's signature rebalance, or ‘pivot' toward that region, but also about the crisis in Ukraine. The leaders Obama will meet in South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines will be preoccupied with what appears to them as a potential Asian parallel to the challenge Europe faces: How can the United States and its friends and allies deal with an increasingly assertive regional power? Put more bluntly -- as the leaders will surely do in their private talks with Obama -- how would the United States respond if China should resort to unilateral territorial intervention in their own backyard?
"The administration's strategic shift to East Asia in 2011 was built on two pillars. First, the United States would pursue its long-term interest in peace and stability in East Asia through sustained commitment to its traditional allies; second, it would build a cooperative, constructive relationship with a rising China, while also managing differences. 
"In theory, this strategy is intended to take account of the inevitable growth of China's influence while reducing the danger that the relationship will lead to instability or even conflict. But in recent months, as China has pressed its territorial claims in the East and South China seas, the viability of this strategy has been increasingly put to the test." More here.

U.S. approves $680 million sale of Black Hawk helicopters to Mexico. Reuters' Andrea Shalal: "The U.S. government on Monday said it had approved the potential sale of 18 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp to Mexico, a deal valued at $680 million. The State Department approved the possible sale and Congress was notified last Thursday by the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales. U.S. lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare. The deal was announced ahead of an upcoming trip to Mexico by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel." More here.

As the Army shrinks, many young officers are being shown the door. The AP's Lita Baldor: "After the 9/11 attacks, tens of thousands of young men and women joined the military, heading for the rugged mountains of Afghanistan and dusty deserts of Iraq. Many of them now are officers in the Army with multiple combat deployments under their belts. But as the wars wind down and Pentagon budgets shrink, a lot of them are being told they have to leave. It's painful and frustrating. In quiet conversations at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Eustis in Virginia, captains talk about their new worries after 15-month deployments in which they battled insurgents and saw roadside bombs kill and maim their comrades. They nervously wait as their fates rest in the hands of evaluation boards that may spend only a few minutes reading through service records before making decisions that could end careers... While a lot of the reduction can come from voluntary retirements, resignations and decreased enlistments, Army commanders will have to force as many as 3,000 officers - nearly 10 percent of the planned decrease - to leave by the end of October 2015. Of those, nearly 1,500 are captains, 550 are majors."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno to Baldor: "The captains are a problem... Because when we increased the size of the Army we recruited heavily in certain year groups. So as we draw the Army down, those are over strength." Read the rest here.

Duncan Hunter Sr. calls out the WaPo for editorializing in its obit of Gen. Carl Mundy.  Hunter, the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, for FP on Tom Ricks' Best Defense blog: "Using an obituary to editorialize against a man is the worst of bad taste. Matt Schudel's obituary for the Washington Post on former Marine Corps Commandant General Carl Mundy appeared to be more of an editorial espousing liberal views on gays in the military and women in combat. The column served neither the truth nor the legacy of a great Marine general.  Schudel excoriates Mundy for his stand against allowing homosexuals into the ranks and resisting the movement to place women in combat positions. Further, he takes Mundy to task for refusing to cut the Marine Corps below their traditional level of 170,000. The Army unfortunately was more acquiescent during the same period, allowing its forces to be cut almost in half with only 10 out of 18 divisions remaining when President Clinton exited the White House. Ten years later, during the Iraq war, thousands of Army families were punished by multiple 15-month tours in the combat zone. Through his previous resistance to cuts, Mundy spared his Marine Corps the same fate." More here.

Hagel vows to keep fighting sexual assault. USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his visit Monday to the military's sexual assault hotline sends this message: No single issue has a higher priority at the Pentagon. Solving the crisis, he said, will require sustained attention and changes ‘wide and deep' within the military. Hagel noted that he meets weekly for an hour with top civilian and military leaders of the services to discuss the problem and how to combat it. ‘It is important for people to know that the secretary of Defense is very focused on stopping sexual assault in the military,' Hagel said. Hagel spent more than an hour with the staff of the Safe Helpline, the Pentagon's confidential portal for troops who have been sexually assaulted. Its counselors chat by phone or Web with victims, referring them to military or civilian authorities to make complaints and to medical and mental health professionals." More here.

If that's what it takes: Military Times' Jeff Schogol interviews a Vietnam vet who treats his PTSD with nudity. Schogol: "Vietnam War veteran Max Sanchez struggles with controlling issues stemming from post-traumatic stress. As an Army second lieutenant, he volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he served from 1968 to 1969, first with 1st Infantry Division and later with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Now Sanchez doesn't go out much because if he gets into a confrontation, he fears he might become violent. His relationship with family members has suffered because he can get combative during arguments. So in addition to seeing a psychologist, he is pursuing an unconventional technique to treat post-traumatic stress: nudity.
Sanchez: "We live in a nude resort, and they have a back pool. It's very quiet, and I forget about the world back there. I really enjoy it in the hot weather, and I can go there and forget about the world. Unfortunately, I don't like staying there during what I consider cold weather. To me, anything under 100 [degrees] is cold. It's not something that completely takes away my problem. When I can be in a tranquil situation ... I forget about all of my problems. I don't find it's a cure-all because I can't be back there all the time, but I do find it helpful." More here.

Long Read: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking a third term but many Iraqis fear another civil war, and think that Maliki is to blame. ‘What We Left Behind' by Dexter Filkins in this week's New Yorker: "On Christmas Day last year, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appeared on Iraqi television to wish his country's Christian minority-which has been fleeing by the thousand since the American invasion, in 2003-a happy holiday. Maliki, who is sixty-three, wore a dark-blue suit and a purple tie, and stood almost perfectly still at a lectern flanked by Iraqi flags. His long face conveyed, as it almost always does, a look of utter joylessness. Having spent much of his life hunted by assassins, Maliki gives the impression of a man who learned long ago to ruthlessly suppress his feelings. ‘He never smiles, he never says thank you, and I've never seen him say, ‘I'm sorry,'' a longtime associate of Maliki's told me. For Maliki, the holiday greetings were a pretext. What he really wanted to talk about was protests unfolding in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad. ‘Thank God, the truth has been revealed,' he said.
"When the last American soldiers left Iraq, at the end of 2011, the bloody civil war between the country's Sunni and Shiite sects had been stifled but not resolved. Now the sectarian violence had returned, with terrifying intensity. For more than a year, thousands of Iraqis, nearly all of them members of the Sunni Arab minority, had been gathering to rail against Maliki's Shiite-dominated government. Although the protests were mostly peaceful, security forces responded harshly, detaining thousands of Sunni men without charges and, in one encampment, touching off a spasm of violence that left hundreds of civilians dead. Across the Sunni heartland, north and west of Baghdad, the town squares filled with angry crowds, and the rhetoric grew more extreme. In Ramadi, protesters raised black jihadi flags, representing the extremist Al Qaeda offshoot that had dominated the city during the American occupation. ‘We are a group called Al Qaeda!' a man shouted from a stage in the protesters' camp. ‘We will cut off heads and bring justice!' The crowd cheered.

"...I saw Maliki in his office in February, and he appeared as stiff and colorless as he did during his televised speech-an apparatchik become the boss. Wearing the same navy-blue suit and purple tie, he spoke in a monotone, his face blank, his body seemingly fixed to his chair. The office, a sterile room without a trace of warmth, had no windows, presumably because windows could be shattered by bombs." Full profile here.