National Security

FP's Situation Report: Manned aircraft joins the Nigerian search; Dempsey: direct action the most expensive; Al-Qaeda journalism in Yemen; An NSA reformer is a tweeting Trekkie; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

U.S. spy planes have begun the search for the school girls in Nigeria. Lubold and FP's Shane Harris: "The United States is using surveillance aircraft in Nigeria in the search for nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls in what amounts to the first real assistance Barack Obama's administration has provided since sending a small team of advisors to the country late last week.

Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed Monday, May 12, that American 'intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support' is being used in Nigeria in the international effort to help the government of President Goodluck Jonathan find the girls. Satellite imagery, manned jets, unmanned drones, or even ground systems can capture the kind of information the Nigerian government needs in its search for the schoolgirls, who were taken by the terrorist group Boko Haram in April... The group is believed to have hidden the girls in dense forest areas, which could complicate U.S. efforts to locate them. But analysts said that at this point, with Nigerian forces unable to locate the captives, any extra assistance would be welcome.

"Caggins declined to say what assets are being used, but drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are typically the first choice when there is a need for such intelligence collection. And the United States has a drone base at an airport in neighboring Niger, from which unmanned aircraft have taken off in pursuit of al Qaeda terrorists in Mali. CBS News reported Monday evening that a manned twin-engine turboprop aircraft -- the MC-12W Liberty -- has begun flying surveillance missions over Nigeria.

"... While there are some calls in Washington to send "boots on the ground" into Nigeria to help rescue the girls -- actual operational troops, rather than the roughly one dozen military advisors there now -- it's more likely the focus of U.S. assistance is on intelligence gathering.

Former Africa Command commander Carter Ham to FP: "I think intelligence collection will probably be at the top of the list of what the Nigerians want... Because the first requirement is to find the girls." More of Lubold's and Harris' here.

CBS' David Martin, last night, on the intelligence the MC-12W Liberty is producing: "...None of the intelligence collected by the manned aircraft has yet been shared with the Nigerians because of legal restrictions on how much help the U.S. can give to a military with a record of human rights violations." That story here.

In searching for Nigeria's missing schoolgirls, the U.S. finds itself working with security forces that it previously condemned. The Atlantic's Matt Ford: "On Friday, Amnesty International leveled a serious accusation: the Nigerian military knew about Boko Haram's recent attack in Chibok four hours before it took place... Nigeria's 130,000 active military personnel-in a country of 177 million people-bear most of the burden of fighting Boko Haram. But by many assessments, these soldiers are underequipped, undertrained, and underfunded. Rampant corruption hinders the army's morale and effectiveness, with reports of desertions and even infiltration by Boko Haram itself. During a March visit to Nigeria, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that human-rights violations by security forces ‘created fertile ground for Boko Haram to cultivate new recruits.'" More here.

From NPR, a Nigerian-American community in Maryland protests the Nigerian government's fruitless search efforts, here.

Why Hillary Clinton's State Department refused to list Boko Haram as a spy group by the CS Monitor's Howard LaFranchi, 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.

Who's Where When today ­- Hagel is on the road, in Saudi Arabia... Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey and other leaders will attend the Medal of Honor ceremony in honor of Army Sgt. Kyle White at 3pm in the White House East Room... Pentagon Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer Robert F. Hale, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller Robert Speer, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management and Comptroller Susan Rabern, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Financial Management and Comptroller) Jamie M. Morin, Inspector General for the Department of Defense Jon T. Rymer all testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on "Improving Financial Management at the Department of Defense" at 10:30 a.m. in Dirksen 342... Acting Chief Information Officer David DeVries participates in a senior leader panel at the 2014 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Conference on Joint Information Environment to discuss network operations, cyber security, cloud computing and mobility at 2:45 p.m. in Baltimore... And on Capitol Hill, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is briefed today on Boko Haram.

On Wednesday, the Middle East Institute hosts a conversation with John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Deets here.

Dempsey wants to ‘rebalance the use of military power' and talked to a reporter about it in a Q&A. James Kitfield for Defense One on Dempsey on when the U.S. should use force: "Well, I'm going to get a little philosophic with you here, but when you look at what the military instrument of power can accomplish, it is actually more effective in dealing with strength-on-strength situations than it is in dealing with strength-on-weakness scenarios. And we're finding that a weakening of structures and central authority is pervasive in today's world. The Middle East is a poster child for that dynamic. But if you look at almost any sector of civilization - from international organizations, to big corporations to places of worship - their authority has diminished over the past decade..."

Dempsey continues on the use of force: "...As I look forward and think about the need to rebalance the use of military power, I think we will need less direct action because it is the most costly, disruptive and controversial use of American power. By contrast, we need to do more in terms of building partners. I'm a huge advocate of doubling or even tripling our effort to build credible partners around the globe. And I'm also a huge advocate of enabling others who have the will, but perhaps not the capability to act." More here.

Within the next 17 months, nearly 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers must be removed from the active rolls. The Amazing Jim Tice of Army Times: "Nearly 30,000 soldiers must be removed from the active rolls in the next 17 months if the Army is to make the first waypoint in a drawdown that eventually will reduce the force to 450,000, or even 420,000, soldiers. As of April 1, there were 519,786 troopers on active duty, according to the most recent accounting of Regular Army strength by the Defense Manpower Data Center. The personnel total includes 4,000 West Point cadets and several hundred soldiers who are processing for separation because of physical disability, and several hundred others who have been identified for involuntary separation or retirement because of indiscipline or selection by force reduction boards. Since the beginning of the drawdown in October 2012, Army strength dropped from 550,000 to 530,000 by the end of fiscal 2013." More here.

A cabinet minister in Kuwait resigns after the U.S. alleges he was raising funds for rebels in Syria. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "... In a March speech, a senior Treasury Department official said Ajmi's appointment was a "step in the wrong direction" for Kuwait, which he described as "the epicenter of fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria."

The Kuwaiti cabinet called the allegations by David S. Cohen, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, "baseless and groundless" and issued a statement expressing "displeasure." It refused to accept Ajmi's resignation when he initially offered it last month for what he said were health reasons. Cohen had charged that Ajmi 'has a history of promoting jihad. .?.?. In fact, his image has been featured on fundraising posters" or Jabhat al-Nusra, a group of Syrian opposition fighters that the Obama administration has designated a foreign terrorist organization." More here.

As NSA reform nears the House floor, here's the Congressman to watch: he's a Tweeting Trekkie. FP's John Hudson: "Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, a 34-year-old Republican, has lots of opinions. The correct name for Star Trek fans? ‘Trekkies' -- not ‘Trekkers.' The latest installment of Captain America? A ‘fantastic' indictment of government surveillance. Using hashtags on Twitter? Soooo 2008. But those aren't the beliefs that have put Amash in the cross-hairs of his fellow Republicans, who have called him a ‘wacko bird,' an ‘egregious asshole,' someone who ‘votes more with the Democrats than with the Republicans,' and most recently, ‘al Qaeda's best friend in the Congress.' Some GOP lawmakers have gone so far as to donate money to his primary opponent. Amash, in turn, uses Twitter and Facebook to call out other Republican lawmakers by name and accuse them of sacrificing core GOP beliefs for political gain." More here.

The Economist's new 10-minute video surveys its correspondents across the world on the question: What would America fight for? Watch it here.

The Truman Project just released the newest edition of its national security briefing book. CNP Executive Director Michael Breen in an email to the Situation Report yesterday: "The sixth edition of the Truman Security Briefing Book reflects the expertise and insights of more than 90 top national security and foreign policy thinkers across the country. These ideas are not limited to any ideology or party and we hope that everyone looking for strong, smart, and principled solutions to today's global challenges will find it useful." Download it here.

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos replied to Walt Jones' concerns: "I do not fear Major Weirick." By Andy deGrandpre in Marine Corps Times, here.

The Taliban's spring offensive just began with a series of deadly attacks across Afghanistan. The WSJ's Margherita Stancati and Ehsanullah Amiri: "The Taliban launched deadly attacks across Afghanistan on Monday, in a show of force that marked the beginning of the insurgency's annual spring fighting season. At least 18 people, including three insurgents, were killed in multiple attacks that targeted mainly Afghan security forces and government employees in the past two days, officials said. Many of the victims were civilians.

"The surge in violence wasn't a surprise: The Taliban announced last week that the spring offensive would formally start Monday. After the insurgency failed to carry out major attacks in an effort to disrupt the April 5 presidential vote, Taliban fighters were expected to redouble their efforts to prove their strength. In the eastern city of Jalalabad, at around 9 a.m., three insurgents stormed the offices of the Afghan justice department, sparking a four-hour gunbattle, Afghan officials and witnesses said. In the fighting, two security guards and two government employees were killed and three people were injured. The attackers also died. Afghan troops rescued 11 government employees who were trapped in the building during the attack, said Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, a police spokesman." More here.

A new International Crisis Group report on Afghanistan's insurgency after the transition releases today. The report says that it's a mixed bag for Afghanistan moving forward.  While there's a degree of optimism about the country's future, the overall trend is one of rising violence and insurgent attacks.  The signing of a BSA and SOFA would send an important signal at a fragile time, but they're not cure-alls.  The complete withdrawal of foreign forces, however, would be extremely problematic. More here.

And a White Paper by IFS' logistics expert Jeff Pike takes on the mammoth task of equipment reset after Afghanistan. The report examines what is required to bring back NATO's some 218,000 vehicles and containers, and U.S. Central Command's 24,000 vehicles and major pieces of equipment. The massive amount of equipment needs to not only be shipped back from Afghanistan, but also to be refitted - or reset - for continued military use. This creates an urgent requirement for ERP support that goes beyond the bounds of conventional ERP or EAM systems. Download the report here.

How America's drone war is infecting Pakistani culture. The National Journal's Sara Sorcher from Islamabad: "In Pakistan's northwest tribal region, where drones hum overhead and militants hide, this is romantic: ‘I am looking for you like a drone, my love,' a verse of a local folk poem says. ‘You have become Osama, no one knows your whereabouts.' When Americans talks about drones, they envision terrorist targets in faraway lands. When Washington pundits talk about drones, they question whether push-button combat impedes intelligence-gathering or if civilians are accidental casualties. But for those who live in the areas bombarded by armed drones, shadowy U.S. warfare has infected culture. Drones, reported to have killed at least 2,500 people in Pakistan alone, are featured in the music and poetry created there." More here.

In Yemen, a battle for hearts and minds and quasi news by al-Qaeda. The NYT's Saeed al Batati and David Kirkpatrick in Mukalla: "... After years of Western condemnation for the civilian casualties of terrorist attacks, Al Qaeda's affiliate here is trying to turn the tables in a stream of online videos arguing that Washington and its Yemeni Army allies are the ones carelessly killing innocent bystanders in their drone attacks and military campaigns targeting suspected militants.

"The videos, Al Qaeda's latest response to the drone assassinations of many of its leaders, seek to capitalize on growing anger over the killings of an undisclosed number of noncombatants in drone strikes. But the campaign has now taken on new resonance here since the disclosure last week that an American commando and a spy killed two armed Yemenis who had tried to kidnap them while the Americans were in a barbershop in Sana, the capital. The Americans were later whisked out of the country with the blessing of the Yemeni government." More here.

Many in Homs feel as if the civil war in Syria has ended. The LA Times' Patrick McDonnell: "On the long-militarized edges of Syria's Old City of Homs, volunteers Monday took down walls of cinder block and brick that had long served as shields against snipers hidden in the ruins of the rebel-held ancient quarter. ‘For us, the war is over,' said Firas Alabdallah, an engineer helping to collect material for use in a cemetery for pro-government ‘martyrs.' The Syrian war is certainly not over. Broad swaths of the country remain contested or under opposition control. But to many in Homs, once dubbed the ‘capital' of the Syrian uprising, it does feel like the end." More here.

A top Israeli intel official will meet with Dianne Feinstein today in an attempt to quell the allegations of Israeli spying in the U.S. Newsweek's Jeff Stein:  "...Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who holds the intelligence portfolio in the Netanyahu government, vehemently denied reports by Newsweek last week that Israel ‘has been caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against the American targets for decades,' long after it pledged to stop recruiting spies here in the wake of the 1980s Pollard affair. The incidents were kept quiet, Newsweek reported, because senior American policy makers did not want to provoke a public rupture with its close ally. For U.S. officials, complaining about Israeli operations was, one source told Newsweek, ‘political suicide.'" More here.

Russia keeps its distance after Ukraine secession referendums. The NYT's Neil MacFarquhar: "Russia stopped short on Monday of outright recognition of the contentious referendums organized by separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian-speaking provinces of southeast Ukraine, instead using the results to intensify pressure for a negotiated autonomy for those provinces. The separatist leader of the self-declared People's Republic of Donetsk wasted little time in announcing that his province wanted to join Russia, but the question seemed to be whether Moscow was interested. Russia avoided any suggestion that it would react to the results with the same alacrity seen after the Crimean Peninsula referendum in March. Within hours of that vote, President Vladimir V. Putin declared that Russia was annexing Crimea, part of southern Ukraine that had once been part of Russia." More here.

In Ukraine, fascism returns to the continent it once destroyed. Timothy Snyder for TNR: "...The pluralist revolution in Ukraine came as a shocking defeat to Moscow, and Moscow has delivered in return an assault on European history. Even as Europeans follow with alarm or fascination the spread of Russian special forces from Crimea through Donetsk and Luhansk, Vladimir Putin's propagandists seek to draw Europeans into an alternative reality, an account of history rather different from what most Ukrainians think, or indeed what the evidence can bear. Ukraine has never existed in history, goes the claim, or if it has, only as part of a Russian empire. Ukrainians do not exist as a people; at most they are Little Russians. But if Ukraine and Ukrainians do not exist, then neither does Europe or Europeans." More here.

How a Special Ops legend made me a better reporter. Alex Quade for RTDNA: "As a lone, woman war reporter covering U.S. Special Operations forces on combat missions downrange, an unexpected mentor came into my life. This unlikeliest of sources hated reporters. Despite that, he ‘chose' me, treated me as an adopted SON, and taught me everything I need to know that matters. Love him or hate him, everyone respected Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard (or ‘Mean ol' Ranger Bob' as I liked to call him) for his bravery during five tours in Vietnam, mainly with the Studies and Observations Group.  He was one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history; nominated for the Medal of Honor three times." More here.

Duncan Hunter is pressing U.S. authorities to secure the release of Andrew Tahmooressi, an American citizen and Marine Corps combat veteran who is currently imprisoned in Mexico.  In a letter to Hagel, Rep. Hunter asked that the U.S. suspend cooperation with the Mexican military in a "number of areas."  Rep. Hunter also wrote Homeland Security Secretary Johnson or information on Mexican military and law enforcement incursions on the border. Read the letter to Hagel here, and the letter to Johnson here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Boko Haram suggests a swap; Abdullah Abdullah wins a major endorsement; Syria wants antiaircraft missiles; Hagel wheels up today; The Army's search for a Patron Saint of Public Affairs; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Boko Haram says it will release the abducted schoolgirls in return for prisoners. Reuters' Matthew Mpoke Bigg, in Abuja this hour: "The leader of the Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram has said he will release more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by his fighters last month in exchange for prisoners, according to a video seen by Agence France-Presse on Monday.

"Around 100 girls wearing full veils and praying are shown in an undisclosed location in the 17-minute video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks, according to the French news agency... Nigeria said on Saturday it had deployed two army divisions to the hunt for the girls while several nations including the United States, Britain, Israel and France have offered assistance or sent experts. The Nigerian government has been sharply criticized for its response to the abductions but President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday that international military and intelligence assistance made him optimistic about finding the girls." More here.

Shekau also claims the girls converted to Islam. CNN: "A Boko Haram video emerged Monday purportedly showing some of the kidnapped Nigerian girls in Muslim headdresses and the terror group's leader declaring they have converted to Islam. The video, released by French news agency Agence France-Presse, was shot in a nondescript bush area and showed about 100 girls." More here.

Sorrow but little progress in the search for girls, on Page One in the NYT here.

Welcome to Monday'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.

The Saudis allege that Saudi recruits of a radical Islamist group in Syria plotted with others to assassinate leaders. The WSJ's Ellen Knickmeyer: "...The alleged plot, and another involving al Qaeda's Yemen branch, were behind the arrests of 62 terror suspects in Saudi Arabia. Those arrested included 35 previously convicted Saudis, some of them graduates of the kingdom's rehabilitation program for militants, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al Turki said on Sunday. Saudi officials haven't said when they were arrested." More here.

And, Syrian rebels are lobbying for U.S. antiaircraft missiles. Also from the WSJ; Adam Entous: "The leader of Syria's main political opposition group will ask a reluctant Obama administration to entrust a group of specially trained rebels with a limited number of shoulder-fired antiaircraft weapons known as Manpads.

"Ahead of talks at the White House this week, Ahmed Jarba said in an interview that he will ask the U.S. to either provide the advanced antiaircraft weapons directly to the opposition or to give a green light to another country to provide the systems... He said stringent safeguards would be put in place to ensure the weapons can't fall into the hands of al Qaeda-linked militants. He added that he will assure the White House the moderate and secular-leaning Free Syrian Army is committed to defeating al Qaeda's allies." More here.

Meantime, Hagel is wheels up today for a five-day trip to the Middle East. The Pentagon announced publicly on Friday that Hagel was headed to the region starting today. It will be his third trip to the Middle East. He'll first stop in Saudi Arabia, where he'll participate in a U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council defense ministerial.

Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday: "This meeting agenda will be the first U.S.-GCC defense ministers forum since 2008, and it provides an important and timely opportunity for the United States to step up cooperation with Gulf nations as we confront common regional security challenges related to Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. The ministerial is designed to strengthen multilateral security cooperation in the region focusing on enhanced GCC coordination on air and missile defense, maritime security, and cyber defense. It is also an opportunity for the secretary to underscore U.S. security commitments in the Middle East and to reinforce the United States' unstinting policy of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and further destabilizing the region."

Hagel's next stop this week will be Jordan.

Read the transcript that details the trip here.

Staffers on a plane - Chief of Staff Mark Lippert; Senior Military Assistant Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams; Special Assistant Cara Abercrombie; Trip Director J.P. Eby, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International and Security Affairs Derek Chollet; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Matt Spence; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy Eric Rosenbach; Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby; Assistant Presssec Carl Woog; Chief Speechwriter Jacob Freedman and Speechwriter Tarun Chhabra.

Reporters on a plane - AP's Bob Burns, Reuters' Missy Ryan, Bloomberg's David Lerman, the NYT's Helene Cooper, Fox's Justin Fishel, the WSJ's Adam Entous; the WaPo's Ernesto Londono; the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg; CBS' Margaret Brennan.

Who's Where When today - Defense Information Systems Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, Jr., delivers the keynote at the 2014 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Conference on Joint Information Environment at 12:15 p.m. EDT at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Afghanistan's Abdullah Abdullah secures a key ally ahead of the run-off. The NYT's Alissa Rubin: "Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner in Afghanistan's presidential election campaign, announced Sunday that he had won the endorsement of Zalmay Rassoul, the third-place candidate, as part of his effort to gather enough support to win in the next round of voting.

"Together the two men's tickets took about 55 percent of the vote in the first round of voting on April 5, but there is no guarantee that voters would vote the same way in a second round, tentatively set for June 14. Adding to the prospect that Mr. Rassoul may not bring all his first-round votes with him is that his team appears to have split, with one of his two vice-presidential running mates declining to support Mr. Abdullah's campaign. Mr. Abdullah's camp and some analysts worry that a runoff could be rife with fraud and that there is a considerable risk that it could be disrupted by the Taliban. The insurgents' campaign of violence failed to have much impact in the first round, but the Taliban could redouble their efforts to intimidate voters in a runoff." More here.

Pro-Russian separatists declare victory in eastern Ukraine after Sunday's vote - but the U.S. says it was illegal.  The WSJ's James Marson, Philip Shishkin and Alan Cullison: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine declared victory in a secession referendum Sunday, ratcheting up tensions between the West and Moscow, which by recognizing the results could push the country toward a breakup.
"Ukraine called the vote illegal and riddled with irregularities, and part of a wider campaign by Moscow to punish Kiev for pursuing closer relations with Europe.
"But Sunday's vote saw long lines at some polling places and was immediately hailed as a triumph by separatist leaders and Russian state media. Kiev's fledgling government is scrambling to mount presidential elections May 25, which it hopes will shore up its legitimacy, and faces growing hurdles after losing control of provinces in the east to pro-Russian rebels. Local police in the region are of dubious loyalty, and army units have stalled in their offensive against rebel strongholds.
"...Amid an absence of electoral observers and a heavy presence of separatist gunmen patrolling the streets, the government in Kiev said the results of the vote were certain to be rigged. Just after midnight in Donetsk, the separatists said 89% of ballots had been cast in favor of ‘self rule,' with 10% against and 1% invalid. Turnout was 75%, they said in a statement." More here.

Sunday's Page One ICYMI: Two Americans who were attacked while getting a haircut in Yemen kill the two Al-Qaida-linked attackers. The NYT's Shuaib Almosawa and Eric Schmitt: "The kidnappers pulled up in a pickup truck outside the Taj barbershop in an upscale neighborhood here in the Yemeni capital. One held an AK-47 assault rifle and the other carried a stun gun. As the men went inside, nearby shopkeepers heard shots.
"Then a foreigner - tall, with the physique of a body builder, and holding a black gun - was seen standing over one of the mortally wounded attackers in the doorway of the barbershop, witnesses said. The foreigner kicked an automatic weapon out of the man's hands, looked right and left down the street, jumped into a nearby sport utility vehicle and drove away.
"...While much about the encounter remains unclear, a Yemeni official said Saturday that the two Yemeni assailants were part of a cell linked to Al Qaeda that had planned and executed several attacks on foreigners in the country. Whether by design or chance, the official said, the Americans had apparently disrupted a kidnapping ring that government officials blame for killing a Frenchman last week, kidnapping a Dutch couple last year, trying to assassinate a German diplomat last month, and attacking the central prison here in February, freeing 19 inmates.
"The shooting at the barbershop led Yemeni authorities to the group's leader, Wael Abdullah al-Waeli, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Col. Mohamed al-Qaidi. Yemeni officials said that they killed Mr. Waeli last Wednesday during a shootout in the capital. The State Department announced Wednesday that it had closed its embassy here to the public because of security concerns." More here.

Meantime, a December drone attack in Yemen reveals the tension between the CIA and the Pentagon over the program. The LA Times' Ken Dilanian: "Soon after a U.S. military drone killed about a dozen people on a remote road in central Yemen on Dec. 12, a disturbing narrative emerged.
"Witnesses and tribal leaders said the four Hellfire missiles had hit a convoy headed to a wedding, and the Yemeni government paid compensation to some of the victims' families. After an investigation, Human Rights Watch charged that ‘some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians.'
"Such claims are common in the U.S. drone war, and just as commonly dismissed by Obama administration officials who insist that drone strikes are based on solid intelligence and produce few unintended casualties. But in this case, the CIA and the Pentagon sharply disagreed with each other.
"...According to two U.S. officials who would not be quoted discussing classified matters, the CIA informed the command before the attack that the spy agency did not have confidence in the underlying intelligence.
"After the missiles hit, CIA analysts assessed that some of the victims may have been villagers, not militants. The National Counterterrorism Center, which coordinates terrorism intelligence from multiple agencies, is somewhere in the middle, saying the evidence is inconclusive." More here.

Prosecutors are trying to hold on to whatever is left of the Blackwater case. The NYT's Matt Apuzzo on Page One: ... over the years, a case that once seemed so clear-cut has been repeatedly undermined by the government's own mistakes. Prosecutors are trying to hold together what is left of it. But charges against one contractor were dropped last year because of a lack of evidence. And the government suffered another self-inflicted setback in April when a federal appeals court ruled that the prosecution had missed a deadline and allowed the statute of limitations to expire against a second contractor, Nicholas A. Slatten, a former Army sniper from Tennessee who investigators believe fired the first shots in Nisour Square. A judge then dismissed the case against Mr. Slatten." More here.

Hagel, on ABC on Sunday, says the military should review its transgender ban. From the AP: "The prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military ‘continually should be reviewed,' Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday. Hagel did not indicate whether he believes the policy should be overturned. However, he said ‘every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.' ... A military review of transgender issues could occur as it also deals with questions about how to treat transgender prisoners. Chelsea Manning, a former Army private serving a 35-year prison sentence for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks, is fighting to be treated as a woman. She is seeking a counselor who specializes in gender issues and also wants to get hormone replacement therapy, which the military has said it does not provide." More here.

Hagel also said that medical care for U.S. veterans is 'not good enough' but he backed Shinseki. Reuters' Will Dunham: "Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said on Sunday the care given to U.S. veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs is ‘not good enough' but offered support for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has rejected calls to resign. ...‘I do support General Shinseki,' Hagel told the ABC program ‘This Week,' referring to the former four-star Army general who lost part of a foot to a land mine during the Vietnam War. ‘But there's no margin here. If this (reported delays in care), in fact, or any variation of this occurred, all the way along the chain accountability is going to have to be upheld here because we can never let this kind of outrage, if all of this is true, stand in this country,' the defense secretary added." More here.

The WSJ's Michael Phillips reports on a woman who still receives a check from the VA for her father's service during the Civil War. Read that here.

Not the Onion, not the Duffel Blog: Army public affairs is looking for a future "Patron Saint of Army Public Affairs." From the Chief of Army Public Affairs Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky last week: "I would like your input as we select the future Patron Saint of Army Public Affairs. The intent is to collect your submissions, convene a review and selection panel, and announce the new Patron Saint of Army Public Affairs by the end of May... Send your submissions in a word document and include any graphics or pictures you can accumulate on your nominated saint... your submissions should include the following: one, the history concerning the saint; two, why that particular saint would serve as an appropriate Patron Saint of Army Public Affairs, and three, graphics, images or art of the recommended saint. Army Strong!"

Hagel to Congress: quit monkeying with my budget. Hagel is "not pleased" with the House Armed Services Committee's mark-up last week of the defense budget. That story here.

The Air Force faces more tough choices in 2016. Defense News' Aaron Mehta: "When the US Air Force unveiled its budget in early March, it presented an unusual two-tier projection. The first was the normal five-year defense program. The second was a list of items that would be endangered if sequestration funding levels were not raised for 2016. The hope for the service was that members of Congress would see future cuts coming and act to raise funding levels to prevent them. But two months later, Air Force officials seem to be coming to grips that a congressional rescue isn't coming.

"At an April 30 event, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said, ‘I am not seeing any indication' that Congress plans to change the 2016 budget plan. Days later, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James echoed his comments. ‘The conversations that I have had in Congress, with both congressmen, senators and staff members, overwhelmingly suggests that it's less than a 50-50 chance,' James said. ‘But... I'm an optimist, so I'm going to continue to push. I'm not going to give up. But realistically we have to think through that if we return to sequestration, how do we manage it?'" More here.

Wanna read about the Navy's new "Expeditionary Fleet?" For Breaking Defense, Rob Holzer: "What's in a name? A lot, especially for the military. Over the next decade, the Navy will take delivery of at least 32 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); 10 Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV); three Mobile Landing Platforms (MLP); several Afloat Forward Staging Bases; and new versions of amphibious assault ships and Ship-to-Shore connector craft. New riverine boats, upgraded patrol craft and new versions of Lewis and Clark-class T-AKE ships may also be added to this interesting platform mix." More here.

BTW, what was the White House security detail doing in rural Maryland? The WaPo's Carol Leonning over the weekend: "Top Secret Service officials ­ordered members of a special unit responsible for patrolling the White House perimeter to abandon their posts over at least two months in 2011 in order to protect a personal friend of the agency's director, according to three people familiar with the operation. The new assignment, known internally as Operation Moonlight, diverted agents to a rural area outside the southern Maryland town of La Plata, nearly an hour's drive from Washington. Agents were told that then-Director Mark Sullivan was concerned that his assistant was being harassed by her neighbor, the three people said. Two agents were sent twice a day, in the morning and the evening, to monitor the home of the assistant, Lisa Chopey. The trips began June 30, 2011, and extended through the summer before tapering off in August, according to people familiar with internal shift records." More here.