National Security

FP's Situation Report: Africa has a new bad boy; The Pentagon is prepared for a 'chicken zombie' apocalypse; Pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete with the U.S. military; Saudi makes an overture to Iran; Dempsey, Odierno to Aspen; and a bit more.

Africa's new bad boy, Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram's leader, steps up attacks to emerge from shadows of other radical groups. The WSJ's Drew Hinshaw in Abuja on Page One: "When he appeared in a video on Monday boasting of having abducted more than 200 schoolgirls, the leader of terror group Boko Haram took the occasion to egg on the U.S. Army and get in a dig at ancient Egypt. ‘We don't fear any American troops,' shouted Abubakar Shekau, whose Islamist insurgency has terrorized northern Nigeria and recently drawn search-and-rescue advisers from the U.S. and other countries. ‘Let even the Pharaoh himself be sent down here! We will deal with him squarely!' Bombastic and bellicose, Mr. Shekau has shown a boundless appetite for celebrity. He has sought to achieve it through mass murder and most notably through the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in April from a boarding school in the country's north. By boasting-and laughing-about these deeds on YouTube, often with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, Mr. Shekau has attained the distinction that has long eluded him: Africa's most notorious terrorist." More here.

Fear is everywhere: the Boko Haram threat keeps the abducted girls' village up all night. CNN this hour, here.

Also, read about Nigeria's high-powered finance minister and how she's virtually doubled the size of the country's economy overnight. By FP's Ty McCormick, here.

What does the U.S. stand for, morally speaking? For the World Post/HuffPo, Dambisa Moyo: " It took three weeks for President Obama to publicly address the crisis of over 250 Nigerian school girls kidnapped on April 14, and to pledge to send modest support. That is 22 days of unfathomable cruelty to vulnerable girls; and 22 days of panicked parents wondering the fate of their daughters - and whether an education could possibly be worth such a price, and why the international community has not vocally condemned the treacherous act." More here.

Beautiful images: Photographer Camille Lepage was found dead in the Central African Republic yesterday. Her work, with curating by the NYT's Nick Kulish, "Bearing Witness, Losing Her Life," here.

Reuters this hour: Islamists hit Yemeni army posts, 18 dead. Read that here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you've noticed a little change to SitRep today and you like it, thank the good folks over at FP's business side, who've done a little sumthin'-sumthin' to our formatting. Otherwise, we're same-old, same old. 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.

Indulge us a little here: The Pentagon has a secret plan for how it would respond to a zombie apocalypse. We're not kidding. FP's Lubold: "The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check. Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to ‘preserve the sanctity of human life' among all the ‘non-zombie humans.'
"Buried on the military's secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called ‘CONOP 8888.' It's a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead -- from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even ‘evil magic zombies' -- and destroy them."

"...As its authors note in the document's 'disclaimer section,' 'this plan was not actually designed as a joke.' Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. "Planners ... realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan," the authors wrote, adding: 'Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional 'Tunisia' or 'Nigeria' scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan."

"... Under 'Zombie Threat Summary,' the plan highlights the different kinds of zombie adversaries one might find in such an attack. They include not only vegetarian zombies ('zombie life forms originating from any cause but pose no direct threat to humans because they only eat plant life'); evil magic zombies ('EMZs are zombie life forms created via some form of occult experimentation in what might otherwise be referred to as 'evil magic'); and also chicken zombies.

'Although it sounds ridiculous, this is actually the only proven class of zombie that actually exists,' the plan states. So-called 'CZs' occur when old hens that can no longer lay eggs are euthanized by farmers with carbon monoxide, buried, and then claw their way back to the surface. 'CZs are simply terrifying to behold and are likely only to make people become vegetarians in protest to animal cruelty,' according to CONOP 8888." Want to know more about zombie survival planning? Read the rest of this story here.

Who's Where When today - Hagel is in the Middle East... Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Marty Dempsey delivers remarks on challenges of the security environment at The Atlantic Council at 8:30 a.m... Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler deliver remarks at a Medal of Honor Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony in honor of Army Sgt. Kyle J. White at the Pentagon Auditorium at 10 a.m... Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Alan Shaffer, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Arati Prabhakar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering David Walker, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Army for Research and Technology Mary Miller, Medical Research for the Assistant Secretary of Defense Director Terry Rauch all testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense on "Defense Research and Innovation" at 10 a.m...

Tonight, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation honors the Air Force's Debbie James and others in a tribute titled ‘Welcome Home: Supporting Warriors in Transition,' at the National Building Museum in Washington.

An Open Society Foundation event today in DC at 10am: Does the ‘Leahy Law' Help or Hurt the Hunt for Boko Haram? Deets here.

Sen. Tim Kaine will be delivering remarks at CSIS tomorrow on his bipartisan effort to reform the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Deets here.

A Center for American Progress reports examines the lessons that the Obama administration can learn from Presidents Reagan and Clinton on reacting to international crises that pull American leadership and strength into question, here.

The 2014 Aspen Security Forum just announced its list of confirmed speakers for the forum, July 23-26. It includes: Jeh Johnson, Marty Dempsey, Ray Odierno, Jonathan Greenert, Mike Flynn, Charles Jacoby, John Pistole, Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers, Arati Prabhakar, Tina Kaidanow, Bill Bratton, Robert Litt, Douglas Lute, Raj De, James Dobbins, Danny Russel, Andrew Weber, Jeffrey Eggers, Laura Holgate and Huban Gowadia.

And don't forget the foreign ambassadors expected to attend: Peter Ammon, Tiankai Cui, Eklil Hakimi, Jalil Abbas Jilani, Sergey Kislyak, Mohamed Tawfik and Sir Peter Westmacott. More deets here.

Kyle White receives a Medal of Honor and says his battle buddies are the 'real heroes.' Military Times' Michelle Tan: "Former Sgt. Kyle White on Tuesday became the nation's newest Medal of Honor recipient. White, who was honored for his actions in November 2007 in Afghanistan, received the nation's highest award for valor from President Obama during a ceremony at the White House. ‘We honor Kyle White for his extraordinary actions on that November day,' Obama said in his remarks. ‘Today, we pay tribute to a soldier who embodies the courage of his generation - a young man who was a freshman in high school when the Twin Towers fell, and who just five years later became an elite paratrooper with the legendary 173rd Airborne.'

"As White repeatedly braved enemy fire to reach his wounded and fallen comrades, he ‘could feel the pressure of the rounds going by him, but, somehow, miraculously, they never hit him,' Obama said. ‘Not once. One of his teammates said it was as if Kyle was moving ‘faster than a speeding bullet.'' Across Afghanistan, base commanders were ‘glued to their radios, listening as the Americans fought off the ambush,' the president said." More here.

The U.S. OKs a nearly $1 billion deal with Iraq. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber: "The Pentagon has cleared a nearly $1 billion package of aircraft trainers, surveillance aerostats and up-armored Humvees for the Iraqi military. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress Tuesday that the State Department approved the sale. The largest part of the deal is 24 Beechcraft T-6C Texan II trainer aircraft. The turboprop aircraft and related services and equipment is estimated to cost $790 million. ‘The proposed sale of these aircraft, equipment, and support will enhance the ability of the Iraqi forces to sustain themselves in their efforts to bring stability to Iraq and to prevent overflow of unrest into neighboring countries,' a DSCA notice states. Iraq already flies the T-6A trainer. The T-6C has hard points on the wings and advanced avionics." More here.

Is the Pentagon reneging on opening its books? Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "The Pentagon has backtracked from a pledge to have all budgetary accounts ready by Sept. 30 for the initial step toward its first-ever full financial audit. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged an ‘all-hands effort' in 2011 to prepare for evaluation a ‘Statement of Budgetary Resources' -- covering funds received, unspent, obligated or put under contract over several years -- by the end of this fiscal year so that an audit could begin in 2015.

"Instead the Defense Department has decided to ‘narrow the scope' of the initial budgetary data to a one-year snapshot of spending and accounts covering about 77 percent of those funds, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office scheduled for release today. The delay may further undercut public confidence in the department's ability to manage billions of dollars effectively even as the military seeks permanent relief from the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. The current efforts are focused on having the initial set of budget books ready to start an audit in fiscal 2015 and the rest by 2017." More here.

Levin thinks the HASC's A-10 plan to keep the Warthog alive ain't legit. Defense News' John Bennett's bit here.

Niiice: Sallie Mae is fined $97 million for unlawfully charging troops for student loans. The WaPo's Danielle Douglas: "Government officials hit Sallie Mae and its former subsidiary Navient Solutions with $97 million in fines Tuesday for unlawfully charging active-duty service members high interest rates and late fees on student loans. 'We are sending a clear message to all lenders and servicers who would deprive our service members of the basic benefits and protections to which they are entitled: This type of conduct is more than just inappropriate, it is inexcusable. And it will not be tolerated,' Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference." Read the rest here.

"Control, Alt Delete:" In a new, illustrated report for FP, CNAS's Shawn Brimley and Paul Scharre make the case for a starting over with America's military. The header: "Today's U.S. military is the product of history - not the missions and threats it now faces. American forces are hampered by overlapping roles and missions, arcane organizational structures, Cold War platforms and programs and recruiting practices detached from modern needs. If it were starting fresh, this is not the military the United States would build." Do you think the military is all it could be? Didn't think so. So click here to read this piece. 

"A bizarre attack:" the GOP will try to go after Hillary for being soft on terrorism but it may not be their best play. TIME's Michael Crowley: "Conservatives eager for lines of attack against Hillary Clinton ahead of her presumed presidential run are currently hammering two story lines with a common theme-that she is soft on terrorism. It's a bizarre attack. While you can second-guess some of Clinton's secondary decisions while she was Secretary of State, the most important fact about her tenure in Obama's cabinet is that, when it came to fighting terrorism and the use of American power, she was its most hawkish member.
"...In fact, Clinton was the most reliable advocate in Obama's first term for the use of U.S. military power abroad. As I detailed recently - based on interviews with administration sources as well as published accounts - Clinton led the hawks on issues ranging from troop levels in Iraq to arming Syria's rebels to the air campaign over Libya (which she may have played a decisive role in convincing Obama to mount). When it came to the war in Afghanistan - which conservatives called crucial to the terror war - Clinton's position was actually slightly to the right of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush years. And don't forget that Clinton - also unlike Gates, and Vice President Joe Biden - voted strongly in favor of the daring 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. No wonder David Petraeus - former CIA director and terrorist hunter in Afghanistan in Iraq - recently declared that Clinton would make ‘a tremendous president.'" More here.

Going covert: If it all goes south in Europe, the U.S. should dust off its Cold War playbook. For the National Interest, Richard Russell: "... If the above were to occur, all would not be lost. The United States and its allies would simply have to reach into their dusty Cold War playbooks. They would need to rapidly begin preparing for a covert war against Russian forces in occupied European territories. The plan would be straightforward: Moscow would have to be militarily bogged down and bled by covert support to indigenous insurgencies to prevent them from consolidating gains to enable the building-up of forces for further direct military expansion in Europe. The Ukrainians are in grave risk of losing their country, in part, due to incompetent political leadership matched with feckless military defenses. This should be a powerful slap in the face to other European leaders who, either lazily, arrogantly or naively, believe that the territorial integrities of their nation-states are, and will always be, assured." More here.

A decisive round of P5+1 talks with Iran kicks off in Vienna today.  LA Times' Paul Richter: "A top U.S. official cautioned Tuesday that obstacles remain before a nuclear deal can be reached between Iran and six world powers and warned that the widespread optimism about the four-month-long negotiations has gotten ‘way out of control.' Though it appears that Iran and the six powers whose representatives are gathered this week in Vienna all want to draft a deal, ‘having the intent doesn't necessarily mean that it will happen,' the official, who declined to be identified under Obama administration ground rules, told a group of reporters. ‘There are still some significant gaps.... We're working hard but it remains to be seen if we'll get to where we're hoping to get to.'" More here.

In a thaw, Saudi extends an invite to Iran that stirs hope. The WaPo's Liz Sly and Ernesto Londono in Riyadh: "Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it had invited Iran's foreign minister to visit Riyadh, breaking the ice in one of the most hostile relationships in the Middle East ahead of key talks on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna this week. Speaking to reporters in the Saudi capital, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom was ready to host Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif "anytime he sees fit" and indicated that Riyadh is willing to open negotiations with its nemesis on the many combustible issues dividing them." More here.

Meantime, Climate change threatens American security, military brass have argued, but Congress is AWOL on the issue. FP's Keith Johnson: "A brass-studded group of former generals and admirals warned Tuesday that the accelerating pace of climate change poses a real and growing risk to U.S. security, and expressed frustration at political polarization that makes it harder for the United States to address the issue. The report, released late Tuesday by the CNA Corporation's Military Advisory Board, is an update to the group's 2007 study that first highlighted in a significant way the possible security risks posed by extreme weather, food and water shortages, and melting ice that is opening the Arctic.

The authors, sixteen former three- and four-star generals and admirals, said the update was prompted by ‘growing concern over the lack of comprehensive action by both the United States and the international community' on climate change. ‘Politically charged debate has silenced sound public discourse,' the group said, adding ‘we believe that congressional action is warranted -- and it is needed now.' Taking aim at those who have criticized the Pentagon under the Obama administration for making energy and climate change core concerns for the Defense Dept., the officers said that ‘political concerns and budgetary limitations cannot be allowed to dominate what is essentially a salient national security concern for our nation.'" More here.

A bad sign for Syria: The UN's Brahimi handed in his resignation yesterday. FP's David Kenner and Colum Lynch: "In a sign of just how completely the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis have collapsed, joint United Nations and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi handed in his resignation today, expressing sorrow for leaving Syria in ‘such a bad state.' U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepted Brahimi's resignation, which will go into effect on May 31. Ban also criticized U.N. Security Council members for not doing more to push for a resolution to the conflict, saying that their inability to support Brahimi's efforts ‘is a failure of all of us.'" More here.

France says Syria used chlorine in 14 recent attacks. Reuters' Lesley Wroughton: "Syria may have used chemical weapons involving chlorine in 14 attacks in recent months, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday, expressing concerns that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is hiding toxic weapons... Fabius made the comments during a visit to Washington where he discussed the crises in Syria and Ukraine with his American counterpart John Kerry.

"Fabius said the Assad government had handed over 92 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile under an international agreement overseen by the watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. But France believed the Assad government was hiding some of the stockpiles and the reports involving chlorine gas attacks indicated he still had the ability to produce chemical weapons." More here.

 

 

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.