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.
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Indulge us a little
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.