National Security

FP's Situation Report: Is military justice going soft?; Obama stands by Shinseki but makes no new friends; ISR crewmembers to Chad; Obama's terrorism strategy stalls; Sessions to Comey: stop encouraging the kids to smoke weed, and a bit more.

The Thai Army acknowledges that a coup just happened. The NYT's Thomas Fuller this morning in Bangkok: "The Thai military on Thursday launched a coup, declaring that it was 'necessary to seize power.' The head of the Thai Army, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, made the announcement on television flanked by senior military officers. The Thai news media reported that political officers who were attending a meeting called by the military had been detained. The coup came after the introduction of martial law on Tuesday and follows a long history of coups in Thailand. Mr. Prayuth said the coup was launched 'in order to bring the situation back to normal quickly.' The coup, he said, was intended to 'reform the political structure, the economy and the society.'

"The last coup in Thailand was in 2006 and had been followed by more than a year of military rule. Thousands of protesters were on the streets when Mr. Prayuth made his announcement." More here.

A terror attack in the Chinese city of Urumqi, and some reports are saying there are as many as 30 dead. From the BBC this hour: "Officials have said a 'violent terrorist incident' in the Chinese city of Urumqi has left more than 30 people dead. Access for reporters to the restive Xinjiang region is difficult but eyewitness testimony has been emerging." More here.

AP: "...Urumqi was the scene of a railway station bomb attack late last month that killed three people, including two attackers, and injured 79. Security in the city has been significantly tightened since the attack, which took place as Chinese leader Xi Jinping was concluding a visit to the region. The station attack and other violence have been blamed on radicals from among the region's native Turkic Uighur Muslim population seeking to overthrow Chinese rule in the region." More here.

Meantime, is there evidence yet that Russian troops have left the border region near Ukraine? We were told this by a defense official just this hour: "It's Groundhog Day - yes, we've seen some movement, but not the kind of which would lead us to believe there is a wholesale exodus of a large amount of forces underway.  Still too early to tell, and until we see empty fields where once were tents, tanks and personnel carriers we remain cautiously optimistic."

11 Ukrainian troops dead, 30 more wounded by rebels. AP earlier this morning: "Three days before Ukraine holds a presidential vote, pro-Russia insurgents attacked a military checkpoint Thursday in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 11 troops and wounding 30 others in the deadliest raid yet in weeks of fighting." More here.

 Welcome to Thursday'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 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will receive the 2014 Intrepid Freedom Award tonight at 7pm at the 23rd Annual Salute to Freedom Awards, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86 in New York... Secretary Mabus is also in New York today for Fleet Week.  He was on MSNBC's Morning Joe, at 7:20 this morning, and will participate in a Fleet Week event at Gracie Mansion in the City with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Tonight Mabus will be on Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert... Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno returns to Washington today. Odierno was at Fort Bliss, Texas this week, then Fort Gordon, Ga., then Tampa, Fla., where he spoke at a military gala event... Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert is at the Naval Academy this morning to jiong Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller as the reviewing officer and the guest of honor at the annual Color Parade, returning to the Pentagon later today for regular meetings.

Obama stands by his man at the VA - and makes no new friends. FP's Lubold: "President Obama attempted to calm the storm quickly enveloping his handling of a growing Veterans Affairs scandal, laying out a logical approach to getting to the bottom of what has gone wrong - seeking reviews, promising to hold individual staffers accountable, and ordering the department's head, the embattled Eric Shinseki, to give him an initial report next week. The one thing he didn't do was fire Shinseki or anyone else, and that no heads are rolling means he did little to quiet administration critics - and may have instead created new ones.
"The president on Wednesday defended Shinseki, a retired four-star general who has led the VA since 2009, as a ‘great soldier' who would lead the review into the crisis pertaining to allegations of falsified records and ‘cooking the books,' as Obama said, at a number of VA healthcare centers. Obama ordered Shinseki to return to him next week with preliminary results of the review of the problem and vowed punishment would come ‘once we know the facts.'
"But Obama dodged questions about whether Shinseki should resign or had offered to.
"‘Nobody cares about our veterans more than Ric Shinseki,' Obama said in his first press conference devoted to the VA scandal -- which centers around allegations that 40 veterans died at a hospital in Phoenix while waiting for care - since it first exploded late last month.
"...But Obama's dutiful respect for the investigatory process on the records scandal is seen by some critics as being overly focused on the issue at hand, and not the broader one that has frustrated critics for several years. And his remarks Wednesday did little to stop the calls for Shinseki to step down or for Obama himself to take ownership of a problem he made a feature of in his 2008 campaign.
"Now the Democratic dam supporting Shinseki may be beginning to burst. Two Democratic lawmakers from Georgia, first John Barrow and then David Scott, called for Shinseki to resign after hearing Obama speak."

"... And Norton Schwartz, the retired four-star general and former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said Shinseki is "no slouch" and will not be timid in making changes if the allegations about false records are found to be true. "My view knowing him as I do is that he is a man of high ethics and standards, and I can only imagine that he is just pained by this because he is also a man of obligation," Schwartz said in an interview.

Removing Shinseki might be the wrong thing to do at this point, he said. It could be hard for the White House to find a new VA chief in its second term, and changing horses midstream could do more damage than good.

"The dilemma here is, do you want a symbolic action or one that gives you the best opportunity for a remedy," he said. "I'm inclined to do the latter."

"And to Sen. Mark Begich, the Democrat from Alaska on the Veterans Affairs Committee, it's not so much whether firing Shinseki would send a strong signal about how seriously the administration is taking the issue. There's only one way to do that, he said.

"Fix the problem." More here.

Shinseki pulls the performance bonus for the senior official at the Phoenix VA who is under investigation. The WSJ's Ben Kesling: "... Secretary Eric Shinseki rescinded a performance bonus of approximately $9,000 that had been given to the director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Sharon Helman, according to a VA spokesman. Mr. Shinseki placed Ms. Helman on administrative leave on May 1, along with two other employees, pending the results of a review of the hospital by the agency's acting inspector general, the VA said... Ms. Helman received the bonus on top of her nearly $170,000 salary in 2013, according to a database of federal employee data. As a senior executive service employee, among the highest ranking in the executive branch, Ms. Helman's bonus wasn't unusual. Senior executive contracts typically include provisions for performance pay." More here.

Is military justice going soft? Military Times' Pentagon Bureau Chief Andrew Tilghman with a special report: "With all the concerns in Washington these days about misconduct in the ranks, one might think the military justice system is swamped with unruly troops and commanders looking to crack down on them. In fact, it's just the opposite. Across the force, the military is meting out far less punishment today than just a few years ago. It's a hard-to-explain trend that has many military justice experts wondering whether commanders have lowered expectations for keeping troops in line - or simply gone soft on some forms of misconduct.
"...Many legal experts say the across-the-board drop in punishments coming at the tail end of two long wars reflects a philosophical change in the way the military handles misconduct in the ranks, especially low-level misconduct. As commanders have grown frustrated with the time and resources required to press a full-blown court-martial, they are now more likely to simply kick troops out of the service quickly and efficiently through administrative channels.
"In effect, minor misconduct - a positive drug test, unauthorized absence, cheating or insubordination - that in the 1990s might have led to a summary court-martial or official nonjudicial punishment is now often handled with an administrative separation board, which means fewer lawyers, less paperwork and a quicker resolution.
"‘Since 9/11, there is just not as much time to spend on the low-level troublemakers,' said Cmdr. Aaron Rugh, director of the Navy's trial counsel assistance program." More here.

Obama terrorism strategy, to include use of force rules and drone policies, stall. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung on Page One this morning: "...But many of the changes Obama outlined have proved easier said than done, including new rules governing the use of force abroad, increased public information on and congressional oversight of lethal attacks with drones, and efforts to move the CIA out of the killing business. Some initiatives have become mired in internal debates, while others have taken a back seat to other pressing issues and perceived new terrorism dangers. Congress, while demanding faster change in some areas, has resisted movement in others. In a Senate hearing Wednesday, irate lawmakers criticized senior administration officials over the lack of follow-up with one of the strategy's principal goals: Obama had said he was looking forward to "engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine and ultimately repeal" the nearly 13-year-old congressional authorization to use force against those individuals, groups and nations responsible for the 9/11 attacks." More here.

The U.S. sends troops to Chad to aid the hunt for the Nigerian schoolgirls. The NYT's Eric Schmitt: "The United States has sent 80 troops to Chad in Central Africa to support a growing international effort in neighboring Nigeria to help find and rescue the schoolgirls who were abducted by an Islamist extremist group last month, the White House said on Wednesday. The American military personnel are not ground troops. They are mostly Air Force crew members, maintenance specialists and security officers for unarmed Predator surveillance drones that will help search for the more than 260 Nigerian girls seized by the group, Boko Haram.

‘These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,' the White House said in a statement formally notifying Congress about the deployment.

"...On Monday, the Pentagon announced an agreement that would allow the United States to share some intelligence, including aerial imagery, with Nigerian officials, but not raw intelligence data. American officials are wary of sharing too much because they believe that Boko Haram has infiltrated the Nigerian security services." More here.

A U.S. plan to train Libyan troops never got off the ground. Military Times' Jeff Schogol: "As Libya transitions from anarchy to civil war, a plan for U.S. soldiers to train Libyan troops remains on the drawing board. Since Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in 2011, Libya has been at the mercy of militias, which have spent much of their time fighting each other. The Libyan government - such as it is - has been unable to reign in the armed groups. Media outlets reported last year that the U.S. government was considering training Libyan troops for the Libyan central government. Then the Associated Press reported in March that a small team of soldiers would soon go to Tripoli to begin selecting 5,000 and 8,000 Libyans to be trained by about 500 U.S. soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division. Two months later, the effort to train a Libyan military force has yet to move beyond the realm of the theoretical." More here.

Libyan general lays out a road map for Libya, but it's unclear what he really wants. The AP's Esam Mohamed and Bradley Klapper: "Gen. Khalifa Hifter has been waiting decades for his moment. A top general under Moammar Gadhafi, he was tainted by a disastrous defeat in a war against neighboring Chad. Exiled in the United States, he helped lead the opposition and vowed to return one day. Since Gadhafi's 2011 ouster he has struggled for a role, distrusted by other generals. Now his time may have come. He is presenting himself as Libya's potential savior after nearly two years of chaos in which unruly militias are exercising power over elected officials and assassinating dozens of soldiers and police. In less than a week since Hifter surfaced, supporters flocked to his self-professed campaign to crush Islamist militias and their backers in parliament and to bring stability to the country. But there are fears his ultimate goal is to make himself into a new Gadhafi, and his democratic credentials are far from established.

"... Laying out a road map for transitional period, Hifter called for the country's top judicial authorities to form a new presidential council to take over power until holding new parliamentary elections. In a televised statement late Wednesday Hifter appeared in a military uniform and surrounded by military officers accused the current Islamist-dominated parliament of turning Libya to a state ‘sponsoring terrorism' and a ‘hideout to terrorists' who infiltrated the joints of the state, wasted its resources and controlled its decision making. He asserted that the military wants the ‘continuation of political life' and stressed that the new council is a ‘civilian' one in an apparent attempt to defuse fears of militarizing the state." More here.

Deborah Peter, a native of the Nigerian town where the schoolgirls were recently abducted, testified before the HFAC yesterday. The WSJ's Michael Crittenden: "After shooting her father and brother in front of her, Boko Haram militants placed Deborah Peter between the corpses, threatening to kill her if she wasn't quiet. It was a day before the Nigerian army came to bring her to a hospital. Ms. Peter, a native of the Nigerian town where nearly 300 schoolgirls were recently abducted by the militant group, told U.S. House lawmakers on Wednesday that she later learned that Boko Haram later decided it should have killed her. The world ‘needs to know how horrible' the group is, she said in written testimony recounting the December 2011 attacks in her home." More here.

Comey says the FBI isn't stopping after this week's cyber ruling on China. FP's Shane Harris: "FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday called the work of Chinese military officials accused of hacking into the computers of American corporations and a labor union ‘burglary,' and promised the bureau would keep up its efforts to bring more accused cyber spies to justice. Comey stopped short of announcing any new indictments, but he said that the FBI was aggressively pursuing investigations against other criminal hackers and that he wants to send agents overseas to work directly with foreign governments on more cyber espionage cases in other countries... In announcing the indictments this week, a Justice Department official said the Chinese spying had led directly to the loss of American jobs." More here.

Duuuude! Senator Sessions tells Comey to stop encouraging the kids to smoke weed. FP's Shane Harris with the Click Bait, here.

Why is the U.S. spying in the Bahamas? The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf: "After all we've learned from the Edward Snowden leaks, it is impossible to be surprised by The Intercept's report that the NSA is ‘secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.' ... Our approach in the Bahamas has an arrogance similar to imperialism. ‘The U.S. intelligence community routinely justifies its massive spying efforts by citing the threats to national security posed by global terrorism and unpredictable rival nations like Russia and Iran,' The Intercept notes. ‘But the NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate 'international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers'-traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.'" More here.

A new comic book biography of fugitive Edward Snowden hit the shelves yesterday.  Read a six-page preview here.

Congress won't let the Air Force get rid of it's A-10s. The WaPo's David Ignatius in his column: "One of Washington's recurring idiocies is the way members of the congressional armed services committees, who profess to revere the U.S. military, insist on imposing their own judgments to preserve outmoded systems the military wants to cut.

"The latest example of this military pork-barrel phenomenon is the House Armed Services Committee's campaign to stop the Air Force from retiring the aged fleet of A-10 'Warthog' ground support plane, whose most recent models were built 30 years ago. Cutting the A-10s would save $4.2 billion over the next five years, allowing the Air Force to invest in systems that can protect America in the future." More here.

Taliban attacks across Afghanistan kill 21 people. AP's Rahim Faiez: "Taliban fighters launched attacks in several Afghan provinces on Wednesday, killing at least 10 policemen and three civilians, officials said. Villagers also found the bodies of eight slain policemen who were abducted by militants two weeks ago. The violence comes as the Islamic militant group has launched its annual spring offensive promising to step up attacks against Afghan security forces in a bid to undermine the Western-backed government as foreign combat troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year. The Taliban also have pledged to disrupt voting as Afghans prepare for a second round of presidential elections on June 14. The first round was relatively peaceful, but no candidate won a majority forcing a runoff vote between the top two vote-getters - Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai."

Yale's Harold Koh and the NYT's Charlie Savage talk with Human Rights First's Heather Hurlburt on the winding down of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.  Livestream and deets here.

The Pakistani military says it killed 60 militants. The NYT's Salman Masood and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud: "The Pakistani military said it killed at least 60 militants, and injured at least 30, in aerial raids on terrorist hide-outs across the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border early Wednesday. Local residents, however, said the dead included women and children. The strikes were carried out in retaliation for recent attacks by the Taliban and came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the chief of the army, Gen. Raheel Sharif, met to review the security challenges facing the country." More here.

The Pentagon is on the move on climate change.  From Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development Daniel Y. Chiu's Senate testimony yesterday: "... To ensure DoD is adequately prepared to accomplish our missions, we need to consider all aspects of the global security environment and plan appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments in both the near- and longer-terms... The effects of climate change ­ such as sea-level rise, shifting climate zones, and more severe weather events ­ will have an impact on our bases and installations at home and overseas; on the operating environment for our troops, ships, and aircraft; and on the global security environment itself as climate change affects other countries around the world."

"...The longer-term impacts of climate change may alter, limit, or constrain the environments in which our military will be operating. For example, sea level rise may impact the execution of amphibious landings; changing temperatures and lengthened seasons could impact timing windows for operations; and increased frequency of extreme weather could impact assumptions about flight conditions that could affect intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities." More here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: The White House wakes up to VA troubles; As Republicans played politics, Libya burned; Hagel needs to make nice with the House; Will Robert Irvine open a restaurant in the Pentagon?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The White House seems to be caught flat-footed, again, over the heat it's taken over the V.A.'s troubles. The NYT's Michael Shear and Jonathan Weisman on Page One this morning: "The White House fought on Tuesday to contain the growing political furor over allegations of misconduct at the nation's veterans hospitals as Republicans, eager to use the issue in the midterm elections, seized on the reports as new evidence that President Obama is unable to govern effectively.

"...So far, White House officials have waved aside calls for Mr. Shinseki to resign in much the same way they rejected calls for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, over the botched health care rollout. Mr. Carney said Monday that the president still has confidence in Mr. Shinseki."

"...As a candidate for president, Mr. Obama denounced delays and poor care for veterans at hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and vowed that his administration would address the backlogs and greatly improve care. He pledged in a 2008 campaign speech to build 'a 21st-century V.A.' and to confront what he called 'the broken bureaucracy of the V.A.'

"But more than five years into his presidency, Mr. Obama has again found himself exposed to political danger by a bureaucracy that seems beyond his immediate control. In responding to the allegations of delays at veterans hospitals, the Obama White House has embraced what has become a familiar public relations pattern in dealing with political crises: Administration officials declare their outrage as they urge patience while an investigation is completed." More here.

Cold Calculations: How the VA determines "the true cost of war." The WaPo's Greg Jaffe, on Page One this morning: "... War can be a series of cold calculations: the distance a bullet travels, the blast radius of a bomb, the number of minutes it takes to reach a soldier bleeding out on the battlefield. For wounded troops leaving the military, there is one more: the price paid for a broken body, a missing limb, a lost eye, a damaged brain.

"The longest stretch of fighting in American history is producing disability claims at rates that surpass those of any of the country's previous wars. Nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing for these benefits when they leave the military - a flood of claims that has overwhelmed the VA and generated a backlog of 300,000 cases stuck in processing for more than 125 days. Some have languished for more than a year.

"'We're not where we need to be,' President Obama has said of the glut, which peaked last year at 611,000 claims. 'But we're making progress.' The backlog has become one of several issues that have drawn the ire of veterans and lawmakers, leading to calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. How do you solve a problem that has been called a 'national embarrassment,' 'a mess,' and yet another instance of Washington 'bureaucracy run amok'? If the backlog is going to be fixed, the solution will come one soldier at a time in small offices such as this one at Walter Reed." Big piece, here.

Defense One's Stephanie Gaskell, on why Shinseki appears to be refusing more authority to fire employees, here.

On the VA, Jon Stewart fishes in a barrel. Jon Stewart, this week, reacting to Shinseki's recent stone-faced, devoid-of-emotion I'm-mad-as-hell remark: "Your ‘mad as hell' face looks a lot like your ‘Oh, we're out of orange juice' face."

Stewart, con't, coming in for the kill: "That wake up call was seven years ago, but for some reason we keep hitting the [bleep] snooze button. Here's what disgusts me: somehow, we as a country were able to ship 300,000 troops halfway across the world in just a few months to fight a war that cost us $2 trillion dollars... yet for some reason, it takes longer than that to get someone hurt in that war needed medical care or reimbursement, all while we profess undying love for their service... [clips of Obama and other senior officials saying they love the troops, etc.]...

"so it's clear love and respect ain't getting the job done, so there's really only one way to put our government's full resources behind anything. If we really want to improve the life for these veterans, I'm afraid we have to declare war on them. [laughter]... Congress, write a blank check to fund Operation Enduring Wait List: A War on Error." Because if you want Americans to feel shock and awe, go fix this [bleep] thing."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Russian troops are apparently preparing to leave the Ukraine border region. Reuters this morning: "Russian troops that took part in military exercises in three provinces bordering Ukraine have dismantled equipment and are moving to train stations and airfields for return to their permanent bases, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday. The Kremlin said on Monday that Putin had told his defense chief to order troops back to their bases after drills in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk regions, but NATO and the United States say they have seen no signs of a withdrawal.

"A ministry statement said the units in question had spent 24 hours dismantling field camps, packing and preparing military vehicles and were now "moving toward train stations and airfields" to return to their bases, RIA news agency reported." More here.

Have Russian troops moved away from the Ukraine border? There are no such signs as of yet, we're told. In fact, a defense official tells us this morning in response to our question: "The usual Sgt. Schultz line." Meaning, "I see nothing!" Hogan's Heroes youtube clip here.

Who's Where When today - Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will deliver remarks at Freedom Night, a celebration of Poland's 223rd Constitution Day and 25th anniversary of transition to freedom and democracy, at the residence of Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf, Poland's ambassador to the United States... Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos will attend the Tribute to Military Families Gala tonight at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington.

Playing House: Does Hagel need to play nicer with Congress? Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio and Roxana Tiron: "After almost 15 months on the job, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has failed to build a strong relationship with the House panel that funds the Pentagon, according to its chairman. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, the New Jersey Republican who heads the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said he's had only infrequent contact with Hagel, a former Republican senator and fellow Vietnam War veteran, since taking over the panel in November. ‘I don't find it an ego thing,' Frelinghuysen, who's sat on the panel since 1999, said in an interview. ‘If one committee controlled your entire budget, I think you might make some effort to build up personal relationships. I think it is a no-brainer.'"

But the Dems are a little more understanding: "...While Representative Jim Moran of Virginia, a Democrat who serves on the House panel, said Hagel has ‘an awful lot on his desk to deal with,' he also said, ‘I do think it would probably be a good idea to reach out a little.' ‘If Rodney is concerned, it is a legitimate concern,' Moran said. ‘I think the world of Chuck too. I know Secretary Hagel is doing a great job, so if there is a way for him to strengthen his ties with the legislative branch, I think it would only be to his benefit.'"

"Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which authorizes defense programs, said ‘I am not one of the people who complained' about Hagel. ‘I think he's got a very good relationship with the Congress.'" More here.

But Hagel stands behind his budget. Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby to reporters yesterday: "He... knows that this debate is just now beginning. This is the beginning of it, certainly not the end, and there's lots more discussion to happen. He stands firmly behind the tough decisions that were made in that budget proposal, decisions that he believes are necessary to preserve our military edge in a very difficult fiscal environment."

While Republicans played politics, Libya was imploding. Now the Pentagon is readying an embassy evacuation, and the country may be beyond salvation. FP's John Hudson: "This week, scandal-hungry Republicans worked to establish the ninth congressional committee investigation into the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. But the real scandal in Libya may be the one playing out in real-time as the country descends into the bloodiest bout of chaos since the civil war that led to the ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Libyan authorities, to put it bluntly, have lost control of their country.

"A revolt by a rogue general against Libya's Islamist groups has pitted the nation's vast constellation of militias against one another, with civilians increasingly caught in the crossfire. The country's neighbors and partners are frantic: Over the weekend, Algerian forces dropped into the capital city Tripoli to exfiltrate their ambassador and later closed all border crossings with Libya; Tunisia amassed 5,000 troops at the Libyan border; and the U.S. Defense Department doubled the number of aircraft on standby in Italy and deployed hundreds of Marines to Sicily in case they needed to abruptly evacuate the embassy, a decision that could come at literally any moment." More here.

The Pentagon said yesterday there are about 250 Marines on Sicily, and about seven MV-22 Ospreys and three C-130s as part of the Marine "air-to-ground task force." They are there "as a precaution," Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters yesterday at the Pentagon, "to be able to be in a posture and in a location that should they be needed in North Africa, specifically, yes, specifically Libya, that they would be -- that they would be ready to do so." But, Kirby said, there have been no request for military operations or assistance in Libya.

"The new normal." Kirby, yesterday to reporters, regarding Libya: "...I mean this is part of what we consider the new normal. You know, one of the things that we learned from Benghazi was the need to have an agile footprint, you know, that you can -- that you can move quickly to address just these kinds of issues in North Africa.

An election is set for June in a bid to ease the crisis in Libya. The AP's Esam Mohamed: "Libya's election commission set new parliamentary elections for next month, trying on Tuesday to find a peaceful resolution to a crisis triggered by a renegade general's efforts to crush Islamist militias and his demand that the Islamist-led legislature disband for allegedly supporting extremism. The announcement of a nationwide June 25 vote came after the parliament met in what lawmakers had hoped would be a secret location. A missile was fired at the hotel where the session was taking place, causing panic but no injuries." More here.

Two explosions kill scores at a market in central Nigeria. The NYT's Adam Nossiter: "Two powerful explosions killed scores of people, many of them female vendors, in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday afternoon, officials and witnesses said. While no one claimed responsibility for the bombing, it occurred as international attention has focused on the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram following the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls last month and may have been a bloody act of defiance. The blasts shattered a bustling market area as working people were doing afternoon grocery shopping. With rescue operations still underway in a chaotic, smoky tangle of blasted stalls and body parts, the police commissioner confirmed that at least 46 were killed and 45 wounded in the explosions. Other news reports put the death toll at more than 100. ‘That place is a commercial nerve center,' said Salis Muhammad Abdul Salam, who saw the blasts from his office nearby. ‘There were more women casualties.'

"...An Islamist militant attack on Jos could have particularly dire consequences as it has been a flash point of Christian-Muslim tensions for years. The sprawling city lies at the edge of the Muslim-majority northern half of the country. Already on Tuesday evening, there were reports of reprisal attacks in Jos." More here.

The Pentagon said yesterday there have been no new requests for assistance in Nigeria. Kirby said the surveillance aircraft looking for the schoolgirls is only unmanned - the CIA's manned craft - an MC-12 Beechrcraft - has been taken out of the mission for now for maintenance. That leaves just the unmanned aircraft operational.

What does Boko Haram want? Newsweek's Janine di Giovanni: "...So what is behind the snatching of the girls? How can such horrific behavior be explained? What has Islam got to do with such a despicable crime? And what can be done to prevent such an incident from becoming a regular feature of life in countries where Islam is on the march? When I began my journey back in 2002, it had been three years since Sharia law was introduced by individual northern Nigerian states, and along with it hudud punishments-stoning and amputation-in an attempt to end corruption and bring justice to ordinary citizens. But what I saw in northern Nigeria had little to do with justice. Up and down the red, unpaved roads, in and out of villages, shanties and urban centers, a suffocating sensation of fear pervaded everything. By that point, in the north there had been three amputations and four people sentenced to death by stoning, and 11 children were waiting to have a limb amputated for petty theft."

U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie to CNN and quoted in the Newsweek piece: "One of the root causes for the horror of these girls being kidnapped is the culture of impunity... The perpetrators believe they can get away with it. And if they do get away with this, with the world watching, then it sends a message to others that they too can commit similar attacks." More here.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will convene a hearing on Boko Haram at 9:45 a.m. today. Find the deets here.

The Obama White House will release the drone memo. The NYT's Ashley Parker: "Facing the potential defeat of an appeals court nominee, the Obama administration decided Tuesday to publicly release much of a classified memo written by the nominee that signed off on the targeted killing an American accused of being a terrorist. The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. made the call to release the secret memo - and not appeal a court order requiring its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act - and informed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. of his decision this week, according to two administration officials. The White House was informed Tuesday. But the memo will not be released right away because officials said they needed time to redact it and to prepare an appeal asking the court not to reveal classified sections of a federal appears court ruling last month requiring that most of the memo be made public." More here.

China is playing the waiting game with Russia on that huge energy deal, and could leave Putin at the altar. Keith Johnson for FP: "Everybody from financial analysts to the Russian government expected Moscow and Beijing to finally ink a massive, $400 billion energy pact Tuesday that's been in the works for nearly two decades. But it didn't happen, with the first day of Russian President Vladimir Putin's much-touted trip to China ending not with a bang but a whimper. After weeks of Russian insistence that the landmark energy deal was virtually in hand, including Putin's own comments just before jetting off to Shanghai, the two sides failed to clinch the deal Tuesday. That was a shock, a blow to Putin's objectives, and a reminder of how much China has the upper hand when it comes to gas deals with Europe's biggest gas supplier.

"Indeed, the failure of Russian and Chinese negotiators to strike the deal on the first day of a two-day trip stems from the issue that has bedeviled them for years: price. Russia still wants to charge roughly the same, high rates it charges customers in Europe, which average about $12 per million British Thermal Units, a standard measurement of gas volumes. But China only wants to pay what it already pays for gas piped in from Central Asia, which costs about $10 per million Btus. Over the expected, 30-year life of the contract, such a difference translates into at least a $60 billion difference between what the seller wants and what the buyer is willing to pay." More here.

The NYT's Robert Mackey reports on six Iranians who were arrested for posting their own cover of Pharrell's ‘Happy,' here.

Obama officials target Russians, not over Ukraine, but over the 2009 death of a Russian lawyer. FP's Jamila Trindle: "The Obama administration added more Russian names to a U.S. blacklist Tuesday, risking a further deterioration in Washington's already troubled relationship with Moscow. The trigger wasn't the high-profile standoff over the future of eastern Ukraine, however. This time around the hard-hitting measures came in response to the mysterious 2009 death of a Russian lawyer-turned-whistleblower. The U.S. added 12 people -- including doctors, prison officials and a judge -- to a list of Russian human rights abusers for their alleged roles in the deaths of Sergei Magnitsky and two other Kremlin critics. Magnitsky, the highest profile victim, was arrested after trying to bring to light a wide-ranging tax fraud and died in prison after authorities allegedly denied him urgently needed medical care. The new U.S. move -- which freezes the assets and denies visas to virtually everyone involved in Magnitsky's arrest, trial and medical treatment -- came in response to lobbying by powerful lawmakers who see the case as part of a broader pattern of abuse in Vladimir Putin's Russia." More here.

The Hague Institute for Global Justice's Tom Buitelaar's post on what might be done in South Sudan, here.

A Marine who apparently fell out of an Osprey is found dead in North Carolina. CNN's Ralph Ellis: " Nobody knows how the Marine happened to fall out of the MV-22B Osprey on Monday, 1st Lt. Hector Alejandro, media officer for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina, told CNN on Tuesday. The aircraft had taken part in a training exercise at the airport in Elizabethtown, Bradley Kinlaw, Bladen County emergency management director, told CNN affiliate WECT. A crew member noticed the Marine missing about half a mile past White Lake, WECT reported. Alejandro said Marines in Ospreys are always supposed to be secured, either by seat belts or tether cables. He didn't know how the missing Marine was secured." More here.

The RUMINT (that's rumor-based intelligence) is that celebrity chef Robert Irvine will open a restaurant IN the Pentagon, which could USE it! There's been wide speculation - we mean wide - that Irvine, a former Royal Navy seaman, was going to open a restaurant inside the Pentagon. This is probably because Irvine himself tweeted that he would open a restaurant in the Pentagon (tip o' the hat to AP's Sagar Meghani, who spotted the tweet, and the natural curiosity of the rest of the Pentagon's AP team, Lita Baldor and Bob Burns, all of whom normally focus on more serious topics).

Irvine tweeted two days ago: "On the road again headed to DC this morning for meetings. we are opening a restaurant in the Pentagon yea awesome.. Have a great day folks," adding a smiley face.

Naturally, that fed speculation that Irvine was either opening a restaurant near the Pentagon - perhaps in Pentagon City - or just maybe, he meant what he said. Defense One's Stephanie Gaskell got into it, tweeting back to Irvine. The response she got, apparently from an Irvine minion who tweets for him, appeared to confirm that the restaurateur and workout artist will indeed open a restaurant in the Pentagon. "@sgaskell yes he is later this year where the market basket is now, they are moving."

Defense News Marcus Weisgerber, during yesterday's press briefing, asked Rear Adm. John Kirby what he knew about it. Kirby: "Well, listen, as a guy who spends 12 to 14 hours a day here, I welcome a new place to eat. No, I was not aware of that. Do you want me to get back to you on that on the record? Because I could do that. Are you serious? You want me to do that? Okay. I'll do it. You're going to have to give me his name again. What's the name?"

Who is Robert Irvine? We didn't know either. His official Web site, here.

Stay tuned for further confirmation/non-confirmation of Irvine opening up a restaurant at the Pentagon.