Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Video emerges of a chlorine attack in Syria; The coup in Thailand; DOD wants drone disclosure; On Colbert, Bush's memo to Obama on the VA; Everything you need to know about Irvine's new restaurant in the Pgon; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

In Thailand, it's a coup.  Reuters' David Brunnstrom and Arshad Mohammed: "The military takeover in Thailand drew swift international condemnation on Thursday, with the United States saying it was reviewing its military aid and other dealings with its closest ally in Southeast Asia. Thailand's army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, seized control of the government two days after he declared martial law, saying the military had to restore order and push through reforms after six months of turmoil. The military declared a curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., suspended the constitution and detained some politicians. Rival protest camps were ordered to disperse."

Kerry said bluntly yesterday: "‘There is no justification for this military coup... This act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military. We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.'

And, joint US-Thai military exercises are in question: "...The Pentagon said it was reviewing its military cooperation, including an ongoing joint exercise in Thailand involving some 700 U.S. Marines and sailors. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that as much as about $10 million in annual bilateral aid could be cut. For the fiscal year beginning October 1, the White House has asked Congress to give Thailand $5 million in development aid, $1.9 million for anti-drug and law enforcement programs, $2.1 million for military training and $900,000 for arms sales. Only funds going to the government would be affected, not those for non-governmental groups and democracy promotion." More here.

It's the second coup in a decade, but this one looks different. The NYT's Thomas Fuller: "...The coup was at least the 12th military takeover since Thailand abandoned the absolute monarchy in 1932. But unlike many previous coups, which involved infighting among generals, Thursday's military takeover had as a subtext the political awakening among rural Thais who have loyally supported Mr. Thaksin and benefited from patronage and policies such as universal health care and microloans. Critics of Mr. Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon who lives in self-imposed exile abroad, say he also took corruption to a new level.
"...The military and Bangkok establishment now face the question of either retaining the power gained from the coup or returning the country to democracy - with the likelihood that Mr. Thaksin and his proven political machine would again return to power in elections. The coup in 2006 unseated Mr. Thaksin, but his backers came back to win at the polls, leading to his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, becoming prime minister in 2011." More here.

The strange elite politics behind the coup. FP's Elias Groll: "...The current political stand-off centers on the enduring political divide between the country's elite and a political movement led by the Shinawatra clan and with its powerbase in rural areas. Shinawatra's populist political movement has redistributed power in Thailand away from the elite networks that dominate the capital, and this has made the country's army officers, judges, monarchists, and bureaucrats profoundly worried. The only problem is that Bangkok's elites are completely incapable of cobbling together an electoral coalition capable of winning a national election." More here.

Meantime in Syria, opposition activists have posted a video of what they say is chlorine gas - the first such footage of what they say is a chemical weapon campaign by Assad. Reuters this hour: "...The village of Kfar Zeita, in the central province of Hama 125 miles north of Damascus, has been the epicenter of what activists and medics call a two-month-old assault in which chlorine gas canisters have been dropped out of helicopters. Damascus denies that forces loyal to Assad have used chlorine or other more poisonous gases and blames all chemical attacks on rebels fighting them in a three-year-old uprising." More here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report - have a spectacularly great long weekend, see you Tuesday. 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 give the commencement address at the graduation and commissioning ceremony at the United States Naval Academy at 10 a.m... Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and Commandant Gen. Jim Amos will also attend the graduation... Tomorrow, Greenert will head to Japan and Korea for the week to meet with counterparts and talk to sailors across the fleet... Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno will be at the GI Film Festival tonight in Old Town Alexandria, Va., where they are honoring the late actor James Gandolfini for his work on film and in documentaries on veterans and the military. Odierno is expected to be joined by Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee, and the actor Gary Sinise, who is active in the military community.

At the Academy today, Hagel will speak to midshipmen about leadership, specifically small unit leadership and about the expectations young sailors and Marines harbor of their junior officers. He'll talk about the "importance of personal connections, understanding and humility" - and, we're told, he'll talk about the importance of accountability. An excerpt of what Hagel will say: "We're all accountable. From new recruits to four-star admirals and generals, from second lieutenants to the Secretary of Defense, we all have to step up and take action when we see something that hurts our people and our values."

Want to watch the Academy graduation? Click here at 10 a.m. this morning.

Wanna see Ray Mabus on Colbert last night? Watch it here.

Jon Stewart isn't the only one riffing on the VA. Colbert last night highlighted a memo the Bush White House provided to the incoming Obama administration in 2009 that described the problems veterans were having obtaining timely healthcare. Colbert: "There was a memo. It warned them. Bush even personalized it [cut to shot of doctored memo with Bush 43's handwritten note scrawled across the bottom, Colbert reads]: "p.s. VA totally f-ed up. See ya, wouldn't wannna be ya! Smiley face." More here.

Sen. Bernie Sanders defended Shinseki "without pause" and said he should keep his job. Defense One's Kevin Baron this morning, here.

The U.S. military pushes for more disclosure on drone strikes in an effort to counter criticism.  The WSJ's Julian Barnes and Siobhan Gorman on Page One: "Top military officials are pressing for permission to publicly defend American drone strikes against criticism in the U.S. and abroad, defense officials said. The issue has come to a head after the military concluded last year that long-standing U.S. secrecy surrounding drone operations has bolstered support for al Qaeda in places like Yemen. In coming days, a proposal calling for more transparency, beginning with Yemen, is set to be presented to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, according to senior defense officials. If Mr. Hagel approves the policy, it would be sent to the White House National Security Council.

"...Any significant U.S. policy shift would need to take into account the views of allies. While the Yemeni government has grown more open to discussing the drone program and its partnership with the U.S., defense officials said, other regional allies prefer to avoid attention to their cooperation with the U.S. Officials have yet to decide what kind of information or documentation would be provided on future drone strikes." More here.

Meantime, some Russian troops step back off the border with Ukraine but NATO says a big force remains.  Reuters' Thomas Grove and Adrian Croft: "Russia said on Thursday it was moving troops and military equipment from border regions near Ukraine, but NATO said a large ‘coercive force' remained in place. A withdrawal of forces from the border regions could ease tensions before Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday, which the United States and EU hope will strengthen the embattled central government.
"...A NATO general said on Thursday that Russia was moving troops, though he said the size of the movement was unclear and that forces near the border remained a potential threat. ‘The force that remains on the border is very large and it's very capable and remains in a very coercive posture,' U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told a news conference. NATO had previously put the number of Russian troops on the border at 40,000 but Breedlove said it was too early to classify their current size.
"Russia's defense ministry said on Thursday 15 transport planes and 20 trains carrying personnel and military equipment had been moved out of the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk provinces bordering Ukraine after completing military exercises there. It did not say how many troops were being moved or how many were staying behind." More here.

Meanwhile, violence and doubts about credibility loom as Sunday's election in Ukraine approaches. The NYT's Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew Roth: "...As Ukraine hurtles toward a presidential election on Sunday, the first national vote since an uprising toppled the elected government this year, Ukraine's troubled east has emerged as the most serious risk to the vote and the country's future. A new burst of violence, some of the worst in months, left at least 16 Ukrainian soldiers dead on Thursday, giving new life to what had appeared to be a waning conflict just three days before the critical vote, which Western governments hope will lift the country out of violent upheaval into the relative safety of politics." More here.

NSA reform passed in the House yesterday. FP's John Hudson: "On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the most comprehensive reform legislation of U.S. intelligence activities in a decade after a series of last-minute concessions by privacy advocates and civil libertarians. The USA Freedom Act, which passed in a 303-121 vote, limits the National Security Agency's ability to collect the communications data of Americans en masse. It also adds transparency and oversight safeguards to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the judicial body that oversees the NSA's surveillance activities... But some early backers of the bill in Congress and the civil liberties community questioned how the NSA in practice might interpret the law, and they withdrew their support for the bill." More here.

The Obama administration is drawing a line between stealing the secrets of companies and nations. FP's Shane Harris: "...On Thursday, the Justice Department's top national security official launched a new front in that rhetorical campaign and sought to draw a bright line between the kind of spying the United States does on foreign corporations and the spying that foreign countries do on U.S. firms.

"John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for the department's National Security Division, said alleged espionage by five Chinese military officials against American companies and a labor union is an act of criminal ‘theft' meant to give Chinese companies an unfair advantage over their American competitors. And unlike nations spying on each other for strategic or national security purposes, which Carlin defended, economic espionage meant to benefit one company or industry over another is something that governments know to be so far over that line that none are willing to defend it, he argued." More here.

The House has its own ideas for Hagel's Pentagon budget. FP's Lubold: "House lawmakers from both parties voted Thursday for a $601 billion defense budget that amounts to a wholesale rejection of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's proposed Pentagon budget, setting up what will likely be months of heated sparring over military benefits and the future of an array of big-ticket weapons programs."
A look at what's inside: "The House budget bill would provide $496 for the Defense Department's baseline budget, another $79 billion for Afghanistan and other war operations and another $18 billion for energy programs, but the 325-98 vote restores funding to a number of programs, for the A-10 Warthog close air support plane, for example, and the U-2 spy plane that first began flying during the Cold War. It also provides more funding for troop pay, housing, healthcare and other programs that the Pentagon had sought, under its own proposal, to reduce. The House version of the budget passed Thursday also restored funding for the Navy's Ticonderoga-class cruisers and other programs the Pentagon said it didn't need.
The House and the Pentagon disagree over what needs to be cut: "Although the budget bill the House passed meets Congressionally-mandated budget caps, it requires the Pentagon to fund certain programs that it had planned to cut. As a result, the Pentagon will now have to find additional savings, perhaps in acquisition and other troop ‘readiness' programs, to keep the baseline budget at the $496 billion limit. Top generals routinely warn that such cuts could leave the military ill-prepared to fight an unexpected conflict in a place like Yemen or Syria." More here.

CFR's Micah Zenko for FP, ten things about the forever war that have hardly budged at all by, here.

Take a look at this immersive look at Arlington National Cemetery, featuring lots of video and photos, an interactive map, and a handful of cinemagraphs by the Military Times' Mike Morones. From the intro: "Among the rows of headstones blanketing Arlington's rolling hills, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates sees one common theme. ‘There is a continuity of sacrifice of generation after generation doing their part to protect our country, to hold it together and to protect our people,' he says. ‘... I think it's this sense of historical longevity and the fact of, because of its size, because of its location, it's the one great military cemetery where all Americans can identify with patriotism and with sacrifice.' ??

"Since the first military burial here May 13, 1864, Arlington National Cemetery has become the final resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their families. Those who on Sept. 11, 2001, died only a few hundred yards away at the Pentagon are buried here, as are the Challenger astronauts. Fifteen thousand soldiers from the Civil War - Union and Confederate - rest in Section 27 and Section 13, known as the Field of the Dead. Four thousand freed slaves, many identified only as ‘Citizen,' and two presidents also are buried at Arlington. ??

"Up to 30 burials are conducted at Arlington every weekday. Mercifully, the number of casualties from America's most recent wars is dwindling, but the pace of operations - about 7,000 burials per year - remains steady as veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam pass away." Find it here.

After 35 years in uniform Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger says he will explain where the U.S.'s war strategy failed. TIME's Mark Thompson: "... recently retired Army lieutenant general Daniel Bolger, who played key roles in Afghanistan and Iraq in his 35-year career, wasn't coy when it came time to titling his upcoming book Why We Lost... There was a belief in some quarters of the U.S. government that Washington and its allies were going to remake that troubled part of the world. ‘Don't be so arrogant and think you're going to reshape the Middle East,' Bolger says. ‘We've basically installed authoritarian dictators.' The U.S. wanted to keep about 10,000 troops in Iraq post-2011 (the two sides couldn't agree on legal protections for U.S. troops, so none remain) and a similar sized force is being debated for Afghanistan once the U.S. combat role formally ends at the end of 2014. ‘You could have gone to that plan in 2002 in Afghanistan, and 2003 or '04 in Iraq, and you wouldn't have had an outcome much worse than what we've had,' Bolger says." More here. Buy the book here.

Bob Gates is kind, clean and reverent. And now the proud Eagle Scout is the head of the Boy Scouts: But will Gates, who oversaw the preliminary lifting of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the military, open the BSA to gay leaders? The NYT's Timothy Williams: "...Mr. Gates, an Eagle Scout, had been serving as the Boy Scouts' president-elect since his approval by the national executive board in October. On Thursday, he was formally elected by the organization's national council at its annual meeting in Nashville. Mr. Gates is taking the helm of an organization that has experienced a decline in membership for years as it seeks new ways to compete for attention in a culture far removed from the one Mr. Gates grew up in during the 1950s in Wichita, Kan.

Bob Gates, in a statement: "The Boy Scouts of America had a profound influence on my childhood and helped form the foundation of my career in public service...I've had tremendous opportunities in my life, but I can say without hesitation that my memories of scouting are every bit as vivid and meaningful as what came later. I believe every boy deserves an opportunity to experience what scouting offers."

Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the gay rights organization Glaad, who said that Mr. Gates was aware of the risks of continuing to forbid gays from Boy Scout leadership roles: "If anyone knows that gay and lesbian people can strengthen an institution, it is Secretary Gates," he said. "He saw that the military was left stronger and that all the doomsday fallacies didn't come true." More here.

ICYMI - Bob Gates talked about China, Russia, Afghanistan, and lessons from his career on CFR's HBO History Makers series, here.

Jerry Boykin is in trouble again. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe: "When retired Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, the former commander of the U.S. Army's elite and secretive Delta Force, published a book in 2008, it detailed some of the Pentagon's most sensitive operations of the 20th century...Retired military personnel who write about such sensitive issues commonly submit their works to the Pentagon for advance review to ensure that they don't divulge classified information. But Boykin declined to do so, forging ahead with publication of "Never Surrender: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom."

"The Army struck back last year, quietly issuing him a scathing reprimand following a criminal investigation that concluded he had wrongfully released classified information, according to an Army document obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. More here.

Citing failures in Congress, lags at the Pentagon, the California National Guard could have new rules for assault trials. U.S. News and World Report's Paul D. Shinkman: "A new initiative in California may succeed where the federal government has so far failed in reforming military sexual assaults. The state is taking another crack at fixing what critics consider an inherent bias among military commanders forced to pass judgment against their own subordinates in these sensitive cases. California State Senate Bill 1422 would turn over some sexual assault cases involving members of its National Guard to the civilian military justice system, removing commanders from overseeing the process. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday and now awaits the State Assembly for consideration." More here.

Do you work in the Pentagon? Going to work in the Pentagon? Then you care about this: Celeb chef Robert Irvine will open a "Fresh Kitchen" casual dining eatery in the Pentagon in the winter of 2015. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren, to reporters yesterday: "We expect Mr. Irvine's restaurant will augment and improve an already impressive array of name-brand dining choices available to the 23 thousand employees that work in the Pentagon. It is expected to take the space currently occupied by the Market Basket, which will move into the space formerly occupied by the Pentagon Dining room."

Warren added to Situation Report: "The dates for construction to begin on the Fresh Kitchen concept have not yet been determined.  Design of the space is underway at present and is expected to be completed by the July/August timeframe. Once Market Basket has moved to the renovated Pentagon Dining Room space (late July/August 2014), construction on the Fresh Kitchen (former Market Basket space) will begin.  A winter 2015 opening for the Fresh Kitchen concept is expected.  Fresh Kitchen will offer both counter-service as well as table-service."

 

 

 

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.