Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: What Bob Gates thought; The Taliban might have killed Bergdahl; Was there a cash exchange?; SF-ers suffer in silence; Breedlove remembers D-Day and the Picauvillais; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Bob Gates has been noticeably absent from the commentary on the decision to release Bergdahl - unlike others, he has not weighed in. It's not clear what Gates would have done today as Defense Secretary if he sat in that seat today, but his past views give a hint. A former senior defense official confirmed to Situation Report that Gates opposed such a deal when he was secretary, in part because of his "fundamental belief" that the U.S. shouldn't negotiate with terrorists or hostage-takers.

"At the end of the day, he just does not believe in negotiating with terrorists," the former senior official told Situation Report. "When the prospect of doing a deal with Bergdahl was raised in the past, he was opposed to it," the official said. And while the U.S. has long thought that reconciliation with the Taliban was the likeliest way to end the war in Afghanistan, Gates always believed that such wars always will end based on negotiations in which the U.S. negotiates "from a position of strength."

Meantime, the administration told senators it didn't notify Congress about the prisoners swap because of intelligence that the Taliban might kill Bergdahl if the deal was made public. As the administration scrambles to defend widening criticism of the Bergdahl deal and why it didn't notify Congress of what it would do with the detainees at Gitmo in advance, it said yesterday that not only was Bergdahl's condition worsening - he might also have been killed. The AP's Ken Dilanian and Deb Riechmann: "...That fear - not just the stated concerns that Bergdahl's health might be failing - drove the administration to quickly make the deal to rescue him, bypassing the law that lawmakers be notified when detainees are released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, congressional and administration officials said Thursday. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. Since Bergdahl's release on Saturday, administration officials including President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice have said publicly that the key reason for the secret prisoner swap was evidence that Bergdahl's physical health was deteriorating after five years in captivity. But on Wednesday night, administration officials told senators in a closed session that the primary concern was the death risk if the deal collapsed." More here.

Eventually, Bergdahl will meet the press, and what he says could make matters far worse for the White House. FP's Harris, Groll, Hudson and Lubold: "Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is receiving medical treatment at a military hospital in Germany after five years in captivity with the Taliban. So far, his parents have been speaking on his behalf. But eventually -- and perhaps soon -- Bergdahl will speak for himself, and depending on what he says, the former prisoner of war will either give the White House a badly needed public relations boost or dig it an even deeper hole.

"Bergdahl could easily come forth and thank his rescuers, stress his relief at being back in the United States, and then say he's prepared to cooperate with the coming military inquiry into the circumstances of his capture that Pentagon officials have promised because of persistent rumors that he deserted his base before falling into Taliban hands. But there's good reason for the White House to fret that Bergdahl might wind up saying something else entirely -- sympathize with the Taliban or even mildly criticize the war -- and that his comments, which would attract enormous media attention, would make it even harder for the administration to justify the prisoner swap." More here.

Bergdahl remains at the U.S. military's medical facility in Landstuhl, Germany and continues to recover after his release over the weekend. Pentagon officials said Thursday that he remains in stable condition and his doctors believe his health has been improving daily. "Sergeant Bergdahl is conversing with medical staff and becoming more engaged in his treatment care plan," Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told Situation Report. "He is getting better and showing signs of improvement."

Bergdahl, who has yet to speak with his parents, Robert and Jani, remains in what the military terms "phase two" of his reintegration from captivity, which can last between a few days and a few weeks or more. There's no way yet to know when Bergdahl would be released from the facility in Germany. Ultimately, he'll be transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where he would be expected to reunite with his family and begin the "third phase" of his reintegration treatment. Six years ago, three American civilians rescued from the Colombian jungle after years of captivity with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, spent several weeks at Brooke after they were rescued.

Was there more to the deal than just the five detainees? Rep. Duncan Hunter wants more answers from McRaven, Brennan and Comey. Hunter, the California Republican, suspects that there might be more to the Bergdahl-for-five-detainee swap, that a payment might have also been made, and wants answers. The White House has said any such notion is "completely false," and indeed it sounds far-fetched. But as the onion is peeled back on the deal, there remains a question about what the Haqqani network got out of it. In a letter Hunter sent yesterday to SOCOM's McCraven, the CIA's Brennan and the FBI's Comey and obtained exclusively late yesterday by Situation Report: "...As you know, Bergdahl, throughout his five years in captivity, was in the custody of the Haqqani network, even though the Taliban, due to its relationship with Haqqani, negotiated Bergdahl's release. It is my understanding that a transfer occurred that possibly included payment to Haqqani from the Taliban for the receipt of Bergdahl."

FYI: As it becomes clearer that Bergdahl deserted his unit - and in fact had wondered off before - here's a look at the number of troops who have gone AWOL - Absent Without Official Leave - or deserted over the years. Keep in mind that troops don't typically desert from a warzone. Nonetheless, in 2012, there were 466; in 2011, 548; in 2010, 625; in 2009, 647; in 2008, 1,513; in 2007, 1,571; in 2006, 1,575; in 2005, 948; in 2004, 1,866; in 2003,  1,295; in 2002, 1,698; and in 2001, there were 1,898 troops who went AWOL or deserted their unit. All told between 2001 and 2012 - 14,650 people.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report, where anniversaries are usually not a big deal. But think for a minute that 70 years ago today, in a far-off place, American troops engaged in what today would be astonishing. From the Army's D-Day Website, to help us remember: "On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, "we will accept nothing less than full victory." More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day's end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolph Hitler's crack troops." More on that here. More on D-Day, including a speech by Gen. Phil Breedlove, below.

And, ICYMI, FP's Shane Harris had this great exclusive yesterday on an American lawyer's discovery of evidence of one of WWII's most notorious war crimes. It's a great read, here.

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.

Sen. John McCain, on the compromise legislation to cut wait times for veterans seeking medical care while also holding officials accountable for systemic problems at the VA. McCain in a statement: "This legislation empowers our veterans with more flexibility to choose the health care they've earned while bringing much-needed accountability to VA operations, including the ability to immediately fire poor-performing employees with no pay during the appeals process. Compromise can be difficult, but addressing the most pressing challenges raised by this crisis in veterans' care requires it." More here.

From Sanders' office: "Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today reached a bipartisan agreement to improve veterans' access to health care and address serious problems facing the Department of Veterans Affairs. ‘While this is not the bill that I would have written, we have taken a significant step forward with this agreement,' said Sanders. At a time when VA medical facilities in parts of the country have waiting lists that are too long, this legislation would give veterans access to  private doctors, community health centers, Department of Defense medical facilities and facilities funded by the Indian Health Service. The bill would provide for the immediate firing of incompetent high-level officials but also includes an expedited appeals process to prevent the new authority from being abused for political purposes or other reasons." More here.

And from IAVA: "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America today praised Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle for their bipartisan work on addressing critical access issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Earlier, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of two combat veterans in the Senate, announced a bipartisan deal that would address access and care issues for veterans within the VA system." More here.

Change your Outlook's auto-fill: IAVA's Zach Goldberg is leaving today for a new, "outstanding opportunity." He'll be replaced by Gretchen Andersen, who Zach said this morning has been "working like crazy and doing a terrific job." Good luck to Zach and thanks for all his help.

McCain accuses the NYT of purposely editing his words to misrepresent his position on the Bergdahl exchange. From McCain's office last night: "In an editorial published this evening and apparently set to run in tomorrow's paper, The New York Times purposely edits Senator McCain's statement from a February 2014 CNN interview to omit the phrase "obviously I'd have to know the details" to make it appear - falsely - that he expressed unqualified support for a prisoner exchange involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and five Taliban leaders. More here.

Keeping it in the family: Special Forces' troops are all the more hesitant to get help and yet are all the more likely to need it. As the U.S. military seeks to rely more and more on U.S. Special Forces to conduct precision strikes, rescues and other operations around the world in lieu of larger scale deployments, the NYT today looks at a growing problem within the ranks. The NYT's Thom Shanker and Richard Oppel on Page One: "After his fourth combat tour, to Afghanistan in 2011, Sgt. First Class Michael B. Lube, a proud member of the Army Special Forces, came home alienated and angry. Once a rock-solid sergeant and devoted husband, he became sullen, took to drinking, got in trouble with his commanders and started beating his wife.

'He would put this mask on, but behind it was a shattered version of the man I knew,' said his wife, Susan Ullman. She begged him to get help, but he refused, telling her: 'I'll lose my security clearance. I'll get thrown out.' When she quietly reached out to his superior officers for guidance, she said, she was told: 'Keep it in the family. Deal with it.'

"And so he did. Last summer, just days after his 36th birthday, Sergeant Lube put on his Green Beret uniform and scribbled a note, saying, "I'm so goddamn tired of holding it together." Then he placed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. To a growing number of medical experts and the Special Operations Command itself, suicides by soldiers like Sergeant Lube tell a troubling story about the toll of war on the nation's elite troops... for all their well-known resilience, an emerging body of research suggests that Special Operations forces have experienced, often in silence, significant traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Both conditions have been linked in research to depression and, sometimes, suicidal behavior.

"Absent other data, suicide has emerged as the clearest indicator of the problem: In the past two and a half years, 49 Special Operations members have killed themselves, more than in the preceding five years. While suicides for the rest of the active-duty military have started to decline, after years of steady increases, they have risen for the nation's commandos."

Dr. Geoffrey Ling, a leading brain-trauma expert at DARPA: "The numbers are shocking." More here.

Fighting Joe Dunford was picked to be the next Marine Corps commandant yesterday. Everyone knew this would happen, it just wasn't clear when since he already has a job - in Afghanistan. But now that the White House's post-2014 plans are out there, and Afghanistan is close to having a new president, it's time to bring him home. Dunford, who used to be the Marine Corps' No. 2, is thought to be able to slide right into the top job without much of a learning curve. Then, if the stars align, pun intended, he may move to the Pentagon's E-Ring on the second deck - as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Gen. Marty Dempsey retires in a year. We'll see. Marine Corps Times' Hope Hodge Seck: "...While Dunford has avoided stirring controversy on some of the pressing legal and political issues, he did help to oversee the launch of integrated infantry training for female Marine officers during his time as assistant commandant, in keeping with a mandate from the secretary of Defense. He also worked to ensure alcohol-abuse treatment for Marines charged with DUIs and issued orders cracking down on hazing and targeting ‘high-risk behavior' in Marine units in order to shore up unit cohesion."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Dunford: "I am delighted that President Obama accepted my recommendation to nominate General Joe Dunford to serve as the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Joe is an extraordinary leader who has always been faithful to his country and his Marines during more than 35 years in uniform.  The President and I have greatly relied on Joe's steady leadership as the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan... No one is better suited to write the next chapter in Marine Corps history than Joe Dunford, and I look forward to working with him in his new role upon his confirmation by the U.S. Senate."

Marine Corps commandant Gen. Jim Amos in a statement on Dunford: "‘...Joe is one of the most knowledgeable and talented leaders and thinkers in the military today. He has commanded and excelled at every level... His tenure as commander of [ISAF] and U.S. Forces - Afghanistan over the past 18 months has been extraordinary, and is testament to the full measure of the man.'" More here.

Hagel, still in Europe, says the U.S. will beef up its presence in the Black Sea after the Crimea crisis. Reuters' David Brunnstrom in Romania: "The United States will strengthen its presence in the Black Sea region using part of a $1 billion fund promised to NATO allies on Russia's borders, and will continue to send warships to the area, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Romania on Thursday. Hagel is the latest high-ranking American official to visit Europe since Russia's annexation of Crimea, as Washington looks to reassure allies jittery about Moscow's intentions in its former Cold War backyard. The tour coincides with a visit by President Barack Obama to Poland this week, when he promised to increase military support for eastern European NATO members, including a $1 billion fund to support and train the armed forces of NATO states. Formerly a secretive Communist state, Romania is now a member both of NATO and the European Union. Bucharest has been among the staunchest supporters of Western sanctions against Russia, has hosted joint military exercises with U.S. forces on its soil and participated in navy drills in the Black Sea." More here.

Next Wednesday is the eighth annual CNAS national security conference. It'll include: Michèle Flournoy, Julie Smith, Judy Woodruff, Wolfgang Ischinger, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Ben FitzGerald, William J. Lynn III, Admiral James Stavridis, General James E. Cartwright, Roger Zakheim, Dr. Patrick Cronin, Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, Dr. David F. Gordon, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Vikram J. Singh, General James D. Thurman, Ambassador Susan Rice, Phillip Carter, Shawn Brimley, Paul Scharre, Dr. Colin Kahl, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Stephen J. Hadley, Dennis Ross and Richard Fontaine. More here.

And at the CNAS conference, the Pentagon's former No. 2, Bill Lynn, and former Supreme Allied Commander Jim Stavridis will launch a new report on the massive changes coming to the defense industry thanks to globalization, here.

The Pentagon lays out the challenge posed by China's growing military might. The WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum: "China's rapidly growing military spending is paving the way for the country to expand its sphere of influence and challenge the U.S. across the globe, the Pentagon said, in a report laying out challenges facing America as it steps up involvement in Asia. While U.S. military spending is in decline, China is spending billions of dollars to develop stealth fighters, cyberweaponry, armed drones and a growing naval fleet that has repeatedly squared off with its Asian neighbors, according to the Defense Department's annual report to Congress.
"Release of the report comes days after top Chinese and U.S. military officials clashed at an Asian security forum in Singapore. During the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit, a top Chinese official warned that U.S. actions in Asia were threatening to transform China into an adversary. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China of taking ‘destabilizing, unilateral actions' against its neighbors in the region. The tensions have clouded efforts by political leaders to create stronger ties as Washington increases its military and political involvement in Asia." More here.

Reading Pincus: Federal prosecutors have made strong arguments about why they need the testimony of New York Times reporter James Risen in the criminal trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey A. Sterling, here.

Obama, with Europe's support, sets an ultimatum for Putin. The NYT's Peter Baker: "With the backing of other world leaders, President Obama effectively set a one-month deadline for Moscow to reverse its intervention in Ukraine and help quash a pro-Russian separatist uprising or else he said it would face international sanctions far more severe than anything it had endured so far. Mr. Obama and other leaders of seven major democracies meeting here demanded that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia recognize and negotiate directly with the newly elected leader of Ukraine, stop the flow of fighters and arms across the border and press separatists to disarm, relinquish seized public buildings and join talks with the central authorities in Kiev."

Obama said alongside Cameron: "...Russia continues to have a responsibility to convince them to end their violence, lay down their weapons and enter into a dialogue with the Ukrainian government... On the other hand, if Russia's provocations continue, it's clear from our discussions here that the G-7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russia." More here.

The U.S. Directorate of Defense Trade Controls just issued its first debarment for a foreign individual today, for Carlos Dominguez and his affiliated companies. From a State Department official to Situation Report: "The U.S. Department of State has issued an order administratively debarring Carlos Dominguez and his associated companies from participating in any defense trade activities as a result of 366 violations of the Arms Export Controls (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). This administrative debarment is the Department's first ever administrative proceeding against a foreign individual.  These actions are in response to 1) the unauthorized re-export and retransfer of hundreds of night vision devices and related technical data, and 2) for conspiracy to, and causing of, the re-export and retransfer of defense articles without authorization, among other charges. While the Department's review indicated no direct harm to U.S. foreign policy or national security occurred, this incident highlights the range of potential penalties that may be imposed by the Department for ITAR violations, including those committed by foreign individuals and entities." More here.

Why the memory of the liberation of Europe is still a battlefield. FP's Robert Zaretsky: "War is politics by other means and so is its commemoration. World leaders will gather on the beaches of Normandy on June 6 to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and they will bring their political and historic baggage with them. Though the Battle of Normandy is over, the war over its significance continues and the day's events will represent the latest in a long series of conflicts over the ever-shifting meaning of one of the most decisive days in modern European history. Among the presidents, prime ministers, and chancellors in attendance, only the group's lone constitutional monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is old enough to remember the war. The other leaders will probably experience a certain kind of nostalgia for an age when choices were clear and wars were good. But clarity and goodness are as much inventions of each nation's postwar narrative as they were part of the actual past." More here.

World leaders and dignitaries will gather to honor the more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian and other Allied D-Day veterans who risked and gave their lives to defeat Hitler. The AP's Greg Keller in Colleville-Sur-Mer, France: "Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy this week, including some of the few remaining survivors of the largest sea-borne invasion ever mounted... For many visitors, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, with its 9,387 white marble tombstones on a bluff overlooking the site of the battle's bloodiest fighting at Omaha Beach, is the emotional centerpiece of pilgrimages to honor the tens of thousands of men killed on D-Day and the months of fighting afterward. D-Day veteran Clair Martin, 93, said he's come back to Omaha Beach three times in the last 70 years - ‘four if you count the time they were shooting at me.'" More here.

European Command Commander and Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Phil Breedlove spoke at Picauville at Normandy yesterday. He said, in part: "...The determination of this community to retain the memory of the American soldiers and pilots who fought for their liberty is evident in the face of every person I have met from Picauville today, and your commitment is beautifully embodied in this monument. I am most impressed by the way you have included your children into the ceremony.  It is evident you are passing on the responsibility to remember, and respect, the actions of the brave young men and women who contributed to the success of the greatest endeavor ever undertaken in the name of liberty. From the blood spilled on this ground a proud legacy has grown.  Those men saved our way of life.  They defeated tyranny.  They ensured the existence of our society.

"We honor their memory by recognizing how far we have come as a community and continuing to move forward together, striving for a Europe whole, free, and at peace... May God bless you... may God bless the souls of those whose final resting place is in and around Picauville... and may God bless the peoples of our nations.

Thank you and Merci Beaucoup."

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Over Bergdahl, a White House on the defense; Dunford outlines post 2014 Afg plans; Iraqis take their first F-16 today; New humanitarian aid for Syria; The FP story of a 70-year-old war crime – exclusive!; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The special Senate briefing last night didn't satisfy Republicans, not in the least. The Obama administration held a special closed door hearing yesterday evening in an attempt to head off the increasing acrimony over its secretive decision to swap five detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. But it's clear thus far that the briefing - that we first reported yesterday - didn't sway too many folks. But some of the Republicans' views today don't square with their views of the past. FP's John Hudson: "... far from pacifying GOP critics, Republicans said they are even more skeptical and still upset about not being told the deal was imminent.

Who the administration sent: "Lawmakers heard from Anthony Blinken, the deputy national security advisor, Bob Work, the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, and Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others. They showed the lawmakers a ‘proof-of-life' video from December that the administration relied upon to determine that Bergdahl's health was declining. (The Taliban provided the video to the administration before finalizing the deal)."

What the Dems are saying: "Although criticism from Capitol Hill Democrats is growing, most remain in sync with the White House. On Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada chastised Republicans for their rapidly evolving views on the importance of rescuing Bergdahl from the Taliban." More here.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen did an interview with the BBC's Martha Kearney. Some former senior officials have weighed in on the Bergdahl swap, others haven't. Those who have hint at the changing circumstances - from then to now - that gave the White House the room to make the deal today even if it didn't have the room to make it before. Mullen didn't say all that, but he did acknowledge that it was important to bring Bergdahl home. Mullen to the BBC: "The most important thing is that we didn't leave him behind and that's a sacred promise that America has to its people. And as a priority that's at the top of the list." More here.

The video of the Bergdahl transfer doesn't look like the movies, and there's definitely no dramatic musical score. But watch it here.

Hagel said it's unfair to pass judgment on Bergdahl right now. Those who believe in the deal - and count most speaking publicly for the administration right now, naturally - suggest that it's impossible to make a judgment about an American being held captive, and that the standard must be to leave no man behind - and then deal with that individual later on. But to make a decision about a fundamental American military principle based on that soldier's reputation is a slippery slope that doesn't uphold the principle, they say. The AP's Lolita Baldor in Brussels: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday it is unfair to the family of released captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to leap to conclusions about his behavior in uniform. ‘We don't do that in the United States,' Hagel told reporters at a NATO defense ministers meeting. ‘We rely on facts.' Hagel said the Army will review the circumstances surrounding how Bergdahl left his unit and was captured by the Taliban, and added, ‘It's not my place as a former sergeant in the Army to decide who's worthy of being a sergeant and who isn't.'... Asked whether men had died in the efforts to rescue Bergdahl, Hagel said, ‘I don't know of any circumstances or details of U.S. soldiers dying as a result of efforts to get Bergdahl.'" More here.

Some Republicans urged the WH to ‘do all it can' to get Bergdahl back before they were against it. The HuffPo's Amanda Terkel and Sam Stein: "As soon as President Barack Obama told the nation Saturday evening that America's only prisoner of war in Afghanistan had been rescued, Republican lawmakers and pundits began criticizing the administration on how it handled the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte on the Bergdahl deal: "With 29 percent of former Guantanamo detainees having reengaged or being suspected of reengaging in terrorism, the administration's decision to release these five terrorist detainees endangers U.S. national security interests... It also sets a precedent that could encourage our enemies to capture more Americans in order to gain concessions from our government."

A May 22 press release from Ayotte: "As part of ongoing efforts to urge the Department of Defense to do all it can to find Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and bring him home safely, Senator Ayotte worked successfully to include a provision in the bill that presses Pakistan to fully cooperate in the search for SGT Bergdahl."

Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts appears to have deleted several statements on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from his various social media accounts.  Andrew Kaczynski for Buzzfeed, here.

Good enough to pirate directly from Mike Allen's Playbook this morning: "'Jake Tapper Calls Out John McCain's Changing Views On Bowe Bergdahl,' by HuffPost's Jack Mirkinson: "Tapper played footage of McCain decrying the deal to exchange five Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, who was being held in Afghanistan. He then said, 'Senator McCain in February sounded very different when asked by Anderson Cooper about a deal very much like this.' Cut to new video of McCain saying that an exchange was something he would 'seriously consider' and be open to if it meant that Bergdahl would be returned to America." Watch it here.

And here's what some senators who spoke to the NYT's Michael Shear and Jeremy Peters last night said after the briefing:
"Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia,
exited the briefing visibly angry and said he left with more questions than answers. ‘I think we can all agree we're not dealing with a war hero here,' he said.

"Senator Ayotte said she remained concerned about what she called the five ‘high risk detainees. ‘I'm not satisfied with their ability to prevent them from re-engaging in the fight,' she said. ‘I think that is one of the things that worries me most.'

"Senator Mark S. Kirk, Republican of Illinois, said senators pressed the briefers - top officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff - on whether Mr. Bergdahl deserted in 2009. But the senator said they gave no answer.

Senator John Hoeven, Republican of North Dakota: "‘...They expressed concerns for his safety, no question about that'... although he added that officials did not say the threat to Sergeant Bergdahl was ‘imminent.'" 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 is in Romania... Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is in Normandy and will speak at Utah Beach this evening... Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos continues his trip in the UK... Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert is in France today for meetings with his French counterpart and will this evening join sailors from the USS Oscar Austin and veterans to lay a wreath at the U.S. Navy memorial at Utah Beach; Greenert will also join military leaders tomorrow to participate in the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

So this American lawyer found new evidence about one of World War II's most notorious war crimes - seven decades after D-Day. Check out FP's own Shane Harris with this exclusive story, just posted this morning: "...Three years ago, [McCay Smith, a lawyer with the Justice Department's National Security Division] obtained a copy of a once-secret 'escape and evasion report,' in which one Lt. Raymond Murphy describes in precise detail how he bailed out of his flaming B-17 bomber over Avord, France, on April 28, 1944, and survived for the next four months behind enemy lines before making his way to England.

"Murphy had been part of a mission to attack a German-held airfield less than six weeks ahead of the D-Day landing at Normandy, which marks its 70th anniversary this Friday. Amid the harrowing stories of the airman's hard parachute landing, his efforts to avoid capture by German soldiers, and his exploits with French Resistance fighters, Smith spotted two barely legible lines, handwritten in pencil, at the end of the neatly typed document: 'About 3 weeks ago, I saw a town within 4 hours bicycle ride up the Gerbeau farm where some 500 men, women, and children had been murdered by the Germans. I saw one baby who had been crucified.'

"Smith, a self-made World War II historian with an outsized passion for document research, concluded that based on Murphy's description of the scene and his location at the time, the young airman had seen the aftermath of a notorious massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane, a town in west-central France. On June 10, 1944, four days after the Allied landing at Normandy, a unit of the Waffen-SS, the Nazi Party military wing, descended on the village and killed 642 men, women, and children. It was one of the largest mass murders of French civilians during the German occupation, and an act of retribution against the townspeople for their perceived assistance to the French Resistance and the invading American forces." Read the rest of this tale here.

The Iraqis are pumped about the delivery of their first F-16 today in Texas. The flow of hardware to the Iraqis is underway and in addition to the Apache attack helicopters they've been getting, the Iraqis are also taking ownership today of their first F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter. It's a momentous occasion for the Iraqi government as it eyes a variety of equipment in the U.S. military showroom. The F-16, which will remain in Texas until later this summer, marks the beginning of the Iraqis having the capability to defend their own border, protect their own airspace and help them to conduct their own counterinsurgency operations. It'll be the first time the Iraqis have had the capability since before the Kuwait invasion. They'll have three planes by September, and by next year they're expected to take delivery of 18 planes, and another 18 by 2016.

Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily to Situation Report in a late night interview last night: "It's a significant juncture for us... I think it's complimentary capabilities with the Apaches will provide us with air superiority... This to us is a small step to provide us with some comfort."

Meantime, the U.S. is angry at France for defying it and going through with the sale of a warship to Russia. The WSJ's Stacy Meichtry: "France is preparing to train hundreds of Russian seamen to operate a powerful French-made warship this month, defying calls from the U.S. and other Western allies to keep the vessel out of the Kremlin's hands, people familiar with the matter say. More than 400 Russian sailors are scheduled to arrive on June 22 in the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire to undergo months of instruction before piloting the first of two Mistral-class carriers back to Russia in the fall, said one of these people. The training is a pivotal step that deepens France's commitment to fulfilling the $1.6 billion contract to supply Russia with the carriers, which are built to launch amphibious attacks." More here.

In Brussels, Joe Dunford described Obama's plans for Afghanistan. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung, from Brussels: "President Obama's plan to remove all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 "is not a zero option .?.?. not a withdrawal plan," the commander of U.S. and international forces there said Wednesday. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said the plan he expects to implement, following Obama's announcement last week, is a "transition" that bears no resemblance to the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Under the plan, nearly 14,000 U.S., NATO and other international troops will remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat forces at the end of this year. Components of that number, according to a senior U.S. military official, include 12,000 conventional troops made up of about 8,000 from the United States and 4,000 from NATO members and others who will train and advise Afghan security forces.

"To reach Obama's announced total of 9,800, the United States will also deploy a counterterrorism force of about 1,800, according to the official. The figures are the first approximate breakdown of the U.S. forces. 'The president's decision" on overall troop strength 'for us starts the detailed planning for the [counterterrorism] mission,' the military official said." More here.

Criticism over the U.S. troop withdrawal emerges from beyond the G.O.P. - there are worries that the schedule is too rigid and too compressed. The NYT's Michael Gordon here.

Billions worth of equipment will be left in Afghanistan, a country with a legacy of foreign invasion. U.S. News & World Report's Paul Shinkman: "About half of the U.S. military vehicles still in Afghanistan - worth billions of dollars - aren't coming home, and instead will be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by 2016, officials say. An even higher percentage of the rest of the remaining equipment also will be scrapped or left behind." More here.

At the White House, Sloan Gibson, the new acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, said the VA has reached out to all the Phoenix-area veterans. Stripes' Travis Tritten: "Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said Wednesday his department has contacted all 1,700 veterans caught up in a hospital wait-list scandal in Phoenix and is working to immediately eliminate long treatment delays nationwide. Gibson met with veteran groups and spoke publicly for the first time since taking over from retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, who resigned Friday over widespread scheduling abuses at VA hospitals and clinics that have been blamed for 40 veteran deaths in Arizona. But even as Gibson offered reassurances, new details emerged that VA health care facilities in the Midwest also kept 10 off-the-books waiting lists - with two being acknowledged as a health threat to patients." More here.

Obama's ‘don't do stupid shit' foreign policy is far from the audacity of hope. FP's David Rothkopf: "According to multiple reliable sources, on Air Force One during President Barack Obama's recent Asia trip, he spent some time talking with his traveling press corps about his approach to foreign policy. He was defensive and, by one account, ‘fuming.' He felt that the criticism of his approach was unfair. He had clear ideas about how to manage America's global interests. In his own words, they centered on a single concept: ‘Don't do stupid shit.'

"...How far we have come from the audacity of hope; yes, we can; the soaring expectations framed by the brilliant oratory of the president's Cairo speech on relations with the Muslim world; his Prague speech on eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide; and his Oslo speech when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, ‘don't do stupid shit' is a comedown even from his expectation-lowering remarks in the Philippines on that same Asia trip in which he limned his vision for a foreign policy that consisted mostly of ‘singles' and ‘doubles.'" More here.

Who's zoomin' who? When the government official asks the think tanker for advice - who is influencing who? Brookings' Jeremy Shapiro on the Up Front blog: "...Having been on both sides of the table for these exchanges, I have some sense of what all of this pomp and circumstance mean. It is not what it seems, but it is nonetheless important and does have a role in the policy process. The idea of this meeting is not to bring outside ideas into the government. To the senior government official, an outside idea-even a good one-is like a diamond ring on a desert island: abstractly valuable but practically useless. Regardless of his vaunted status, he feels in his daily existence penned in on every side by political and resource considerations that outsiders simply refuse to acknowledge. As he nods appreciatively and appears to hang on every word the thinkers spout, he is, in fact, hiding his tired familiarity with all of their arguments and his deep-seeded belief that every idea he hears is either politically impossible or already being attempted (or both)." More here.

The United States announces additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian crisis. From the State Dept. Press Office: "Secretary of State John Kerry announced today the United States is providing more than $290 million in additional U.S. humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the war in Syria.  With this additional funding, total U.S. humanitarian assistance since the start of the crisis will reach more than $2 billion, helping over 4.7 million people inside Syria, more than 2.8 million refugees in the region, as well as host communities in the neighboring countries affected by the crisis. The United States remains committed to delivering humanitarian assistance through all available channels - including UN, international, non-governmental, and local humanitarian organizations -  to get aid to those in need in Syria, no matter where they reside or have sought refuge." More here.

The Big Zero: Kerry weighs in on Syria's elections. The WaPo's Liz Sly in Beirut: "On a rare, unannounced visit to Lebanon, Secretary of State John F. Kerry declared the election 'meaningless' and said it would have no impact on U.S. policy. 'The elections are non-elections. A great big zero,' he said, noting that many areas of the country did not vote, because they are under rebel control, and that meaningful opposition contenders were not allowed to participate. 'Nothing has changed between the day before the election and after,' he added." More here.

The results of a test of the GMD interceptor could affect the schedule for deployment of 14 additional interceptors. Defense News' Paul McLeary: "The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency is planning to conduct a new test launch of its troubled Ground Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor before the end of June, almost a year after the last failed launch of the controversial program. The ultimate success or failure of that test could have huge implications for when the US might deploy 14 more ground-based interceptors to protect the country against the threat of long-range missile attack from a foreign power. During a panel discussion sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Wednesday, the head of the Missile Defense Policy office at the Pentagon, Peppino DeBiaso, would only say the test would happen ‘shortly,' though other defense officials have already confirmed the test would happen in June." More here.