Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Germany expels an American spy; Is Chalabi the answer in Iraq?; Bergdahl all smiles with the Taliban as new photo emerges; A new narrative in post Snowden-era; State runs out of visas for Afg. interpreters; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Could Ahmed Chalabi be Iraq's next leader? The Iraqi politician, long discredited by many inside the U.S., is among those who believe they could save Iraq - even if Chalabi denies he's interested in becoming the next prime minister. But with Washington's military assistance to Baghdad so tied to its demand for a political solution, the question at this point becomes, would anyone do as long as their name wasn't Maliki? For FP, Jane Arraf with "the resurrection of Ahmed Chalabi": "To many in the West, Chalabi, 69, is still the political operator who convinced the Bush administration that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, paving the way for the U.S.-led invasion of the country. But inside an Iraq dangerously on the verge of splintering, that invasion is almost ancient history. After almost a decade of being sidelined, the man who could not win a seat in parliament in 2005 and whose name once inspired insults scrawled on Baghdad walls has emerged as a serious contender to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"Part of Chalabi's proposed reconciliation would be reviewing the cases of thousands of prisoners, most of them Sunnis, who have been arrested under sweeping anti-terrorism laws and held in jail without charge, or long past orders for their release. Chalabi says he would also appoint a judicial committee to review cases where people have been sentenced on the basis of coerced confessions.

"Then he would turn his attention to Iraq's bleeding economy and combat corruption. The former banker proposes a team of forensic auditors -- perhaps headed by the American former special inspector for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart Bowen -- to review contracts and contracting procedures in order to reduce Iraq's staggering corruption.

Chalabi, to Arraf for FP: "The facts, you see, add cumulatively to my credibility with all sections of society... These people proposing me to be prime minister -- [they are] not only among the Shiites but among the Sunnis and the Kurds." More here.

The Kurds this morning say they will no longer take part in Iraq's national government in protest against Maliki's accusation that they were harboring Islamist insurgents. Ahead of the Iraq Parliament convening on Sunday, a month earlier than planned, as pressure mounts on the Iraqis to reconcile, there are few signs that any such reconciliation is afoot. Reuters this hour: "...The Kurds said on Thursday they were cancelling their participation in cabinet meetings. Zebari told Reuters that Kurdish ministers were now suspending their day-to-day involvement the foreign, trade, migration and health ministries and the deputy premiership.

"[Kurdish minister] Zebari said the Kurds will continue to attend the parliament, elected on April 30, which is seeking to form a new government in the face of a Sunni insurgency that has seized large sections of northern and western Iraq. Maliki said on Wednesday the Kurds were allowing insurgents of the Islamic State (ISIL), an offshoot of al Qaeda, to base themselves in Arbil. Zebari said Iraq risked falling apart if a new inclusive government is not formed soon as 'the country is now divided literally into three states - 'Kurdish; a black state (ISIL) and Baghdad.' More here.

Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani should walk back his talk of a referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurds. Amir Taheri for Asharq al-Awsat: "...Why did Barzani, a seasoned politician, decide to fly that kite at this time? Cynics claim he wanted to divert attention from his seizure of Kirkuk. A Persian proverb says that if you want an adversary to accept fever, threaten him with death. Thus, Barzani is inviting Iraqis to accept the loss of Kirkuk as a lesser evil compared to secession by the Kurdish autonomous region." More here.

ICYMI - The Committee for a Secular Iraq ran a full-page open letter to the American people in the WaPo yesterday, calling for the U.S. to "bring all sides to the table to negotiate a workable future for Iraq."  Find it here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending 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, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

The German government has taken the extraordinary step of ordering the top U.S. intelligence official in the embassy in Berlin to leave the country. The expulsion of the officer means the U.S. and Germany's relationship and ability to share intelligence is dramatically diminished just as the U.S. needs to keep its friends close as it grapples with Iraq and Syria, and the move potentially doesn't bode well for U.S. relationships with its other allies. FP's Shane Harris: "...The expulsion of the official, who wasn't named, follows the revelation last week that a 31-year-old German intelligence service employee has allegedly been giving classified government files to the United States, including documents about Germany's own investigation into U.S. spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was exposed by Edward Snowden. The expulsion of the most senior American intelligence official in Germany, known as the chief of station, seems unprecedented.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official said it's a sign that trust is broken: "When they throw out the chief of station, that's a very strong indication that the Germans are ticked... It sends that message to the U.S. But it also lets Merkel send a message to the people on her left, who are outraged about the spying Snowden exposed, and to keep them under control, too." More here.

The Justice Department declines to investigate CIA review. The NYT's David Joachim: "The Justice Department has declined to pursue dueling claims by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had accused each other of criminal behavior related to the committee's investigation of the agency's interrogation practices, the department said on Thursday. 'The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation,' a spokesman, Peter Carr, said in a written statement." More here.

And speaking of intelligence, FP's Harris explores the new narrative in the post-Snowden world: "To hear some of America's top intelligence officials tell it, the damage the most famous leaker in history inflicted on U.S. spying might not be as severe as previously thought, and the storm that beset the National Security Agency when former contractor Edward Snowden exposed a trove of top-secret documents to journalists may finally be subsiding." More here.

On Day Four, there are no signs of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.  Reuters' Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Ori Lewis this morning: "Israeli air strikes on Gaza killed four more Palestinians before dawn on Friday, raising the death toll from the four day offensive to at least 85, while a Palestinian rocket hit a fuel tanker at an Israeli petrol station causing a huge blaze. Israeli leaders, determined to end Palestinian rocket attacks deep into the Jewish state, have hinted that they could order the first ground invasion of the coastal strip in five years. Some 20,000 army reservists have been mobilized. The Israeli military said it launched fresh naval and air strikes early on Friday, giving no further details." More here.

This morning's Ha'aretz editorial cautions Israel against repeating past mistakes: "...After Operation Cast Lead in early 2009, during which hundreds of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip were killed, Israel paid a heavy price in the form of international censure, which reached its peak in the Goldstone report. Israel should have learned its lesson and been as careful as possible to avoid harming civilians. But the first few days of Operation Protective Edge make us fear that Israel hasn't learned anything. The growing body count not only damages its international standing, it is first and foremost a corruption of its own moral character." More here.


The AP's Aaron Heller on how Israel's 'Iron Dome' changes the face of battle,
here.

Who's Where When today - Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon at the Pentagon for Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera at 1:45 p.m and then Hagel does a presser with him at 3:15 p.m (though they rarely start on time)... Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos participates in the change of command at I MEF, Camp Pendleton.

The Japanese Defense Minister visited Hagel's alma mater, the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Wednesday. Onodera did some homework at the school ahead of today's meeting with Hagel. Read more from Omaha.com, here.

Onodera: he'll buy more Joint Strike Fighters - if the price drops. Onodera to reporters during a visit to the Lockheed factory this week, according to Kyodo News via Global Post, July 9: '"If the unit price falls, it may be important to reconsider the number of fighters (Japan will buy)' ... He held talks with senior officials from Lockheed Martin at the factory." More here.

Meantime, the F-35 remains grounded as Hagel visits a training facility in Florida. Stars and Stripes' Jon Harper: "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed strong support for the Joint Strike Fighter program Thursday, a week after the entire F-35 fleet was grounded due to safety concerns.

Hagel to troops at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla: "I believe this aircraft is the future for our fight aircraft for our services. This is as big a project...as we have at the Department of Defense, and we've got a lot riding on this aircraft, as well as eight partners around the world who have invested in this aircraft."

"...On Thursday, Hagel said the engine inspections are complete, but investigators are still looking at the data they have collected and haven't issued any recommendations yet as to when flights can resume." More here.

Hagel, an avid swimmer, gave Onodera underwater headphones to use to swim during his first visit to Japan ­- did he bring them on the trip?

The military's top brass is less concerned about the Taliban 5 than Congress. FP's John Hudson: "Despite thunderous claims from lawmakers that the five Taliban prisoners released for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May represented the 'hardest of the hard core' -- members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hold a markedly different view of the threat posed by the former detainees. On Thursday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) released seven separate letters from the members of the nation's senior military leadership explaining their supportive opinions on the concessions the United States made to free Bergdahl, who had been held prisoner by the Haqqani network since 2009." Find the five main arguments the military offered, and the letters themselves, here.

A new Bergdahl photo is "100 percent propaganda," the Pentagon says. USA Today's Jim Michaels: "The photo of a smiling Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl posted to a Twitter account by a Taliban sympathizer is being dismissed by the Pentagon as '100% propaganda.' Bergdahl was "held up in brutal conditions for a half a decade," said Col. Steve Warren, a military spokesman. "We're glad that he is back." NBC News reported that a Taliban official said the photo was released by a Twitter account belonging to a Taliban sympathizer. Bergdahl, the Army soldier who was held captive for five years by the Taliban after leaving his base in Afghanistan, is seen with a smile standing beside a Taliban commander who has his arm around Bergdahl's shoulder. The photo could not be authenticated as depicting an actual scene that was not manipulated. The Pentagon pointed out that Bergdahl was held captive by a ruthless enemy and would have no way of preventing the Taliban from staging photographs." More here.

Could the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces wind up in as bad shape as their counterparts in Iraq? FP's Kate Brannen: "Hanging over the confirmation hearing Thursday for the next U.S. commander in Afghanistan was not the country's disputed election or its widespread corruption, both of which threaten to unravel any progress the United States has made there. Instead, Gen. John Campbell faced questions about Iraq, where, in parts of the country, militants from the Islamic State have overrun security forces trained by the United States at a cost of more than $25 billion. Now it's believed that, without help, the Iraqi security forces will be unable to retake areas seized by the Islamic State.

"But not so long ago, U.S. military officials were confident in the capabilities of the units they were training in Iraq and would update Congress and the media about the progress they were making in building those units' capacity. What members of the Senate Armed Services Committee heard Thursday morning about the Afghan military -- that it's capable and mostly responsible for the largely nonviolent elections that took place in April and June -- sounds eerily familiar. And they fear that as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, what's happening in Iraq is a preview of what could happen in Afghanistan.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.): "I watch and analyze the mistakes in Iraq, and I think many of them are going to come to pass in Afghanistan."

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): "I would suggest that one of your missions is to continue to assess the readiness and the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces, because it wasn't ISIS so much as the collapse of the Iraqi Army that led to the debacle that's currently unfolding in Iraq." More here.

Amid an election impasse in Kabul, Kerry tries to broker an election-audit deal between Abdullah and Ghani. The WSJ's Ian Talley and Nathan Hodge in Kabul: "...It is unclear how the Obama administration plans to broker a compromise. Mr. Kerry said he has contacted both candidates several times, encouraging them ‘not to raise expectations for their supporters, [and] to publicly demonstrate respect for the audit process.' Administration officials say the U.S. isn't trying pick a winner, but rather to ensure that the election is seen as legitimate so that the new government has a mandate for power.

"...Mr. Abdullah claims that as many as 2 million fraudulent ballots were cast on Mr. Ghani's behalf, out of an official tally of 8.1 million-an accusation denied by his opponent. Mr. Ghani says higher voter turnout in the second-round vote was due to more effective voter mobilization by his campaign. On the eve of Mr. Kerry's arrival, Afghan President Hamid Karzai endorsed a plan presented by the United Nations to audit 8,000 polling stations, the president's spokesman said." More here.

Afghan interpreters are in limbo at State. Interpreters who put their lives at huge risk for American personnel and are now hoping to relocate to the U.S. are in limbo as State is running out of visas to give them. The WaPo's Ernesto Londono, here.

The VA is overpaying administrative staff by millions an internal audit finds. The HuffPo's David Wood: "The scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs is systematically overpaying clerks, administrators and other support staff, according to internal audits, draining tens of millions of dollars that could be used instead to ease the VA's acute shortage of doctors and nurses. The jobs of some 13,000 VA support staff have been flagged by auditors as potentially misclassified, in many cases resulting in inflated salaries that have gone uncorrected for as long as 14 years.

"Rather than moving quickly to correct these costly errors, VA officials two years ago halted a broad internal review mandated by federal law. As a result, the overpayments continue. Moreover, in the two years since thousands of misclassified jobs were identified, hundreds of additional positions have been filled at improperly high salaries. Internal VA documents obtained by The Huffington Post show that between September 2013 and May 2014, for instance, overpayments in annual salaries for the latter jobs alone came to $24.4 million, not counting benefits." More here.

SOCOM troops could be becoming "frayed." The Hill's Martin Matishak at yesterday's confirmation hearing: "The Obama administration's nominee to lead the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) on Thursday expressed concerns about the physical and mental health of the troops he could soon command. Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the 67,000 special operators force could be 'fraying' after being 'operationally active for a long time.' However, the troops 'remain effective in the tasks' assigned to them and can continue offering 'unique solutions to challenging problems,' he added during his confirmation hearing." More here.

Obama's counterterrorism blueprint looks good, on paper by the WaPo's David Ignatius, here.

Meantime, how strong is the U.S. Navy? James Holmes for War on the Rocks, here.

China's heavy-handed behavior is driving neighbors, especially Australia, farther away from its orbit. FP's Keith Johnson: "For years, policymakers from Down Under have worried about just how long the country could balance moving ever closer to China in terms of economic interests with maintaining deep defense ties with the United States as tensions rise in the Asia-Pacific. With the U.S. 'pivot to Asia' -- featuring a leading role for Australia -- and growing concern about China's heavy-handed diplomacy, those fears had been intensifying... On Tuesday, just weeks after doubling down on security ties with the United States, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed sweeping economic and defense deals, reaffirming the two countries' ‘special relationship.' The deals, which include plans for joint development of advanced submarines, indicate Abbott's vocal support for Abe's more muscular military posture -- while also sending a clear message to China." More here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Is the White House bungling its Africa summit?; Was there a second group that attacked in Benghazi?; Air sirens and lattes in Israel; Duncan Hunter to DOD IG: there's reason to think a ransom for Bergdahl; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The White House is pumped about its big summit with African leaders in a few weeks. So why do so many people think it's getting bungled? Early next month, the White House will host a historic meeting with African heads of state. It's a big deal to the Obama administration, which hatched the plan last year after the President visited Africa. But there's quiet yet widespread concern that planning for it was so tightly controlled by the White House that some things got missed and this could be a missed opportunity for Washington to open a new chapter with Africa. FP's Lubold: "More than 50 African leaders will descend on Washington in less than a month for the White House's first-ever Africa Summit, which the administration has billed as a historic opportunity to promote its own Africa initiatives, identify trade partners, and foster much-needed counterterrorism cooperation across the continent.

"But as the administration scrambles to put the finishing touches on the event, individuals in and out of government worry that the summit, held when little of official Washington is even in town, may end up doing more harm than good. African leaders won't be getting any one-on-one meetings with President Barack Obama, which could leave them feeling snubbed by a leader they've long seen as unusually invested in the continent's future. More importantly, critics say the three-day summit, which begins Aug. 4, may represent a missed opportunity to narrow the growing gap between America's economic ties with African countries and those of China, which has spent years building new commercial relationships across the continent.

J. Peter Pham, the director of the Africa Center for the Atlantic Council in Washington, who says the White House still sees Africa through a decades-old framework in which it is viewed as an impoverished continent with country leaders traveling to Washington hat in hand rather than as nations with robust and growing economies: "The bigger picture of course is that Africa has seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the world, and numerous other countries are engaging with them on a bilateral basis," Pham said. "China has surpassed us as Africa's biggest trading partner."

CSIS' Jennifer Cooke on keeping up with the Joneses and the lack of a plan to hold bilateral meetings with African leaders: "When the Chinese do this, it's red carpet, big money, investments and loans, and many bilateral conversations...They sort of pull out all the stops, and they invite everybody, and there's no talk about human rights and democracy."

The Chinese do speed-dating: "At a summit China hosted for African leaders in 2012, for instance, the Chinese premier essentially "speed-dated" with dozens of African leaders in back-to-back, 15-minute one-on-one sessions with translators. The Obama administration's summit, in contrast, won't have any such meetings."

One former senior government official on the lack of bilats planned with the African leaders: "I would guess that some U.S. ambassador has had some pretty difficult conversations with heads of state to say, 'sorry, you will not have a private meeting with the president...In some countries, those were probably some pretty difficult conversations." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending 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, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Israel escalates its aerial offensive on Gaza. From the AP this morning: "Israel dramatically escalated its aerial assault in Gaza, now in its 3rd day, hitting hundreds of Hamas targets as its missile defense system once again intercepted rockets. Military spokesman Peter Lerner said Thursday that Israel struck more than 300 Hamas targets overnight, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket launching sites. That brought the total number of targets hit to 750.

"The military said it struck a car in Gaza carrying three Islamic Jihad militants involved in firing rockets, raising the Palestinian death toll to at least 75. Remnants of a long-range rocket fired from Gaza landed in a gas station in south Tel Aviv Thursday after being shot down by Israel's ‘Iron Dome' defense system. Militants have fired hundreds of rockets. No one in Israel has been harmed." More here.

Hamas' new rocket is inaccurate, but it's also a serious upgrade. FP's Simon Engler, here.

Incongruity in Israel: air raid sirens and lattes, by the WaPo's Ruth Eglash, here.

The NSA wasn't the only one snooping on ordinary Americans, btw. FP's Shane Harris: "Believe it or not, some officials at the National Security Agency are breathing a sigh of relief over Glenn Greenwald's new exposé on the government's secret surveillance of U.S. citizens. That's because it's the FBI that finds itself in the cross-hairs now, in a story that identifies by name five men, including prominent Muslim American civil rights activists and lawyers, whose emails were monitored by the FBI using a law meant to target suspected terrorists and spies. The targets of the spying allege that they were singled out because of their race, religion, and political views -- accusations that, if true, would amount to the biggest domestic intelligence scandal in a generation and eclipse any of the prior year's revelations from documents provided by leaker Edward Snowden." More here.

Chinese hackers are pursuing key data on U.S. workers - read this Page Oner by the NYT's Michael Schmidt, David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, here.

Who's Where When today - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is travelling in the U.S. on a two-day trip and today is at Eglin Air Force Base in Fla... Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work is also traveling domestically.  He attends a Council of Governors meeting in Nashville... And Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos is on his way to California for a I Marine Expeditionary Force change-of-command ceremony in California tomorrow...  

Also today - The Senate Armed Services Committee will grill the likely next commander of the Afghanistan war, Gen. John "J.C." Campbell, and consider the nominations of Adm. Bill Gortney, for U.S. Northern Command, and Lt. Gen. Joe Votel for Joint Special Operations Command. That's all at Dirksen G-50 at 9:30.

Read John Kerry's piece in Politico about why ambassadors should be confirmed like military nominees, here.

And also today - As The Hill's Martin Matishak and Kristina Wong report, Hagel could make an announcement on the fate of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter while visiting Eglin after the plane was grounded late last week after a June 23 fire aboard one plane at the Florida base. Matishak and Wong: "Hagel is set to meet pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, where a June 23 blaze aboard one of the planes sparked an investigation of the F-35's engines. The Marine Corps version was due to participate in a pair of air shows in Great Britain this weekend." More here.

There's one more thing to think about today - how much is the Pentagon charging the Health and Human Services Department to house migrant children at places like Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and other places? Thousands of children from Latin America are now living on U.S. military bases and the Defense Department is essentially charging HHS for the service. But we hear some Republicans are concerned about the cost and may ask about it this afternoon at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing this afternoon at 2:30.

Congress asks the Pentagon to probe whether the U.S. paid cash for Bergdahl. Lubold's story: "...Conspiracy theories about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's May 31 release from being held in captivity by the Haqqani network are rampant and many lawmakers and Americans wonder why the administration traded five Taliban warriors for one American soldier.

"One particular question lingers: Did anyone in the government pay ransom, attempt to pay ransom, or use a third party to pay ransom, to win Bergdahl's release? The Obama administration flatly says ‘no' -- and that it was never even contemplated.

"But the lawmaker, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a former Marine, says he has enough information to make him think the government may have shelled out as much as $1.5 million for Bergdahl. The soldier was rescued by U.S. special operators in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan after being held prisoner for nearly five years. Bergdahl apparently wandered off his small combat outpost in Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan in June 2009. An investigation into whether he deserted his unit is underway. He is in a ‘reintegration phase' at an Army medical facility in Texas where he has begun to return to a normal life, even going so far as to eat out. He has made no public statements."

WH spokesperson Caitlin Hayden in an email to FP: "We did not pay cash for Sgt. Bergdahl's recovery, we have no information that anyone else did, and we did not consider paying for recovery as a part of these negotiations." More here.

Meantime, read about the Air Force's fight to keep it's B-1 bomber, by Helene Cooper of the NYT, here.

Today, IAVA joins House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller to introduce new legislation to combat veteran suicide. Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) will today introduce the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, billed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America as "significant legislation" that will combat veteran suicide. Miller will be joined by Susan and Richard Selke, parents of Clay Hunt, a U.S. Marine who died by suicide in 2011; Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA CEO and Founder; Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.); Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.); and veterans of the post-9/11 wars.  More here.

And last night, Carter Ham, former Africa Command commander, appeared on Charlie Rose. He talked Africa, Libya and how he hopes that country will right itself, and Iraq, in which he served between 2004 and 2005, and how he views what's happening there, as most veterans of the Iraq war do, as "heartbreaking." Ham, who had been one of few senior officers to go public about his personal struggles after his warzone deployment in order to help remove the stigma for those with post traumatic stress disorder and other postwar maladies, also talked on Rose about how he had become a "bad husband, father and friend" in those days and how he overcame those issues with the help of an Army chaplain. The show will appear here soon.

Meantime, was there a second group that attacked in Benghazi? AP: "Newly revealed testimony from top military commanders involved in the U.S. response to the Benghazi attacks suggests that the perpetrators of a second, dawn assault on a CIA complex probably were different from those who penetrated the U.S. diplomatic mission the evening before and set it ablaze, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens..."

"The second attack, which killed two security contractors, showed clear military training, retired Gen. Carter Ham told Congress in closed-door testimony released late Wednesday. It probably was the work of a new team of militants, seizing on reports of violence at the diplomatic mission the night before and hitting the Americans while they were most vulnerable." More here.

Army leaders must defend what to many is a flawed intelligence system. AP's Ken Dilanian: "Gen. John Campbell, the army's vice chief of staff and nominee to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan, cited his son's experiences as a soldier there to answer a senator's tough questions last year about a troubled intelligence technology system. But after an inquiry from The Associated Press, the Army acknowledged this week that Campbell misspoke. He also omitted key facts as he sought to defend a $4 billion system that critics say has not worked as promised. Campbell will likely face more questions about the intelligence system at his confirmation hearing on Thursday.

"...Army leaders, including Campbell and his boss, Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno, have circled their wagons around the Distributed Common Ground System, known as DCGS-A (pronounced DEE-cigs-ay), a network of crash-prone software, sensors and databases that was supposed to allow troops to process and integrate intelligence from a variety of sources, from electronic intercepts to overhead imagery to spy reports. A series of independent government reports have pointed to significant weaknesses in DCGS-A." More here.

ICYMI: Read FP's Lubold and Harris' March 18 story on an internal Pentagon report on how the Army's DCGS system is flawed, here.

Berlin is scratching its head again at Washington - a second spy has emerged: The NYT's Alison Smale in Berlin: "Anger at Washington mounted Wednesday with the disclosure that American intelligence agents were suspected of having recruited a second spy in Germany, this time linked to its Defense Ministry, prompting even robust allies of the United States to suggest that a fundamental reset was needed in one of the most important of trans-Atlantic partnerships." More here.

Maliki accuses the Kurds of aiding Sunni extremists.  The WSJ's Maria Abi-Habib and Joe Parkinson in Baghdad: "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's allegation came after the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, which is pressing for independence, capitalized on a Sunni extremist assault by seizing territory for themselves, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Then last week, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani asked the region's parliament to hold a referendum on independence. The moves have sparked an outcry from Baghdad, as well as Washington, which both fear the country will be partitioned along both sectarian lines-by the Sunni Arab extremists-and along ethnic lines by the Kurds." More here.

Why is a barbaric medieval caliphate so much better at social media than Washington? Kori Schake for FP: "The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is running a brilliantly effective social media campaign. With the group rebranded as the Islamic State (IS), its grisly messaging gets attention and discourages resistance to its military operations, both where it is fighting and among countries that might be inclined to intervene against it.

"...Hashtag diplomacy as a medium favors both the quick hit and the use of ridicule. Sensational pictures and statements are what gets noticed. Status quo institutions, like the U.S. government, are at a disadvantage competing against the producers of spectacle." More here.

How the U.S. ignored warnings from the Free Syrian Army that ISIS was about to take over a Syrian city along the border - then it happened. The commander of the FSA battalion near the Syrian border city of Der al Zour, to the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin, about the warnings to U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power: "[The U.S. officials] showed an understanding of the situation but there was no movement at all... There's no clear American position in that part of Syria. We told the Americans we are going to fight ISIS and ISIS is close to us, but they did nothing." The story, here.

Opinion this morning in the WSJ on the Pentagon playing "hardball" with No Easy Day author Matt Bissonnette, by Nancy Walbridge Collins and Michele Malvesti, their BLUF: "When those entrusted with the nation's secrets seek to publish their experiences, they are required to participate in the system's checks and balances. By doing so, these authors not only protect themselves (and their proceeds), they also safeguard the larger national-security infrastructure from which all Americans benefit. By circumventing the process and violating his nondisclosure agreement with the U.S. military, Mr. Bissonnette potentially jeopardized national security and forfeited sole ownership of his story." More here.

FP's story by Lubold July 3 that first reported the Pentagon was going after No Easy Day author Matt Bissonnette, here.

Could the LCS survive an attack? The Pentagon's top weapons tester wonders. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "The Navy's $23 billion Littoral Combat Ship is less able to survive an attack than other U.S. warships, according to the Pentagon's top weapons tester. Revised standards adopted for the vessel intended to operate in shallow coastal waters 'continue to accept the risk the crew would need to abandon ship under circumstances that would not necessitate that action' on other vessels, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department's director of operational testing and evaluation, said in a letter to Senator John McCain." More here.

So Jesse Ventura is suing the estate of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, killed on a rifle range in 2013, alleging that a barroom brawl Kyle wrote about in his 2012 book was fabricated. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe, here.

Read "Murder by Drones: where is the cost-benefit analysis," about U.S. counter-terrorism policy in Pakistan, in Dawn, here.

Why Abdullah Abdullah has reason to be suspicious. David Leith, author of the blog Fifty State of Blue, provided this analysis to Situation Report: "This election was always going to be close. In the first round, Abdullah Abdullah won 45% of the vote, to Ashraf Ghani's 31%. The third major candidate, Zalmai Rassoul, got 11%, and threw his support to Abdullah. So the stage was set for what was expected to be a close election. In the end, the preliminary results were anything but. Abdullah ended up with 44% of the vote in the runoff; Ghani with 56%. The question is, how did Ghani end up winning by so much?" Read more later today, here.

Afghanistan's Dilemma, by the NYT's editors: "Abdullah Abdullah, one of two candidates for president of Afghanistan, and his supporters are pushing the country toward a dangerous point by calling the election a coup and threatening to establish a parallel government. He is correct in demanding that charges of rampant electoral fraud be thoroughly investigated. But stoking outrage among his supporters with incendiary language does nothing to ensure a credible and peaceful outcome. The better course is to join his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, in ensuring an outcome that Afghans can believe in." More here.