Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: What is the Obama administration’s plan for Iraq?; New sanctions leave big loopholes for Russia; Singapore’s big data experiment; Bob Woodward visits the Pentagon; and a bit more.

By Kate Brannen with Nathaniel Sobel

Pressure is building on the Obama administration to respond to the crisis in Iraq. On the ground, the Islamic State is still making gains, closing in on Baghdad. In Washington, the Pentagon is facing increasing questions about what comes next now that its assessment of the Iraqi security forces is complete. While everyone waits for the White House's next move, thousands of Hellfire missiles are making their way to Iraq.

Iraq is struggling to halt the Islamic State's march on Baghdad. The WSJ's Ali Nabhan and Nour Malas: "The fight for Jurf al-Sakhar within what U.S. forces in Iraq once called the ‘Triangle of Death'-a major combat zone during the American occupation-shows how Iraqi forces are struggling to stave off the insurgents encroaching on the capital. While in the north the government has blunted the Islamic State's drive toward the capital beyond Tikrit, the militants are pushing the frontline toward Baghdad from the south." More here.

At the Pentagon, the Iraq assessment remains under review. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby fended off criticism yesterday that the military isn't taking the problem seriously.

"I think everybody shares the proper sense of urgency here about the situation in Iraq," he told reporters at a briefing. "This notion that we've done nothing is just false. We have 715 American troops on the ground in Iraq defending our property and our people, and also providing security assistance and some advice through those joint operations centers, the one up in Erbil and the one in Baghdad ... I take deep issue with this notion that the United States, and the United States military, in particular is not moving fast enough or doing enough."

Part of that security assistance is thousands of Hellfire missiles. Kirby described the weapon as the "most in demand by the Iraqi security forces." A total of 466 Hellfire missiles were delivered in July. Since January, the U.S. has provided 780 of them, and there are another 366 that are going to be delivered in August, according to Kirby.

And yesterday the U.S. approved a plan to send 5,000 more. The WSJ's Doug Cameron and Dion Nissenbaum: "The $700 million deal for the missiles, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., comes amid other signs that Washington is tackling a backlog of approvals for weapons sales to one of the largest defense-export markets for U.S. contractors." More here.

Setting the record straight on Iraq ...  Jessica T. Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing for the August 14 issue of The New York Review of Books: "The story, which has seemed to be all about religion and military developments, is actually mostly about politics: access to government revenue and services, a say in decision-making, and a modicum of social justice. True, one side is Sunni and the other Shia, but this is not a theological conflict rooted in the seventh century. ISIS and its allies have triumphed because the Sunni populations of Mosul and Tikrit and Fallujah have welcomed and supported them-not because of ISIS's disgusting behavior, but in spite of it. The Sunnis in these towns are more afraid of what their government may do to them than of what the Sunni militia might." More here.

If you need a refresher on the last 11 years in Iraq, and missed last night's Frontline on PBS, you can watch it here.

9 things to avoid when founding your own caliphate. FP's Christian Caryl, here.

And here's a look at how kidnapping Europeans is bankrolling Al Qaeda from the NYT's Rukmini Callimachi.

There was tough talk from the Europeans and the Americans yesterday, but on paper, the new Russian sanctions they agreed to still provide a lot of wiggle room. Europe's hesitancy to hit Russia too hard, especially its gas industry, is all about protecting their own economies from taking a blow as well. FP's Jamila Trindle and Keith Johnson: "The coordinated moves by Washington and Brussels began Tuesday, when European leaders took their broadest swipe yet at key sectors of the Russian economy and announced measures designed to block Russian banks from using the continent's capital markets, curtail the export of oil industry equipment, and ban member countries from signing new defense contracts with Russia. But the EU left some loopholes large enough to send a couple of giant warships through, as the French government still plans to do. Also left largely untouched was Russia's all-powerful gas industry." More here.

The FT's editorial page says it's over with Russia: "By ramping up sanctions on Moscow in response to its persistent destabilisation of Ukraine, the US and its European allies are closing a chapter in their relationship with post-communist Russia. They are recognising the breakdown of a 25-year effort to forge constructive ties with a state whose behaviour, it was once hoped, would depart from the suspicious self-isolation of the communist era.

"For the foreseeable future, this hope is dead. Barring a wholly unlikely change in the strategic calculations of President Vladimir Putin, relations between the west and Russia will be difficult and even dangerous for years to come." More here.

Israelis support Netanyahu and the Gaza war, despite rising death tolls on both sides. The WaPo's William Booth and Ruth Eglash: "... Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is riding a massive wave of popularity. Domestic support for the Israeli leader's prosecution of the war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,200 Palestinians dead, has only grown over the past three weeks, as the Israeli public and political class rally behind an aggressive, definitive campaign against Hamas and its rockets and tunnels." More here.

Israeli artillery fire has hit a United Nations-run school serving as a shelter in northern Gaza. The NYT's Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren: "Witnesses said at least two shells landed at Abu Hussein school, located in the middle of the Jabaliya refugee camp, around 4:30 a.m., hitting the stairway and a classroom." More here.

For TIME, Michael Crowley profiles Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, here.

A video of a Hamas attack on an Israeli military installation via a tunnel went viral yesterday. See it on FP, here.

Chinese hackers stole documents from the makers of Israel's Iron Dome system: Reuters' Eric Auchard: "Comment Crew, as the hacking group is known, stole designs for Israeli rocket systems in a spree of attacks during 2011 and 2012, Joseph Drissel, chief executive of Cyber Engineering Services (CyberESI), said in a phone interview." More here.

A mystery Syrian defector named "Caesar" will show his grisly photos to Congress at a televised briefing tomorrow. The event could raise questions about the Obama administration's Syria policy, but most of those questions have already been raised. FP's John Hudson: "The Syrian defector known as ‘Caesar' who smuggled out thousands of graphic photographs documenting President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on his own people will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, Foreign Policy has learned. The briefing will be televised and open to the press, but due to security concerns related to Caesar's safety, the Syrian defector's face will be covered.

"...The Syrian military photographer fled his country last year and handed thousands of photos to the United Nations and FBI investigators that shocked human rights organizations around the world. His photographs, which U.S. officials say are authentic, show some 11,000 mutilated and mangled bodies, which suggest widespread torture and mass killings by the Assad regime. The Syrian government says the photos are fakes." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday'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 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: @k8brannen, @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who's Where When: National Security Adviser Susan Rice is giving a speech at 10:15 a.m. at the U.S. Institute of Peace where she'll set the scene for next week's Africa Leaders Summit and discuss "the administration's goals and expectations for this historic event."

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work is meeting with South Korea's Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Hwang Ki-Chul at the Pentagon... Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is at West Point for a two-day symposium on the Army profession... Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh are hosting a press briefing on the "State of the Air Force" at 1 p.m. at the Pentagon... Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is in Singapore for meetings with government and Navy officials.  He's also holding an All-Hands Call with Sailors as part of a multi-nation visit to the Pacific region.

The House Armed Service Committee has a hearing on the "Risks to Stability in Afghanistan: Politics, Security, and International Commitment" at 10:00 a.m.

The UK's First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Sir George Zambellas is giving a talk about "credible maritime partners in the 21st century" at CSIS at 10:30 a.m. More on the event here.

Singapore is testing whether mass surveillance and big data can not only protect national security, but actually engineer a more harmonious society. FP's Shane Harris reports on Singapore's Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning (RAHS) program: "... Many current and former U.S. officials have come to see Singapore as a model for how they'd build an intelligence apparatus if privacy laws and a long tradition of civil liberties weren't standing in the way ... many American spooks have traveled to Singapore to study the program firsthand. They are drawn not just to Singapore's embrace of mass surveillance but also to the country's curious mix of democracy and authoritarianism, in which a paternalistic government ensures people's basic needs -- housing, education, security -- in return for almost reverential deference. It is a law-and-order society, and the definition of ‘order' is all-encompassing." More here.

Meanwhile, back in the States, the Senate has another go at NSA surveillance reform. The WaPo's Andrea Peterson: "Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a new compromise version of the USA Freedom Act in the Senate on Tuesday, aimed at curtailing the government surveillance and data collection practices revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden." More here.

FP's Shane Harris broke the story yesterday of retired Gen. Keith Alexander's post-NSA career plans: make millions off of technology for which he's won patents. In a new story, Harris takes a look at the "technologies for which the secretive National Security Agency (NSA) has been granted patents by the U.S. government." They include a new-and-improved child car seat. No joke. Read more here.

What are the costs of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs? A new 60-page report released yesterday by New America's Open Technology Institute examines the impact of NSA programs on the U.S. economy, American foreign policy, and the security of the Internet as a whole. Danielle Kehl, a policy analyst at New America, told Situation Report: "A lot of people are going to be looking for a big dollar figure: what is NSA surveillance going to cost us overall? But there's a really interesting story beyond the significant impact on U.S. companies' bottom lines. The NSA is undermining our foreign policy objectives -- and particularly the U.S. Internet Freedom agenda -- and weakening Internet security in order to make intelligence gathering easier. We need to start looking at the whole picture when we talk about the impact of these programs and what needs to be done to address the situation." Full report here.

The Army will question Bowe Bergdahl next week about his 2009 disappearance and capture by the Taliban. Reuters' Laura Zuckerman: "Bergdahl, an Army sergeant, was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting, said the soldier's lawyer, Eugene Fidell." More here.

Stavridis: Why this is the right time to cooperate with Iran. Retired Adm. James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, writes for HuffPo: "With the world seemingly exploding around us, it may be time to consider our relationship with Iran. As Henry Kissinger said once, to solve the biggest problems, sometimes it is necessary to expand them. We should seriously explore ways in which our deeply problematic relationship with Iran can be improved through finding small zones of cooperation -- including perhaps in Iraq today, which presents an opening of somewhat aligned interest in defeating the emerging danger of the ultra-violent extremist organization the Islamic State." More here.

The strange, sad story of the stowaway boy in the wheel well. AP's Lolita C. Baldor: The body of a young stowaway was found inside a compartment near the wheel well of an Air Force cargo plane that had landed in Germany, U.S. military officials said Tuesday, triggering questions about the security of an aircraft that had made several stops in Africa." More here.

Don't grow numb to North Korea's missile tests, Locklear warns. The AP's Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor: "Amid concerns about its development and testing of nuclear weapons, North Korea may be lulling the world into largely accepting its advances in missile technology, the admiral in charge of American forces in Asia and the Pacific said Tuesday. Adm. Samuel Locklear told a Pentagon news conference that he is concerned by North Korea's frequent testing of ballistic missiles." More here.

McDonald sails through confirmation and is now headed to the VA: The Senate voted yesterday 97-0 to approve Robert McDonald's nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Some more bad news for the F-35 ... Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: Software for Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet, the Pentagon's costliest weapons system, may be as much as 14 months late for required flight testing, according to a Pentagon review." More here.

Why managing talent is important to national security. The Navy's Chief of Personnel, Vice Adm. Bill Moran, in an op-ed for The Hill: "We are clearly behind our civilian corporate counterparts in fashioning productive pipelines to develop and differentiate talent, despite our closed-loop system. In 1973, we took a pretty big risk of our own when we created the All-Volunteer Force, betting that market forces combined with love of service would steer us away from a reliance upon conscription for our defense." More here.

Suzy George is named chief of staff for the National Security Council staff. Her official title: "Deputy Assistant to the President, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council staff." George is taking over for Brian McKeon, who's leaving the White House to become the principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon.

Previously, George worked as a principal at the Albright Stonebridge Group, an international strategic consulting firm.  From 1997 to 2001, George served as the deputy chief of staff in the State Department, under Secretary Madeleine Albright.

All the Pentagon's Men ... At the invitation of Kirby, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward visited the Pentagon yesterday to sit down with press officers and discuss their craft.

"Mr. Woodward told some war stories from the '60s and 70's, shared his thoughts on the state of journalism today and gave the assembled [public affairs officers] some sage advice," Col. Steve Warren, director of Pentagon Press Operations, told Situation Report.

Hook 'em! Navy Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, is the lone finalist selected to become the chancellor of the University of Texas. More from AP here.

Today's babies can thank the shutdown. The WaPo's Jessica Contrera reports that Washington is experiencing a baby boom thanks to the most recent government shutdown. And it includes the Pentagon press shop's Carl Woog!

"Carl Woog, a Pentagon employee whose wife recently gave birth to a baby boy, said they tracked her conception date back to just after the shutdown ended. Although Woog wasn't furloughed, he and his wife ‘may have been celebrating congressional action,' he joked."

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Alexander cashes in post-NSA; U.S. accuses Russia of violating arms-control treaty; The Islamic State gets rich off oil; Duncan Hunter on Fallujah and Gaza; and a bit more.

By Kate Brannen with Nathaniel Sobel

FP Exclusive: A look at Keith Alexander's post-NSA career and why he thinks he's worth millions a month. FP's Shane Harris: "Keith Alexander, the recently retired director of the National Security Agency, left many in Washington slack-jawed when it was reported that he might charge companies up to $1 million a month to help them protect their computer networks from hackers. What insights or expertise about cybersecurity could possibly justify such a sky-high fee, some wondered, even for a man as well-connected in the military-industrial complex as the former head of the nation's largest intelligence agency?

"The answer, Alexander said in an interview Monday, is a new technology, based on a patented and ‘unique' approach to detecting malicious hackers and cyber-intruders that the retired Army general said he has invented, along with his business partners at IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., the company he co-founded after leaving the government and retiring from military service in March. But the technology is also directly informed by the years of experience Alexander has had tracking hackers, and the insights he gained from classified operations as the director of the NSA, which give him a rare competitive advantage over the many firms competing for a share of the cybersecurity market."

How many patents does Alexander have up his sleeve? Find that out and more here.

Breaking overnight -- The United States has accused Russia of violating a 1987 arms control treaty by testing a new ground-launched cruise missile. But, it's worth noting, Russia's actions are not part of its latest aggressive behavior in Ukraine. It first began testing these missiles as early as 2008, the NYT's Michael R. Gordon reports: "...the Obama administration concluded by the end of 2011 that they were a compliance concern. In May 2013, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department's senior arms control official, first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials."

Ukraine's role: "Administration officials said the upheaval in Ukraine pushed the issue to the back burner and that the downturn in American-Russian relations has led to an interruption of regular arms-control meetings."

While the White House knew of the violation, it wasn't ready to go public with it until now. The next step will be high-level talks with Moscow over ways to bring Russia back into compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Getting Russia to agree it violated the treaty was never going to be easy, but the task now appears near impossible given what's going on in Ukraine and Russia's refusal to take responsibility for its actions on the international stage.

EU leaders could announce new sanctions against Russia as early as today, after yesterday's phone call with the White House got everyone on the same page. FP's Jamila Trindle: "Western leaders say they've cobbled together a united front against Russia, a week and a half after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killed nearly 300 people. U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday afternoon spoke to the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, and Italy in a joint call, during which they agreed on tougher sanctions against Moscow. The United States says Russia provided the training and weaponry to the militants in eastern Ukraine who shot down the passenger plane on July 17."

But how tough will this new round really be? "Although the European Union agreed last week to consider sanctions against Russia's energy, defense, and financial industries, it was unclear how far they would go. It's still uncertain how broad the sanctions will be, but the call on Monday indicated a change of tone from last week, when EU politicians were trading barbs over whether Britain or France was more reliant on Moscow's money." More here.

Turning our attention to Iraq ... The Islamic State is growing rich off the oil business while many inside and outside of the country hope Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's days are numbered.

FP's Keith Johnson writes that even with its oil money, the Islamic State might not have enough cash to govern the territory it's seized: "The money it can earn from illicit oil sales further bolsters the group's status as one of the richest self-funded terrorist outfits in the world, dependent not on foreign governments for financial support but on the money its reaped from kidnappings and bank robberies ... But even the millions of dollars a day that the Islamic State seems to be raking in by trucking stolen oil across porous borders is not enough to meet the hefty obligations created by the group's own headlong expansion. Taking over big chunks of territory, as in eastern Syria and in northern Iraq, could also leave it forced to take on the sorts of expensive obligations -- such as paying salaries, collecting the trash, and keeping the lights on -- usually reserved for governments."

Michael Knights, a Middle East expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells FP: "They've gone from being the world's richest terrorist organization to the world's poorest state." Read more here.

Meanwhile, Maliki's critics are closing in. While Maliki handily won the most seats in April's general election, it was still only a quarter of parliament's seats, so Maliki was forced to form a new ruling coalition, something that could take months to do. In the meantime, the door has been left open for replacing him with someone else.

The WaPo's Loveday Morris reported over the weekend that Shiite politicians were discussing other candidates who could lead the country. There have even "been hints from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani that it is time for him to step aside," Morris reported.

This would be good news for the United States, which blames Maliki for much of Iraq's problems today.

CSIS's Anthony Cordesman: "To put it bluntly, Maliki is as much of a threat to Iraqi unity, stability in the Gulf, and U.S. strategic interests as is ISIS. Ever since the power struggles that began as a result of indecisive outcome of Iraq's March 2010 election, Maliki has driven the country toward civil war. He has alienated Iraq's Kurds and steadily become more authoritarian and ruthless in dealing with its Arab Sunnis."

Don't want to wait around for the Pentagon to publicly disclose its assessment of Iraq and the options it's now considering? Then read Cordesman's analysis, which lays out what U.S. options are if Maliki is removed from power.

He writes, "The United States should not try to force a leader on Iraq. It can, however, make it clear that the kind of aid that Iraq now desperately needs is conditional. It means Iraq must not give Maliki a third term or consider horrible alternatives like Ahmed Chalibi." More from Cordesman here.

"Reviving the Caliphate: Fad, or the Future?," a new report from CNA Corporation, examines the concept of restoring the caliphate in modern times, a notion that some extremist groups have supported in recent years. It focuses on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June 2014 and discusses the potential ramifications of this action on the region, the global jihadi movement, and U.S. interests in the broader Muslim world. Full report here.

After more than five years blocking U.N. Security Council action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. backed the U.N. cease-fire call yesterday, providing further evidence of the deepening tension between Israel and the U.S. FP's Colum Lynch: "Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, said the United States is trying to walk a diplomatic tightrope by telegraphing displeasure with Israel while heading off a fiercer battle in the council with the Arabs, who favor the passage of a much tougher Security Council resolution on the conflict. ‘In backing the council's statements, the United States is signaling its frustration with Israel,' he said. ‘But it is also warding off a fight over a tougher resolution on the crisis it would probably have to veto.'" More here.

Trying to change the subject, the White House and Israel highlight the two countries' solidarity. FP's John Hudson: "White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer sought to downplay tensions between their respective governments on Monday after the Israeli press reported that senior aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were sharply dismissive over American efforts to quell the rising violence in Gaza."

Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer: "I speak directly for my prime minister here. The criticism of Secretary Kerry for his good faith efforts to advance a sustainable ceasefire is unwarranted... There is broad understanding between Israel and the United States about the principles for a sustainable cease fire."

National Security Advisor Amb. Susan Rice: "I must tell you, we've been dismayed by some press reports in Israel mischaracterizing [Kerry's] efforts last week to achieve a ceasefire... The reality is that John Kerry on behalf of the United States has been working every step of the way with Israel in support of our shared interests." More here.

Duncan Hunter tells FP that Israel should take a lesson from the U.S. Marines' experience in Fallujah, which is considered the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War. "The biggest holdup for Israel right now is the civilian casualties in Gaza. That's what's keeping them from doing any major operations. So what you do is you tell the good people who don't want to fight, ‘Hey, leave. We'll take care of you outside the city,' and then you cordon off the city. And then the only people left in the city are folks who want to fight you and civilians they trap there," the Republican congressman told Situation Report yesterday.

Hunter notes that Fallujah had about 300,000 people, where Gaza has closer to 2 million. "Fallujah's a great model, even though it's a lot smaller. You'd do Gaza in sections, but you could still do it."

The United Nations has tried to offer shelter to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but even these safe zones have come under fire. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees has said there is no safe place within Gaza for civilians. In Fallujah, it was estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the civilian population fled before the U.S. began its main assault in November, 2004.

And some scenes from Gaza sound an awful like what was left behind in Fallujah. The Daily Beast's Jesse Rosenfeld: "Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is ‘scorched earth.' ... It's not like Israel didn't plan this. It told tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee so its air force, artillery and tanks could create this uninhabitable no-man's land of half standing, burned-out buildings, broken concrete and twisted metal." More here.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it's time to prepare for a prolonged military campaign. Reuters: "Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant, flattened the home of its Islamist Hamas political leader and pounded dozens of other high-profile targets in the enclave on Tuesday, with no end in sight to more than three weeks of conflict." More here.

Welcome to Tuesday'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 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: @k8brannen, @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who's Where When: Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, hosts a press briefing on "U.S. Operations in the Pacific" at 12:30 p.m. at the Pentagon...

The House Armed Services Committee has a hearing on the "Security Situation in Iraq and Syria: U.S. Policy Options and Implications for the Region" at 10:00 a.m. in the Rayburn building...

At the State Department, Kerry is meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at 9:45 a.m., followed by a press availability at 10:15 a.m. Then, Kerry heads to the White House for a meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice at noon.

And Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman is testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Iran.

BREAKING --  Karzai's cousin is killed by a suicide bomber. The AP: A cousin and close associate of outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai was assassinated on Tuesday by a suicide bomber who hid his explosives under his turban, a provincial official said. The bomber walked up to the home of Hashmat Khalil Karzai to greet him after morning prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, and detonated the explosives after shaking hands with the president's cousin, said the official." More here.

Released yesterday, a SIGAR audit found problems with the accountability of weapons the U.S. supplied to the Afghan National Security Forces. Full report here.

Libya warns of a disaster as Tripoli fuel tank fire spreads. The WSJ's Beniot Faucon: "Libya warned Monday of the risk of a humanitarian and environmental disaster after a second fuel tank caught fire amid heavy fighting at Tripoli airport between rival militias ... A missile late Saturday ignited a storage tank containing petroleum fuel at a complex near the airport. The igniting of a second tank has increased the risk of an explosion at the site, which contains 90 million liters (almost 24 million gallons) of fuel and cooking gas." More here.

Everyone's evacuating ... err, ‘temporarily relocating' from Libya: BuzzFeed's Nicolás Medina Mora: "Several European governments ordered their citizens to leave Libya on Monday after intense fighting resulted in an uncontrollable oil fire near the Tripoli airport." More here.

And China is urging the 1,000 Chinese nationals still in the country to leave too, the Xinhua News Agency is reporting.

The news is bad enough ... and then you add Ebola to the mix. Clair MacDougall reporting for FP from Liberia: "Liberia, along with its neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone, were once wracked by war. Today, they are all facing a new and deadly crisis: Ebola, a virus that attacks organs and leads to fever, diarrhea, bleeding, and in most cases death, has swept across the countries and threatens to extend its reach. The virus, which cannot be cured but can be treated, can kill up to 90 percent of those who catch it. The overall death rate in the three West African countries is currently around 60 percent. Roughly 1,200 cases have been identified, the most ever in an outbreak, and some 670 people have already died." More here.  

The editors at Bloomberg View argue more should be done. "This Ebola epidemic is different. Unless resources are mustered to bring it under control, it's going to kill many more people in Africa, and perhaps beyond." More here.

For Military Times, Jeff Schogol's interview with Texas Gov. Rick Perry about his decision to send 1,000 National Guardsmen to the Mexico border, here.

Military personnel costs need a hard look. The WaPo's Walter Pincus: "In our troubled world, would you prefer that the United States had six more F-16 squadrons over the next year or pay the 1 percent annual ­cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees under age 62?" More here.

Northrop's drone for the Navy has increased 25 percent in cost. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, here.

The U.S. Army plans to select a new standard-issue handgun. If history is a guide, similar pistols will soon start appearing at gun stores and crime scenes near you. Matt Valentine for the Atlantic, here.

The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees achieved something very rare on Capitol Hill these days: a bipartisan compromise on a $17 billion VA reform bill. Military Times' Leo Shane III: "The deal, if approved later this week, gives lawmakers a surprising success story to take back to their home districts as Congress begins its extended, pre-election legislative break. The comprehensive veterans measure is one of only a few significant bills to become law this year, and comes after weeks of promises that leaders from both parties would move quickly to address recent VA scandals." More here.

And the Senate is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Robert McDonald to be Veterans Affairs Secretary at 2:45 p.m. today.

Speaking of vets, IAVA and Defense One are hosting a big event at the National Press Club tomorrow. Scheduled speakers include Montel Williams, Rep Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Get the full lineup and more info here.