Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: In Israel, ceasefire is over and a soldier may be captured; Iron Dome funding is in limbo; Brennan’s under fire; Afghanistan prepares to resume its vote audit; and a bit more.

By Kate Brannen with Nathaniel Sobel

Breaking overnight -- the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is over. Who broke it? Unclear right now, but both sides resumed heavy fighting by late Friday morning. There was a lull in fighting at 8 a.m. local time when the three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was supposed to begin, but less than three hours later, the fighting had resumed and dozens of Palestinians are now reported dead.

And Israel fears a soldier may have been captured. The NYT's Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram: "Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that government forces were moving to destroy a tunnel, as the terms of the cease-fire allowed for, when several militants came out of the ground. Colonel Lerner said the militants included at least one suicide attacker, that there was an exchange of fire on the ground and that initial indications were that a soldier was apparently dragged back into the tunnel. He was unable to offer details about the soldier's condition or whether anyone was killed in the attack." More here.

What happens next? If Hamas has captured an Israeli soldier, the next time it goes to the negotiating table it will have something valuable to trade. In the meantime, the Palestinian families eager to return to their homes will now have to return to U.N. shelters as the death toll starts climbing once again. One sign that this might not go on much longer: Israel has said it is days away from destroying all of Hamas's tunnels.

By allowing Israel to continue destroying Hamas's tunnels was the ceasefire agreement doomed from the start? FP's Colum Lynch: "The agreement -- which was announced jointly by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- provides a brief timeout from the brutal fighting to allow the resumption of Egyptian-hosted talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials this weekend in Cairo on a more ‘durable cease-fire,' according to the joint statement. In the meantime, Israeli forces will be able to stay put in Gaza, a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who activated 16,000 more reserve troops Thursday and used a televised address to tell his people that the offensive wouldn't stop until all of the tunnels Hamas has been using to sneak into Israel have been destroyed." More here.

Destroying Hamas tunnels has become the No. 1 priority for Israel, partly because the underground network is far more extensive than Israel may have realized. FP's Shane Harris: "Israeli military, intelligence, and political officials have known for years that Hamas fighters were burrowing into their country from Gaza through underground tunnels. An Israeli army spokesman said this month that the military had discovered four tunnels just in the past 18 months, well before Israel's current ground offensive began. But in interviews, current and former Israeli officials said the military and intelligence services didn't realize the extent of Hamas's subterranean operations, nor did political leaders act to counter a threat that has become the central focus of Israel's Gaza campaign and stands as potentially the biggest Israeli intelligence failure in years." More here.

Israel wants a demilitarized Gaza strip - but who is going to keep Hamas from rearming? The LA Times's Paul Richter: "Usually reluctant to involve foreign powers in their nation's security, Israeli leaders have concluded that an outside force might be the most effective way to accomplish that goal. Initial international reaction to the idea of an outside force has been positive, with the United Nations, European Union and Obama administration all embracing the idea, in principle." More here.

Tangled up in Senate politics, the $225 million in new funding for Iron Dome remains in limbo. First, the money had been included in the controversial $2.7 billion border aid package. When Senate Republicans blocked that legislation yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to split off the Israel money, along with funding to fight wildfires out West, reports POLITICO's Burgess Everett.

Democrats and Republicans both support the Iron Dome funding, but yesterday they haggled over whether the money required an offset from elsewhere in the budget. In the final days before Congress goes on its August recess, the funding for Israel has become nothing more than a political football.

As Washington awaits the release of the highly classified probe into the CIA's torture program, John Brennan's integrity is being questioned just when the agency needs it most. FP's Shane Harris and Elias Groll: "John Brennan's week has gone from bad to worse. The CIA director was already bracing for the imminent release of a 600-page Senate report that, as the world already knows, accuses the CIA of torturing suspected terrorists and misleading Congress about it. Then Brennan was forced to apologize for CIA employees who spied on the very Senate staff investigating his agency -- an allegation he emphatically denied for months -- following a scathing report by the agency's own inspector general.

"Brennan's credibility is now at a moment of supreme crisis. At stake is his reputation not only with his congressional overseers, but with a public that is about to read, in vivid detail, how the CIA brutally interrogated detainees, failed to gather any useful intelligence that could stop a terrorist attack in doing so, and then tried to cover up its actions." More here.

The EU Arms Embargo against Russia begins today.  Defense News' Julian Hale with the story here.

A break in fighting lets an international team reach the site of the plane crash in Ukraine. The NYT's Andrew Roth and Andrew Kramer: "International monitors finally reached the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, after being blocked for days by fighting in the area between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists.  Ukrainian officials said they had suspended offensive operations against the rebels to allow the monitors to reach the site safely. Commanders at Ukrainian military positions near the site confirmed that they had been ordered to halt their advance." More here.

In Washington, the Senate unanimously approved the nomination of John Tefft to be the next ambassador to Russia. The post's been vacant since February. Reuters' has the story here.

Sen Carl Levin's message to President Obama: Give Ukrainian forces more weapons. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is not satisfied with the non-lethal aid the United States is providing Ukraine. His comments will surely add to the pressure on the White House to do more in response to Russia's actions.

"We should take additional steps to help Ukraine reclaim sovereignty in eastern Ukraine and try to deter Russia from crossing the border," the Michigan Democrat said in a statement yesterday. "As part of this effort we should provide Ukraine with defensive weapons - such as anti-tank weapons - that can help Ukraine reclaim its territory and deter Russian aggression, without being needlessly provocative to the Russians."

And in the House, gruesome photos from Syria also prompt calls for the Obama administration to do more. FP's John Hudson: "In an unusual briefing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday, a disguised Syrian defector shared photos he had taken before fleeing the war-torn country that document what appears to be widespread atrocities carried out by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The gruesome imagery depicting starved corpses and tortured bodies prompted criticisms by lawmakers, including Democrats, that Barack Obama's administration isn't doing enough to end Assad's reign of terror." More 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 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: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos hosts the 1st Sea Lord of the British Royal Navy, Sir George Michael Zambellas, at the evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington.

A German officer will serve as U.S. Army Europe's chief of staff. Military Times' Jim Tice: "A German Army brigadier general who recently served with NATO forces in Afghanistan is assuming duties as the chief of staff of U. S. Army Europe, the first time a non-American officer has held that position. Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal, most recently the commander of Germany's 12th Panzer Brigade in Amberg, and chief of staff of Regional Command North, International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan, will be stationed at USAREUR headquarters, Wiesbaden, Germany. He could report to duty as early as Monday." More here.

#FF @StanMcChrystal. Retired Gen. Stan McChrystal is on Twitter. See what he's up to here.

What did the president talk to Congress about yesterday? Obama invited a handful of congressional leaders to the White House yesterday to discuss "ongoing U.S. efforts to respond to the conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and other pressing issues," according to the White House. "The President requested this meeting to update and hear from some of Congress' leading foreign policy voices before their departure for the August recess."

Who was in the room? Check out the list here.

Congress can't get the border bill passed in time for recess, but it did pass a VA overhaul bill last night. All it needs now is the president's signature. FP's John Hudson: "In a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation, Congress approved a $16.3 billion plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and neglect, including that it allowed veterans waiting for medical care to die. The Senate approved the bill in a 91-3 vote on Thursday, one day after the House version passed by a vote of 420 to 5.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs: "We are now just one signature away from making government more accountable and providing veterans with real choice in their health care decisions... I am confident the president will do the right thing and sign this bill into law." More here.

The FT's editorial page offers some foreign policy advice to the GOP, and urges the potential presidential candidates to move beyond the ‘shoot-now-ask-questions later' approach: "There is a strong case to be made that Barack Obama's diplomacy lacks the drive - and the Machiavellian mindset - required to cope with such challenges. The field is open for a Republican to seize that ground." More here.

China may have accidentally confirmed the existence of the Dongfeng-41 missile. Reuters: "A Chinese provincial department appeared to have inadvertently confirmed the existence of an intercontinental ballistic missile that may be able to carry several nuclear warheads and travel as far as the United States." More here.

The DoD's IG found that a former senior official was sidestepping the competitive bidding process to hire people he already knew. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe: "Alan S. Rudolph, the former director of the agency's chemical and biological technologies directorate, recruited people he knew to work for him and had several organizations, including George Mason University, hire them as employees to do work for his organization, the Defense Department Inspector General's Office found. The investigation was sparked by complaints that Rudolph was hiring his friends outside regulations." More, including Rudolph's response, here.

U.S. officials hope that Egypt, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia can find common ground in the fight against extremist groups. The WSJ's Jay Solomon and Carol Lee: "The eruptions of Islamist violence in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iraq have begun shaking the Middle East to its core, increasing the likelihood that a new order will emerge when the dust starts to settle. The region's traditional power centers-Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Israel-are all threatened by the surge of Islamist forces that aim to disrupt the status quo. Even Shiite Iran, which often stokes Islamist movements, is finding that the surge of Sunni extremism is threatening its position in the region."

A senior Arab official: "We're seeing the region dividing up into a moderate camp and an extremist camp. The two camps have opposing and irreconcilable views of the role of radical Islam... That's why it's important to be more publicly supportive of moderate forces. Not doing so will in effect undermine moderates and empower extremists." More here.

Writing for FP, journalist Adam Baron describes his final days in Yemen before getting kicked out. "I never really thought about how my time in Yemen would come to an end. But needless to say, I would never have believed it would end with me being forced to leave within 24 hours, booted out in a matter befitting a criminal ...

"... Critical reporting on the state of the country has apparently become unwelcome in post-Arab Spring Yemen. Such reporting is needed now more than ever: At the moment, there doesn't appear to be a single accredited American journalist based in a country where the United States is waging a covert drone war against what President Barack Obama's administration has dubbed the world's most dangerous al Qaeda franchise." More here.

Planes ordered to fly higher in Iraq now. The Wall Street Journal's Robert Wall: U.S. airlines are prohibited from flying over Iraq below 30,000 feet, the Federal Aviation Administration said late on Thursday. The agency, which had previously restricted airlines from flying below 20,000, issued the new requirement because of ‘the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Iraq.'" More here.

As violence rages in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. must pay attention to the Kurds, asserts a new report from the Center for American Progress. The report looks at the ascending Kurdish political and military actors from the perspective of both Turkish domestic politics and broader regional dynamics, and offers recommendations for a more coherent U.S. policy.

Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at CAP, told Situation Report last night: "With the rise of ISIS and chaos in Syria and Iraq, both the United States and Turkey are in need of new partners with whom to work towards regional stability.  Turkey is already cooperating well with the KRG and could move towards closer cooperation with Syrian Kurds.  Advancing the peace process with Kurdish groups domestically will be important to improving Turkey's stature in the wider region."

Policy Analyst Max Hoffman added: "The U.S. needs to recalibrate its approach to Kurdish groups in Syria, deepen ties with the KRG with less deference to Baghdad's wishes, and adjust its interactions with Kurdish political actors to reflect the influence of these groups and Ankara's more open approach to the idea of Kurdish autonomy along its southern border. These steps could help curb the rise of groups like ISIS and insulate Turkey against the spread of regional turmoil." Read the report here.

If the U.S. military is going to fulfill the QDR's strategic objectives, it's going to need more resources. That's according to the National Defense Panel, which delivered its review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review to Congress yesterday. The congressionally mandated report, "Ensuring a Strong Defense for the Future," concludes there is a growing gap between the strategic objectives the U.S. military is expected to achieve and the resources required to do so. You can read the full report here.

In Afghanistan, the high-stakes vote audit resumes tomorrow. AP's Amir Shah: "The head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission and the chief U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said the sides have agreed on new criteria, allowing the audit to go forward." More here.

How can the US stabilize Afghanistan now that the era of stabilization is over? The presidential election drama isn't the only Afghan upheaval underway: provincial reconstruction teams are closing, meaning foreign civilian and military actors have lost key platforms outside Kabul to project their security and aid assets. A new US Institute of Peace report by Frances Brown, argues that NATO's  governance and development strategy needs to adjust accordingly.

At least eight firms specializing in deep dives are bidding to take part in the next phase of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, likely lost in the Indian Ocean west of Australia, one of the greatest mysteries in aviation history. The WSJ's Daniel Stacey reports, here.

Situation Report

FP's Situation Report: Afghanistan reconstruction costs more than the U.S. Marshall Plan; Israel calls up 16,000 reservists; Derek Chollet tells staff he is leaving; Heavy flight restrictions still in place for the F-35; and a bit more.

By Kate Brannen with Nathaniel Sobel

What does $104 billion get you in Afghanistan? The world and most of Washington may be distracted from what's going on in Afghanistan, but the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction is not. A new report from his office shows that despite outspending the U.S. Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War Two, the United States is not getting infrastructure that Afghans can sustain on their own. FP's Elias Groll: "Instead, the funds have mainly bought empty buildings, malfunctioning power plants, and a corrupt government that will be wholly dependent on Western -- read: American -- aid well into the future."

Most of the money is for the Afghan security forces."... Of the $104 billion the United States has poured into Afghanistan since fiscal year 2002, some $62 billion has gone toward creating the Afghan army. (It should be noted that when comparing the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan with the Marshall Plan that in the aftermath of World War II, the United States did not have to stand up any European armies.) To save money, the size of that force is being reduced from 352,000 to 228,500 men. Even at that reduced size, the Afghan government takes in far less money than will be required to fund the army: an estimated $4.1 billion annually." More here.

Meanwhile, the audit of June's election continues as Secretary of State John Kerry is urging Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to move forward with plans to form a unity government. It remains to be seen whether the two candidates will actually implement what they agreed to in private. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "‘The time for politics is over," Kerry wrote in an op-ed published online Wednesday by Afghanistan's TOLOnews in English as well as in Dari and Pashto, the two official Afghan languages. ‘The time for cooperation is at hand,' he wrote ...

"Kerry's intervention came amid a crescendo of what a senior Obama administration official called ‘misinformation and background noise' about the terms of the still-secret accord they reached in their July 12 emergency talks with him." More here.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue to destroy Hamas tunnels with or without a ceasefire. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon directly accused Israel of shelling a U.N. shelter for Palestinians. FP's Colum Lynch: "In a scorching rebuke from the normally mild-mannered diplomat, Ban charged that Israel's action constituted a ‘reprehensible' assault on civilians and demanded that those responsible for the strike be held accountable. The shelling of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School marked the fifth time since the conflict began on July 8 that a U.N.-protected shelter has been hit with incoming fire, but the incident is the first time that Ban has directly blamed Israel. That leaves open the possibility that some of the other facilities were hit by Hamas rockets. Israeli officials have said the militant group stores weapons in U.N. facilities and uses them to fire rockets into the Jewish state." More here.

Israel announces it's calling up 16,000 reservists, the WSJ's Joshua Mitnick reports.

While Congress figures out how to pass $225 million in new Iron Dome funding before the August recess, DoD supplies Israel with new ammo. Stars and Stripes' story: "As conflict continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, the Department of Defense has released arms to Israel from a weapons stockpile maintained within the borders of the close U.S. ally, defense officials confirmed Wednesday. The ammunition sale from the weapons stockpile, established in the 1990s for use by both countries in case of emergency, took place within the past week, following three weeks of battle between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in Gaza."

But according to a defense official it was not in response to an emergency request from Israel. "Instead, the United States elected to supply 120mm mortar shells and 40mm grenades from the stockpile because the arms were approaching the date they would require replacement, he said. Israel regularly buys such ammunition when the United States rotates its stocks, he said, and the United States would meanwhile send new ammunition to refresh the stockpile." More here.

Israel released a video of Special Forces soldiers raiding a Gaza house a day after Hamas uploaded a video of its soldiers attacking an Israeli military installation. Watch the new video on FP here.

Israel's feeling little pressure from Arab countries to stop the fighting and that's probably a big part of why no ceasefire deal has been reached. The NYT's David D. Kirkpatrick: "After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states - including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip." More here.

In Iraq, the fight over oil is really a fight to keep the country together. But Baghdad's attempt to keep the Kurds reliant on the central government could backfire. FP's Keith Johnson: "The age-old dispute between Iraq's Kurds and its central government has found the unlikeliest of new battlegrounds: a Texas courtroom. In a contentious lawsuit, Baghdad and its semi-autonomous northern region are waging a legal battle that's nominally about the ownership of a million barrels of crude oil sitting in a tanker parked outside the Houston Ship Channel. The real issue, however, is the future of the Iraqi state.

"Simply put, the hard-pressed Kurds are desperate to sell their oil to replace revenue they used to receive from the central government. But Baghdad is doing everything in its dwindling power to prevent such self-sufficiency. Its legal threats have cast a pall of uncertainty over Kurdish oil, which is discouraging potential buyers around the world. And that is inexorably pushing the Kurds further away from reconciliation with the Shiite-led regime in Baghdad and closer to open independence." More here.

As a warning against backing the Islamic State, Shi'ite militia forces shot 15 Sunni Muslims in the head and then hung their bodies on display in a public square in Baquba, a town 40 miles northeast of Baghdad. Reuters' Michael Georgy has the story here.

It looks like Hezbollah has joined the fight in Iraq. Reuters' story: "A Hezbollah commander has died during a mission in Iraq, sources familiar with the incident said on Wednesday, indicating the Lebanese group that is already fighting in Syria's civil war may be involved in a second conflict in the region. Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite Islamist group, has not previously announced any role in the conflict in Iraq ... " More here.

The threat of Americans being trained in Syria to become terrorists and then returning to the United States is not hypothetical ... It's happened. Moner Mohammad Abusalha, "who grew up a basketball-obsessed teenager in a Florida gated-community," carried out a suicide attack in Syria in May. After his training, but before he blew himself up, Abusalha came home to the United States for several months. The NYT's Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti with the exclusive: "Mr. Abusalha, 22, chose to carry out his attack in Syria rather than in the United States, but the difficulty learning about his background, motivations and travels illustrates the problems law enforcement officials face in trying to identify the Westerners - including dozens of Americans - believed to have been trained by Islamic militants in Syria." More here.

For Al-Awsat, Yousef Al-Dayni writes about Islamic self-delusion: "...We are facing a number of major issues, but perhaps the biggest is our inability to even diagnose the problems facing us. We lack the ability to gauge the sheer magnitude of the threat that these extremist groups represent, particularly as they are now present all over the world. There is a collective departure from reality among Muslims today in favor of daydreams of the caliphate and eschatological musings. Islamic discourse today reflects the worst parts of our heritage in terms of myths, lies, hypocrisy and the political exploitation of religion." More 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 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: Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Capt. James Goudreau speaks at the 17th Annual Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Expo and Forum at 10:15 a.m. at the Cannon House Office Building.

Obama plans to huddle with Hill leaders today to discuss national security and foreign affairs. House Speaker John Boehner and his House Republican colleagues are not expected to attend the White House meeting.  POLITICO's John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman. "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be in attendance, as will the top Democratic senators from the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence committees. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), the party whips, are also expected to be there." More here.

Derek Chollet, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, will be leaving the Pentagon in January. FP's Kate Brannen: "After nearly six years serving in Barack Obama's administration, Chollet told staff Wednesday, July 30, that it's time for him to devote his energy to other endeavors, including his family. His departure is sure to spark speculation that Chollet, like other prominent Democratic national security officials, may be leaving to recharge his batteries before taking a senior post in a potential Hillary Clinton administration."

What's next for Chollet? "I expect you'll see him writing a book and lending his voice on any number of topics," a defense official told FP. "He's got a lot of credibility."

And who might replace him when he leaves in January? Elissa Slotkin will likely be on the shortlist. She'll be "returning in August as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. She had been performing the duties of the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy while Brian McKeon waited for the Senate to confirm him to that post, which it finally did on Monday." More on the staff changes in the International Security Affairs office here.

A new commander for JSOC. Fayetteville Observer's Drew Brooks: "Army Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III took the helm of the Fort Bragg-based Joint Special Operations Command, officials announced in a two-paragraph statement. Thomas replaced Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, who had served as JSOC commander since May 2011." More here.

The Veterans Affairs' scandal prompted something rarely seen in Washington -- bipartisan cooperation. FP's John Hudson: "On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly approved a $16.3 billion plan to overhaul the massive federal department, which has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and neglect, including allowing veterans waiting for medical care to die. The bill passed by a vote of 420 to 5. The Senate is expected to follow suit before adjourning for the August recess." More here.

Russia warns that sanctions will backfire on the West. AFP's Anna Smolchenko in Moscow with Anna Malpas in Donetsk: "A defiant Russia said Wednesday that Western sanctions over Ukraine would backfire on the United States and lead to energy price hikes in Europe after Brussels and Washington unveiled the toughest punitive measures against Moscow since the Cold War." More here.

Meanwhile, in the short-term, it's unclear if sanctions can deter Putin. The WSJ's Jay Solomon in Washington and Marcus Walker in Berlin: "The U.S. and Europe made good this week on their threats to start penalizing broader sections of Russia's economy in a bid to force President Vladimir Putin to end his support for separatist rebels in Ukraine. But recent history of the use of financial sanctions by Washington and Brussels-including against Iran, North Korea and Syria-suggests that significantly more pervasive penalties, particularly against Moscow's energy sector, would be needed to change the Kremlin's calculations, said current and former U.S. officials and sanctions experts. Even then, it is uncertain whether Mr. Putin values Russia's economy more than his influence over Ukraine." More here.

Watch the Ukrainian military's latest recruitment videos on FP, here.

Andrew S. Bowen, writing for FP, predicts things will only get worse before they get better in eastern Ukraine: "There was little Ukraine could do to stop the ‘little green men' who invaded Crimea. By the time Kiev had realized what was going on, Russia's most elite and best-trained Naval Infantry, Airborne, and Spetsnaz troops (including the new Senezh unit, which seized the Crimean parliament) had prevented Ukrainian reinforcements from entering Crimea. But the separatist militiamen in eastern Ukraine, despite being equipped, trained, and funded by Moscow, are a different story. There, Kiev retains a vast advantage in firepower, materiel, and troops, along with the implicit backing of the international community against an increasingly fragmented and uncoordinated separatist movement." More here.

As fighting in Libya rages, the West is worried about what happens next. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "Combatants are broadly divided between Islamist and secular militias. And although the Americans and Europeans are not seen as direct targets of either, some U.S. counterterrorism officials are increasingly concerned that the Islamists could seek to align themselves with al-Qaeda affiliates or with the Islamic State organization that has seized wide swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq." More here.

A reporter's dream: The White House accidentally emailed the AP the State Department's preliminary proposed talking points on the Senate report on the CIA's interrogation program. AP's Ken Dilanian and Eileen Sullivan: "A Senate report on the CIA's interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks concludes that the agency initially kept the secretary of state and some U.S. ambassadors in the dark about harsh techniques and secret prisons, according to a document circulating among White House staff.

"The still-classified report also says some ambassadors who were informed about interrogations of al-Qaida detainees at so-called black sites in their countries were instructed not to tell their superiors at the State Department, says the document ... " More here.

The Air Force calls for cheaper and quicker weapons development. The NYT's Helene Cooper: "In an acknowledgment that the military may be pricing itself out of business, the Air Force on Wednesday called for a shift away from big-ticket weapon systems that take decades to develop and a move toward what Defense Department officials are calling more ‘agile' high-tech armaments that can be quickly adapted to meet a range of emerging threats."

Maj. Gen. David W. Allvin, a co-author of the Air Force's new strategic forecast: "To boil this down, we have to buy things very differently and develop and employ our people differently ... We have to behave more like an innovative 21st-century company." More here.

You might not have noticed, but the F-35 is still under some serious flight restrictions due to the June 23 engine fire. Defense News' Aaron Mehta: "Despite ongoing restrictions on the fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the US Air Force's top general warned against being ‘alarmist' when discussing the fifth-generation jet's engine."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh at a briefing yesterday at the Pentagon: "Pratt & Whitney has been making pretty darn good engines for single-engine airplanes for a long time for the United States Air Force ... What we found in the program so far, with these almost 9,000 sorties so far, is this engine works pretty well, too. That day it didn't, and we need to figure out why." More here.

Al Jazeera's Jamie Tarabay interviews Phil Strub, DOD's liaison to Hollywood, here.

Next week, Bergdahl will face questions about his disappearance. USA Today's Jim Michaels: "Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban two months ago, will meet next week with the senior Army officer investigating the circumstances of his capture in Afghanistan, his lawyer said Wednesday. Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity, plans to meet with Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the investigating officer, in San Antonio, where Bergdahl is stationed, according to lawyer Eugene Fidell." More here.

The men who captured one of the ‘Taliban 5? speak out about the Bergdahl swap. Alex Quade's video for the Daily Caller, here.