Panetta begins to wrap it up; “The Devil of Ramadi” killed by a vet he was trying to help; Is Hagel a prepper? Dempsey: “I’m not going to grade [Hagel’s] homework”; SIGAR’s Sopko at CSIS today; and more.
- By Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.
Panetta begins wrapping it up this week. Although his likely successor, Chuck Hagel, has not been confirmed, Panetta is tying up loose ends around the building and could be on the plane home to California within weeks. Situation Report is told that this Friday is the first of many formal events marking his departure. Each of the services will come together for an "Armed Forces Farewell Tribute" at Conmy Hall at Fort Myer, where Panetta will make remarks. Tomorrow, Panetta will have his last quarterly meeting with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to discuss service member transition and mental health issues. On Wednesday, Panetta will give what’s being billed as a major address at Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall on "the state of affairs in Washington and his charge to future leaders," Situation Report is told, which will likely touch on budget issues. And on Thursday, Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey will testify on Benghazi before the SASC.
Panetta today: He’ll lead his daily staff meeting at the Pentagon this morning and then meet with service chiefs in the tank this afternoon.
Ash Carter is in Turkey today: We’re told he has finished a round of bilats with senior Turkish defense officials. He also met this morning with embassy employees, including local security guards, who were present during the attack on the U.S. embassy last week. "Dr. Carter expressed his most heartfelt thanks for their efforts and emphasized the continued strength of the U.S.-Turkish alliance," according to a defense official.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where we’re with Doctrine Man — the MVP last night was the power outage — even if Panetta’s 49ers did ultimately fall and Flacco got the nod in the end. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. And sign up for Situation Report here or just drop me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.
Soldiers from Camp Courage during Alicia Keys’ singing of the national anthem last night at 1:09 (thanks to Rich Spiegel). Video here.
Dempsey thinks Hagel, likely his future boss, is smart and well-prepared. Asked yesterday during his joint appearance on NBC’s "Meet the Press" with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Hagel’s preparations for Thursday’s confirmation hearing, Dempsey said: "I’m not going to grade his homework. But I will say that in my conversations with him, he was well-prepared, articulate, concise." When MTP guest host Chuck Todd asked him about his confidence in Hagel, Dempsey displayed his characteristic orneriness. "I’m not going to speak about confidence. He could be my boss. And when is the last time you saw a subordinate discuss their confidence in their potential boss? But I think he’s got great credentials, my personal contacts with him have been very positive. And if he’s confirmed, I look forward to working with him."
Panetta, on MTP, on additional hardening of embassies: "The important things to do are first of all you’ve got to build up the host company, the host country capacity. In the end, these embassies do depend on host country, the details that provide security. So you’ve got to have — you’ve got try to develop that. Second issue is you’ve to harden these embassies as much as possible. And the third is that we’ve been working with the State Department to — to determine whether additional Marines ought to be assigned to that area. And in the end, then you know the final alternative is our ability to respond in having our troops in a position where they can respond quickly. But I have to tell you, a lot of that still is dependent on whether intelligence tells us that we’ve got a big problem and gives us enough warning so that we can get to the place so we can respond."
Panetta on sequester: "[I]f Congress stands back and allows sequester to take place, I think it would really be a shameful and irresponsible act."
Dempsey on if al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is the number one security threat to the U.S.: "No, I wouldn’t describe them as the number one national security threat but they are a threat that is localized, becoming regionalized and left unaddressed will become a global threat."
Panetta on the mission in Afghanistan: "The mission in Afghanistan is to establish a secure and a capable Afghanistan that can govern itself and ensure that al Qaeda never again establishes a safe haven in that country."
Panetta, on State’s new travel warning for Afghanistan that states "Afghan authorities have a limited ability to maintain order and ensure the security of Afghan citizens and foreign visitors."
Panetta: "There’s a war going on in Afghanistan. This is not — you know, this is not your peaceful little paradise, you know, where tourists can go there to sun bathe. This is a war area. And, you know, the fact is we’ve made good progress in the war. We’ve been able to have 75 percent of their population now under Afghan control and security. We’ve been able to diminish the Taliban’s capabilities. Violence has gone down. We’re also developing an Afghan army that has increased its operational skill to provide security. So we’re on the right path towards trying to give Afghanistan the opportunity to govern and secure itself."
ICYMI: Was it hard for Hagel the hunter to become the hunted? We looked at what went wrong last week with Chuck Hagel’s testimony and if it was the man or the staff who seemed to inadequately prepare for the moment. Though Hagel will likely be confirmed, last week’s hearing didn’t do a lot to change any professed fence-sitters. The cause? It takes a extra effort to shake the self-assuredness of a senator sitting on the dais versus the discipline required to sit on the hot seat and answer annoying questions from senators who used to be your equal, argues one former administration official in our story published Friday night.
"It’s about getting confirmed," said one former administration official familiar with prepping officials for Hill testimony. "It’s not about impressing them with your knowledge, it’s about living to fight another day." Others wonder if his preppers didn’t do him any favors. "Hagel had what was thought to be a strong team preparing him for battle on the Hill, including Liz King, assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, who worked for Gates and then Panetta. She’s considered someone who knows the Hill inside and out and would take an airtight approach to prep. ‘She knows what each member is going to ask, she knows the committee very well,’ said the former administration official. But she’s also known for having a low-key, non-argumentative manner, handling internal divisions with a calm demeanor in what is a decidedly alpha-male environment. That low-key approach may open her up to criticism of not being tough enough when it counts, said the former official.
Some observers speculated Hagel possesses a kind of arrogance that may have contributed to the lackluster performance and as a result, may have shrugged off any extra prep the team around him was prepared to give. Indeed, it may be difficult for the hunter to become the hunted. As a senator, Hagel was used to sitting on the dais, staring down at government officials testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and asking the tough questions. He had never played the opposing player. Hillary Clinton was seen as a master of discipline, moving smoothly from the dais to the confirmation table when she became secretary of state. And John Kerry, sworn in Friday as secretary of state, was so well versed in diplomatic issues as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee that he couldn’t help but be embraced by his former colleagues."
Ex-sniper Chris Kyle, "The Devil of Ramadi," was killed trying to help a fellow vet. Navy SEAL, sniper, and best-selling author Chris Kyle was killed in Texas over the weekend after another vet, a Marine named Eddie Ray Routh whom he was trying to help work through post-deployment issues, turned his semi-automatic handgun on Kyle and a friend, killing them both. The NYT’s story about the shooting, which happened at a shooting range near Glen Rose, Texas, says Kyle, who had served four tours in Iraq, had sought to help other veterans returning from war. The reasons for the shooting remain unclear, but Routh is in custody. NYT: "Friends of Mr. Kyle’s said he had been well acquainted with the difficulties soldiers face returning to civilian life, and had devoted much of his time since retiring in 2009 to helping fellow soldiers overcome the traumas of war. ‘He served this country with extreme honor, but came home and was a servant leader in helping his brothers and sisters dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,’ said Mr. Cox, also a former military sniper. ‘Everyone has their own inner struggles, but he was very proactive about the things he was dealing with.’"
Oprah Winfrey made Tom Geary get goose bumps. Winfrey did the voiceover for Jeep’s half-time ad honoring troops that might have been a little much but came close to watering the eyes anyway. Geary, a mechanical contractor quoted by the WSJ in a piece about Superbowl ads this morning, said: "I got goose bumps; I was on the verge of crying." Winfrey, as troops return home and jump into shiny new Jeeps: "Because when you’re home, we’re more than a family. We are a nation. That is whole. Again." Watch here.
One of our favorite places we’ve never visited is the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, either the final resting place or a holding area for as many as 5,000 military airplanes. The Air Force’s Airman magazine did a great piece, "Holding Pattern," on Davis-Monthan here.
What will Afghanistan’s reconstruction look like in the future? John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, appears at CSIS this morning for an event that coincides with SIGAR’s quarterly report to Congress. Noting
- CS Monitor: A quiet envoy to the hermit kingdom of North Korea.
- Global Post: U.S., South Korea show off their strength.
- Danger Room: How a chaotic hostage rescue foreshadows Afghanistan’s future.
- Haaretz: Iranian official says Israel will regret Syrian strike.
- Defense News: Navy cuts global fleet goal to 306 ships.
- Informed Comment: Iranian president accuses Parliament speaker of corruption.
- All Africa: French warplanes hit Islamists near Kidal.
- The Duffel Blog: Intel community predicts Superbowl victors.