Situation Report

Graham to put hold on Hagel, Brennan noms; A mini drawdown from Afghanistan this spring; Dunford Afg. speech short and sweet; Russell Rumbaugh: time for a war tax; and a little more.

Advise and non-consent: Lindsey Graham wants more information on Benghazi and will hold the Hagel and Brennan nominations until he gets it. This is in effect the second time the Republican senator from South Carolina has threatened to hold up Hagel’s nomination. Previously, he said would block it from moving forward unless Defense Secretary Leon ...

Advise and non-consent: Lindsey Graham wants more information on Benghazi and will hold the Hagel and Brennan nominations until he gets it. This is in effect the second time the Republican senator from South Carolina has threatened to hold up Hagel’s nomination. Previously, he said would block it from moving forward unless Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Benghazi. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey did so Thursday. Still not good enough for Graham, who said on CBS’ "Face the Nation" yesterday: "I don’t think we should allow [John] Brennan to go forward for the CIA directorship [or] Hagel to be confirmed as secretary of defense until the White House gives us an accounting," Graham said. "Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks?" Sen. Jack Reed, the Democrat from Rhode Island, who appeared on the same show Sunday said the move to block the president’s nominations is "unprecedented and unwarranted."

Sen. John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, reportedly supports the hold, but neither he nor Graham support a filibuster.

Republican Morning Joe, this morning: "If you’ve got a working class guy who has voted Republican every four years and he turns on the Sunday shows and he’s flipping around the channels and he sees Republicans in February still talking about Benghazi, saying they’re going to hold up the picks for secretary of defense and CIA director for something that happened back in the fall, and they are continuing on this…to hold up this and talk about it on Sunday morning, it’s a colossal mistake." Hagel is thought to have 53 votes  among Dems, plus the two Democratic-leaning Independents, plus at least two Republicans, giving him 57 known votes so far. The SASC vote was postponed last week, and now it is unclear if it will be held this week, either.

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Will the number match the mission? Obama may or may not announce details of the troop drawdown at tomorrow’s State of the Union. Gen. Dempsey, in Afghanistan for the ISAF change of command over the weekend, said the number of American troops in Afghanistan will correspond to the mission they are given, or, as he told reporters: "The number will match the mission." He promised that he would not "ask 10,000 troops to do 20,000 troops’ work." That squares with what top defense officials have said in recent months. The drawdown will be more robust after this fall, when the "fighting season" in Afghanistan ends, but it’s likely there will be a small drawdown this spring.

It’s already fairly clear that 5,000 troops or more will redeploy home over the next several months, taking the force of about 66,000 Americans down to almost 60,000. The U.S. is in the process of replacing conventional brigade combat teams that are typically 3,500 to 4,000 strong with the new Security Force Assistance Brigades, which typically consist of about 2,000 personnel. There are seven such brigades now; by early summer, there are to be nine SFABs on the ground, ISAF officials tell Situation Report. That means two of the larger, conventional brigades are to be replaced with two of the smaller brigades for a difference of about 4,000 personnel.

And starting this spring, some of the 400 or so Security Force Assistance teams, small units of as many as 18 people, will be redeployed home as the Afghan National Security Force is deemed stronger and more capable, Situation Report is told.

"I think that the idea of technical, modest adjustments over the course of the next few months, followed by a more substantial drawdown at the end of this season makes sense," Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon told Situation Report Sunday. O’Hanlon, who published an op-ed this weekend in the WaPo, praised Allen’s tenure as ISAF commander. He said that if the drawdown plan leaves roughly 60,000 troops on the ground through this year’s fight, he does not have any "extreme anxiety," and that it’s consistent with what the administration has signaled. But O’Hanlon believes Obama recognizes that, like it or not, his legacy will be inextricably tied to Afghanistan’s near future and will want to make sure the departure between now and the end of 2014 is smooth and creates as much stability as possible.
"He’s thinking about the history books and this is very much his war at this point," O’Hanlon said. "He’s the one that owns this."

Joe Dunford spoke briefly at Sunday’s change of command ceremony in Kabul. Marine Gen. Joe Dunford assumed duties as Afghanistan’s newest war commander — and probably the last — at a ceremony yesterday in Kabul. Dunford took over for another Marine, Gen. John Allen. "Today is not about change, it’s about continuity. What has not changed is the will of this coalition," he said in a ceremony attended by Gen. Dempsey and Gen. Jim Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. "I’ll endeavor to continue the momentum of the campaign and support the people of Afghanistan as they seize the opportunity for a brighter future."

Allen was the longest-serving ISAF commander at 19 months, but Dunford may end up presiding even longer — as many as 22 months.

Invited to yesterday’s Kabul ceremony but didn’t attend: Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

A novel idea: a war tax to pay for war. Stimson’s Russell Rumbaugh is out with an op-ed this morning on why the nation needs a war tax. Rumbaugh: "With leading officials calling for action in Syria, and the American military providing support for France’s intervention in Mali, the need for such a tax is urgent. And President Obama’s call for tax reform as the next round of budget negotiations begins offers a perfect opportunity to enact it." Any military action that required supplemental funding would require additional revenue from a tax surcharge, he argues. "By tying military action to additional revenue, the president would actually have a freer hand in deciding when to use force. Every argument the Obama administration makes for military action would explicitly include a call for increased taxes, forcing the question of whether the stakes in the military situation are worth the cost. If the American people agree they are worth it, the president will get both the political support and financing he needs."

Outsourcing: why Yemen is a concern. AEI’s Critical Threats project is out with a piece that says Yemen continues to be a U.S. national security threat but that the U.S. has outsourced security to the Yemeni government — which in turn has outsourced it to local tribal militias. "The validity of American strategy in Yemen thus rests on the viability of these local groups over the long term," concludes AEI’s Sasha Gordon. Those local tribes now amount to the front-line troops defending territory from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Ansar al Sharia. "These militias have been effective, but are not reliable in the long term. Many instances of tribal militias clashing with government forces or with each other indicate as much." In conclusion:

"Looking into the future, the unavoidable question is: can the central government rely on Yemeni tribal structure, in the form of local militias, to protect the vulnerable areas outside the capital? Judging from the experience of the past year, the answer is no."


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