Situation Report

New rules at the Pentagon; An attack in Kabul; Kerry reassures India; Snowden wants his computer; Casey: where’s the strategy for Syria?; The Hollywood treatment for China’s J-20; and a bit more.

New rules at the Pentagon; An attack in Kabul; Kerry reassures India; Snowden wants his computer; Casey: where’s the strategy for Syria?; The Hollywood treatment for China’s J-20; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

An attack rocked Kabul near CIA headquarters and the Afghan presidential palace. Last night about 10 p.m. EST, Taliban militants stormed a number of key buildings, resulting in a 90-minute firefight. Situation Report was told that there had been a press conference scheduled that morning, since cancelled, and that there were initial reports, as yet unconfirmed, that insurgents had used ISAF credential to get past a primary checkpoint before being stopped at a second checkpoint. "Then all hell broke loose," Situation Report was told.

From Reuters: "A Reuters reporter at the palace said the attack began soon after 6.30 a.m. (10:00 p.m. EDT) when at least one man opened fire with an automatic rifle close to a gate to the palace in central Shash Darak district. The fighting was over before 8 a.m. Reporters at the palace gates for security checks took cover when the firing started. A senior government official told Reuters four or five attackers had used fake identify papers to try to make their way through security gates in the Shash Darak district, which leads to Kabul’s most tightly guarded areas. One car made it through, but a second vehicle was stopped and those inside began shooting. Grenades were thrown. The area is home to the presidential palace compound, the Ministry of Defense and an annex of the U.S. embassy at the old Ariana Hotel. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Afghanistan station is based there."

Kerry tries to reassure allies as they wait (and wait and wait) for the Obama administration to publicly articulate a strategy for Afghanistan after 2014. Many Afghan hands will tell you that when it comes to Afghanistan, the administration’s inability thus far to commit publicly to a troop presence is making it harder for allies – or the U.S. military itself – to see the way forward there. Still, Secretary of State John Kerry was in New Delhi, assuring India and "other concerned partners," as the WaPo put it this morning "that the United States plans to continue supporting Afghanistan’s military and to keep American forces in the country ‘under any circumstances’ after the scheduled 2014 combat troop withdrawal." The WaPo: "India is particularly worried that the U.S. pullout will leave an ongoing war in Afghanistan between Taliban fighters backed by Pakistan and other forces that have sought aid from India and Central Asian countries to combat any Taliban attempt to regain power. India also has questioned U.S. plans to conduct peace negotiations with the Taliban in a new political office for the insurgents established last week in Doha, the capital of the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. An inaugural session of the talks was put on hold last week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected to the Taliban labeling the office an outpost of ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the name under which the Taliban ruled the country until they were ousted by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001.’ Read the rest, here. Read Situation Report’s bit on "Where is the decision on Afghanistan?" here.

Jim Dobbins in Kabul. Dobbins, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, met Monday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to talk about peace talks with the Taliban, an initiative that appeared to have stumbled out of the gate immediately after they were announced last week after the Taliban raised a flag and erected an "Islamic Emirate" plaque on the wall, a nod to the moniker used before 2001. Dobbins was vague as to the outcome of his meeting with Karzai, saying only that it was "quite positive" and that the two countries were eager to see if the Taliban want to talk. But it is as yet unclear when the talks might be rescheduled.

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From the Times is Tough Department: New rules at the Pentagon. The budget crunch is having its way with Pentagon support and facilities. According to a memo provided to Situation Report, beginning July 8, bus schedules are truncated, building entrances will be closed, the Pentagon gym will be shutting two hours early on weekdays, and the executive motor pool, which provides vans, SUVs and sedans for some Pentagon types, will see changes. "Customers who use the Army Executive Motor Pool will see impacts to service requests as the availability of drivers will be reduced during the Furlough period," wrote Pentagon building manager Michael Bryant in the June 24 memo. Bryant: "The purpose of this circular is to inform building occupants about the primary impacts the impending DOD-wide Furloughs will have on services at the Pentagon Reservation.  The following changes are not made lightly, but the temporary reduction in manpower results in a temporary diminished capability to deliver multiple access, building, security, and transportation services."

The memo includes an aerial view of the Pentagon with arrows for the entrances with reduced hours and services. The Metro visitor entrance, for example, will only have one screening line; Corridor 3 entrance for those lucky enough to have parking in the South Parking lot, closed. The River Entrance hours are reduced to 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, closed weekends. "This is not a comprehensive list of all the impacts that the Furlough may have on services that our DOD customers are used to receiving.  Personnel shortages due to Furlough may be further exacerbated by sick leave and other personnel absences," Bryant wrote.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter is going Hollywood. Killer Apps’ John Reed reports that China seems poised to give its new stealth fighter all manner of publicity, with a bunch of new photos. Reed: "The J-20 is China’s first stealthy fighter plane, the grainy amateur photos that leaked of the jet in late 2010 were a signal to the world that China was ready to start challenging, at least a little, American dominance of the skies. The Chinese government has a habit of allowing plane-spotters to hang out on the perimeter fences of airfields belonging to two of its major military aircraft builders, Chengdu and Shenyang, when the government is ready for images of a new project to leak out. In the two and a half years since the J-20 emerged we’ve seen another stealth jet, the J-31, and a stealthy drone, the Li Jian unveiled in similar fashion. This new crew? They’re no amateurs. Maybe this means the plane will merely star in the next Chinese version of Top Gun. It may also be a harbinger of big news for the plane."

Democratic Senator: Obama has no articulated strategy on Syria. In an interview with the Cable’s John Hudson, Sen. Bob Casey, the Democrat from Pennsylvania, said he’s frustrated that the Obama White House doesn’t seem to have any plan. Casey to Hudson: "For too long there really hasn’t been a clearly articulated strategy… The administration has yet to make it clear to the American people what’s at stake here… With Tehran and Hezbollah taking the offensive, a bad result in Syria could greatly strengthen the Iranian regime and make it more difficult for us to constrain their nuclear ability." Read the rest, here.

Read Situation Report’s story on same, last week, here.

No computer? "Totally intolerable." As their cell phones sat inside a refrigerator to prevent eavesdropping, lawyers representing Edward Snowden sat around in the apartment in which he was staying, chowed on pizza, fried chicken, sausages and Pepsi to plan his escape from Hong Kong. But Snowden was informed by the lawyers that he could spend years in prison during litigation over whether he would be granted asylum in China or elsewhere, or be surrendered to the U.S. But he was told he might not have access to his computer. From the NYT: "Staying cooped up in the cramped Hong Kong home of a local supporter was less bothersome to Mr. Snowden than the prospect of losing his computer. ‘He didn’t go out, he spent all his time inside a tiny space, but he said it was O.K. because he had his computer,’ said Albert Ho, one of Mr. Snowden’s lawyers. ‘If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable.’" Read the rest, here.

The Stans

  • NYT: Pakistan Premier says Musharraf will be charged with treason.
  • Washington Times: High expectations: Fledgling Afghan air force pressured for readiness.

Thinking Syria

The Pivot

  • Reuters: China, U.S. war over Snowden, no lasting damage seen.
  • The Guardian: North and South Korean websites shut down amid hacking alert.
  • Chosun Ilbo: Teachers want more education about the Korean war. 

Noting

  • Marine Corps Times: 8th and I welcomes first female sergeant major.
  • Breaking Defense: Foreign arms sales, sequestration and the future of aerospace companies.
  • Stripes: Navy captain relieved for "improper relationship."
  • Defense News: Officer: No "plan B" for Bahrain naval base.
  • Small Wars: Leader-imposed stress.
  • Stripes: Veterans’ uphill road back, struggle with suicide.