The Pakistani military saw bin Laden raid on TV; Afghan security forces done good; 50 bottles of ketchup; The Do’s and Do Nots of Furlough; Chaos in Egypt; Will Booz Allen suffer? and a bit 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.
By Gordon Lubold
Karzai versus Obama: Frustration, accusations, and a bad VTC. The U.S. may accelerate the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan in part due to the souring relationship between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama. The NYT reports this morning that Obama has become increasingly annoyed, especially after the prospect of peace talks stumbled out of the gate last month. A video teleconference between the two men, aimed to defuse tensions, only worsened them. Now the "zero option" for a residual force, long thought to be a negotiating tactic, is back on the table. The NYT: The option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was gaining momentum before the June 27 teleconference, according to the officials. But since then, the idea of a complete military exit similar to the American military pullout from Iraq has gone from being considered the worst-case scenario – and a useful negotiating tool with Mr. Karzai – to an alternative under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul.
"The officials cautioned that no decisions had been made on the pace of the pullout and exactly how many American troops to leave behind in Afghanistan. The goal remains negotiating a long-term security deal, they said, but the hardening of negotiating stances on both sides could result in a repeat of what happened in Iraq, where a deal failed to materialize despite widespread expectations that a compromise would be reached and American forces would remain."
A senior Western official, to the NYT: "There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option… It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path."
The Pakistanis blame themselves. A new, leaked report, that reached Western media outlets yesterday, candidly reveals a number of things about what the Pakistanis knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, the raid, and the aftermath. The report shows that Pakistan blames itself for failing to determine that bin Laden was living for years in Abbottabad, and points to intelligence failures among Pakistan’s security forces that were "rooted in political irresponsibility."
The four-member Abbottabad Commission spent two years studying the raid, which embarrassed a country and suggested collusion between its forces and bin Laden. Commissioners interviewed more than 200 people before the secret report was published by Al-Jazeera yesterday. FP’s John Reed pored through the report and found that the Pakistani Air Force learned about the U.S. raid from a television news report about the infamous U.S. helicopter crash that night during the raid.
Reed: "The commission says the Pakistani military never saw the raid coming because of the American choppers’ stealthy, noise-reducing equipment, the skill of their crews at flying below radar, and the fact that Pakistan’s air defenses are focused on its border with India, not Afghanistan. The U.S. "was never expected to commit such a dastardly act," the commission’s report quotes the unnamed deputy chief of Pakistan’s air staff for operations (DCAS) as saying. The raid was so unexpected that the Pakistanis had no radars looking at the valleys along their northwest border with Afghanistan that the U.S. troops used to fly from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan, according to the report."
In Wardak, the Afghan security forces done good; U.S. interpreters, not so much. Afghans, especially in Wardak Province, praised the arrest of a U.S. Special Forces interpreter, an Afghan, over allegations that he was involved in the killing, torture and abuse of local residents in a sign of the increasing maturity of the Afghan forces. The arrest of Zakaria Kandahari, in Kandahar, also helps ISAF, which had had to fend off reports that coalition personnel had been involved in the attacks. In an interview with the WSJ, Khalilullah Ibrahimkhil, a tribal elder of Ibrahimkhil village of the Maidan Shahr district in Wardak, called the detention of Mr. Kandahari a "good deed" by Afghan security forces. "He has done inhuman deeds here," he told reporters Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil. "His detention will bring people closer to the government." Read the rest, here.
We need you, you need us: Hagel met with Kazakhstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov. The two met yesterday. Kazakhstan, of course, is critical to the U.S. retrograde effort from Afghanistan. The readout, from Pentagon pressec George Little: "Secretary Hagel praised Kazakhstan for its support for the coalition in Afghanistan and for hosting the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). Secretary Hagel reiterated the Defense Department’s desire to continue working with Kazakhstan to further develop the bilateral security relationship. He also reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to security in Afghanistan and the region beyond 2014."
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Situation Report, where we note that the new owner of Hostess Twinkies has come up with a miraculous way to extend the shelf life of the Twinkie – to 45 days. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something — to Situation Report.
About 50. Speaking of food, 50 is roughly the number of bottles of ketchup WaPo reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran has received from military spouses and others still angry over his article some weeks ago that showed the political challenges of closing commissaries as part of a larger issue of reducing military benefits during the Pentagon’s budget crunch. Chandrasekaran has received some 50 bottles in multiple shipments (here’s some, on the Tweeters, last month – #ketchupgate). Folks got so upset they started an effort in which they would send him ketchup after his story pointed out all the varieties available in a modern commissary. He will soon schlep them to a food bank, as he’d first vowed to do.
On furlough? Here’s what you can do – and what you can’t. (Hint: don’t touch that BlackBerry.) This week, the forced vacation plan began across the Defense Department and Situation Report has already run into defense civilians unable to talk or e-mail due to the new rules by the Office of Personnel Management. While on furlough, individuals remain employed by the federal government, therefore, so don’t take any outside work unless you’ve consulted your ethics official, Situation Report was told in an e-mail, so don’t forget that part. And, we’re told: "Furloughed employees will not be authorized to work remotely or off-site, to respond to DoD-provided digital devices, or conduct official business when in a furlough status."
It’s now easy to use "chaos" to describe the situation in Egypt. Writing on FP, Evan Hill describes the rampage and the situation generally, from Cairo: "It was around 3:30 a.m. in Cairo on Monday morning and time for fajr, the first of the day’s five Muslim prayers. In an hour and a half, the sun would rise. Now, it was still dark. On a wide boulevard running in front of the heavily guarded gates of the Republican Guard club, a few hundred protesters were entering the fourth day of a sit-in demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. They had been waiting, sleeping in sparse shade through the hot days, believing their president was held inside the compound. On Monday morning, they formed into lines, their backs turned to the soldiers guarding the gate, and began to pray. Less than two thousand feet away, in a high-rise apartment on the other side of the sprawling club, Salah and his family awoke. They prepared for fajr. Then they heard gunshots." Read the rest of "Shot in the Back," here.
And read here about how ugly Egypt’s media war has become. Al-Jazeera and other media outlets have come under fire for what’s being termed their overly sympathetic portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood. FP’s David Kenner writes: "Among American stations, CNN has come in for the most grief for what anti-Morsy demonstrators view as its unsympathetic coverage. Protesters criticized the network’s immediate decision to call the events a "coup" and blasted the network for labeling an anti-Morsy demonstration in Tahrir as supporting the deposed president. Some protesters have carried signs reading "CNN supports terrorism," while Egyptians in New York City organized a march to protest the network’s coverage."
Full FP coverage of Egypt, here.
Venezuela mum on asylum for Snowden as the deadline passes. Venezuela, which seemed poised to accept NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden, has not said anything about asylum for Snowden, still holed up in Russia. NBC: "The Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow said it had no information on whether the fugitive NSA leaker had completed a deal that would allow him to leave the transit area of an airport in the Russian capital. In Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro confirmed late Monday that Venezuela had received an official request for asylum from Snowden, telling reporters at a news conference that the self-declared leaker "will need to decide when he will fly here," according to Russia Today." Read the rest, here.
Why Snowden may not make it harder for Booz Allen. It’s not the first time the large consulting firm has had to confront concerns over its employees. In 2008, the WaPo reports, the company had that embarrassing episode in which a Booz Allen employee at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida had been granted the highest level, "top-secret" security clearance even though he had been convicted a few months earlier of lying to government officials in order to sneak a South African woman he’d met on the Internet into the country. And, the paper reminds us of the other incident last year in which the Air Force temporarily suspended the San Antonio division of the company from future contracts after it was discovered that it had obtained confidential bidding information that gave it the upper hand. The WaPo: "Those incidents had little or no impact on Booz Allen’s success in recent years or on its ability to compete for federal contracts, which last year provided 99 percent of the company’s $5.8 billion in revenue. Booz Allen now faces a greater test: Lawmakers and other officials are asking whether the company should be held to account for Edward Snowden, a former employee who had obtained national security documents and leaked them to the news media while at the firm. But if the past is a guide, the government is not likely to scale back its reliance on Booz Allen or other large contractors soon, industry officials and policymakers agree. Although intelligence agency reliance on outside firms has declined some in recent years, the latest available estimates still show that about 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on contractors. And big, well-established companies continue to have outsize influence."
Judge: Obama can stop the force-feeding at Gitmo, even if I can’t. A federal judge yesterday ruled that she can’t force the government to stop force-feeding detainees at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but she all but urged President Obama to. Currently, 45 detainees are on a hunger strike and are being force-fed by the government. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler: "It is perfectly clear . . . that forced-feeding is a painful, humiliating and degrading process." McClatchy story, here.
HuffPo’s video of what it looks like to be force-fed (Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def as the model), here. It shows a painful-to-watch demonstration of an attempt to put a feeding tube put up Bey’s nose, with his grunts and groans and pleads not to go further as he is restrained. "Please stop, I can’t do it," he says. Later, he explains the burning he felt after the first tube is inserted. "I really couldn’t take it."
- LAT: Defense opens in Bradley Manning’s court-martial.
- AFP: Manning was troubled over plight of Iraqis: witness.
- NBC: Manning defense begins by painting picure of naïve, "go-to guy."
Syria, Year Three
- BBC: Syrian opposition government head Ghassan Hitto resigns.
- Al-Jazeera: Presence of al-Qaida raises tensions in Syria.
- CBS: U.N. calls for Ramadan cease fire in Syria.