No honor cordons at the Penty; Why the SEALs backed down; Fighting al-Shabab old school; Airman: keep my pay; Lockheed, BAE, feeling it; A new “Pentagon hammer” for State: $5 million wine glasses; 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
SEAL tactics: grab and go. Unless you can’t. Twenty years to the day after the failed "Black Hawk Down" Ranger mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, the commander of a Navy SEAL team attempting to extract a terrorist kingpin from a coastal village pulled his unit out as the mission started to founder and it became clear the militant leader couldn’t be taken alive. The snatch-and-grab mission on Oct. 4 began as planned. SEAL Team Six, the same unit that targeted Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, approached the Somali coast in the darkness. Their target, according to U.S. military officials: the leader of al Qaeda’s East Africa branch, a Somali-born Kenyan named Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, also known as Ikrima. Elements of the unit got past the beach, military officials tell Situation Report. But at some point during the perilous mission, the SEAL team came under heavy fire. It soon became clear to the unit commander that the team could not capture Ikrima alive, and he determined that they should abruptly withdraw without their prize. The risk to civilian life, as well as the threat to the team itself also drove what was described as a "conscious decision" to pull back out, a military official said. "Once the gunfight breaks out, they realize they’re not going to be able to capture this guy without the risk becoming too high," the official added, confirming news first reported by CNN. "They made a decision, ‘hey, not today,’ and out they came." Retired special forces officer Roger Carstens, on how war and killing is a "business-like proposition:" "Risk is assessed, efforts are produced, and progress is ruthlessly measured," he said. "If the costs exceed the benefits, a withdrawal is ordered; No harm, no foul." Read the rest of our story here.
More of how it went down, according to NBC: "According to multiple U.S. military sources, the lead boat landed, and the assault team hit the beach near the Southern Somali town of Barawe, headed for the fortified seaside compound of their target. U.S. intelligence had determined that Ikrima, one of two terror suspects targeted by the military in simultaneous raids thousands of miles apart this weekend, planned the terror group’s operations outside of Somalia. The SEALs entered the compound and took the positions they had selected based on the intelligence collected in advance of the raid. Then a lone al Shabaab fighter walked out into plain view, smoked a cigarette, and went back inside, one source familiar with the details of the raid said. The fighter played it cool, and gave no indication that he had spotted the SEALs. But he came back out shooting, firing rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle. Soon the American commandos were under siege from the warlord’s well-armed fighters."
Breaking Defense’s Sydney Freedberg on the raid model: The raid itself came like a blitzkrieg from the blue to outsiders. But for the American military and its African allies the headline-grabbing attack was just one part of a low-profile, years-long effort. It’s a war the Pentagon’s top counterterrorist,, assistant secretary of Defense Michael Sheehan, has publicly called a model for operations across Africa." More of his bit here.
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Holding Abu Anas al-Libi on the USS San Antonio while he is interrogated is the legal model the Obama White House likes. But Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to go old-school: send him to Gitmo. FP’s John Hudson: "The Obama administration’s expected decision to try suspected al Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai in federal court in New York City as opposed to a military tribunal has relaunched a heated debate over the prosecution of suspected terrorists. Ruqai, known by his alias as Abu Anas al-Libi, is currently being interrogated on a Navy ship in the Mediterranean… a string of hawkish Republicans have come out against the idea of treating Libi as anything but an enemy combatant — with some calling for his immediate detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. ‘I believe the most responsible course of action would be to hold him as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay for intelligence gathering purposes,’ Graham said in a statement. ‘U.S. Navy ships were never intended to be confinement and interrogation facilities in the War on the Terror. The use of ships, instead of Guantanamo Bay, will greatly compromise our ability to gather intelligence from captured terrorists.’" More here.
The "analog war:" Fighting al-Shabab in six easy steps. Speaking of Carstens, who has spent extensive time on the ground in Somalia since he retired, he has some advice to anyone talking about hunting down al-Shabab. Never start a sentence like this, he says: "When I was in Afghanistan…" Writing on FP, Carstens (who, btw, is now in Afghanistan!) "This is war Africa-style — and the participants are all about keeping it personal, spiritual, and above all, analog. Expect cell phones instead of secure satellite communications, Toyota Land Cruisers as opposed to "up-armored" Humvees, and maps instead of GPS. And you can forget about the so-called "golden hour" — a term that applies to being medically evacuated to a primary care facility within an hour of being wounded. If you get winged in Somalia, you are being evacuated in a Toyota or Casspir armored vehicle over a dirt road on a trip that may take 12 or more hours. And yes, you may die. Get happy. In short, anyone who wants to advise in Africa had better put in some time on the continent — and even then couch any comments with respect and humility, recognizing that the mentees might have a few things to teach the mentor." Read his five other points here.
Look-ee here: The kind of raids conducted in Africa over the weekend could be done by uber cool, tricked out Army stealth choppers in 2030. FP’s John Reed: "The Army is trying to revolutionize a chopper fleet that hasn’t changed all that much in the last 30 years. Four companies are trotting out designs to make it happen. One proposed aircraft looks like a minivan with rotors; another, like a V-22 Osprey tilt rotor on steroids. There’s also sleek, stealthy-looking chopper. And the last resembles an awkward cross between a UH-60 Black Hawk and a V-22. The Army last week signed ‘technology investment agreements’ with the four firms — a Bell-Lockheed Martin team, a Boeing-Sikorsky team, Karem Aircraft and AVX aviation — to develop prototypes that will compete to be the basis for the ground service’s light and medium-sized helicopters of the 21st Century." More here.
So it’s come to this on #shutdown. An active duty airman, frustrated at the government shutdown and uncomfortable that the military has been singled out for pay when so many others aren’t being paid, is harnessing his outrage to raise money to help feed Americans. The airman has begun a fundraising Web site, keepmypaycheck.org, to raise awareness of the problems of shutdown – and hunger in America. "I was equally frustrated to see Congress choose to fund my paycheck while my brothers and sisters go without," said the Air Force Tech Sergeant in an e-mail to Situation Report and other media outlets, requesting anonymity. "I don’t want it."
The airman created a site for service members to donate their paychecks or a portion of their paychecks to Feeding America, which he said feeds 37 million Americans each year. He has raised $7,000 of his $50,000 goal, he said. "Please help me send Congress this message: service members fight to protect and promote a more perfect union; this isn’t it. And until Congress restores funding, we will step in and donate our paychecks along with our lives to protect the country we love." The airman sent the e-mail after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel lifted the furloughs for most defense civilians, but the Tech Sergeant’s ire is more at Congress for failing to pass a budget to re-open government.
And to this. The latest indignity to a government shutdown? The Pentagon can’t pay the $100,000 gratuity payments it sends immediately to troops who have been killed because there isn’t the money to do it. The message seemed to be to Congress was: "seriously?" Also, the Pentagon noted yesterday, funding known as "CERP" that commanders have long used in warzones to help them glean intelligence, conduct outreach and help stabilize their areas of responsibility has dried up under the shutdown, and training for deploying units has also been curtailed.
And then there’s this. Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli Minister of Defense, is arriving at the Pentagon today. But the traditional "honor cordon," in which soldiers or the ceremonial unit from other services, stand in formation with their rifles to welcome a foreign dignitary, won’t be held. Why? We’re told #governmentshutdown. The cost of outfitting the ceremonial teams in their finest dress uniforms and transporting them to the Pentagon, combined with the support the teams need from civilians – some of whom were not brought back to work under the order by Hagel over the weekend – means the honor cordons can’t be held.
Furlough ain’t just for defense civilians. Industry is feeling it, too. Defense News’ Marcus Weisgerber: "Lockheed Martin began furloughing 2,400 employees who work in US government facilities that are closed due to the ongoing government shutdown, the company said Monday. The Maryland-based company has received a ‘stop-work order’ for employees working in these government facilities, Lockheed spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in an email. ‘Of the 2,400 employees, approximately 2,100 work on civilian agency programs and 300 work on DOD programs,’ he said. ‘The affected employees are located in 27 states, with the majority based in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.’ … At BAE Systems, about 1,000 employees with the company’s intelligence and security division have been ‘excused for work,’ Linda Hudson, the company’s president and said CEO, wrote Sunday on the BAE Systems website." Read the rest here.
Amid talk of an impasse between the U.S. and Afghanistan over the security agreement, Karzai says he wants a Loya Jirga. The WSJ’s Nathan Hodge, in Kabul: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would convene a traditional national gathering to scrutinize plans for a bilateral security agreement with the U.S., upping the ante in talks over a future American military presence in Afghanistan.
"Speaking to reporters Monday at the presidential palace in Kabul, Mr. Karzai said he would convene the Loya Jirga assembly of local Afghan representatives within a month to open ‘all aspects’ of the proposed agreement to a national forum. The deal under negotiation between Kabul and Washington would pave the way for a small U.S.-led military force to conduct limited counterterrorism missions and oversee training of Afghanistan’s army and police after the coalition’s mandate expires at the end of 2014. But talks have been difficult, and disagreements persist over critical issues such as how U.S. forces would respond to external aggression and what latitude they would have in counterterrorism operations. Karzai: "The people of Afghanistan are the rulers, the decisions of this country lie with the people of Afghanistan, so whatever the people of Afghanistan decide, the government will obey." More here.
It’s a State thing, you wouldn’t understand. The State Department says it needs $5 million of new, hand-crafted glasses for its embassies overseas, in effect saying, it’s the cost of doing business. FP’s John Hudson: Congress is asking the State Department for specifics about a recent $5 million contract for handcrafted glasses for use in embassies around the world, The Cable has learned. The order, which came on the eve of last week’s government shutdown, is a potential five-year contract for 20 different styles of custom handcrafted stem and barware from the Vermont-based glassblowing company Simon Pearce. The specifics of the congressional inquiry are unclear, but one Hill aide who contacted The Cable was less than enthused. "Seems like a poor use of funds given the current budget environment," he said. A State Department official, speaking on background, said the order was not unusual. ‘It’s probably not a surprise to you or anyone else that the State Department and our embassies have nice dinnerware,’ the official said. ‘It would probably be expected for anyone representing the U.S. government abroad.’ The official also said the timing, just before the government shutdown, was not atypical. ‘It’s not unusual for lots of contracts to be awarded by the end of the fiscal year,’ the source said." More here.
Speaking of State, it has a favorite anonymous network. FP’s Shane Harris and Hudson: "A far-flung group of geeks, supported by the U.S. State Department, has built a tool for anonymous communication that’s so secure that even the world’s most sophisticated electronic spies haven’t figured out how to crack it. That’s the takeaway from the latest revelations from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. The NSA has used aggressive computer attack techniques to monitor people using the Tor network, a service that’s funded by the U.S. government and allows users to remain anonymous when they’re connected to the Internet. But the agency has not been able to undermine the core of the Tor system, which was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 2002. It remains a viable means for people to connect to the Internet anonymously. Although Tor’s complete reliability has been called into question in light of the NSA’s efforts — which may have begun as early as 2006, according to the Washington Post — for now it’s State Department 1, NSA 0, in the anonymity wars." Read the rest here.