Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: In Afg., is there a deal or what?; The Navy saw red flags in Fat Leonard; Kerry gets props; The 10 most ridiculous military regs; and a bit more.

FP’s Situation Report: In Afg., is there a deal or what?; The Navy saw red flags in Fat Leonard; Kerry gets props; The 10 most ridiculous military regs; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Does the U.S. and Afghanistan have a deal – or not? Depends. Numerous reports indicate the two countries are inching closer to a bilateral security agreement that would define the relationship for years to come and potentially allow a number of U.S. troops to remain in the country until 2024. The NYT and the WSJ had on Page One (and the WaPo on A12) had stories indicating an accord had been reached. The NYT’s Thom Shanker and Rod Nordland: "Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday that the United States and Afghanistan had finalized the wording of a bilateral security agreement that would allow for a lasting American troop presence through 2024 and set the stage for billions of dollars of international assistance to keep flowing to the government in Kabul. The deal, which will now be presented for approval by an Afghan grand council of elders starting on Thursday, came after days of brinkmanship by Afghan officials and two direct calls from Mr. Kerry to President Hamid Karzai, including one on Wednesday before the announcement." More here.

But early this morning East Coast time, Karzai said the whole thing should be delayed: "I don’t trust the Americans, and they don’t trust me." The WSJ’s Nathan Hodge and Yaroslav Trofimov: "Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the security deal with the U.S. should be deferred until after his successor is elected, even as he boasted of securing key concessions from President Barack Obama. ‘The agreement should be signed when the election is conducted, properly and with dignity,’ Mr. Karzai told the opening session of the Loya Jirga assembly that he convened to consider the deal. ‘I don’t trust the Americans, and they don’t trust me,’ he added." Read the rest of the WSJ piece here.

This is how the war in Afghanistan could be lost this week, by FP’s Dan Lamothe and Yochi Dreazen: "…It remains to be seen, however, whether the deal will be approved by the loya jirga. And therein lies the rub: Unless Karzai can corral enough support in his last full year in office to hold the line on his plan with the U.S., the future of Afghanistan remain in doubt. (Well, even more in doubt than it would have been without the deal.) The loya jirga’s views are not officially binding, but Karzai has said repeatedly that the tribal elders there will decide some of the most controversial pieces of the new security agreement, most notably whether U.S. forces will be granted prosecutorial immunity. Iraq’s unwillingness to do the same resulted in the U.S. pulling all of its troops from that country in 2011, setting the stage for widespread bloodshed there this year." That piece, here.

Validation after 12 years of war: Former Marine Mark Kustra, a member of the military’s Afghan Hands program, writes in the WSJ today that the agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan is a win. His BLUF: "The costs of playing out a winning Afghanistan endgame will be significant, though a fraction of the expenditures of the past dozen years. The costs of blowing the endgame would have been inestimable, and now both countries are on the brink of avoiding that dismal fate." Read the whole piece here.

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FP Exclusive: The U.S. and some allies are trying to kneecap an effort within the United Nations to promote a universal right to online privacy. FP’s Colum Lynch, citing diplo sources and an internal American government document: "The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won’t tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington — which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying — and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations." More here.

Rabid dogs, nuclear rights and fussy Frenchies: A tablesetter on the U.S.-Iran talks from FP’s Yochi Dreazen, reporting from Geneva. "American and Iranian negotiators settled into a luxury hotel here for several days of talks designed to hash out the final details of what could be a historic nuclear deal. Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign secretaries are watching the talks closely, ready to fly to Geneva at a moment’s notice if an agreement is reached. U.S. officials say they’re cautiously optimistic these talks will pan out. The two sides came exceptionally close to a deal earlier this month, but those negotiations ended with Kerry and his colleagues boarding their planes and flying home without an agreement. This time around, officials from both sides believe that many of the disputes that gummed up the last round of negotiations have been at least partially resolved. Don’t take out the champagne just yet, however. Some significant differences remain, and it’s not at all clear that the negotiators will be able to bridge all of them. Below are three key issues worth watching as the talks get underway." More here.

Kerry gets props. The NYT’s Mark Landler and Michael Gordon: "…If the United States and its five negotiating partners come within striking distance of an interim agreement with Iran, Mr. Kerry is likely to fly to Geneva at the end of the week to try to seal the deal. It would be a rare win for a White House that has been reeling from the botched rollout of the health care law, a stalled legislative agenda and doubts about Mr. Obama’s credibility. It would also ratify Mr. Kerry’s status as the biggest surprise of the president’s second-term cabinet: a hyperactive diplomat who plunges into seemingly intractable problems, improvises furiously along the way – making gaffes from time to time but occasionally devising solutions that have helped Mr. Obama out of messy situations like the impasse over a security agreement with Afghanistan." More here.

Hagel urges the Senate to approve the Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Hagel, in a statement released by DOD: "…One of the legacies of the past twelve years of war is that thousands of young Americans will carry physical wounds for the rest of their lives. These wounded warriors deserve to have the same opportunities to live, work, and travel as every other American, and to participate fully in society whether at home or abroad. Joining this treaty will allow the United States to help shape international practices for individuals with disabilities that are consistent with our own high standards for access and opportunity. It will also help personnel who have family members with disabilities, who often have to choose between their families and their careers when considering assignments in other countries…Failing to approve this treaty would send the wrong message to our people, their families, and the world. Approving it would help all people fulfill their potential. That’s why I strongly support swift Senate action."

Are Air Force nuclear misileers suffering from burnout? AP’s Bob Burns: "Key members of the Air Force’s nuclear missile force are feeling "burnout" from what they see as exhausting, unrewarding and stressful work, according to an unpublished study obtained by The Associated Press. The finding by researchers for RAND Corp. adds to indications that trouble inside the nuclear missile force runs deeper and wider than officials have acknowledged. The study, provided to the AP in draft form, also cites heightened levels of misconduct like spousal abuse and says court-martial rates in the nuclear missile force in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. These indicators add a new dimension to an emerging picture of malaise and worse inside the intercontinental ballistic missile force, an arm of the Air Force with a proud heritage but an uncertain future." The rest here.

Were you curious how the U.S. is strengthening its mil-to-mil ties with India? If so, DepSecDef Ash Carter explains how it’s coming to be in this piece he wrote for FP. Carter: "…As someone who has watched our bilateral relationship mature over a number of years, I’ve come to believe that the United States and India are increasingly natural partners on the world stage. Though we may not always share identical policy prescriptions, we do share a common set of values and objectives. These include a commitment to democratic governance and human rights; to free and open commerce; to a just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law; to open access by all to the shared domains of sea, air, space, and now cyberspace; and to the principle of resolving conflict without the use of force."

And: "…while the deepening of U.S.-India defense cooperation may not be as visible as some of our other efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, it is a key example of how the Department of Defense under Secretary Chuck Hagel is executing our role in the rebalance." Read the rest of that bit here.

No more easy wars: Scott Gerber argues on FP that the U.S. is resurrecting the same strategy that failed in Iraq. Read that here.

The Navy seemed to have suspicions about the man known as "Fat Leonard," but it awarded $200 million in contracts. Now he’s at the center of the Navy’s huge bribery scandal.  The NYT’s Christopher Drew and Danielle Ivory: "…But as his reputation for lavish parties spread, so too did warnings about his business practices, according to Navy officials and court documents. Emails obtained by criminal investigators show that from 2009 to early 2011, several ship crews and contracting officials filed complaints about his "gold-plated" fees for fuel, port security and other services. In 2010, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service opened investigations into questionable charges in Thailand and Japan by his company, documents show. Despite those red flags, in June 2011, the Navy awarded Mr. Francis $200 million in contracts, giving him control over providing supplies and dockside services for its fleet across the Pacific." The rest here.

A snooping wife sinks a Navy captain aboard the Vinson. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jeanette Steele: "The snooping wife of a junior sailor brought down the top pilot aboard the San Diego aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, a Navy investigation has revealed. The story would read like a TV sitcom plot, if real lives weren’t involved. Capt. Jeffrey Winter was removed from command of the Vinson air wing on Sept. 20 for an affair with the air wing’s female medical officer. The affair was exposed when a petty officer second class brought home a portable computer drive containing work files – including Winter’s emails to the female lieutenant.

The sailor’s wife found the portable drive and looked through the files. She told a Navy investigator that she snooped because she was ‘extremely suspicious of her husband’s activities on exercises and deployments due to past marital issues.’ But it wasn’t her husband’s wrongdoing that she found." That story here.

Click bait and Listicile Alert: The 10 Most Ridiculous Military Regs, Customs and Courtesies, per Business Insider include: "no chilling with hands in your pockets" and "special parking privileges for colonels, generals and senior enlisted" and our favorite, "doing Operational Risk Management (ORM) paperwork for pick-up basketball." Read the rest of that bit here. And, you might also enjoy: "The 10 Military Habits that Stay with you Forever," here.