Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: The Army investigates itself after a visit from a Chinese general; Kerry: It doesn’t have to be Karzai; Wheels up for Hagel; Decking the halls for Ash’s last day; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold There are tensions within the U.S. Army after a Chinese delegation visits Leavenworth. No secrets were spilled. And all of the documents in question are publicly available. But the U.S. Army has nonetheless launched an internal review of its administrative practices after members of a Chinese military delegation began asking for U.S. ...

By Gordon Lubold

There are tensions within the U.S. Army after a Chinese delegation visits Leavenworth. No secrets were spilled. And all of the documents in question are publicly available. But the U.S. Army has nonetheless launched an internal review of its administrative practices after members of a Chinese military delegation began asking for U.S. government manuals a bit too aggressively during a September visit to an American base.

The so-called 15-6 investigation reflects the growing unease within some quarters of the U.S. military and the broader American national security community about how best to engage with China’s People’s Liberation Army.  In recent years, the foundation of the relationship has been an approach best described as you-show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine. But some are questioning that path, especially now that China has sparked an international incident when it declared a so-called "Air Defense Identification Zone" over disputed territory late last month.

At issue in the Army investigation is the behavior of some members of a seven-person Chinese delegation that travelled to the U.S. in late September. The group, led by Maj. Gen. Chen Dongdeng, the PLA’s director of so-called "military engagement," visited the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as part of a two-stop visit that also included Washington, D.C. The goal at Leavenworth: to "participate in an informational exchange" on U.S. Army doctrine and "operational theory," according to an internal Army news story produced at the time. But the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, which hosted the delegation, never sought the approval of the Army’s G-2 intelligence directorate and bureaucratic feathers got ruffled as a result. It might have ended there. But during the two-day visit, Dongdeng and members of his delegation asked repeatedly for copies of U.S. Army doctrine documents. Although the documents are "open source" — meaning they are available to the public — it was the pointed way in which the Chinese general sought them that raised eyebrows and came off as awkward, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Read the rest of our story, by Lubold and FP’s Shane Harris, here.

In Asia, Trade representative Joe Biden is now Ambassador Joe Biden. WSJ’s Julian Barnes, Yuka Hayashi and Jeremy Page: "Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Beijing on Wednesday was long intended to boost trade but instead has become an urgent diplomatic mission. Mr. Biden now has the task of calming tensions between China and its neighbors to avoid further escalations and the potential for direct conflict over Beijing’s recent declaration of a new air-defense zone over territory also claimed by Japan. His arrival in China is Washington’s first chance for high-level, face-to-face discussions about the rising tensions, among other areas of dispute… Mr. Biden, who was scheduled to hold back-to-back meetings with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday before dining with the Chinese leader, preceded the visit with a tone that was firm but cordial-apparently aimed at avoiding a public fight while at the same time assuring jittery allies that the U.S. was weighing in on the territorial dispute." More here.

Biden also said that U.S.-China relations are "full of promise and opportunity" at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. More here.

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Kerry is turning the screws on Afghanistan to sign the dotted line. In Brussels, Kerry and other diplomats were stepping up the pressure for the Afghan government to sign the security agreement that would allow American troops to stay after 2014. NYT’s Michael Gordon: "In a comment that reflected the Obama administration’s frustration with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, Mr. Kerry suggested that if he was reluctant to be associated with the accord another senior Afghan official might sign it. ‘His minister of defense can sign it,’ Mr. Kerry told reporters. ‘The government can sign it. Somebody can accept responsibility for this.’

"…A particular concern is that the legal understandings be in place by February when NATO defense ministers are to discuss the details of the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said. With Mr. Karzai presenting additional demands, including the release of prisoners being held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is calculating that a unified NATO response may concentrate minds in Kabul."

But remember what John Allen and Mike O’Hanlon wrote last week, also in the NYT: "…American officials should stay calm. It would be a mistake to let one man — increasingly detached from Afghan public and political opinion — determine the fate of the American role in South Asia. Even with Osama bin Laden dead, the stakes remain high: Extremist groups from Al Qaeda to Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Pakistani group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack) could easily put down roots again in Afghanistan if the country were to fall to the Taliban after NATO’s departure." More on that bit here.

The LAT’s David Cloud and David Zucchino reported Nov. 26 that having someone else in Afghanistan sign the document was a possibility.

White elephant? The Army defends the $36 million complex in Afghanistan that sits empty. The WaPo’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran has written about the 64,000 square foot facility with the new-car smell in southwestern Afghanistan as a prime example of U.S. spending in Afghanistan gone bad – a facility the commander in the region didn’t want and was seen as unnecessary. But the Army today is defending its construction. Chandrasekaran: "…the investigation by the Army general concluded that a fellow general’s decision in 2010 to erect the massive structure at Camp Leatherneck, over the objection of a previous top Marine commander in Afghanistan, was justified. The decision reflected the U.S. Central Command’s "strategic vision" for Afghanistan at the time, which anticipated an "enduring base" in southwestern Afghanistan. That, however, appears to have been an erroneous assumption. The principal long-term force options the White House is considering – assuming Afghan President Hamid Karzai agrees to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States – do not involve keeping Camp Leatherneck open a year from now." More on that here.

The Navy is sending "sub-killing planes" to Asia. FP’s Dan Lamothe: "Tensions between the United States, Japan and China took a new turn Monday night when Vice President Joe Biden asked China to rescind the air defense identification zone it established Nov. 23 over contested islands in the East China Sea. Things could soon get even more interesting, however: the Navy’s new P-8A Poseidon planes are arriving in Japan this week, offering the ability to destroy submarines, interdict ships and conduct surveillance on open seas. The U.S. military insists the deployment of the P-8s has nothing to do with current friction between China, which has increased since the Asian giant created an area off its coast that it says other militaries must seek permission to use. In fact, the Pentagon first announced the deployment of planes to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in October as part of a broader realignment that will also eventually include the deployment of more MV-22 Ospreys and F-35B Joint Strike Fighters from the Marine Corps and R-Q4 Global Hawk surveillance drones operated by the Air Force." More of that bit here.

Dempsey appears at VetCon this morning. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey delivers remarks this morning at the Veterans Treatment Court Conference, or VetCon, at 8:30 a.m. at the Wardman Park Marriott. Veterans Treatment Courts help veterans with substance abuse issues that can stem from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries or other combat-related illnesses. The Veterans Treatment Court model is an alternative to incarceration for veterans struggling with substance abuse (one in six do) requiring them to make regular court appearances, mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent random testing for use of drugs or alcohol.

Handshakes, no handouts: Dempsey will discuss this morning helping veterans transition from war to success in civilian life a reintegration that is a "timeless challenge." A spokesman tells us that Dempsey "often says vets don’t need a handout, but a handshake. He’ll talk about vets being adaptable, resilient and having uncommon courage. He’ll thank the group for taking on the challenge and advocating for our veterans," we’re told. Justice for Vets, here. 60 Minutes piece here. 

Decking the halls for Ash Carter’s last day. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, after the roasting, toasting and lavish praise of his retirement ceremony the other day, will leave the Pentagon today. Expect the typical, informal clapping out routine, where colleagues and other officials line the halls as he walks out for the last time.

A Temporary Fox: As we first reported yesterday, Christine Fox will serve as an Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense before a permanent individual can be identified, vetted and confirmed. Our full story on FP, "Meet the Pentagon’s Powerful Female Official Ever," here.

Wheels up for Hagel tonight. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel leaves tonight for Manama, Bahrain where he meets with leaders of Gulf countries and delivers an address for the International Institute for Strategic Studies Saturday. The trip, a defense official said, "provides an opportunity to closely consult with leaders following the announcement regarding the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action with Iran. Hagel will also meet with service members at the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet HQ, thanking them for their service and receiving operational briefings from defense officials there.

Staffers on a plane – Chief of Staff Mark Lippert, Senior Military Assistant Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams, ASD for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, DASD for Middle East Affairs Matt Spence, Chief Speechwriter Jacob Freedman, Cruise Director JP Eby and Acting Spokesman for the Secretary Carl Woog.

Reporters on a plane – AP’s Lita Baldor, Bloomberg’s David Lerman, NYT’s Thom Shanker, CNN’s James Crawford, NPR’s Larry Abramson, Reuters’ David Alexander, WSJ’s Julian Barnes, Stripes’ Chris Carroll, AFP’s Dan De Luce, CBS’ Margaret Brennan, American Forces Press Service’ Karen Parrish, WaPo’s Ernesto Londono.

Random Reuters’ slideshow of the Secretaries of Defense, from Hagel back to James Forrestal, who served September 1947-March 1949, here.

Seriously Syria: Chemical Weapons experts face grave risks. FP’s Colum Lynch: "U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expressing grave concern about the safety of international inspectors overseeing the destruction and removal of Syria’s chemical weapons program — just as the project enters its riskiest phase yet.

Ban voiced his concerns in a letter to the U.N. Security Council, which provides fresh details on international plans for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. A copy of the letter, which had not been made public yet, was posted on the web site of a reporter from Arab language broadcaster Al Hurra. Sigrid Kaag, a Dutch* national who heads the U.N.-backed joint mission overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, will brief the Security Council on Wednesday on Ban’s letter." More here.


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