FP’s Situation Report: The retreat of the ISF; Hellfires to Baghdad; Lukman Faily: help us or else; Dobbins retiring; Bergdahl’s restless path; Mabus’ pinning trouble; the Pentagon gets Fresh; 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
After a retreat, Iraqi soldiers blame Iraqi officers. President Barack Obama’s read-my-lips moment on not putting boots-on-the-ground in Iraq means the growing number of American military personnel now flowing into Iraq won’t be serving in combat roles. They are there to assess and advise the Iraqi security forces who must take the fight. But the White House’s faith in the ISF that the U.S. left to fend for itself in 2011 is a risky gamble and the coming weeks may show the degree to which Iraq’s military won’t be up to the task – at least not alone. The NYT’s C.J. Chivers on Page One: "The forlorn scenes in the ancient Al-Ukhaidir fortress tell of a government force in deep disarray. Flies circle beneath its high ceilings, above dozens of demoralized men who pass the day sleeping on dusty stone floors. Until late June, this eighth-century redoubt in the Shiite south of Iraq had been a tourist and heritage site. Now the remnants of the Ninth Brigade find shelter within its walls. These men have no pressing duties, even at a time of Iraq’s grave need.
"…The account of the Ninth Brigade of Iraq’s border guards, confirmed by an official who witnessed many of the events, is a portrait of generals unfit to lead in war and of mismanagement, incompetence and ultimately treachery under the patronage of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki." More here.
Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., says the Washington better help Baghdad – or else. FP’s John Hudson: "The Iraqi ambassador to the United States pleaded for more military assistance to combat Sunni militants on Tuesday and issued a blunt warning to the White House: If America doesn’t provide the help Iraq needs, it will reach out to U.S. adversaries such as Iran, Russia, and Syria instead.
Iraqi Ambassador Faily told Carnegie, referring to Iran and Russia: "Because of the precarious situation now facing us, it is difficult for us to decline offers from other countries that share our perceived danger… We have always tried to resist that but the situation on the ground may push us to acquire more support from our neighbor[s]." More here.
The U.S. is planning to sell as many as 4,000 Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: "…Sale of the laser-guided missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. would be in addition to 500 previously purchased, of which about 400 have been delivered." More here.
As the Iraqis fumble to create a new, inclusive government, a lot of bickering. Washington’s approach is to force the Maliki government to fix its governance problems with the idea that the political problems in Baghdad are the source of the violence and fixing them would go a long way to addressing the problems that’s tearing the country apart. But that’s not going particularly well. The WaPo’s Liz Sly and Loveday Morris: "The inaugural session of Iraq’s parliament collapsed Tuesday after heated exchanges and a walkout, dampening hopes that the country’s fractious politicians will rise to the challenge presented by the insurgency tearing their nation apart. Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers left the at times chaotic meeting after less than two hours, with no progress made on forming a new government. After their exit, Mahdi Hafidh, the acting speaker of the newly elected parliament, adjourned the session until next week, citing the lack of a quorum in the 328-member chamber." More here.
The discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager sparks an investigation to see if it is in retaliation of the three Israeli boys who were killed. USA Today, here.
Not a surprise: Muslims hate terrorism, too. A new Pew study, here.
In the wake of the revelations about the State Department and Blackwater, a look at "Blackwater’s Children" on FP the descendants of Blackwater are still raking it in from the U.S. government believe it or not – Our own Kate Brannen’s first story for FP, here.
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Meantime, violence is escalating in Ukraine as the cease-fire there expires. The WaPo’s Michael Birnbaum in Moscow: "…Both sides appeared to be readying for a protracted battle after days in which the fighting diminished but did not disappear. It remained unclear whether the Ukrainian military, which has battled pro-Russian separatists since mid-April, would be able strike a decisive blow against the rebels, who have seized territory in eastern Ukraine. The longer a conflict drags on, the greater the risk of further civilian casualties and the harder it will be for Ukraine’s new government to stitch the society back together." More here.
BTW, Russia totally vetoed the idea that House of Cards could use the UN. FP’s Colum Lynch with this exclusive: " Russia’s United Nations delegation on Tuesday blocked a request by the producers of the popular Netflix political drama to film two episodes in the U.N. Security Council, citing the need to keep the world’s leading security chamber available for unanticipated crises, according to a series of confidential email exchanges between a Russian diplomat and his Security Council counterparts. The emails were obtained by Foreign Policy." More here.
And in Asia, Japan’s Abe declares a major policy shift: a change to the military pacificism that characterized its approach since WWII. Time’s Kirk Spitzer: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a major revision to Japan’s pacifist postwar defense policy amid wide public protests Tuesday – but don’t expect to see Japanese troops sweeping across foreign battlefields anytime soon. Under the new policy, Japan’s powerful but low-profile military would be allowed to defend friends and allies under attack for the first time, even overseas. It’s part of a new interpretation of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution that Abe has pushed since taking office 18 months ago." More here.
Jeepers, keepers: Tim Howard for SecDef. The U.S. ended its emotional bid to snag the World Cup without getting it. But Keeper Tim Howard was still a hero – making 16 saves against Belgium yesterday. Someone thought he needed recognition and so changed the Wikipedia citation for Secretary of Defense for the United States of America from "Chuck Hagel" to "Tim Howard" – incumbent since July 1, 2014. It was quickly changed back, but still. Click bait here.
A lot of "Gooooooooaaaaallllllls." Naturally, there wasn’t a lot of work getting done while the U.S. played Belgium. The cable carrier that serves the Pentagon doesn’t carry ESPN for whatever reason, so defense types were stuck watching it on Univision, denying them the play-by-plays in English and yet we figure they got the idea overall.
Who’s Where When today – Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, is in Boston today for a series of meetings with organizations who support wounded warriors and then he’ll participate in a discussion at the Fletcher School of Tufts University – now led by Jim Stavridis, the retired Navy admiral and Supreme Allied Commander – that will be focused on one of Mabus’ favorite topics: energy and its importance to our national security… otherwise, it’s a quite week for Pentagon principals in terms of public events.
But speaking of Mabus, he attended the promotion of the Navy’s first female four-star ever, Michelle Howard, as we reported yesterday he would. But he had a little trouble actually pinning her new rank insignia on. The WaPo’s Dan Lamothe, who can spot SitRep "candy" a mile away, has the story: "At one point Tuesday, Mabus struggled to put Howard’s new four-star shoulder boards on her uniform. With good nature, however, he refused to give up, drawing laughter from the crowd. In her remarks on stage, Howard joked about it…’It is a remarkable sign of leadership,’ Howard said, ‘to be persistent in your goals and to achieve them.’
"…Howard is perhaps best known for leading Task Force 151, which oversaw counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. After Somali pirates attacked the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama and captured its top officer, Capt. Richard Phillips, in April 2009, she devised a plan with others to get him back, dispatching the USS Bainbridge, a destroyer, to help. Navy SEAL snipers eventually opened fire on a small lifeboat carrying Phillips and three pirates, killing the bandits and freeing him." More here.
FP’s John Hudson went Hollywood yesterday. Hudson appeared on CNN’s Jake Tapper to talk about his Blackwater story from FP yesterday. Watch him here.
State’s James Dobbins, 72, to retire this month from being the SRAP. The NYT’s Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt: Mr. Dobbins, 72, will be succeeded by his deputy, Daniel F. Feldman, whose ties to Secretary of State John Kerry date back to Mr. Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. In an interview, Mr. Dobbins took a hopeful, if somewhat guarded, view of the troubled political situation in Afghanistan."
Dobbins, to the NYT: "I think this election impasse at the moment is serious and could present a real danger of a division in the country… It is not unusual for countries at this level of development. They don’t tend to have a tradition of good losers." The NYT story here. Pakistan’s Dawn piece by AP, here
Want to know more about the Pentagon’s new restaurant by celebrity chef Robert Irvine and opening in "early 2015?" Read the memo distributed this week by Washington Headquarters Services, the facilities manager for the Pentagon and provided to SitRep, that went to Defense Department employees, DIA and NSA: Turns out it’s going to have three concepts: "Fresh Express, Fresh Kitchen and Fresh catering. FRESH Express: This concept will open at 6 A.M. serving espressos, crafted coffee drinks, pre-prepared breakfast sandwiches, hot cereals, fruits, yogurts, and more. The Express offerings continue throughout the rest of the day with an array of to-go offerings, including soups, salads, sandwiches, and healthy snacks. FRESH Kitchen: This full-service dining room concept serves breakfast options in the morning and freshly made soups, salads, and sandwiches, along with Neapolitan-style pizzas and build-your-own burgers for lunch. Chef Irvine’s Fit and signature recipes will round out the menu with an in-house bakery for breakfast and dessert items. To expedite service for busy Pentagon employees, take-out from the dining room is available in-person, via a Self Tablet selector. FRESH Catering: The catering program concept offers a creative selection of FRESH favorites packaged in large formal platters for meetings or group gatherings. They are available for delivery or pick up.
Listen to Kool and the Gang’s "Fresh," here.
Restless energy and fanciful plans: Bowe Bergdahl’s path to the Army, on Page One in the NYT, here.
The U.S. military is going to be way smaller than you think. CSIS’ Clark Murdock and others have a new report out tomorrow, provided to Situation Report early, that explains how the "double whammy" of the topline drawdown and the decreasing purchasing power of defense dollars will create a smaller force in 2021 than anyone realizes. From the Exec Sum of the report by Murdock, Ryan Crotty and Angela Weaver: "…The question is whether [that force] will be effective as well. To cope with a drawdown of this magnitude, DoD needs to adopt a dramatically different approach to force planning- one that is grounded in the acceptance of budgetary caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). By adopting the ‘cost-capped’ methodological approach described in this report, DoD can minimize the impact of deep budgetary cuts and provide the military capabilities needed for the strategic realities of 2021 and beyond (2020+).
"To cope with a drawdown of this magnitude, the CSIS study team developed over the course of two years a methodological approach for how DoD could minimize the impact of a deep budgetary reduction and provide the military capabilities needed for the strategic realities of 2020+. The CSIS study team also built cost calculators for making trade-off decisions in 2021 with respect to force structure and weapons systems. In this report, the study team uses "cost-capped" methodology and the 2021 cost calculators to generate a set of 2021 alternative militaries, each of which reflects a different strategy, and recommends one. That said, possibly the most important aspect of this report is that it demonstrates the cost-capped methodology in action." The group’s "cost-capped methodology" consists of five steps. Go here to read more.
As the Army downsizes, an Army officer is let go after he is ordered to move. Military.com’s Brendan McGarry: "…Even officers who escaped the current round of dismissals criticized the move, saying it encourages talented leaders to leave the service. ‘It really is disheartening to see the Army engaging in force shaping in the manner that it is,’ one said. ‘I’ve seen many of my fellow company-grade officers decide to get out because of the uncertainty over pay and future promotions. We’re losing those who can get jobs, which means the Army is losing the talent it should be retaining.’" More here.
Washingtonian magazine did a great profile of CBS’ Cami McCormick, injured in Afghanistan in 2009. " Alex Horton: "…McCormick, 52, has spent countless months reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. War zones have become her natural environment. Landing in Kabul with Panetta, she was less worried about mortar strikes or suicide attacks-though on Panetta’s previous arrival in Afghanistan, an insurgent set himself on fire and drove a truck toward a line of officers waiting to greet the plane-than about the seas of gravel outside official buildings and the steep ramps of military aircraft. McCormick’s difficulties with terrain the rest of us consider manageable is one more thing she shares with battlefield veterans from the past decade. Like many of them, she took a ride in a convoy in Afghanistan and woke up in the United States with a piece of her body missing." More of the Washingtonian piece here.
The Washingtonian piece begins with an anecdote about how McCormick returned to Afghanistan on a trip with SecDef Panetta in December 2012 – her first trip back there since her injury – and how she was mistreated at the Presidential Palace of Hamid Karzai. SitRep was on that trip, and we told her tale in Situation Report at the time. Afghan security officials asked her to remove her prosthetic leg so it could be put before bomb-sniffing dogs in yet another indignity. But McCormick remembers it with a grin: "That was the second time an Afghan took my leg." Our story of hers at the Presidential Palace, at the time in SitRep, here.
Sebastian Junger’s new movie, the sequel to Restrepo, isn’t about war necessarily, and it’s not about Afghanistan or Afghans. It’s about Americans. Doug Ollivant’s review of Korengal for FP, and his BLUF: "In this sequel to Restrepo, Junger turns his cameras inside to look less at the interaction between the American soldiers and the Afghans and more — through this sampling of middle class America — at ourselves. While transplanted to the remote wilderness of the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, these soldiers remain deeply, unalterably American. The stripping away of many layers of veneer — through isolation, boredom, terror, and loss — help us better understand them. And, by extension, us." Read the whole thing here.