Situation Report

A weekly digest of national security, defense, and cybersecurity news from Foreign Policy reporters Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, formerly Security Brief. Delivered Thursday.

Unrest Arrives in Pakistan

How the Army Must Hedge its Bets, the Cyber-security Broken Record and more.

Welcome to the Friday edition of FP's Situation Report. The last of the surge troops, which have been coming out for many weeks, are now fully out of Afghanistan. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at

Welcome to the Friday edition of FP’s Situation Report. The last of the surge troops, which have been coming out for many weeks, are now fully out of Afghanistan. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at

It took more than a week, but unrest has now spread to Pakistan. The anti-Islamic film causing all the trouble around the world, dubbed in Arabic but not Urdu, hasn’t been seen by many people in Pakistan, many of whom were transfixed by the large industrial fires in Karachi for the last week. But the Pakistani reaction from news of the film’s impact within the Muslim world has begun to take hold. Violent protests are taking place in cities across the country today as the government declared, in unprecedented fashion, we’re told, a national holiday called "Day of Love for the Prophet Mohammad." Everything is closed down in an effort by the government to encourage peaceful protests while limiting violence.

"The nature of the protests are exactly what you’ve seen elsewhere," Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia adviser for the U.S. Institute of Peace, now in Pakistan. "It’s outrage, it’s anger, it’s aimed at the U.S. and at the West in general, not at the person who made the film."

So far, a driver for a news truck was shot dead by police after he drove the vehicle into an area of protests, and another has been killed, in addition to numerous injuries. The outraged reaction has come from all segments of Pakistani society — from youth to elites.

"Nobody is saying this is no big deal," Yusuf said in a phone call. Many Pakistanis, of course, do not support violence, he says, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t upset at the depiction of the Prophet.

"If you really ask, everybody right now is angry," he says.

The NYT this morning quoted Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, as saying: "An attack on the holy prophet is an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims. Therefore, this is something that is unacceptable."

While American officials have decried the film, they have said either explicitly or implicitly that free-speech rights trump provocative or distasteful things. But that doesn’t help in a country such as Pakistan where religion doesn’t count in "freedom of expression."

"The framework is so different when it comes to freedom of expression," Yusuf says. "I don’t think we can every square that circle."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke about the "milestone" that is the end of the surge in Afghanistan. On the last leg of his Asian trip, Panetta said the last of the surge troops left Afghanistan this week and there are now 68,000 troops left in the country. The surge "accomplished its objective" of reversing the Taliban’s effect on the battlefield and allowed Afghan security forces to grow in numbers and strength. "This growth has allowed us and our ISAF coalition partners to begin the process of transition to Afghan security lead, which will soon extend across every province and more than 75 percent of the Afghan population," he said in a statement released by the Pentagon. During the surge, the U.S. and coalition partners were also able to strike "enormous blows" against al-Qaeda’s leadership. Panetta used the moment as a reminder that there is still a robust fighting force in Afghanistan that needs the nation’s support. "We are a nation at war," he said.

CSIS’ Anthony Cordesman said yesterday that wavering public support for the war will not be reversed by sugarcoating success there, arguing that there are six conditions that must be met for an effective security transition. Among them, "functional security presence" across key population centers. "This means sustaining the ANA development effort at least through 2017, not rushing it according to today’s unworkable schedule," he said. Coalition leaders have to get real, he added. "You do not persuade people that you can turn bullshit into chocolate by constantly praising your progress in dealing with its color and the texture," he said. "You do it by showing them you can deal with its smell and its taste."

The Iranian mine threat, the Strait of Hormuz and the Navy: getting real. Worries that the Iranians could shut down the Strait of Hormuz as tensions rise in that region have to be taken seriously, Kevin Baron of the E-Ring writes. The Iranians are well-versed in how to lay such dangerous traps and they’ve become wily. Kevin: "What’s known is that Iran has built up and hidden mine-laying capabilities across its military, commercial and fishing fleets. Less clear is how many mines it has — from 5,000 to 20,000 depending on estimates." But this isn’t your grandfather’s mine, either: "…these mines don’t look like the giant metal-spiked balls from World War II movies. Today’s mines are made of composite materials and Iran has been known to disguise them as floating tree branches and shipping boxes."

The lines between the military and the intelligence community are getting awfully fuzzy. FP’s Rosa Brooks writes today that CIA and DoD are getting into each other’s business and while it’s "praiseworthy" to see the two agencies adapting and responding to changing threats, there is a growth of confusion, and accountability suffers. Special operators, for example, are taking on an increasingly covert role, and by necessity. But those quiet missions are typically fall under the CIA umbrella, not DoD’s, Rosa writes. Conveniently, the Intelligence Authorization Act, which lays out most of the rules for covert activities, exempts "traditional military activities" from its definition of covert action. The definition and scope of "traditional military activities," however, remains hotly contested."

Broken Record Department: We need to do more on cyber-security. Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter was at the Air Force Association this week, sounding a familiar refrain, writes Killer Apps’ John Reed: "When it comes to dealing with these issues of safeguarding the nation as a whole from a cyber attack, we’re working our way through all these issues, my own view is, way too slowly. We’re still vulnerable, the pace is not adequate," Carter said. Who to blame? Try Congress…

Will the U.S. fight another big ground war? A salon question for Washington warriors, to be sure. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno released his updated "capstone guidance" this week on the nature of the Army, the direction it needs to march in, and how he sees the world. At a time when the U.S. seems to be at an inflection point after more than a decade of ground wars, conventional wisdom would dictate that the U.S. isn’t likely to conduct another large land invasion. Instead, it is focused on larger, state-based concerns, from Iran to China to North Korea.

But violent threats still come from non-state actors, and military planners can’t ignore the potential need for large counterinsurgency operations. So if you’re planning for the Army’s next job, you’ve got to hedge your bets.

"It really does put the Army in a dilemma," Nate Freier, a senior fellow at CSIS, told Situation Report. "The likeliest challenges will emanate from some form of disorder, and that kind of disorder is the kind of challenge that ground forces are the most likely to take on."

The changes in Odierno’s guidance focus on a number of themes, acknowledging how critical cultural awareness is and arguing that humans, not technology, are the most important part of the fight.

The updated doctrine has Odierno’s fingerprints all over it: At one time, Odierno was seen as not having gotten the "counterinsurgency memo"; then, in Iraq, he was credited for having gotten it in a big way. The Army must plan for a battlefield of the future that has many of the same elements Odierno has confronted in the past.

"It’s about opportunists, it’s about clutter, a lot of it is based on Odierno’s experience," an Army officer familiar with the guidance told Situation Report. "He tries to broaden the aperture and hopefully trickle it down through all of our doctrine." One of the key themes is that to focus on a single enemy is to miss the nature of the warfare the U.S. will see, one way or another, in the future. "Regardless of what we do, there will be a mix of friendlies and enemies and neutrals all pursuing their agenda… we just can’t focus on ‘the threat.’"

From the foreword of Odierno’s new guidance: "Today, our Army is entering not only a period of transition, but also great opportunity. The strategic environment has grown increasingly complex. Technological advances have created new ways to communicate with, to understand, and to influence others. Technology also empowers a much wider range of actors we must consider and interact with, to include those that come together virtually in cyberspace, unbounded by physical geography. At the same time, a decade of war has reinforced timeless lessons about the centrality of human beings in all aspects of military operations. We must build on these insights to change how we think about, plan for, and conduct all of our operations."

Blowing Up

Eleven Years and Counting

No Rest for Unrest

Baghdad Bob

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. Twitter: @glubold

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