Situation Report

The refugee problem in Jordan is worse than you think

Panetta announcing: Dunford to Kabul, Dempsey to talk relationships, Larry Korb on suicides and accountability, It wasn’t a “consulate,” and more.

The Syrian refugee problem in Jordan is getting way worse. More than 180,000 Syrian refugees have spilled into Jordan in recent months, posing an overwhelming humanitarian crisis. One military officer who has seen refugees in many countries and has visited Jordan told Situation Report that the refugee problem there is worse than what anybody had thought.

"At this stage, you’ve basically got all these people who have their world upside down, they sense nobody cares," the officer said. "We are doing what we can."

The NYT reported this morning that the Pentagon has sent a task force of approximately 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the country respond to the humanitarian crisis and to prepare for the potential security challenges presented by the upheaval across the border in Syria.

Last month, Joe Dunford was seen in the Pentagon cafeteria, ordering his own sandwich. In Brussels today, it’s being announced that he’ll be nominated formally for one of the most thankless jobs available: head of the ISAF mission in Kabul. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced this morning that Gen. "Fighting Joe" Dunford, currently the No. 2 Marine officer, is the president’s choice to succeed another Marine, Gen. John Allen, as commander of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Allen has been long expected to be nominated for the job at U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander in Brussels. The Senate is expected to consider their nominations sometime this fall.

Panetta, just minutes ago: "General Dunford… is an exceptionally gifted strategic leader. He is combat-tested. He believes in ISAF and if confirmed will be an extraordinary leader of it."

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report, where we are always on the hunt for gifted leaders to talk to us. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and we’ll put you on the list.

Dunford will have the daunting task of defining the U.S.-Afghan military relationship during the next two years of transition and will likely be the one to turn off the lights as American troops leave the country. He’ll also have to build a relationship with President Hamid Karzai, as well as with the newish U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Jim Cunningham. He’ll have to contend with the Taliban’s latest tactic — insider attacks — and he’ll also be the military commander who lays the groundwork for whatever long-term security agreement is made between the two countries.

Dunford was long seen as Panetta’s choice, and the water cooler wisdom is that Allen also aggressively supported Dunford. Dunford is widely respected and liked but also tough and no-nonsense. "He is probably one of the best listeners I’ve ever known," one military officer who knows him well told Situation Report, adding that Dunford has good analytical skills that will serve him well on the battlefield. "He isn’t a lazy thinker, but he’s not mechanistic, either," the officer said.

If he has critics, they will question why the Pentagon is sending to Afghanistan someone with no experience on the Afghan battlefield, and at least one Senate staffer expressed concern to us that there would be a lot of "skeptical questions" during his confirmation hearing. But the military officer who spoke to Situation Report dismissed the concern.

"I’ve seen him on the battlefields," the officer said. "He will sniff the air and be ready to go."

We first met Dunford in Anbar province in Iraq in 2004. During a battlefield tour of a combat outpost we remember him telling us at the time of having to admonish a Marine who’d fallen asleep on post. He said he was sympathetic: life is really tough in war, we remember him saying, but there’s no room for negligence.

Dunford bio:

Virginia Senate candidate George Allen is not a Marine general. But we implied as much when we referred yesterday to "Gen. George Allen" when we of course meant "Gen. John Allen." Too many political ads on TV in the morning. We regret the error.

Larry Korb thinks civilian and military leaders should be held more accountable for military suicides. Korb, writing on FP, argues that while commissioned and noncommissioned officers should do their best to take care of the men and women in their charge, "the people who should be accountable are the civilian and military leaders who sent these men and women repeatedly into combat zones without sufficient time at home between combat deployments and lowered the standards for new enlistees in order to meet their recruitment goals." Ultimately, Korb says, it’s Bush’s fault.

Benghazi Department of FWIW: For the last several weeks, reporters have called the American mission in Benghazi a "consulate," perhaps for lack of a better word. The State Department’s murky narrative, especially at the beginning, probably didn’t help. But we had been told that in fact the building attacked in Benghazi where four Americans died was never a consulate, which likely would have carried with it certain security protocols, and in fact just a diplomatic mission. We recognize it doesn’t much matter anymore, but just saying.

A State Department official told Situation Report this: "We tried to correct the record re this early on, but it seems as if the press has only two settings when it comes to describing diplomatic missions: embassies and consulates. It is not a consulate and never was a consulate," the official said. "Perhaps it gained the air of being a consulate during the revolution because our embassy in Tripoli was closed and our diplomatic presence in Benghazi could be best described as a ‘consulate.’"

State will face the music today at a hearing on the Hill after officials at State briefed reporters yesterday, telling them that video surveillance cameras outside the diplomatic mission in Benghazi did not indicate there was a protest prior to the attack on Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. State Department officials will appear today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating intelligence failures that led to the fatal attack.

Josh Rogin reports on yesterday’s briefing:

Dempsey’s talking about his relationships. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Marty Dempsey, will speak at the National Press Club this morning about relationship building, engagement, and foreign counterparts. Fond of speaking off the cuff, Dempsey will use notes to deliver his remarks, but according to spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, he’s expected to touch on a theme akin to this: "So, why do I invest all this time in relationships, especially with my foreign counterparts?  Simple — we need them to make our strategy work. We need relationships born of interest and underpinned by trust. We need partners who can bring to bear capability and credibility."

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