Cyber worries bubbling to the top; Hagel has a second thought on DWM; Karzai turns up the heat, again; Sarah Chayes: Vali Nasr was wrong, and a little more.
By Gordon Lubold Dunford and Karzai just met to talk detention issues. After last week’s abrupt delay of transferring the detention facility in Afghanistan to the Afghan government, ISAF commander Gen. Joe Dunford and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met today to talk about what needs to be done to make it happen. A Pentagon official ...
By Gordon Lubold
By Gordon Lubold
Dunford and Karzai just met to talk detention issues. After last week’s abrupt delay of transferring the detention facility in Afghanistan to the Afghan government, ISAF commander Gen. Joe Dunford and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met today to talk about what needs to be done to make it happen. A Pentagon official said yesterday it was still expected to happen soon. Dunford, in a statement issued this hour: "The United States is committed to transferring the detention facility in Parwan to Afghan control. It must be done in a way that meets the needs of Afghan sovereignty while mitigating the real threats that some of these detainees pose to Afghan and Coalition forces. We will complete the transfer when the remaining issues have been resolved."
Cyber — it’s getting real. Cyber and intelligence officials sounded alarm bells yesterday on Capitol Hill, saying the U.S. was vulnerable to cyber attack if not outright electronic destruction, with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper saying, "It’s hard to over-emphasize its significance." For years, cyber has been on the periphery of the American national security consciousness, a decidedly unsexy story with real but vague-sounding impacts. But since former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta started talking about "cyber Pearl Harbors," the issue has been elevated. While nothing too devastating is likely in the next two years, Clapper told senators, it’s a major strategic concern, with China and Iran and some non-state actors all posing major risks to the U.S. government and private sector. Gen. Keith Alexander, the Army officer who heads U.S. Cyber Command, also testified yesterday. As Killer Apps’ John Reed reports, the command is fielding 13 "offensive cyber teams" tasked with deterring destructive cyber attacks against the U.S. "Let me be clear, this defend-the-nation team is not a defensive team, this is an offensive team that the Department of Defense would use to defend the nation if it were attacked in cyberspace," he said. Alexander’s command is also developing 27 teams to provide assistance in planning offensive cyber operations to the regional combatant commands. He’s also organizing an undisclosed number of teams aimed at defending the military’s networks against cyber attacks.
Clapper’s "Worldwide Threat Assessment" puts cyber at the top of its threat list — above terrorism. From the report: "We judge that there is a remote chance of a major cyber attack against US critical infrastructure systems during the next two years that would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage. The level of technical expertise and operational sophistication required for such an attack — including the ability to create physical damage or overcome mitigation factors like manual overrides — will be out of reach for most actors during this time frame. Advanced cyber actors — such as Russia and China — are unlikely to launch such a devastating attack against the United States outside of a military conflict or crisis that they believe threatens their vital interests."
But… "However, isolated state or non-state actors might deploy less sophisticated cyber attacks as a form of retaliation or provocation. These less advanced but highly motivated actors could access some poorly protected US networks that control core functions, such as power generation, during the next two years, although their ability to leverage that access to cause high-impact, systemic disruptions will probably be limited."
The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron’s take on the threat assessment: "[C]ybersecurity is apparently the leading threat confronting the United States, warranting 18 paragraphs of concerns. Afghanistan? Four. Pakistan? Three. The times, they are a changing, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who declared that global threats are ‘quickly and radically’ changing and that terrorism is in a period of ‘transition.’" Read the whole report here.
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Africom change of command — April 5, an official tells us.
Hagel may be parting company with Panetta. After a week or so of pressure to re-think the Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is doing just that. Pentagon press secretary George Little announced yesterday that the Pentagon had begun a 30-day review of the medal former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced on his way out the door, setting up the distinct possibility that there would be a change to the "precedence" of the medal — that is, where it resides in the hierarchy of medals. Concern has been mounting ever since Panetta announced it that its place above a Bronze Star, which recognizes military members for acts of heroism or merit in combat, was a bridge too far in deference to drone pilots, the unsung heroes of modern warfare. Indeed, the medal is long overdue for the pilots of all the services who fly drones as a way to recognize their service and the impact of the important work they do. But the precedence of the award in the hierarchy-hyper military is what has so many people concerned, from the uniforms in the building, more privately, to senators and congressmen, far more publicly, on the Hill. Just last week, Hagel had defended or at least explained the rationale behind Panetta’s decision, which apparently came after consensus among the service chiefs, to members of Congress. But in a move that may buy him instant credibility with the Army and Marines, in particular, the former Army sergeant said he would take a look at the issue. Little, yesterday, to reporters: "Secretary Hagel consulted with the chairman, the Joint Chiefs, and the service secretaries, and those with the decision to establish the medal was carefully and thoroughly analyzed within the Department of Defense. That being said, in light of concerns about the medal’s place in the order of precedence, Secretary Hagel will work with the senior leadership to review the order of precedence and associated matters, and the secretary has asked that Chairman Dempsey lead this review and report back in 30 days." By the way, production of the medal itself has been halted during the review. Full briefing transcript, here.
Vali Nasr’s "gloves off denunciation" of Obama’s foreign policy got it wrong. So says Sarah Chayes, the former civilian adviser to the stars who is now a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. FP published Nasr’s piece last week, an excerpt of his new book, that argued that President Barack Obama let diplomacy fail in Afghanistan by letting it fall victim to bureaucratic turf battles and lack of focus. Not so much, Chayes, an expert on Afghanistan, says on FP: "What this account is missing — what so many such accounts are missing — is the humility and intellectual honesty to take a candid look inward, to strive for a nuanced assessment of our shared missteps, in what I, like Nasr, believe will be a grim outcome for Afghanistan, and ultimately for international security." And to the charge that the military sought control of the Afghan campaign, she writes: "Far from railroading the bureaucracy to gain unfettered control of the Afghanistan campaign, military officers I encountered, to a one, called for more civilian input, not less. At every echelon — from battalion commanders who begged the State Department officials sharing their bases for a better picture of local political dynamics, to senior officers and Defense Department officials who pushed for (and offered to help fund) a civilian surge, to the top brass in Kabul and Washington waiting in vain for a coherent strategic policy to emerge from U.S. civilian leadership — I saw military officers dismayed, not delighted, at being the lead, and sometimes the only, actors."
Karzai reiterated his argument that the U.S. was in collaboration with the Taliban. Afghan President Hamid Karzai deepened the difficulties affecting the U.S.-Afghan relationship by saying again that he thought the U.S. and the Taliban were working together against his country. In a speech in Helmand province yesterday, he blasted the Taliban: "You eat chocolates in Paris, but in Kabul you kill a widow…. [I]t is very clear that you serve strangers and want to show that Afghanistan is a dangerous place." But he also said the U.S. was working to undermine Afghanistan to justify a long-term presence. "Mr. Karzai’s outbursts may be caused by the fact that he fears being left out amid the recent flurry of international and Afghan contacts with the Taliban, a political commentator and former Afghan lawmaker told the WSJ.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Jim Cunningham, quoted in the WSJ, echoing sentiments made recently by ISAF Commander Gen. Joe Dunford: "The thought that we would collude with the Taliban flies in the face of everything we have done here."
- WSJ: Paul Ryan sees caps on defense spending.
- Fiscal Times: How the GOP learned to love defense cuts.
- The Atlantic Wire: Paul Ryan’s budget, in charts.
- Air Force Times: Bill would strip clemency power from commanders.
- Security Clearance: Jane Harman: Rand Paul is right.
- Army Times: Hagel to review drone medal precedence.
- Danger Room: U.S. spies want to play alternate-reality games.
- AP: No answers after deadliest day of year in Afghanistan.
- Daily Beast: My dog Solha: From Afghanistan, with PTSD.
- NYT: Karzai bets on vilifying U.S. to shed image as a lackey.
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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