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.

Dunford, Karzai agree on Wardak; Amazon works for the CIA; Carter reaffirms the pivot; Levin backs no-fly zone; Kelly talks Iran in Southcom; and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold ISAF and the Afghan government have reached an agreement on Wardak. Gen. Joe Dunford, the ISAF commander in Kabul, announced overnight that he and President Hamid Karzai had reached an agreement over the issue in Wardak after Karzai abruptly declared that U.S. Special Operations Forces were to cease operations and to leave ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

ISAF and the Afghan government have reached an agreement on Wardak. Gen. Joe Dunford, the ISAF commander in Kabul, announced overnight that he and President Hamid Karzai had reached an agreement over the issue in Wardak after Karzai abruptly declared that U.S. Special Operations Forces were to cease operations and to leave the province. Karzai alleged abuse of Afghans at the hands of the American troops, charges that were never fully explained. Dunford, confronting one of the largest crises with the Afghan government since taking over recently for Gen. John Allen, met with Karzai in the presidential palace. According to the agreement, Afghanistan will soon begin to move Afghan National Security Forces into Nerkh District in Wardak to provide security, replacing an Afghan Local Police force and U.S. forces. It was a tough situation in which Karzai may have bought a line from local leaders in Wardak. "This was really about local leaders feeding a narrative to Kabul that wasn’t exactly on the mark," and American official told Situation Report. "Once the facts were settled, it was possible to move ahead with an agreement."
"I am pleased to announce that following a very constructive series of talks with the President and the leadership of the MOD and MOI, we have come to agreement on a plan for Wardak that continues the transition of this critical province and meets the security needs of the people and the requirements of our mission.
Dunford: What success looks like. "
I want to thank President Karzai for his leadership. This plan meets the President’s intent and leverages the growing capacity and capability of the Afghan security forces to meet the security needs of this country. This solution is what success looks like as we continue the transition to overall Afghan security lead."

Obama is visiting Israel today.  In his two-day visit, Obama is expected to strengthen the Obama White House.-Israeli relationship and talk security issues confronting the region, from Syria to Iran to "Israel’s neighbor," the Palestinians. He quickly was driven across the airport to see a battery of the Iron Dome air defense system. So proud of the system, credited with intercepting more than 400 rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli towns, the Israelis brought the battery to the airport after it was determined Obama wouldn’t have time to go see it closer to the border.
The NYT:
"The president’s inspection of the mobile air-defense battery was the first in a series of carefully choreographed stops meant to convey a single message: The president of the United States cares about the Israeli people and will do whatever is necessary to protect them from threats, near and far."
Obama, earlier, on the tarmac:
"I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations."
Hagel spoke with the new Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon
. On the eve of Obama’s visit to Israel, Hagel spoke by phone with the new defense minister, congratulating him on taking office and generally vowing to work closely with him in the years ahead. From Pentagon pressec George Little’s readout: "Secretary Hagel stated that he looks forward to meeting with Minister Ya’alon both in the Pentagon and in Israel in the near future."

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot.

Carl Levin likes the idea of a no-fly zone for Syria. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he thought a no-fly zone could work, reports The Cable’s Josh Rogin. Levin asked outgoing SACEUR and EUCOM commander Adm. Jim Stavridis what he thought, and Stavridis acknowledged that it was under discussion but said there was no unified NATO position on the issue.
Rogin: Stavridis said that the NATO Patriot missile batteries currently deployed in Turkey have the capability to shoot down Syrian military aircraft in a radius of 20 miles. McCain pressed Stavridis to give his personal opinion as to whether or not establishing a Patriot battery-enforced no-fly zone in northern Syria would speed the end of the conflict." Stavridis: "My personal opinion is that would be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime," Stavridis said.
Levin: "You could protect that kind of a zone with these Patriot missiles, leaving the missiles in Turkey but having the zone inside the Syrian border," he said. "It is a way without putting boots on the ground and in a way that would be fairly cautious, that would put additional pressure on Assad and also create a zone where Syrian people who are looking for protection and safety could come without crossing the border and becoming refugees."

Will the link be unbroken? Yesterday’s edition included at least two links to some of FP’s coverage of the war in Iraq. We received a number of e-mails from folks who wanted to access the material but couldn’t. We’re sorry you experienced problems. Here are the unbroken links.
Excerpts of the FP-RAND event on Iraq that included a sharp discussion between folks like Gen. John Allen, Doug Feith, Paul Pillar, John Nagl, and Steve Hadley. Read it here.
FP’s 10 most iconic images of the Iraq war,

Amazon is building the CIA a cloud. Apparently Amazon, that giant of commerce, is building a cloud-computing network for the agency in McLean. Federal Computer Week reported the agency will pay Amazon $600 million to develop its own private cloud over the next 10 years. Killer Apps’ John Reed writes: "This would make plenty of sense. Amazon is well-known for providing cloud-computing services to the private sector, and government agencies dealing with classified information are pushing to adopt cloud services as a way of consolidating thousands of network ‘enclaves’ that are hard to defend. The Pentagon, for example, is building what it says will be a defendable, upgradable network, known as the Joint Information Environment."

Ash is wheels up. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter finished up his Asian tour, leaving Jakarta this morning Washington time. He attended the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue, met with defense leaders from Southeast Asian nations and presented his remarks about the Asia and the "new geopolitics" there. Just two days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new review of the current defense strategy, in which the "pivot to Asia" figures prominently, we’re told Carter "reaffirmed the strategic importance of the U.S. rebalance."

On the way home to D.C., Ca
rter will stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and meet with service members there. Hagel’s other recent announcement, about the new ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, is bound to be a topic of discussion.

Don’t forget about Southcom. Lingering problems in the Middle East, the drawdown in Afghanistan, and the pivot to Asia doesn’t mean U.S. Southern Command doesn’t face challenges. Today Gen. John Kelly, Southcom commander, briefs reporters at the Pentagon at 3 p.m. We’re told Kelley will be talking about the effects sequestration has on the Southcom mission and the impact that Iran and China have in his region, which includes the Caribbean and all countries in the Americas south of Mexico. Kelley, who testified yesterday on the Hill, is expected to take questions about Guantanamo Bay.
Kelly, yesterday on Iran, at the Senate Armed Services Committee: "Who knows where they’re going? It’s not a huge threat now. But I think anywhere they go, particularly when they go to a region that is completely different than they are culturally, religiously and all the rest, I think they — they bear watching."
On China: "What’s the ultimate goal? I think the ultimate goal is, certainly, commercially is just, they’re huge, powerful and they’re — and they’re going to penetrate any market they could penetrate. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s a good thing for most of the nations that I’m talking about. I don’t see it as a huge threat, but as we — as we back away or — or it’s harder and harder for [partner nations] to buy our military equipment, they go to other, easier-to-deal-with countries, and China is certainly one of them."
And Kelly gives a shout out to Colombia: "There’s a great deal of cocaine produced, and all of that cocaine comes to the United States, primarily from Colombia. And I have to give them a shout-out. They have done a tremendous job working shoulder to shoulder with us. They have tremendous appreciation for what the United States government and its people have done for them over the years to — to defend against the traffickers and the insurgents that they’ve dealt with. They are now — they’ve fallen, if you will, to the number-three producers of cocaine in the world. Number one and number two are Peru and Bolivia. The vast majority, in fact, I would say 100 percent of that cocaine goes into Brazil. Brazil’s now the number two consumer of cocaine, and also is the traffic path, if you will, to Africa and then further to, to Europe."

CNP and Truman asked a bunch of veterans and national security experts what the anniversary of the Iraq war means to them. A.J. Gales, a Truman Project member and a Marine: "We, as a nation, have learned so much from the past 10 years. As a nation we have learned what failed leadership and a purist mentality can lead us into. That’s why this anniversary isn’t just a mile marker for me, but a key pillar in my future. A future where I will always fight to ensure we no longer use the military as a pawn, but as a strategic weapon. That we never view it as weak to utilize both soft and hard power, but rather as the fundamentally right thing to do. Serving in Iraq has forever shaped my future. I have seen firsthand the impacts of the war, and understand the need for public servants who understand America being strong is not just about having the largest military. It’s about utilizing all our strategic weapons, from diplomacy to boots on the ground." Here’s what others said. 

Can DOD address the "structural drivers of military spending"? Gordon Adams of Stimson, Todd Harrison of CSBA, Clark Murdock of CSIS, and Arnie Punaro of Punaro Group discuss at American Enterprise Institute Thursday morning at 9. Deets here.

CSIS’ Maren Leed hosts H.R. McMaster today. Leed speaks with Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the famed counterinsurgency expert and formerly a close aide to David Petraeus, as part of CSIS’s "ground forces dialogue." After more than 10 years of two major ground wars, the series explores the issues confronting the Army and Marines, the role they’ll play, what capabilities they need, and so on. Today at noon. Deets here.


  • Al Jazeera: Girl activist Malala back at school.
  • Spiegel Online: U.S. backs away from strong role in Middle East.
  • Defense News: McCain, Feinstein, split over shifting strike UAV capability to military.
  • Juan Cole: As Israelis press Obama on Iran, remember they urged Iraq war, too.
  • Danger Room: After the carrier, three alternatives to the Navy’s vulnerable flattops. 

Into Africa

  • All Africa: Al-Qaeda in Africa says it beheaded French hostage.
  • BBC: France host talks post-war development in Mali.
  • All Africa: Leaders say deadly car bomb will not stop progress in Somalia.  


  • Time’s Battleland: Are today’s vets better off?
  • WaPo: After decade of war, troops still struggle to find jobs.
  • AP: U.S. still making payments to relatives of Civil War veterans.
  • NPR: Veterans face red tape accessing disability, other benefits.       


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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