Troops to Jordan; Hagel is wheels up for the ME soon; State’s Andrew Shapiro packs his bags; USIP’s Jim Marshall wants to move Constitution Avenue, and a little bit more.
By Gordon Lubold The U.S. is sending about 100 soldiers to Jordan to create a command post to prepare for "a number of scenarios" in Syria. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told senators Wednesday he is sending an Army headquarters operation to Jordan. The U.S. appears poised to take a more active role in Syria, even ...
By Gordon Lubold
By Gordon Lubold
The U.S. is sending about 100 soldiers to Jordan to create a command post to prepare for "a number of scenarios" in Syria. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told senators Wednesday he is sending an Army headquarters operation to Jordan. The U.S. appears poised to take a more active role in Syria, even as officials said the command post does not preface military intervention there. It could be used to coordinate humanitarian aid or oversee efforts to secure chemical-weapons sites, defense officials told the WSJ. A defense official: "It is a well-trained, well-coordinated team that can be the nucleus of further mission planning and growth of the command and control element, should that be ordered."
Hagel, yesterday, said the U.S. is "developing options" and planning a post-Assad Syria and is continuing to provide the White House and Congress with "our assessment of options for a U.S. military intervention." Then he echoed other military officials and experts in what has long been thought: "The reality is that this is a complex and difficult situation. The killing of innocents by the Syrian regime is tragic. The Assad regime is intent on maintaining power, the conflict within Syria has developed along dangerous sectarian lines, and the opposition has not yet sufficiently organized itself politically or militarily… we have an obligation and responsibility to think through the consequences of direct U.S. military action in Syria." He said intervention, however, could hinder humanitarian relief and "embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment"… and could have the "unintended consequence of bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict or proxy war."
And: "Military intervention is always an option, but an option of last resort. The best outcome for Syria – and the region – is a negotiated, political transition to a post-Assad Syria," he said.
Hagel is wheels-up this weekend for the Middle East. The Pentagon announced that the secretary will board the E-4B "Doomsday" plane to visit Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, leaving Saturday, returning April 27. In Israel he’ll meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Shimon Peres to "further the close military to military relationship" between the two countries. On the agenda in Israel: the 10-year foreign military financing agreement announced by President Barack Obama during his own trip earlier this year, as well as, of course, the crisis in Syria and the enduring concern about Iran. "Hagel will then travel to Jordan to receive briefings on international efforts to address the crisis in Syria and discuss U.S. and Jordanian cooperation to prepare for a number of contingencies," according to a Pentagon statement. He’ll then head to Saudi, then Egypt, then UAE.
A historic visit today at the Pentagon. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will hit the E-Ring today in what is billed as the first such visit of a sitting U.N. chief. The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron has the deets: "The United Nations requested the unprecedented meeting roughly two weeks ago amid growing international tensions stemming from North Korea’s threats of nuclear war, a senior defense official told the E-Ring. Pentagon officials behind the scenes rushed to accommodate the request, and Ban’s visit was not announced until late Wednesday afternoon."
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Why lone wolves are so dangerous. As investigators continue to sift through nylon shreds and the remains of the bombs made of pressure cookers in Boston, officials say they have made "significant progress" in the investigation. Meantime, the nation’s attention has turned to the distinct possibility that the bombing in Boston is not the result of state-sponsored terrorism, but a lone wolf with a deadly plan. An agenda and an Internet connection are all it takes for a lone wolf to stage an effective terrorist attack, and they’re pretty hard to guard against. In the nicely titled "An Army of One," Jeffrey Simon, writing on FP, says that because lone wolves aren’t part of a group, they are better able to color outside the box. Simon: "Lone wolves are free to act upon any scenario they can dream up. This freedom has resulted in some of the most imaginative terrorist attacks in history. For example, lone wolves were responsible for the first vehicle bombing (1920), major midair plane bombing (1955), hijacking (1961), and product tampering (1982), as well as the anthrax letter attacks in the United States (2001)." And: "Lone wolves also have little or no constraints on their level of violence. Because they are not part of a group, lone wolves are not concerned with alienating supporters (as many terrorist groups are), nor are they concerned with a potential government and law-enforcement crackdown following an attack. Lone wolves are also difficult to identify and capture. Because they work alone, there are usually no communications to intercept or co-conspirators to arrest and interrogate. That is the reason why Theodore Kaczynski, the infamous "Unabomber," was able to send package bombs throughout the United States for nearly 17 years."
USIP’s Jim Marshall wants to move Constitution Avenue. The president of the United States Institute of Peace, the government-funded organization dedicated to resolving conflict around the world, is on a new mission. Jim Marshall, the former mayor of Macon, Ga. and a former congressman, wants to have part of Constitution Avenue in front of USIP’s stunning new building, located on the corner of Constitution and 23rd, moved 150 feet south to "reduce noise and vibration" inside the building. The lede on Washington’s News 4’s Web site: "The traffic on Constitution Avenue is creating a buzz at the nearby United States Institute of Peace, and not in a good way." The project would create a temporary, taxpayer-funded traffic snarl on the western end of Constitution — a street USIP’s congressional funders use to commute every day. USIP, which persevered through existential budget battles with Congress as recently as last year, says it expects as many as 500,000 visitors per year in the coming years as it builds out undeveloped portions of its site. "The agreements with respect to who, if and what is going to happen remain to be determined," DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez told the station.
Full disclosure time: In another life, Situation Report worked for USIP. District Department of Transportation documents, here, and News 4 story, here.
Across the street from USIP, A
ndrew Shapiro is packing up the office. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro is leaving State this week after four years — the longest-serving, assistant secretary for the Pol-Mil bureau, Situation Report is told. Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns addressed a small gathering at a farewell for Shapiro, a former defense and foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton who was a fixture behind her on the Armed Services Committee, when she was in the Senate. Shapiro worked heavily on U.S.-Israel security relations, presided over large growth in U.S. defense trade — including a $60 billion arms package to Saudi Arabia — and a largely successful push to put Somali pirates out of business. (Situation Report reported on that here.) He also worked to secure MANPADS and conventional weapons in Libya, presided over two new defense trade treaties with Australia and the U.K., and began what we’re told is "the most comprehensive rewrite" of defense export controls in years. Shapiro has been mum on where he’s going next.
Who’s taking over for him? Tom Kelly, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, will be Acting Assistant secretary.
On the defense budget, is Obama channeling Bush? So argues Gordon Adams. He writes on FP that the Obama administration’s failure to release a real war budget – to fund Afghanistan and other mission in the form of an overseas contingency operations account, or OCO – along with the base budget released last week suggest Obama is playing much the same kind of budgetary shell game as Bush did. Adams: "In delaying the war budget, President Obama has violated a pledge he made before taking office: that he would submit an OCO budget request simultaneously with the overall defense budget submission. During the presidential transition, moreover, the Obama administration negotiated an agreement with DOD that only direct war costs would be included in the war budget." And: "The simultaneous submission of the war budget, and the restrictions on its use, were supposed to end the Bush administration’s repeated delays on war funding that allowed DOD to avoid the normal budget planning process — what is known as the Programming, Planning, Budgeting and Execution System. It also allowed the Pentagon to lard up the war budget with items that were not directly linked to the war, like the costs of modifying ground forces into Brigade Combat Teams, or buying ground equipment that was part of the Army’s long-term plan while not replacing equipment damaged in the war."
War hits home: WaPo’s Metro section features a large above-the-fold pic of Fox Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin’s daughter, Amelia, tearfully reading a tribute to Marine Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears, who died in Afghanistan last year. The Marine graduated from John Eaton Elementary school in Washington in 2001 and in a visit last year "wowed" 50 children, including Amelia, in teaching them Marine-style physical training. He was killed in Helmand Province in June. Griffin, quoted: "It’s still stunning that only 1 percent of this nation has served in these wars." The WaPo story, here.
Want to know the real deal on North Korea? Fresh from a three-week trip to Japan, the Truman Project’s Rachel Kleinfeld will moderate a discussion about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The panelists are L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation; Laicie Heeley, senior policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; and Alexandra Toma, founder of the Fissile Materials Working Group. Deets for the event, at 9:30 Friday morning at the Center for National Policy, here.
ICYMI (we did) and worth noting: The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson did a piece this week on one of the many victims of the Boston bombings — a young Saudi. The man was reported to be a "person of interest" — and we repeated that reporting here. But in the end, he turned out to be an innocent bystander and helpless victim from a place that invites conclusion jumping under such circumstances. In "The Saudi Marathon Man," Davidson writes that the early reports of him being a potential suspect "suddenly gave our anxieties a form." Davidson: "What made them suspect him? He was running — so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb — as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead — a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?" And: "When there was so much to fear that we were so brave about, there was panic about a wounded man barely out of his teens who needed help…. What’s missing? Is it humility?"
- The Diplomat: (FPI’s Griffin, Zarate) What Kerry is doing right and wrong in East Asia.
- Defense News: Levin: void 2014 sequester if grand bargain fails.
- Military Times: Congress more willing to cut military pay, benefits.
- The Atlantic: When IEDs come home: What Boston looked like to Iraq veterans.
- Iran Primer: Iran condemns Boston attack, slams U.S. policy.
- Danger Room: Don’t panic now, but Mexico’s Zetas cartel wants to recruit your kids.
- National Journal: What drones can do for you.
- Duffel Blog: Predator drone nominated for Nobel peace prize.
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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