Where is the decision on Afghanistan? Amid comeback, Petraeus at center of Benghazi; Sexual assault prevention workers to get furlough reprieve; Whose fault is sexual assault? No pics of bin Laden; and a little bit more.
By Gordon Lubold Hagel is expected to announce today that about 500 sexual assault prevention workers won’t be furloughed. As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attempts to get a hold on the deepening sexual assault crisis across DOD, he will release about 500 sexual assault prevention workers from the forced, unpaid leave they would have ...
By Gordon Lubold
Hagel is expected to announce today that about 500 sexual assault prevention workers won’t be furloughed. As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attempts to get a hold on the deepening sexual assault crisis across DOD, he will release about 500 sexual assault prevention workers from the forced, unpaid leave they would have had to take this summer as a way to show he’s serious about tackling the problem. He’ll likely announce the exemptions later today. "The Secretary believes it’s prudent as we address the problem of sexual assault in the military to maximize access to civilian personnel who can support victims of this deplorable conduct," a senior defense official told Situation Report.
The Army removes a brigadier for alleged adultery. Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts, the top general at the Army’s Fort Jackson in South Carolina, has been suspended over allegations of assault and adultery. But an Army spokesman said the case was not one of sexual assault or harassment. The allegations are said to involve not only adultery but a physical altercation, according to various media reports. The head of the Army’s Training Command, or TRADOC, Gen. Bob Cone, suspended Roberts and put Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, who headed the Army’s CBRN school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., as interim commander.
Sexual assault in the military isn’t just the military’s fault, argues Micah Zenko and Amelia Mae Wolf, writing on FP. It’s the society, stupid. Zenko, Wolf: "Unfortunately, however admirable the recent condemnations of sexual assault in the military, they’re unlikely to have much impact, because sexual assault in the military is not a military problem. It is an American problem. Scholars, retired officers, and others have longed warned of the creeping militarization of American society. However, as the Pentagon yet again renews its sexual assault prevention efforts, it must not discount the socialization of the American military."
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Where’s the decision on Afghanistan? The Obama administration has so far been unable to publicly articulate the American military commitment to Afghanistan after the main drawdown of forces at the end of 2014, keeping allies in limbo and sending a message to the Afghan people that the U.S. is potentially wavering. American officials who have worked on Afghanistan say it’s time for the president to say what the size of the American military force that will remain after 2014 will be. "Our allies are waiting on us, as are the Afghans," said one senior staffer on the Hill. "The more uncertainty there is, the more [Afghan President Hamid Karzai] and other elites will look to external actors for support."
The staffer added: "The White House has previously said that they want to wait until the end of the fighting season, and it looks like the military is toeing that line, too. But if you speak privately with senior military officers, they will tell you that this has been an excruciating and detrimental process."
After a Pentagon visit yesterday, the Australian defense minister, Stephen Smith, said his government was waiting until the U.S. announced its post-2014 plans before announcing its own. And on April 5, ISAF Commander Gen. Joe Dunford told Situation Report: "I think a little more fidelity on the NATO mission and the U.S. mission — I think that would be very helpful in terms of the message," he said.
Military officials say that, from a political standpoint, the Obama administration should be able to announce its plans to keep some troops in Afghanistan after 2014 while still genuinely claiming that it is ending the war there. Besides, many agree, the American public is barely paying attention to the war anyway.
But there has been little interest in the issue from the administration, which continues to work on bilateral security agreements and assess what the right number of troops should be. And, so-called shiny objects, from Syria to North Korea to Benghazi to leak probes and the IRS, have distracted the White House from focusing on Afghanistan, which is not so much a problem at the moment. "The ongoing multi-crises are eating up all the air time," said one senior military official.
Also read "Curing America’s Fear of Commitment," by former ISAF commander John Allen’s former political-military adviser, Marc Chretien, here. Chretien, writing on FP: "The fact that the United States is still in Afghanistan after 12 years — in no small part because it decided to invade Iraq — doesn’t diminish the U.S. responsibility to leave an Afghan government behind that stands the best chance of achieving some semblance of stability and support for several years to come. Not to mention America’s own interests in the matter: Allowing Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of the Taliban will only serve to further jeopardize U.S. national security. And that, at least, should be unacceptable to American politicians everywhere."
More on the post-2014 presence in Afghanistan, including the expected size of the force, below.
Amid Petraeus’ comeback, questions about his role on Benghazi. David Petraeus has begun a carefully orchestrated return to public life after being forced out of CIA for his extra-marital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. But as new, more pointed questions over Benghazi emerge, so too has his role in that affair. The WaPo’s Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung trace the origin of the much-maligned talking points to a cup of coffee Petraeus had with the ranking Democrat of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, three days after the attack. Ruppersberger wanted to talk with Petraeus to make sure his committee members, some of whom were new, would not disclose sensitive information under press scrutiny. Wilson and DeYoung: "What Petraeus decided to do with that request is the pivotal moment in the controversy over the administration’s Benghazi talking points. It was from his initial input that all else flowed, resulting in 48 hours of intensive editing that congressional Republicans cite as evidence of a White House cover up. A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies, reveal Petraeus’ early role and ambitions in going well beyond the committee’s request, apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency."
And: "The information Petraeus ordered up when he returned to his Langley office that morning included far more than the minimalist version that Ruppersberger had requested. It included early classified intelligence assessments of who might be responsible for the attack and an account of prior CIA warnings — information that put Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior officials within his own agency." Full story, here.
Hagel, Shinseki, to discuss VA claims backlog in a roundtable today on the Hill. Hagel will give remarks, along with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, at 3:15 p.m. today after a "congressional roundtable" on the issue hosted by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Democrat from Maryland and chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Hagel also hosts an honor cordon today for Dutch Minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, at 1 p.m.
There are fewer Oklahoma National Guardsmen activated today. As officials reassess the death toll from the massive tornado that hit the Oklahoma City area, from as many as 91 to about 24, including nine children, the number of Guardsmen activated has been reduced to 163, Situation Report is told. But it’s "still chaos." U.S. News reports that a spokesman for the Oklahoma National Guard characterizes the situation as still being chaotic. "Hundreds of firemen, search and rescue workers and police responded to schools and neighborhoods affected by more than 200 mph winds. Legler flew over the disaster site Tuesday morning and says every intersection was occupied by first responders or members of the National Guard. Roughly 75 percent of the guardsmen based in Norman, just south of Moore, came out last night to work with airmen from the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron stationed out of Will Rogers Air National Guard Base near Oklahoma City."
Americans would face "exceptionally grave harm" if the pictures of Osama bin Laden’s burial were made public. Three U.S. Court of Appeals judges for the D.C. Circuit sided with the government in determining that releasing publicly the pictures of bin Laden’s burial at sea would cause a problem, in large part because the images that showed the bullet wound that killed bin Laden were "quite graphic" and "gruesome," writes Anne Marimow in the WaPo today.
U.S presence in Afghanistan, continued. Prior to the surge of forces for Afghanistan, the Obama administration took months to decide what it would do, creating what some military officers described as unnecessary anxiety. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Situation Report that Obama is "still reviewing options" from his advisers and hasn’t made a decision. "As we’ve said, any U.S. military presence after 2014 would focus on two basic missions: targeting the remnants of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and training and equipping Afghan forces," she said.
Two government officials said an announcement was likely in the next few weeks, while others said it wasn’t. One official said he thought the apparent lack of a decision would be noticeable at the NATO ministerial in Brussels at the end of the month.
Situation Report is told that when the announcement does come, it’s likely to be close to 9,000 American troops and approximately 6,000 from the international coalition, for a post-2014 military force of about 15,000 troops.
- The Hill (blog): Obama loves leaks, despises whistleblowers.
- The New Yorker: The DOJ’s Fox hunt.
- Daily Caller: Bret Baier: Justice Department targeted Rosen’s parents.
- NYT Room for Debate (Greenwald): Government will decide what we can know.
- The Atlantic: The cost of government spying versus the cost of press freedom.
- NYT (editorial): Another chilling leak investigation.
Syria, Year Two
- Daily Beast: Senate moves toward arming the Syrian rebels.
- Reuters: Syrian rebels call for reinforcements in embattled Qusair.
- The Australian: Friends of Syria to press for peace talks.
- Danger Room: Four questions Obama’s big national security speech should answer.
- Pro Publica: Congressman to Hagel: where are the missing war records?
- Bloomberg: The military’s culture of sexual violence.
- Politico: House OK’s big spending cuts.
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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