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.

FP’s Situation Report: Demands and more demands in Afg; IG takes a pass on Amos; On Iran deal, why doves should worry; Obama’s move to diplomacy over military might; Penty could cut Stripes; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold More and more demands: Karzai meets with Rice in Kabul. The WaPo’s Tim Craig and Karen DeYoung: "Efforts by the United States and Afghanistan to finalize a long-term security arrangement appeared on the brink of collapse Monday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a new set of demands, and the Obama administration ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

More and more demands: Karzai meets with Rice in Kabul. The WaPo’s Tim Craig and Karen DeYoung: "Efforts by the United States and Afghanistan to finalize a long-term security arrangement appeared on the brink of collapse Monday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a new set of demands, and the Obama administration said it would be forced to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of 2014. In a two-hour meeting here, Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s top national security adviser, told Karzai that if he failed to sign the bilateral security agreement by the end of this year, the United States would have "no choice" but to prepare for withdrawal, according to a statement by the National Security Council in Washington." More here.

The White House readout on Rice’s visit: "…Ambassador Rice stressed that we have concluded negotiations and that deferring the signature of the agreement until after next year’s elections is not viable, as it would not provide the United States and NATO allies the clarity necessary to plan for a potential post-2014 military presence. Nor would it provide Afghans with the certainty they deserve regarding their future, in the critical months preceding elections." More here.

Rand’s Seth Jones: forget Karzai and move on. Jones, author of "In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan" and also a former special adviser to U.S. special operations forces, argues in the WSJ today that the U.S. should resist temptation to let Karzai’s latest games force it out of a long-term relationship with the country. His BLUF: "As whimsical as Mr. Karzai can be, it would be imprudent to let a lame duck Afghan president undermine U.S. national security interests. And the stalled bilateral security agreement may not be the most significant problem. The administration hasn’t yet made a forceful, public case for keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan past 2014, with specifics of what a U.S. commitment would look like. It needs to do that now." More here.

Lessons from the Taliban: Afghanistan looks at returning to stoning as punishment for adulterers, Aljazeera here.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Situation Report. If you’d like to sign up for Situation Report, send us a note at and we’ll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here. As always, if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, you gotta say something — to Situation Report. One more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Major muscle movements: Obama says "tough talk and bluster" may be easier, "but it’s not the right thing for our security." The NYT’s Mark Landler on the White House’s big shift after two wars: "…But it also reflects a broader scaling-back of the use of American muscle, not least in the Middle East, as well as a willingness to deal with foreign governments as they are rather than to push for new leaders that better embody American values. "Regime change," in Iran or even Syria, is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in. For Mr. Obama, the shift to diplomacy fulfills a campaign pledge from 2008 that he would stretch out a hand to America’s enemies and speak to any foreign leader without preconditions. But it will also subject him to considerable political risks, as the protests about the Iran deal from Capitol Hill and allies in the Middle East attest." Read the rest here.

Chuck Hagel praises Iran deal, worries aloud about Afghanistan. USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first public statements about the high-stakes talks with Iran, said Monday that the deal to slow the country’s nuclear ambitions poses "minimal" risks for the United States. ‘Yes, there’s risk in this, of course,’ Hagel said in an interview with USA TODAY. ‘Nothing worthwhile ever comes without some risk. But I think the risk is very minimal for us in this.’ At his office at the Pentagon, Hagel also talked about the troubled negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reach a deal that would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and discussed the military’s sexual assault crisis." More here.

The Pentagon’s watchdog takes a pass on allegations against Jim Amos. FP’s Dan Lamothe: "When a Marine Corps lawyer accused the service’s top general and his staff of misconduct in their handling of legal cases tied to an embarrassing war-zone video, it created a firestorm on Capitol Hill, in the active-duty ranks, and in national media. But eight months later, it’s now clear the Pentagon’s watchdog agency took a pass on investigating the whistle-blower’s most serious allegations — that senior Marine officials deliberately and unlawfully interfered in the legal cases of Marines accused of war crimes and classified information to cover up their manipulation of the military justice system." More here.

No love: The WaPo put on its Page One today a story about how the CIA will likely retain most drone operations instead of relinquishing them to the Defense Department. But the story in the WaPo, which can be notoriously bad at giving credit when it’s due, never mentioned one fact: Foreign Policy broke that bit fair-and-square three weeks ago. The WaPo piece here. Our story with Shane Harris Nov. 5, "The CIA, not the Pentagon, Will Keep Running Obama’s Drone War," here. 

Ted Cruz on FP: the dangerous, wrongheaded deal with Iran and his BLUF: "The administration has gotten it backwards and it is time to reverse course before any further damage is done." More here.

FP’s David Rothkopf on why hawks should love the deal with Iran – and why doves should worry. Rothkopf: "The reflexive reaction of Iran hawks to condemn the interim accord struck in Geneva this weekend is as wrongheaded as the triumphal assessments of those suggesting it ushers in a new, more hopeful era in the region’s history. This deal, hard-won as it has been, is just a tentative if hopeful step down a long and twist
ing road fraught with dangers. For the hawks to suggest that the deal freezing Iranian uranium-enrichment efforts above the 5 percent level, halting work on the heavy-water reactor near Arak, and granting daily inspections to Iran’s centrifuge-laden facilities at Natanz and Fordow makes matters more dangerous in the short term is just indefensible on its face. Absent such a deal, all enrichment and technological advancement efforts would continue unabated and without inspections. Iran would almost certainly move more quickly toward having a bomb without this deal than with it." More here.

FP’s Colum Lynch on how Iran could be the cause – or the solution – to Syria’s humanitarian crisis: "The United States and Iran, having clinched a landmark interim deal suspending some aspects of Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, turned their attention this week to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The long-standing adversaries were scheduled to attend a dinner tonight hosted by Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and participate tomorrow in U.N.-sponsored conference at the Palais de Nations aimed at persuading Syria’s combatants to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. The conference — which will bring key regional and international powers together — will provide the first major test of whether progress on the nuclear front can be converted into political progress and an improvement in living conditions for millions of needy civilians in Syria." More here.

The Marines beef up embassy security post Benghazi, Politico’s Kate Brannen, here.

Asian airlines to acknowledge China’s new "air defense identification zone." Reuters: "…An official at the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau said Japanese airlines flying through the region to non-mainland Chinese destinations would likely need to inform China of their plans. "Airlines have been advised to take greater care in the area," said another bureau official. Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd said they would keep Chinese authorities informed of their flights through the area. Korean Air said its flight plans would be delivered to Chinese authorities but the routes its pilots took would not be affected. Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings also said the zone had not affected their flights." More here.

An Air Force one star goes to three. Air Force Times’ Jeff Schogol: "…Yes, you’re reading that right: Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Burne has been nominated to catapult over his second star and get his third star as the next judge advocate general of the Air Force. If confirmed by the Senate, Burne would start his new job in February, replacing Lt. Gen. Richard Harding, whose retirement is expected but the date has not been announced, according to the Air Force. ‘Though uncommon, it’s not unheard of for senior leaders to be selected in this manner,’ Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said. ‘Our sister services have done this on occasion as well.’ More here.

An American sailor will appear in an Australian court in January after being arrested for an alleged aggravated sexual assault on a woman in Darwin. Stripes: "The unidentified sailor, who was stationed aboard the USS Denver, was arrested by Australian police Sept. 11 on suspicion of assaulting the woman but was released to the Navy two days later. The case was reported by Australian media for the first time this week."

Speaking of Stripes newspaper, the Pentagon may de-fund them. Stripes: "The Pentagon, under intense pressure to maintain American military might in an era of sequestration and falling budgets, is considering the elimination of Stars and Stripes and the Pentagon Channel as well as programming cuts to American Forces Network. The Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which answers to the secretary of Defense, has been tasked with reviewing spending on all such media products. The Pentagon typically refuses comment on budget studies while in process, and when asked for information on the scope and intent of the review, officials would only say all of DOD is currently the subject of a top-to-bottom spending review ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. ‘In this budget environment, we’re looking at everything,’ said Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, spokesman for the cost assessment office." More here.

Our story about the Pentagon thinking about defunding the Pentagon Channel, Sept. 20, here.




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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