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: Another insider attack raises new questions at Fort Hood

Profiler: "not snapping behavior;" MRAPs to Pakistan; The nuances of hiring "heroes;" No BOGs: How America can shape the world; and a bit more.



By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

An Iraq veteran and military truck driver who deployed in 2011 and was being treated for mental disorders killed three, then himself, and brought all the sorrow and all the ache back to Fort Hood. Lubold’s story: The shooter, identified in media reports as Specialist Ivan Lopez, used a semi-automatic pistol in an area of the sprawling base where medical and motor transport personnel work. When the shooting stopped, Lopez was confronted in a parking lot by a female military police officer, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the senior commander at the base. As the officer attempted to "engage" the shooter, Milley said, Lopez pulled a pistol out from underneath his jacket and shot himself in the head. He had been transferred to Fort Hood from another Army installation, also in Texas, in February, Milley said.

Lopez, who had a wife and children living in the area, had not been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature invisible wound of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he had "self-reported" a traumatic brain injury and was being treated for a number of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, Milley said. The soldier was a combat veteran, he said.

Milley: "Obviously we are digging deep into his background, any criminal history, psychiatric history, his experiences in combat, all the things you’d expect us to do are being done right now."

In November 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people and wounded 32 others in what remains the worst mass murder at a military installation in American history. Last year, he was sentenced to death for the killings. He awaits execution at a facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Milley said Fort Hood will get through this: "Events in the past have taught us many things here at Fort Hood: we know the community is strong, we know the community is resilient, and we know the soldiers and the civilians and the families of this fort who have served so bravely in combat for the last 13 years in both Iraq and Afghanistan are strong and we will get through this."

Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former senior profiler for the FBI on CNN’s ‘New Day’ to Chris Cuomo this morning: "This is not snapping behavior, which means they were fine yesterday and then decided to carry out this lethal act of suicide/homicide, it’s well-planned, thought out behavior. It’s very likely for a personal cause."

Blue on blue: how the Defense Department is grappling with insider attacks. The WaPo’s Ernest Londono: "… In 2010, the Defense Department’s report on the Nidal shooting said officials intended to ‘develop a scientifically based list of behavioral indicators of potential violence.’ It also said the military would work jointly with the FBI to "strengthen our understanding of the insider threat.’ That review also called for more stringent measures to vet those seeking access to military installations around the country. Due to budget constraints, some of those recommendations have not been fully implemented, according to the report the Pentagon issued last month outlining its findings of the Sept. 16, 2013 Navy Yard shooting. The report said that several installations do not comply with physical security regulations that call for personnel screening people coming into bases to check their identification forms against military and law enforcement databases." More here.

The shooting will come up this morning on Capitol Hill, where Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army Raymond Odierno are expected to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on ‘The Posture of the Department of the Army’. Deets here.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report. If you’d like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we’ll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And 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, we hope you’ll say something — to Situation Report. And one more thing: please do follow us @glubold.

Big project: Heroes wanted: Piecing together veterans’ unemployment, by Greg Jaffe in the WaPo: "A two-tour Army veteran of the Afghanistan war pulled on a pair of old combat boots and headed off to his $8-an-hour job washing cars at a Ford dealership in Wichita Falls, Tex. ‘My military background don’t mean nothing,’ he said. ‘I am just another guy with a GED.’

"An unemployed Iraq veteran in San Antonio woke up late, as he always did these days, and searched the online job boards for new listings. "Same garbage as usual," he said.

"A 46-year-old former soldier, out of work for seven months, was so nervous that he was shaking as he waited in line at a veterans job fair in Louisville. ‘It seems like I second-guess myself whenever I talk,’ he said. Also at the fair was a man who ran one of the biggest veterans employment programs in the country, with thousands of jobs to fill. ‘Okay, let’s do it," he said, wading into the crowd and looking for someone to help.

"The four are part of a postwar economy that is unlike any in American history for veterans seeking work. Unemployment among veterans has been called a "black eye on our society" by the head of a major veterans group. "A moral obligation" is how President Obama has referred to it. "A national disgrace," a prominent Republican senator has said.

"The truth, though, is more complicated. Veterans who served in the post-Sept. 11 era have a higher overall unemployment rate than their civilian peers – but it was only about 2 percentage points higher in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are more likely to be employed in full-time jobs and on average earn more than peers who didn’t serve. They report about the same levels of financial stress as Americans overall, according to a new survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation."

This impulse has led corporate America to make some massive promises… Add up all the pledges, and they total more than 1 million jobs for a population of unemployed post-Sept. 11-era veterans that is estimated most months by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at 210,000. The math is overwhelming: There are now about five pledged jobs for every unemployed service member who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan. It also raises some questions: If there really are more than 1 million jobs out there, why isn’t every Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran employed? Is there a problem with what the companies are doing? Might it have something to do with the veterans themselves? Read the rest of the Jaffe story here.

Do Iraq and Afghanistan veterans think the wars were worth fighting? WaPo’s Mark Berman: "Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are more likely than other Americans to say the wars were worth the costs, even as the newest generation of soldiers divides sharply along familiar partisan lines… Despite support outpacing the general public, veterans’ support is still lukewarm, tempered by deep partisan divisions and nagging doubts that Iraqi and Afghan citizens appreciated their service." WaPo and the Kaiser Family Foundation survey here.

In this week’s New Yorker George Packer writes about how soldiers "write their wars." Packer: "…The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars is Phil Klay’s "Redeployment" (Penguin Press), a masterly collection of short stories about war and its psychological consequences. ‘Redeployment’ is military for ‘return,’ and Klay’s fiction peels back every pretty falsehood and self-delusion in the encounter between veterans and the people for whom they supposedly fought." Read the rest here.

Feinstein picks up two key votes in support of unveiling the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA’s Bush-era abuses.  FP’s John Hudson: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s quest to release a long-awaited and bitterly divisive report on the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation practices gained the support of two key Senators on Wednesday, all but assuring majority support to release the report’s primary findings.

"In a joint statement, centrist Senators Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, said they will support the release of the findings, conclusions and executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300 page report. The show of support comes ahead of a Thursday vote to release the summary and adds a thin bipartisan sheen to Feinstein’s efforts to expose the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics in the post-9/11 era. ‘We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values,’ Collins and King said. ‘While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred.’" More here.

In Brussels, Kerry proposes two steps to decrease Ukraine’s dependence on Russian energy.  FP’s Keith Johnson: "…Ever since the confrontation between Kiev and Moscow heated up late last year, and especially since Russia’s forcible annexation of the Crimean peninsula in February, European leaders have been fretting about their energy security and heavy reliance on supplies of Russian natural gas. Ukraine, in particular, has been hammered by Russia’s use of the energy weapon; on Tuesday, Russia jacked up by about 40 percent the price it charges for natural gas exported to Ukraine, and raised the specter of further price hikes that will put more stress on an already wobbly economy.
"Kerry, speaking at a U.S.-European Union Energy Council summit in Brussels, said that the U.S. wants to help ensure that Europe is able to accelerate its long-overdue energy diversification. ‘It really boils down to this: No nation should use energy to stymie a people’s aspirations. It should not be used as a weapon,’ Kerry said.
"He stressed two big measures
that could help Ukraine, in particular, get out from under Moscow’s thumb: Bringing new sources of gas from Central Asia and sending gas from Eastern Europe back into Ukraine to undercut Russian dominance. He also nodded to the role that future exports of natural gas from the United States could play in diversifying global energy markets." More here.

The search for Flight 370 ain’t cheap. Reuters’ David Alexander: "The U.S. military has spent more than $3.3 million on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and has put in place plans that nearly double the original $4 million available for the hunt, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday. Army Colonel Steve Warren said the Defense Department spent $3.2 million between March 8 and March 24 on the initial search for the Boeing 777-200ER, which went missing more than three weeks ago during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing." More here.

A former State intel official is sentenced to 13 months for leaking information to Fox News about North Korea’s nuclear program. The WaPo’s Ann Marimow: "A former State Department arms expert who leaked classified information to a Fox News reporter was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months in prison, after a pointed courtroom debate about the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of unauthorized disclosures of top-secret information. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim pleaded guilty in February to sharing classified information from an intelligence report on North Korea with reporter James Rosen, Fox’s chief Washington correspondent. Rosen was also targeted in the investigation by federal agents, who described him as a possible ‘co-conspirator’ in order to search his personal e-mails." More here.

Follow the MRAPs – they’re headed to PakistanDefense News’ Paul McLeary: "While controversy swirls over reports that Pakistan may receive some of the excess Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles that the United States has sitting in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials are on the verge of completing a deal to send new and excess MRAPs to Islamabad, Defense News has learned. The 160 vehicles, all of which would be the MaxxPro MRAP variant made by US manufacturer Navistar, would be a mix of new builds and some from US Army prepositioned stocks in Kuwait, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who is not authorized to speak for attribution." More here.

Stimson’s Russell Rumbaugh’s one-pager on the implications for defense spending in Paul Ryan’s budget, here.

After a lull in violence, three bombs kill a government official in Cairo. The FT’s Borzou Daragahi: "Anti-government militants renewed their offensive against the Egyptian security forces on Wednesday, killing one senior interior ministry official and a civilian and injuring at least seven others in bombings in central Cairo and an attack in the provinces. Three bombs, thought to be activated by remote control, struck at midday near Cairo University, a site of unrest between the police and supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi. The dead official, reportedly assigned to a guard post just outside the university campus, was Brigadier General Tariq Mirjawi, head of the investigations division for Giza province, which encompasses eastern Cairo, state media reported." Full story here.

New release: Ahead of Tunisian PM Mehdi Jomaa’s state visit to DC, CAP looks at the latest security and political dynamics in Tunisia. The Center for American Progress’ Hardin Lang: "Tunisia provides an important example of a country where Islamists and non-Islamists are largely settling their differences through politics. But the country remains a work in progress, and the United States should stand ready to bolster the ongoing transition." Full report here.

Interested in Congo? CSIS is hosting an event this evening with Ambassador William Garvelink and Jennifer Cooke for Anjan Sundaram’s new book Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo. More here.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber in Iraq killed five army recruits. AP’s Sameer Yacoub in Baghdad: "An Iraqi police official says a suicide bombing near a military base in the country’s north has killed five army recruits. Police Col. Fatah Rasheed says Wednesday’s attack in the town of Riyadh took place when the bomber set off his explosives’ belt, targeting recruits waiting in line at the gate of a military base to apply for jobs early in the morning." More here.

Two thirds of Afghan voters are under the age of 25, but the prospects for a fair and free election are slim.  The WSJ’s Margherita Stancati and Yaroslav Trofimov in Kabul: "For Afghanistan’s "Generation America," Saturday’s presidential election marks a vital rite of passage. Almost two thirds of Afghans are younger than 25, and millions have come of age during the 12 years since U.S. troops and development dollars arrived. Despite a violent Taliban insurgency and rampant corruption, young Afghans have enjoyed unprecedented freedoms and opportunities, and many of them will be voting for the first time to preserve them.
"A smooth election is hardly assured. On Wednesday, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the entrance to the ministry of interior, killing six officers in one of central Kabul’s most heavily guarded spots. An election critically disrupted by the Taliban-or stolen through fraud-could push Afghanistan into renewed civil war, reopening old ethnic fissures and imperiling many gains of the past decade.
"…Of the three presidential front-runners, former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, 70, is Mr. Karzai’s favorite and is seen as the establishment candidate. The two others, former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani, 64, and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, 54, have chosen running mates who were warlords during the country’s civil war. All of them, however, are working hard to woo the young vote. Mr. Rassoul pledged on Wednesday to fill his future government with young appointees. Mr. Ghani, in a recent interview, described himself as ‘the embodiment of the aspirations of the young men and women of this country.’" Full story here.

The Secretary of State issued a statement ahead of Saturday’s Afghan elections. Kerry: "…The United States has proudly supported Afghanistan’s electoral and security institutions. But make no mistake: this is Afghanistan’s moment. These elections have been Afghan-owned from the start. The Afghan people have planned and prepared for this historic vote. The Afghan people are staffing and leading the electoral institutions. And the Afghan people are dedicated to protecting and advancing their own democracy." More here.
How can America shape the world without boots on the ground and bombs in the air? Good question.  For FP, USIP’s Kristin Lord and Stephen Hadley attempt an answer: "Vladimir Putin’s cynical efforts to annex Crimea and intimidate the fledgling government of Ukraine make it all too clear that naked aggression in world affairs is not a thing of the past. The United States and its allies must respond firmly when such aggression occurs. But there are other perhaps less dramatic instances of resorting to force of arms. These include unresolved disputes between states — or ethnic, tribal, and religious disputes within states — that degenerate into armed conflict. In many instances these conflicts can be prevented, and there is every reason to try to do so." More 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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