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: Is the CIA pulling out of Afg?; A nonprofit profits big time; Fixing UCLASS; A secret arms cache in Texas?; Troops don’t got milk; and a bit more.

  Here’s a story of how one non-profit profited big time thanks to USAID and the war in Afghanistan. The WaPo’s Scott Higham, Jessica Schulberg and Steven Rich, above the fold on Page One: "In 1998, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ and his wife from the war-wrecked region of Bosnia-Herzegovina began ...



Here’s a story of how one non-profit profited big time thanks to USAID and the war in Afghanistan. The WaPo’s Scott Higham, Jessica Schulberg and Steven Rich, above the fold on Page One: "In 1998, an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ and his wife from the war-wrecked region of Bosnia-Herzegovina began a humble international humanitarian effort out of a modest office in downtown Washington. After the United States launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mom-and-pop nonprofit corporation boldly ramped up, undertaking some of the federal government’s biggest and most ambitious projects in the battle zones, everything from building roads to funding wheat production. In doing so, International Relief and Development increased its annual revenue from $1.2 million to $706 million, most of it from one corner of the federal government – the U.S. Agency for International Development. IRD has received more grants and cooperative agreements from USAID in recent years than any other nonprofit relief and development organization in the nation – $1.9 billion.

"Along the way, the nonprofit rewarded its employees with generous salaries and millions in bonuses. Among the beneficiaries: the minister, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, who together earned $4.4 million in salary and bonuses between 2008 and 2012.

"The story of IRD reflects the course of America’s ambitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which started with great enthusiasm and consumed tremendous resources, only to see many hopes go awry. Nation-building projects aimed at supplanting insurgents and securing the peace that looked promising on paper in Washington proved to be difficult to execute in dangerous and unpredictable war zones.

"The nonprofit organization, in turn, has hired at least 19 employees from USAID, the lead government agency for addressing poverty and supporting democracy worldwide. Several of them came directly from their desks at the agency to occupy important posts at the company. Some of those employees, including the former acting administrator of USAID, received substantial pay raises by crossing the Potomac and joining IRD at its new offices in Arlington, Va., collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual salaries, bonuses and other compensation."

John E. Bennett, a former career State Department official and ambassador who led a reconstruction team in Baghdad that worked alongside IRD: "IRD is a nonprofit in name only… They built an organization designed to get USAID money." More here.

True devastation: Aid begins to trickle in for thousands displaced by Afghan landslides. The WSJ’s Margherita Stancati: "On Friday, 15-year-old Zainab lost everything: her home, all her belongings, and her entire immediate family. ‘They are under the mud,’ said the slight teenager dressed in an all-covering burqa. ‘I have no one.’ Like many in her home village of Aab Barik in northeastern Afghanistan, Zainab spent the past two nights sleeping outdoors. Now, she and the other survivors are badly in need of food, clean water and shelter-aid that was just starting to trickle in over the weekend for the more than 4,000 displaced. She stood in a crowd of women on a hill overlooking an eerie landscape where mudslides buried homes of some 300 families. What is left of much of her village in Badakhshan province is hard to distinguish from the jumbled earth that swallowed it. Most of the mud-brick homes still standing have been abandoned." More here.

The CIA is leaving Afghanistan just as the fighting season arrives. The Daily Beast’s Kim Dozier: "The CIA is dismantling its frontline Afghan counterterrorist forces in south and east Afghanistan leaving a security vacuum that U.S. commanders fear the Taliban and al-Qaeda will fill-and leaving the Pakistan border open to a possible deluge of fighters and weapons.

‘The CIA has started to end the contracts of some of those militias who were working for them,’ said Aimal Faizi, spokesman for outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a longtime critic of the CIA’s Afghan operatives. "Some of them were in very important locations, so we deployed our troops there."

U.S. and Afghan military commanders tell The Daily Beast that Afghan forces are stretched too thin to replace many of those departing CIA paramilitaries. Thousands more CIA-trained operatives are about to get the boot ahead of what already promises to be a bloody summer fighting season. That could mean spectacular attacks against U.S. and Afghan targets just as the White House is weighing its long-term commitment to Afghanistan. And it could give the now-small al-Qaeda movement inside the country more freedom to grow and eventually hatch new plots more than a decade after the invasion meant to wipe out the perpetrators of the Sept. 11th attacks. Senior U.S. officials said the slow dismantling of the CIA’s forces has also alarmed U.S. lawmakers, who had assumed those forces would remain in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban after U.S. troops withdrew." More here.

Welcome to Monday’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. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who’s Where WhenBoth Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey deliver remarks at the U.S. Transportation Command change of command ceremony at Scott Air Force Base Parade Field at 1:00 PM… Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh hosts the Air Mobility Command change of command ceremony and visits with airmen and families at Scott Air Force Base at 10:00 AM… Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Hawk delivers remarks on "Pacific Air Forces Strategy and Engagement in Asia- Pacific" at CSIS at 11:15 AM.

Also at CSIS today: a spirited talk on Ukraine with CSIS’ Andrew Kuchins, Clark Murdock, Vikram Singh and moderated by Samuel Brannen, at 1:30pm. at CSIS. Deets here.

Just how far will Putin go? The WSJ’s John Stoll, Charles Duxbury and Juris Kaza in Latvia on Page One: "The U.S. ambassador was trying to instill confidence in a country growing nervous. Addressing Latvian troops at this large military base last week, Mark Pekala pointed to nearby paratroopers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade and said the U.S. was locked ‘plecu pie pleca,’ or ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization partner.

"It was a valiant effort. But in an interview after the speech, Latvia’s new defense minister, Raimonds Vejonis, offered a more sober view of the mind-set here. ‘The society has fear,’ said Mr. Vejonis, who was a biology teacher when Latvia was still under Soviet rule. ‘We know what i
t means to be under Russia.’

"Some 23 years after becoming independent from the Soviet Union, this country of two million is fretting over just how far Russia’s gaze toward its neighbors may reach. The fear reflects a broader ribbon of concern that runs through the Baltic region, which includes Lithuania and Estonia. But Latvia is the most Russian of the group.
"…A chief concern of the government-which is facing parliamentary elections in October-is the rise of what some officials call "provocateurs," people in the country believed to be spreading antigovernment sentiment on behalf of the Kremlin. For now, government leaders say the nation is "stable" and a new poll indicates the ruling Unity party gained substantial support among voters, with many saying they never want to compromise their status in the European Union." More here.

Pro-Russian activists attack a police station in Odessa. The WaPo’s Simon Denyer: "Divisions deepened in Ukraine’s third-largest city Sunday as pro-Russian militants attacked a police station in Odessa and freed 67 of their allies, while pro-Ukrainian activists gathered with sticks and clubs and vowed to defend the southern city from the kind of takeovers that have occurred in the eastern part of the country. The spread of the violence to Odessa has raised the stakes dramatically in the Ukraine crisis, bringing the conflict between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian forces to the country’s most important port. The failure of the police to prevent the violence has underlined how quickly Ukraine’s security forces are losing control of their country. Sunday’s mayhem occurred two days after 46 people died in clashes and a fire in the city. The fact that most of those victims were pro-Russian activists has given their supporters a raw new sense of grievance." More here.

A U-2 spy plane caused a widespread shutdown of U.S. flights last week. Reuters: "A U-2 spy plane caused a computer glitch at a California air traffic control center that led officials to halt takeoffs on Wednesday at several airports in the Southwestern United States and ground planes bound for the region from other parts of the country, NBC reported on Saturday. The computer problem at a Federal Aviation Administration center slowed the journeys of tens of thousands of arriving and departing passengers at Los Angeles International Airport, one of the busiest in the country. Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas were among other facilities affected by the order to keep planes grounded… NBC, citing unnamed sources, reported a U-2, a Cold War-era spy plane still in use by the U.S. military, passed through air space monitored by the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center and appears to have overloaded a computer system at the center." More here.

An arms cache in Texas probably connected to the CIA. The NYT’s Charlie Savage on page A14: "In passing references scattered through once-classified documents and cryptic public comments by former intelligence officials, it is referred to as ‘Midwest Depot,’ but the bland code name belies the role it has played in some of the C.I.A.’s most storied operations. From the facility, located somewhere in the United States, the C.I.A. has stockpiled and distributed untraceable weapons linked to preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of rebels and resistance fighters from Angola to Nicaragua to Afghanistan. Yet despite hints that ‘Midwest’ was not actually where it was located, the secrecy surrounding the C.I.A. armory has survived generations of investigations…

"But three years ago, it became public that the C.I.A. had some kind of secret location at Camp Stanley, an Army weapons depot just north of San Antonio and the former Kelly Air Force Base, though its purpose was unclear. And now, a retired C.I.A. analyst, Allen Thomson, has assembled a mosaic of documentation suggesting that it is most likely the home of Midwest Depot." More here.

A Syrian rebel commander was reportedly kidnapped by Al Qaeda-linked forces. The LA Times’ Nabih Bulos: "A prominent rebel military commander in southern Syria has been kidnapped by a hard-line Islamist faction linked to Al Qaeda, pro-opposition activists said Sunday. Col. Ahmad Nemeh, long the head of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army in Syria’s southern Dara province, was taken by the Nusra Front, according to opposition advocates. Details of his abduction were not available, but some accounts said other commanders were seized as well… Nemeh, a former air force intelligence colonel who defected to the rebels, has long been a divisive figure in strategic Dara province. He has at times angered both hard-line Islamist groups and his Western and allied sponsors." More here.

A popular refrain: Rising Pentagon personnel costs could force cuts to other programs. Defense News’ John Bennett: "The first of several fiscal 2015 Pentagon spending bills began to come into focus last week, signaling something the defense sector has been lacking for years: Stability. But that could change dramatically in 2016.

"The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) is rejecting personnel-reform plans proposed by the Pentagon, which already has directed expected savings to other things. And that means lawmakers could end up raiding procurement accounts to keep military personnel programs whole, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That threat, however, is unlikely to materialize in fiscal 2015, say budget experts. That’s because only a small amount of the proposed personnel reforms would occur in 2015, meaning the amount to offset is relatively low."

Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments to Bennett: "They need to find less than $2 billion in 2015… Remember, Congress doesn’t do five-year budgets. So they only have to worry about one year: 2015." Read the rest here.

A lesser drone? The Navy messed up in developing a carrier-based drone, or UCLASS, Shawn Brimley argues in Defense One: "…One key issue involves how Congress deals with the Navy’s poor choices in the development of a future carrier-based drone, or in Pentagon-speak, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, program. The Navy made a mistake by issuing requirements that guarantee the fleet will receive a lesser drone than it could be getting. The Navy is asking for a carrier-version of non-stealthy surveillance drones that operate in uncontested (friendly) airspace. That costly decision will prevent the development of a true, surveillance-st
rike drone that can operate where they truly will be needed, in enemy airspace. This is a clear example of poor judgment.

"…So how should the Navy protect carriers operating so far offshore? By evolving the carrier’s air wing. This isn’t a new argument." More here.

Walt Jones wants answers from the Corps’ Gen. Amos. Marine Corps Times’ Andrew deGrandpre: "An outspoken member of Congress says he is frustrated that the Marine Corps’ top general has not yet addressed questions put to him nearly two months ago about the fallout from a whistleblower complaint. At a March 12 House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Navy Department’s 2015 budget, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., confronted Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos about the treatment of Maj. James Weirick, the attorney who accused Amos and others close to him of abusing their authority, and about comments Amos made to NPR refuting the sworn testimony of another general whom Amos removed as the convening authority in a series of high-profile legal cases. Weirick, who was fired from his post in September and served with a restraining order after sending a testy email to one of Amos’ advisers, has an active reprisal complaint filed with the Pentagon Inspector General.

"In the hearing, Jones asked Amos to respond in writing within six weeks. It appears that the delayed response may be due at least in part to a technicality, as the formal exchange of questions from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon did not occur until several days after the hearing." More here.

Things that partners gotta know about working with Americans. James Howcroft for Small Wars Journal: "Military partnerships in an alliance or coalition are the norm today. The nature of current international threats, coupled with global fiscal and political problems, makes it unlikely Americans will deploy unilaterally to address the security challenges of the 21st century. On the other hand, it is unlikely that multinational military deployments will occur without US participation, if not in a leading role, then often in the form of a unique niche or support capability that our partners lack, such as our intelligence support, targeting, communications, aerial refueling and strategic lift  – the Libya and Mali interventions are but two examples. The ability of Americans and our partners to coordinate and cooperate within alliances and coalitions will greatly influence how successful we are at addressing the international security threats of the 21st Century. We can all learn to be better partners." More here.

As the NSA builds its arsenal, funding for cybermilitary goes up. Bloomberg’s Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley: "On Florida’s Atlantic coast, cyber arms makers working for U.S. spy agencies are bombarding billions of lines of computer code with random data that can expose software flaws the U.S. might exploit. In Pittsburgh, researchers with a Pentagon contract are teaching computers to scan software for bugs and turn them automatically into weapons. In a converted textile mill in New Hampshire, programmers are testing the combat potential of coding errors on a digital bombing range. Nationwide, a new league of defense contractors is mining the foundation of the Internet for glitches that can be turned to the country’s strategic advantage. They’re part of a cybermilitary industrial complex that’s grown up in more than a dozen states and employs thousands of civilians, according to 15 people who work for contractors and the government. The projects are so sensitive their funding is classified, and so extensive a bid to curb their scope will be resisted not only by intelligence agencies but also the world’s largest military supply chain." More here.

ICYMI: Continuing his Africa swing, Kerry urges the Congo’s president not to run for a third term. The NYT’s Michael Gordon: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday publicly urged the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo to respect his nation’s Constitution and not run for another term in 2016. There has been speculation among the political opposition that President Joseph Kabila, who has been in office since 2001, might seek to have the Constitution amended so that he could run for a third term in office… It was not clear how hard Mr. Kerry pressed his case in his closed-door meeting Sunday morning with Mr. Kabila at his white marble presidential palace. But Russell D. Feingold, the American special envoy for the region, was more explicit in a briefing for reporters Sunday morning. ‘The people of this country have a right to have their Constitution respected,’ Mr. Feingold said. ‘The Constitution here provides for two terms.’" More here.

ICYMI, too: Kerry is pushing for South Sudan peace talks. Ralph Ellis for CNN: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said South Sudan President Salva Kiir will meet rebel leader Riek Machar next week for talks. Kerry traveled to Juba on Friday to push for face-to-face meetings between the feuding leaders. Thousands of people have died in South Sudan because of drought and political violence. About a week ago, rebels slaughtered at least 400 people in the town of Bentiu. Kerry, speaking at a news briefing in Juba, said he’d spoken with Kirr, who was willing to go to Ethiopia for the talks. Machar had indicated a willingness to meet through Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Kerry said. He said the talks might take place early next week. South Sudan celebrated its independence from Sudan three years ago after an internationally brokered referendum. Last year, Kiir accused Machar, his former vice president, of planning a coup. New violence broke out in the war-torn nation." More here.

Fox’s ‘Enlisted’ might be the best show on television – and yet it could be cancelled. ICYMI on FP last week, here.

Troops got milk? Not so much. The Army Times’ Joe Gould: "Holy cow! Troops need more milk. Defense Department experts are trying to reintroduce the idea of drinking moo juice as part of a broader healthy eating initiative at military dining facilities… But milk has not only grown less popular in the military, it has faded from the diet of American adults, said Dolloff-Crane. Because soda is more profitable for restaurants than milk, milk has been pushed off menus, altering people’s habits and expectations. The dairy drive comes as officials across the services focus on bringing a healthier balance to cafeteria menus, re-examining the DoD recipe book in an effort to make dining facility options lower in salt and fat, but just as attractive.

Priscilla Dolloff-Crane, a food service specialist at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence in Fort Lee, Va., to Gould: "They’ll hear it as, ‘Have more dairy, have a glass of milk, make it a lower-fat option,’… We want a delivery mechanism for a nutrient that’s for good physiological conditions: bone, teeth and nerve function
." More here.


Gordon Lubold is a senior writer at FP and author of Situation Report  with help by Nathaniel Sobel, director of research at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Follow him @glubold and him @njsobe4.

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