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: Greene first two-star killed in a warzone since Vietnam; How his name got out; How Israeli hawks drowned debate; A military care package group funded the Tea Party; 5,000 Americans on a “watch list;” and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel An insider attack in Afghanistan is responsible for the death of a two-star US general. The death of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene at the hands of a man who was apparently serving in the Afghan military yesterday near Kabul sent quiet shockwaves throughout the U.S. military. The Pentagon tried ...

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

An insider attack in Afghanistan is responsible for the death of a two-star US general. The death of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene at the hands of a man who was apparently serving in the Afghan military yesterday near Kabul sent quiet shockwaves throughout the U.S. military. The Pentagon tried to treat the death of the leader like that of any other soldier who sacrificed in a war zone, even if it was the first two-star general killed in such a way since the Vietnam era. But as politically potent as so-called insider attacks can be, and especially one of this magnitude, it looked unlikely to have an effect on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan one way – or another.

"As tragic as it was to see a senior officer slain, defense officials say insider attacks are way down from where they were in 2012 and there was no reason to think it would accelerate the American drawdown from Afghanistan, or even force the U.S. to redouble its efforts there. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said yesterday that the investigation into what happened is just getting underway and that Afghan National Security Forces continue to perform "at a very strong level of competenc and confidence and warfare capability."

FP’s Lubold and Reid Standish: "…The last confirmed green-on-blue incident occurred in February in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province, although, a June 23 attack involving an Afghan police officer and two injured ISAF soldiers is being investigated.

"…Insider attacks against ISAF and Afghan forces hit an all-time high in 2012, resulting in 48 deaths, or approximately 15 percent of coalition casualties that year. In comparison, green-on-blue attacks accounted for six percent of coalition deaths in 2011 and two percent in 2010. Prior to that, only 14 personnel were killed in insider attacks from 2003 to 2009." More here.

Who was Harold Greene? A likeable, "quietly effective leader" with a lot of technical skills who embraced such technology on the battlefield, according to the NYT. More on that from the NYT’s Alan Rappeport and Helene Cooper, here.

Greene’s son, an Army lieutenant stationed at Fort Sill, Okla, to the WSJ: "He was excited to help out…Obviously, being separated from our family and being separated from my mother was not his first priority, but he was happy to do the job and he really loved his job and he really thought he was making a big difference." More here

The Pentagon tried to treat the death of the two-star like it would any other war fatality. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did not announce the death – it was confirmed at a press briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Kirby and the Pentagon tried to adhere to the same 24-hour notification process for any other soldier – only identifying the soldier 24 hours after the family had been notified. The thinking was that whether it’s a senior officer or a private, a death in a warzone is still tragic and the family of the fallen warrior must be given due privacy as it is notified. But this one was different, of course. Defense officials would not confirm Greene’s identity, but naturally, his name surfaced. We believe the first mainstream media outlet to identify Greene was the Washington Post by reporter Dan Lamothe, and then a number of other media outlets, to include AP, followed suit. Some will argue that the family should have been given enough time to be notified and that the media should have shown self-restraint in identifying the fallen officer. Others will say that the military’s policy when it comes to such notifications must reflect today’s real-time media environment.

Lamothe’s bit on Maj. Gen. Keith Ware, the last two-star killed, in Vietnam in 1968, and others, here.

Meantime, why are the Taliban are killing doctors administering polio vaccinations in Pakistan.  Kristofer Harrison for FP: "…The reason the Taliban is suddenly against the polio vaccine isn’t because of Jenny McCarthy-led anti-vaccine lunacy. Rather, it’s because the Taliban and tribal leaders fear that it is a CIA plot. They have drawn this conclusion because the CIA famously used a hepatitis vaccine program to confirm the location of Osama bin Laden. The operative word in that sentence isn’t ‘CIA’ but ‘famously.’ In other words, the problem isn’t that the CIA used that tactic — it’s that President Obama bragged about it for political gain. After the May 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound, the Democrats leveraged positive PR to help win re-election — a welcome distraction from a lethargic economy and a weak foreign policy. Administration and CIA officials were spread to the four corners of Hollywood to spread the Good News about the Pakistan raid." More here.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report. If you’d like to be one of our subscribers, we’d love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by sending 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, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

With a cease-fire holding in the Middle East, a battered Hamas now begins its battle with enemies within for control over the future of the Strip. FP’s David Kenner: "…Now comes the spin game: Hamas will no doubt tout its success. It has withstood some Israeli leaders’ calls to eliminate the movement in the Gaza Strip, fired thousands of rockets into Israel, and proved a far deadlier opponent for the Israeli military than in previous conflicts. Its popularity is also surging in the West Bank, a fact admitted by Palestinian leaders with no love for the Islamist movement, and confirmed by public opinion polls.

"But the threats facing Hamas are also looming ever larger. The economic destruction in Gaza is estimated at over $4 billion, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the rehabilitation of the Palestinian territory be linked to Hamas’s demilitarization. It finds itself beset by enemies from all sides: Not only do Israel and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi control the crossings into and out of Gaza, but partisans of Hamas and Fatah — despite frequent pronouncements of Palestinian unity — still nurse a healthy distrust of one another." More here.

Ha’aretz’s Barak Ravid unpacks Netanyahu’s missed diplomatic opportunities in Gaza, here.

How Israel’s hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left. Gregg Carlstrom for FP: "…Even before the war, Israel was shifting right, as an increasingly strident cadre of politicians took ownership of the public debate on security and foreign affairs. But the Gaza conflict has accelerated the lurch — empowering nationalistic and militant voices, dramatically narrowing the space for debate, and eroding whatever public sympathy remained for the Palestinians. The fighting seems to be winding down, but it leaves behind a hardened Israeli public opinion: There is a widespread feeling that Israelis are the true victims here, that this war with a guerrilla army in a besieged territory is existential." More here.

Will the Palestinians go to the ICC? FP’s Colum Lynch: "…Last week, Abbas convened a meeting of Palestinian factions to ask for their written consent to join the ICC, according to human rights advocates tracking the talks. Most, including members of Fatah, the political movement founded by Yasser Arafat, as well as the Palestinian Liberation Organization, support a bid for membership. The Palestinians’ U.N.-based representative, Riyad Mansour, assured delegations last week that his government is ‘very close’ to a decision, according to a senior diplomat briefed by the Palestinians. But Gaza’s most powerful militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are opposed and Abbas is reluctant to join without their support. " More here.

Back at home, Move America Forward has collected millions to send care packages to U.S. troops – but its assets have been used to benefit conservative political consulting firms close to its Tea Party founder. Kim Barker for Pro Publica, posted on the Daily Beast: "…Move America Forward calls itself the nation’s "largest grassroots pro-troop organization," and has recruited a bevy of Republican luminaries, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, to support its efforts. Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.

Marcus Owens, a lawyer who once ran the division on tax-exempt organizations in the Internal Revenue Service: "They’re playing audit roulette… They’re betting the IRS won’t find them, or won’t find them in time." More here.

Bob McDonald, the new VA Secretary, is about to hold a series of town hall meetings with veterans. Military Times’ Leo Shane, here.

Secret papers describe the size of the U.S. government’s "watch list." The NYT’s Charlie Savage on the list posted by Intercepts blog yesterday: "About 20,800 United States citizens and permanent residents are included in a federal government database of people suspected of having links to terrorism, of whom about 5,000 have been placed on one or more watch lists, newly disclosed documents show. The documents are briefing materials about accomplishments in 2013 by the Directorate of Terrorist Identities, a component of the National Counterterrorism Center, an interagency clearinghouse of information about people known to be or suspected of being terrorists." More here.

In Russia, Putin urges economic retaliation for the West’s sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.  The NYT’s Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew Roth: "Russia should retaliate against the economic sanctions being imposed on the country over the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy, President Vladimir V. Putin said Tuesday. His was the strongest endorsement yet for calls in Russia to ban everything from major Western accounting firms to overflights by European airlines to frozen American chickens. Mr. Putin said that Russia should signal that it finds the economic sanctions offensive, but that it should do so without harming Russian consumers."

Putin as quoted by Russian news agencies: "The political tools of economic pressure are unacceptable and run counter to all norms and rules." More here.

Who’s Where When today – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was wheels up last night for a trip to India and Australia with a stop in Germany. Hagel is at U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany today through tonight and then he leaves for New Delhi tomorrow.

Staffers on a plane – Chief of Staff Mark Lippert, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Alan Shaffer, Director of International Armaments Cooperation Matt Warren, AT&L Senior Analyst Joy Shanaberger, AT&L senior military assistant Col. Pat Flanders, India Desk Officer for AT&L Duncan Long, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Amy Searight, South Asia and Oceania Director Lauren Geeter, Australia and New Zealand Country Director Samuel Binkley, Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy’s Australia and New Zealand and Pacific’s Laura Samartin, India Country Director Brittany Billingsley, Speechwriter Tarun Chhabra, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, Aide Lt. Megan Issac, Photographer MC2 Sean Hurt, Defense Media Activity’s Jacqueline McGinnis.

Reporters on a plane: AP’s Lita Baldor, Bloomberg’s Gopal Ratnam, NPR’s David Welna, the Economist’s David Rennie.

Former State Department senior advisor Mary Beth Goodman joined the Center for American Progress as a Senior Fellow for the National Security team and a senior advisor to the Enough Project. Press release, here.

If South Africa’s political factions could reconcile, so can South Sudan’s warring parties. Desmond Tutu for FP: "…This week, the people of South Sudan will wait for a conversation to begin again, one that could lead their country out of months of extreme suffering — or could fail to bring them any resolution. Peace talks between South Sudan’s two warring factions are set to resume on Aug. 10 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, hosted by the East Africa regional body, the International Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD)." More here.

If the United States wants to save Africa from corruption, coups, and terrorism, it needs to stop spending money on military engagement. Gordon Adams for FP: "The White House is hosting a major summit of African leaders this week. Elected and unelected heads of state and officials from nearly 50 African countries are in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of the U.S. relationship with Africa. The sad part about this meeting is that the administration’s Africa policy is gaining visibility and attention not so much because of progress in African economic development but because of heightened U.S. attention to security issues in that continent. The single-mindedness of the administration’s focus on terrorism and security has dragged the United States, and especially the U.S. military, into the internal security affairs of a growing number of African countries, from the 14 countries involved in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) program to Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Niger, Liberia, and now Nigeria." More here.

…But while nearly 50 African heads of state convene in D.C., one of the continent’s biggest defense contractors is making a pitch to let Africa have more advanced weapons. The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake: "For arms maker Ivor Ichikowitz, the message is simple: Give war a chance. Ichikowitz is the executive chairman of Paramount Group, the largest privately-owned defense contractor on the African continent. He says he is attending the summit in Washington to make the case to the Obama administration that African countries should be encouraged to build up their own intelligence services, militaries, and national police to combat the continent’s rogues, insurgents, and fanatics.

"Needless to say, human rights groups are not exactly thrilled about the proposal, which just so happens to dovetail rather nicely with Ichikowitz’s business interests. They don’t even need to mention his rather tangled relationships with some of Africa’s leaders, past and present." More here.

Amid the battle against Boko Haram, Nigeria is hit with accusations of abuse. US News & World Report’s Paul Shinkman, here.  

With African leaders in town, Obama is playing deal broker. The NYT’s Mark Landler: "President Obama convened a giant game of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ between the United States and Africa on Tuesday, bringing together nearly 50 African leaders with American investors for what he promised would be a long-term partnership that went beyond extracting ‘minerals from the ground for our growth.’ For Mr. Obama, the son of a Kenyan economist, it was the centerpiece of a three-day summit meeting of African leaders – some close allies of the United States, others barely on speaking terms – that is the president’s most ambitious attempt to cement his legacy as an American leader who cares about the African continent." More here.

For Al-Awsat, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed writes on how to get past the Maliki era in Iraq, here.

Iraqi Yazidis stranded on isolated mountaintop begin to die of thirst. The WaPo’s Loveday Morris, 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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