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: Why did the White House roll out the red carpet for South Sudan’s president?; Mike Flynn leaves DIA this morning; Outrage in South Korea over beating; Black officers dismissed more than whites; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel The White House is under fire for rolling out the red carpet for South Sudan’s president as a man-made famine nears. The big U.S.-Africa Summit is over, and the White House has termed it a success. But it has opened up a number of questions about how it was ...

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The White House is under fire for rolling out the red carpet for South Sudan’s president as a man-made famine nears. The big U.S.-Africa Summit is over, and the White House has termed it a success. But it has opened up a number of questions about how it was organized and what policy signals the U.S. sent. The invite list itself raised some hackles – within the U.S. government. FP’s John Hudson: "…The sight of Secretary of State John Kerry and [South Sudan President Salva] Kiir, who met on Tuesday and shook hands in front of cameras, made some in Foggy Bottom cringe. According to multiple sources familiar with the decision, some officials within the State Department opposed including Kiir and urged the White House to rescind his invitation, fearing his presence in Washington would hinder peace negotiations. That recommendation was ultimately rejected by senior State Department officials and the White House National Security Council, which wanted to host an inclusive event.

Jimmy Mulla, president of Voices for Sudan, told FP: "The White House made a mistake by rewarding President Kiir with an invitation and photo-op at the summit given his role in the violence plaguing South Sudan …The population and the country would be better served if the government and the opposition groups are all stationed in the region and focused on the peace negotiations." More here.

As the big U.S.-Africa Summit winds down, policy issues take center stage. The NYT’s Mark Landler and Peter Baker: "… the president’s mind was clearly on his encounters with the nearly 50 leaders during the summit, a long-planned meeting that Mr. Obama hopes will secure his legacy as a leader concerned about Africa, but that White House officials struggled to keep from being swamped by fears about a growing public health emergency overseas. Welcoming the leaders on Wednesday morning, Mr. Obama expressed solidarity with those from the countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, saying they had ‘overcome great challenges, and they are drawing on the same spirit of strength and resilience today.’" More here.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce slammed the White House Africa Summit for failing to adequately discuss governance. Royce, in an op-ed for CNN: "…Every issue affecting the continent, from combating wildlife trafficking to food security, is on the agenda. Yet, of the 53 hours of official meetings scheduled for the summit, only two are dedicated to the critical issue of governance. That is scant treatment for what is perhaps the greatest impediment to security and economic growth in Africa. It also sends the wrong message about our shared priorities and values." More here.

Obama’s Africa policy critics probably won’t quiet down now that the summit is through. David Francis for FP, here.

ICYMI – Enough Project’s Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast on how the U.S. can use the Africa Summit to prevent further bloodshed in Central Africa, here.

Boko Haram’s rise is leaving a trail of destruction across Nigeria’s northeast. FP’s Reid Standish plots and documents the terrorist group’s deadly attacks on a map, here.

The WaPo’s Dana Milbank on how Ebola infected the discussion at the Africa Summit, here.

Today, there is a subcommittee hearing in the House about combatting the Ebola virus. Yesterday, Rep. Duncan Hunter sent a letter to the Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Chris Smith, about the challenges Americans face in some African countries, particularly Liberia, in getting medical care amid the current crisis.

Read Hunter’s letter, provided to Situation Report, about the difficulty some Americans, and one in particular, is having getting proper treatment, here.

Deets on today’s 2pm hearing, here.

Welcome to Thursday’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.

The body of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene is expected to arrive at Dover Air Force Base sometime this morning. The Army officially confirmed Greene’s death at the Afghanistan military training academy outside Kabul earlier this week. Gen. Ray Odierno, in a statement: "Our priority right now is to take care of the families, ensuring they have all the resources they need during this critical time… We remain committed to our mission in Afghanistan and will continue to work with our afghan partners to ensure the safety and security of all coalition soldiers and civilians."

What does the shooting of Maj. Gen. Greene say about Afghan forces? The WaPo’s Pamela Constable: "It will probably never be known what led the shooter, identified as a man in his 20s, to hide in a bathroom at a military training base near the capital Tuesday, then emerge and open fire on a delegation of visiting American and European military officers, before being shot dead himself. It was also unclear what provoked two other ‘insider attacks’ this week: a firefight Tuesday between an Afghan police guard and NATO troops near the governor’s office in southern Paktia province, and an incident Wednesday in Uruzgan province in which an Afghan policeman poisoned his colleagues’ food, then shot at least seven of them before fleeing in a police truck, officials said.

"But the troubled 11-year history of the post-Taliban Afghan security forces, including the Afghan army, offers an ample range of possible explanations for such deeply disturbing incidents, whether aimed at Afghan cohorts or foreign military dignitaries." More here.

What the Afghan ambassador to the U.S. said to Military Times’ Michelle Tan and Jeff Schogol about insider attacks, here.

Bowe Bergdahl has spoken. The soldier, who had been held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years, spoke for the first time to the Army two-star who is leading the investigation into Bergdahl’s appearance in June 2009. Bergdahl’s lawyer, Eugene Fidell, to the NYT: "He has responded to every question asked of him and he has been afforded an opportunity to tell his story." Read the rest here.

Today, Mike Flynn leaves the Defense Intelligence Agency. But although Flynn is leaving DIA and there is no permanent replacement even nominated, Flynn won’t be retiring from the U.S. Army until October. And, he leaves DIA at a critical time when the demand for military intel is particularly high. His civilian deputy, David Shedd, will be an interim director for now until the White House puts forward a nominee. As we reported earlier this summer, Army Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, who was to be nominated to replace Flynn, was taken out of the running. That leaves a short list of three or four individuals to replace Flynn once the White House noms him or her. The short list includes Army Maj. Gen. Bob Ashley, Rear Adm. Paul Becker, Air Force Lt. Gen. Bob Otto and Marine Maj. Gen. Vincent Stewart. The best money, however, is on Stewart, Situation Report is told by a number of folks.

Our story in June, with FP’s Shane Harris, on Legere’s probable nom being yanked by the White House, here.

Flynn talked to the WSJ about how the military is increasingly plugging into social media networks to gather that intel. The WSJ’s Julian Barnes: "About 20 minutes after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down on July 17 in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst sifting social media communications got ‘a hit.’ The Russian-speaking analyst saw a posting from pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, on Russia’s VK social-media site, claiming to have shot down a Ukrainian military cargo plane.

DIA chief Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn: "The first indication of who shot it, what shot it and when and where it was shot was all social media… It was literally within minutes."

"For the past 18 months, the U.S. has invested heavily in ways to examine and collect public social-media postings as a source of overseas intelligence, according to Gen. Flynn and other officials. They say it could revolutionize so-called "open-source" intelligence gathering-the kind that focuses on finding key data from publicly available sources, as opposed to stealing secrets or intercepting private communications." More here.

Speaking of Ukraine – Putin just banned food exports from the West. AP this morning, here.

Who else is where when today – Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is traveling… Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work meets with the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufouu… Navy Sec. Ray Mabus hosts the President of Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba, his staff and the U.S. Ambassador to Gabon Miachael Moussa-Adamo at the Pentagon…

A transcript of Secretary Hagel’s townhall in Stuttgart yesterday in which he talked about General Greene, Afghanistan and Ukraine, here.

In another presser yesterday, this one with Bibi, the Israeli PM looked like he has come to terms with the Fatah-Hamas unity government. FP’s David Kenner: "…Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s conduct in the Palestinian conflict — and his vision for Gaza. For most the speech delivered in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, he hit his government’s usual talking points… On one issue, however, Netanyahu’s position has shifted dramatically since before violence broke out on July 8. The Palestinian Authority (PA), he noted, has a place in rebuilding Gaza and controlling the territory’s borders. ‘We’re cooperating with them and are prepared to see a role for them,’ Netanyahu said.

"This is the same PA whose unity government was approved by Fatah and Hamas — and which Netanyahu urged the world to not recognize because doing so would ‘strengthen terrorism.’ On Wednesday, the Israeli prime minister did not reiterate his demand that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dissolve the government." More here.

Mediators race against the clock to extend the Gaza truce as the cease-fire went into its final 24 hours. Reuters this hour, here.

Hamas will dig out from under the rubble and the world will remember the image of four boys killed on a beach. FP’s David Rothkopf: "…If Israel’s goal was to delegitimize Hamas, whatever it achieved during these last three weeks came at the expense of its own reputation. No matter how many articulate, pommy-accented spokespeople Israel rolls out to discuss human shields, they are trumped by the images of dead and wounded women and children, the stories of displaced families, the ground truth of an advanced, technologically sophisticated, militarily powerful nation laying waste to a land it occupies in order to root out a small cadre of fighters who pose little strategic threat to it.

"In short, Israel was waging a military action against an adversary that was waging a political campaign and thus adopted the wrong tactics and measured their progress by the wrong metrics. In fact, there is no denying that the Israeli tactics (it seems very unlikely there was any real strategizing going on) in this war do not pass the most basic tests available by which to assess them, those of morality, proportionality, and effectiveness." More here.

Ruth Margalit on the IDF’s "Hannibal Directive." Read it on the New Yorker’s blog, here.

USIS, the security vetting firm that brought you Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, has suffered a major security breach. The computer breach probably resulted in the theft of USIS employees’ personal information and has, officials said, "all the markings of a state-sponsored attack." The WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima: "…The breach, discovered recently, prompted DHS to suspend all work with USIS as the FBI launches an investigation. It is unclear how many employees were affected, but officials said they believe the breach did not affect employees outside the department. Still, the Office of Personnel Management has also suspended work with the company ‘out of an abundance of caution,’ a senior administration official said. More here.

Black officers are being dismissed at greater rate than whites. USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook: "The forced culling of majors from Army ranks is taking a bigger toll on black officers than those from any other ethnic group, according to Army personnel documents. Almost 10% of black majors are being dismissed from the Army, records show, compared with 5.6% of the white majors. Eight percent of the Hispanic majors will be dismissed, while 5.8% of the Asian-Pacific Islanders are to be relieved.

"In all, the Army is cutting 550 majors from its force through notifications likely to take one month. The move follows pink slips sent to about 1,000 captains as the Army seeks to shrink its force to 490,000 soldiers by the end of 2015. If automatic budget cuts return after 2015, the Army could be reduced to 420,000 soldiers by 2019. There about 513,000 soldiers on active duty." More here.

Crises are derailing Obama’s long-game foreign policy strategy. The WSJ’s Carol Lee: "President Barack Obama and his top aides believe they are putting in place a new global security structure that will frame international relations for decades. Every day, however, brings a split-screen contrast between the White House’s confidence in its long-term strategy and the daily chaos playing out from Ukraine to the Middle East.

Obama at a recent news conference: "Apparently, people have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on Earth, still does not control everything around the world, and so our diplomatic efforts often take time… That’s the nature of world affairs. It’s not neat, and it’s not smooth." More here.

There’s outrage in South Korea over the beating death of a private. The NYT’s Choe Sang-Hun:  "The soldiers beat the 20-year-old private almost every day for more than a month. They flogged him with a mop handle until it broke. They made him eat toothpaste and lick their spittle off the floor.

"At one point, when he became groggy, they hooked him up to an intravenous drip, gave him nutrients and then, when he seemed to regain energy, they kicked and punched him some more… The case at first drew little notice in South Korea – just another sad episode, it seemed, in an army where physical abuse was tolerated, if not officially approved, in the name of toughening a conscript army to face North Korea." Read the rest of this here.

Sunni extremists repelled efforts by Kurdish pesh merga forces to push them back into areas east of Mosul. The NYT’s Alissa Rubin and Tim Arango in Bartella, Iraq: Sunni militants "… shelled a predominantly Christian village there, in what appeared to be a renewed push along the Kurdish border to take ground, control oil fields and water resources and expel minority groups." More here.

Desperate Iraqis fleeing Islamist fighters plead for help atop a mountain, the WaPo’s Loveday Morris on Page One, here.

How a Yazidi man has had his life uprooted by ISIS’s attack on the city of Sinjar. George Packer on The New Yorker’s blog, here.

The challenge to the Muslim world’s stability presented by the Islamic State has become quite serious over the past few days. I.A. Rehman for Dawn: "…The people of Pakistan should be concerned that the slogan of caliphate has spread to India. NewAgeIslam, a well-known online forum for debate on Muslim affairs, has disclosed a charter of demands presented by a leading Muslim scholar, Maulana Salman Husain Nadvi, urging Saudi Arabia to establish a caliphate. Maulana Nadvi is reported to have pleaded for a world Islamic army and argued against branding the religious militants as terrorists. Instead, these ‘sincere Muslim youth fighting for a noble cause’ should be united in a confederation of jihadi organisations for worldwide action under the guidance of the ulema.

"…The logic of Maulana Nadvi’s letter, if it has been correctly reported, leads to the politics of religious exclusivism that has already caused the Muslims of the subcontinent colossal harm. Regardless of their reading of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rise to power the best course for the Muslims of India, as indeed for Muslims anywhere else, is to adopt non-theocratic, inclusive political ideals." More here.

How will the White House decide who to protect, and who to name, in the CIA torture report? Josh Rogin in the Daily Beast this morning, here.

Meantime, the fear of another civil war hangs heavily over Lebanon. Michael Young for the National (UAE), here.

A new study from CNA Corporation examines how the U.S. can best deepen coordination with India on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. is increasingly looking to India to contribute to security in the Indian Ocean. Deepening U.S.-Indian economic connections, shared democratic identities, declining U.S. defense budgets, and the rise of China have drawn the U.S. closer to India as a security partner in the region. Full report, here.

How one man spent his summer vacation – as a U.S. terrorist. Mehmet Koksal for the WSJ op-ed page: "…I have no criminal record nor judicial blemishes. In 2008 the State Department invited me to join a delegation of European journalists to cover the presidential campaign. I saw the Cubans in Miami, the local press in Ohio, the mountains in Utah and the universities in Washington. On the campaign trail, I met Michelle Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Dennis Kucinich.

"So imagine my surprise when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined my request for ESTA authorization. The DHS compounded the absurdity by granting ESTA authorization to my wife and son, but not to me. The reason? I am apparently a "suspected terrorist." I’d gone from being the invited guest of the State Department to a supposed undesirable-without any justification. 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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