Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: American response to Ebola virus continues to splinter; New hostage video from the Islamic State; Why the end of Camp Leatherneck matters; a new Snowden interview; and much more.

By David Francis The American response to the Ebola virus continued to splinter Monday. New York and New Jersey, which had implemented quarantines in recent days, backed away from strict enforcement. Late Monday, the Army announced that it would quarantine all troops taking part in DOD’s response to Ebola in West Africa. But the CDC ...

By David Francis

The American response to the Ebola virus continued to splinter Monday. New York and New Jersey, which had implemented quarantines in recent days, backed away from strict enforcement. Late Monday, the Army announced that it would quarantine all troops taking part in DOD’s response to Ebola in West Africa. But the CDC issued new guidelines that ruled out organized quarantines.

Yesterday began with only a select number of Army service members quarantined in Italy. However, late Monday afternoon, DOD released a statement saying all involved in Operation United Assurance would be quarantined once they return from their mission.

The statement in full: "The Army Chief of Staff has directed a 21-day controlled monitoring period for all redeploying soldiers returning from Operation United Assistance. He has done this out of caution to ensure soldiers, family members and their surrounding communities are confident that we are taking all steps necessary to protect their health."

A key question remains: Will Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel break with the White House and mandate quarantine for all service members involved in the operation?

FP’s Francis: "A senior military official told Foreign Policy that the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend quarantining all troops but the final decision rests solely with Hagel…If Hagel does implement a quarantine for troops possibly exposed to Ebola, it would put him at odds with the White House. After several states announced that they would quarantine medical workers who were possibly exposed to Ebola late last week, the Obama administration spent the weekend insisting isolation wasn’t necessary." More here.

Kaci Hickox, the nurse quarantined in New Jersey who said her civil rights were violated, was released yesterday, Ebola free. On the campaign trail in Florida, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) defended his decision to continue the quarantine. He’s on the "Today Show" this morning to justify his position. More from NJ.com’s Matt Arco here.

The ACLU wants to know Christie’s explanation for the ban. "The vague details surrounding the policies have made it imperative for the public to understand the specific regulations authorizing the governor to detain people." More here.

The New York Times’ Kate Zernike and Thomas Kaplan report that all of these shifts are political and not based on science. This is not surprising, given the upcoming midterms. More here.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has blasted the travel bans as unnecessary, with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon "saying they created difficulties for those risking their lives in the battle against the disease." More from Reuters, here.

This didn’t stop Australia from restricting travel from West African countries. More on the Aussie travel ban from the Otago Daily Times here.

In West Africa, where the outbreak rages on, there are concerns it could become an epidemic. From Maryn McKenna at WIRED, who spoke with "Jody Lanard and Peter Sandman, two risk-communication experts who have been involved in most of the big epidemic threats of the past decades…I hoped they would tell me not to be too worried about Ebola becoming a permanent threat in West Africa. Instead, they told me to be very worried indeed."

Read the WIRED story here, and read Lanard and Sandman’s essay on how quickly the virus could spread in Africa here. 

More from Kevin Sieff in The Washington Post, on Liberia’s losing battle against Ebola.

Finally, FP’s Elias Groll on the people who sold the domain name Ebola.com for $200,000. More here.

In another bold PR move, the Islamic State released a video of hostage John Cantlie delivering "news" on what’s happening in Kobani. According to the tape, the city is peaceful and under full control of the Islamic State. It shows footage show of the city from the air apparently shot from a drone. As FP’s Groll notes, it’s a strange PR twist coming after beheading videos that rallied the United States to the fight against the group.

FP’s Groll: "After beheading four Western hostages on camera starting in late August, the Islamic State began releasing lectures by Cantlie in which he presents the Sunni militant group’s perspective on the fight. The latest video in that series, in which Cantlie reveals that he was waterboarded by his captors, was released over the weekend." More here.

Should U.S. efforts to counter Islamic State propaganda move from State to the CIA? Philip Seib at Defense One argues that they should. More here.

Also in FP, William Hartung on the defense contractors getting rich off the Islamic State fight. "President Barack Obama’s aversion to using ground troops — or to seeing U.S. soldiers killed or wounded — makes using private contractors a politically attractive option. And contractor personnel have a comparative advantage in carrying out certain key functions, like teaching Iraqi forces to use and maintain U.S.-supplied weaponry. With these contracts will come more corruption and waste, unless the American people and the government remain vigilant." More here.

The Islamic State might not be in the city of Baghdad, but it is in the city’s suburbs, including Abu Ghraib. A dispatch from Susannah George in FP: "Abu Ghraib is on the front lines in the Iraqi government’s war to maintain a firm grip on Baghdad. As the western province of Anbar unravels, senior U.S. officials have warned that the security situation west of Baghdad is becoming perilous. Specifically, U.S. officials said, Islamic State militants had increased their presence in Abu Ghraib, putting Baghdad’s international airport within range of rocket attacks." More here.

Remember the Yazidis, the Iraqi Christian group that catalyzed U.S. involvement in the fight against the Islamic State? Writing for FP, Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery say that the group is still in peril. More here.

When the fight started, Russia was one of the first countries to offer assistance. Writing in The Moscow Times, Alexey Eremenko argues that Moscow could be doing more to assist the coalition. More here.

The fight against the Islamic State costs $8.3 million per day. More from The Hill here.

A correction on yesterday’s coverage of the end of the U.S. Marine’s combat mission in Helmand province. Our lead item yesterday said the Marines ended their combat mission in southern Afghanistan "unexpectedly." I should have used a different word: the shuttering of their last base wasn’t publicized beforehand, but the Marines had always been set to leave this fall, and Col. Dave Lapan, a Marine spokesman, said specific base closures were never announced in advance for security reasons. I apologize for the mistake.

From The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe: Why the end of Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan matters. "The turnover of Camp Leatherneck leaves many troops who have been there with mixed feelings. Uneven results recently from the Afghan military still facing the Taliban in Helmand raise questions about what the region will look like without coalition involvement. The region is far from Kabul politically and geographically, and many wonder what their sacrifices ultimately will yield. But there’s also recognition that the U.S. had to turn Leatherneck over at some point." More here.

From The Guardian’s Sune Engel Rasmussen, on the return of the Taliban in the Gizab district in central Afghanistan. "The insurgent offensive comes a year after international troops withdrew from Uruzgan, and as U.K. troops are closing their largest base in Helmand, another embattled province in the south. A month of intense fighting in Gizab has displaced up to 500 families, and Taliban fighters are forcing residents to provide them with food and transportation and threatening people to stop them cooperating with the government, elders from the area said." More here.

And finally on Afghanistan, The Atlantic’s Adam Chandler with a eulogy for Helmand province: "The most direct way of understanding the importance of Helmand may not be in the numbers of battles (many) or accompanying casualties (also many), but in what British and American forces are leaving behind. The compound hosting the adjacent American and British bases — Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion, respectively — is spread across about 6,500 acres of desert (or one-eighth the size of Baltimore) and housed as many as 40,000 personnel at its peak (or more than one-fourth of the total coalition forces)." More here.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report. If you’d like to be one of our subscribers, we’d love to have you. Send me a note at david.francis@foreignpolicy.com and we’ll sign you up. 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. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow me: @davidcfrancis.

From FP’s Kate Brannen, who got a preview of tonight’s Frontline on the Islamic State.  "Martin Smith reports from Iraq on how the country came undone following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, with an investigation into former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s political machinations, which succeeded in purging the government of leading Sunni politicians. Almost every big player participates in the film, including Tariq al-Hashemi, vice president of Iraq from 2006 to 2012. Now living in Doha, Hashemi, a Sunni politician, fled Iraq before he could be arrested and sentenced to death. The documentary then follows the rebirth of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its transformation into the Islamic State, an event made possible by the violence of the Syrian civil war." Check local listings here.

Who’s when where today: From DOD: "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey have no public or open media events on their schedules…Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Frank Kendall provides remarks at TechAmerica’s Vision Market Forecast Conference at 9 a.m. EDT, Fairview Park Marriott, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, Virginia….Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Michael McCord provides keynote at TechAmerica’s Vision Forecast Conference on the topic of ‘Budget Constraints and Uncertainty’ at 12:30 p.m. EDT, Fairview Park Marriott, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, Virginia."

Also, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Canada today to offer his support after last week’s terror attacks. More here.

What’s moving markets today: Europe is facing a defense dilemma. Russia is a resurgent power on its eastern flank. Yet defense budgets are shrinking, and there’s little political will to change this. Over at Defense News, Christopher Cavas reports on Europe’s faltering efforts to create an effective countermeasure to Putin’s ambitions. More here.

Speaking of Russia and Europe, the German Marshall Fund is streaming NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s first speech. Watch it here at 10:00 EST.

AP’s Ken Dilanian has a new piece out on how defense contractors profit from failure. Read it here.

FP’s Daniel Altman writes that the election of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil’s president could spell bad news for Brazil’s economy. "Her task is still more difficult because global investors have had such little faith in her in the first place, and such high hopes for [challenger Aécio] Neves. From its peak after the first round of the election, when the poll showing him with a lead of 16 points came out, until the runoff, the Bovespa stock index tumbled by 10 percent — much of it on the day a less partisan poll showed Rousseff with a slim lead. The day after the election, the Bovespa dropped another 6 percent in morning trading before recovering about two-thirds of the loss." More here.

Revolving Door: From Jill Aitoro at the Washington Business Journal: "Harry Martin has resigned as president and CEO of technology contractor Intelligent Decisions Inc. after the Justice Department determined that ‘improper gratuities’ were paid to a former Pentagon procurement officer, the company confirmed Monday to the Washington Business Journal." More here.

U.S. and Israel are at odds. FP’s Ratnam: "The Obama administration’s decision to snub Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon by denying him meetings with top American officials may have had one more purpose beside wanting to punish him for his harsh criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry: to weaken him politically at home." More here.

Russia is really good at hacking. From Danny Yardon and Siobhan Gorman in The Wall Street Journal: "Collectively, the new research offers evidence supporting a view long expressed privately by U.S. officials and American security researchers: Moscow commands the A-team of Internet adversaries. China, the object of recent U.S. allegations of cyberspying, may hack more often, U.S. officials and researchers say. But Russia hacks better." More here.

Is Congress killing an Iran nuclear deal? From Trita Parsi for Reuters: "Negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program have not even concluded yet some members of Congress are preparing to manufacture a political crisis over a deal. Their beef? President Barack Obama may initially bypass Congress and suspend sanctions imposed on Iran to make a deal possible and only later ask lawmakers to end them permanently when it is determined that Iran has complied fully with its obligations under the deal." More here.

The Nation has a new interview with Edward Snowden. Read it here.

Speaking of Snowden, Yahoo News has more on the so-called "second Snowden," an "employee of a federal contracting firm… who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case." More here.

The South China Morning Post claims to have pictures of China’s "fourth-generation stealth fighter J20, Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS) aircraft KJ-500 and Y-20 large military transporter, reportedly conducting tests flights." More here.

More on planes: America’s B-52 nuclear bomber might finally get an upgrade. More from The Daily Beast here.

At the U.S. embassy in Moscow, it’s Cold War 2.0. From ABC News: "The number of incidents targeting American diplomats in Moscow has increased in recent years to levels not seen since the Cold War, officials said. Taken together, they paint an escalating pattern of intimidation and harassment that is believed to be led by Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB." More here.

West Point’s football program has a big time scandal on its hands. According to reports, it involves booze and women. More here.  

And finally, happy 350th birthday to the U.K.’s Royal Marines. More on their history here.

 

 

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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