The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

FP’s Situation Report: Taliban’s year starts off badly; Tensions between the U.S. and Russia go nuclear; Boko Haram proves its worth against West African militaries; and much more.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat The Taliban’s year is off to a bad start. Pakistani air strikes killed 31 militants this weekend. A suspected American drone strike killed another seven. The combined efforts of these two countries are proof that Pakistan’s six-month push to take control of tribal regions held by Taliban militants is ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

The Taliban’s year is off to a bad start. Pakistani air strikes killed 31 militants this weekend. A suspected American drone strike killed another seven. The combined efforts of these two countries are proof that Pakistan’s six-month push to take control of tribal regions held by Taliban militants is working. Islamabad’s attacks also represent successful retaliation for last month’s deadly school siege.

The New York Times’ Ismail Khan: “Last summer, the Pakistani military launched a long-awaited offensive against Taliban and foreign militants holed up in the North Waziristan region. The military claims that it now controls 90 percent of the region.” More here.

More on Pakistan and Afghanistan below.

Tensions between the United States and Russia go nuclear. President Barack Obama insists that despite friction over Ukraine, Washington and Moscow are not reviving the Cold War. However, the Obama administration’s actions tell a different story. The United States is threatening to respond to Russia’s development of a new cruise missile that violates one of the Cold War’s cornerstone arms control treaties. The Pentagon is testing countermeasures to nuclear weapons that can be fired from Russian submarines patrolling the Atlantic.

The Guardian’s Julian Borger: “The number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the US and Russia actually increased last year, and both countries are spending many billions of dollars a year modernising their arsenals. Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and a failing economy, Vladimir Putin is putting increasing emphasis on nuclear weapons as guarantors and symbols of Russian influence.” More here.

More on Russia below.

Boko Haram proves its worth against West African militaries. A U.S. military official recently warned that Boko Haram could stand toe-to-toe with Nigeria’s military. The official was right — on Saturday the group captured a military establishment in the northeast town of Baga. Even more impressive is that the base was guarded by additional troops from Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Simon Montlake: “Nigerians living in the northeast, much of which is under a state of emergency, have long complained of government negligence and charged the military with neglecting its duties. The rout of a multilateral military base underscores the challenge to Nigeria’s government ahead of a presidential election next month.” More here.  

More on Nigeria below.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of the Situation Report.

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Who’s Where When Today

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 media events on their schedules.

2:30 p.m. President Obama meets with senior advisors.

What’s Moving Markets

FP’s Keith Johnson on expectations for the new Congress: “Republican goals broadly fall into three categories: Increasing energy exports, boosting domestic energy production, and rolling back what they see as onerous environmental rules, especially those that target the U.S. coal industry.” More here.

Reuters on a Spiegel story on a Greek exit from the euro zone: “’The danger of contagion is limited because Portugal and Ireland are considered rehabilitated,’ the weekly news magazine quoted one government source saying.” More here.

Handelsblatt interviews ECB president Mario Draghi, who raised expectations that the central bank plans large-scale bond purchases to save the Euro. More here.

The BBC reports the euro reaches a nine-year low against the dollar. More here.


The Associated Press: “The airstrikes late Saturday in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber region destroyed four militant hideouts and a training center for suicide bombers, according to a statement from the army. The military said several would-be suicide bombers were among the dead.” More here.

CBS News on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hoping to revisit the timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal: “’Deadlines concentrate the mind. But deadlines should not be dogmas,’ he said in his first interview with U.S. television since assuming the presidency.” More here.

Al Arabiya’s Baker Atyani on Afghanistan’s future after the United States leaves: “All indicators point to a continuous fight for power in Afghanistan with the Taliban getting stronger by the day while the strategic alliance between Taliban and al-Qaeda still exists even if al-Qaeda was weakened in this war.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Scott Clement reports on public approval for the military mission in Afghanistan. More here.


The New York Times’ Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer on the origins of the Ukraine crisis: “An investigation by The New York Times into the final hours of [former Ukrainian President Viktor F.] Yanukovych’s rule — based on interviews with prominent players, including former commanders of the Berkut riot police and other security units, telephone records and other documents — shows that the president was not so much overthrown as cast adrift by his own allies, and that Western officials were just as surprised by the meltdown as anyone else.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Charles Duxbury and Juhana Rossi on Finland’s balancing act: “Few countries in Europe can match Finland’s enthusiasm for cultivating trade links with Russia during its recent economic rise. Fewer still maintain an old-fashioned conscription-based defense force designed to repel a full-scale land invasion.” More here.


The BBC with more details on the base seizure: “Residents of Baga, who fled by boat to neighbouring Chad, said many people had been killed and the town set ablaze. Baga, scene of a Nigerian army massacre in 2013, was the last town in the Borno North area under government control.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Gbenga Akingbule on more kidnappings: “Nigerian Islamic insurgency Boko Haram has kidnapped about 40 boys and young men from a village in the country’s northeast, a fleeing resident and a local vigilante said, extending its streak of abductions.” More here.

Islamic State

The Washington Post’s Liz Sly on lessons from Syrian rebels: “Jamal Maarouf, a former day laborer who until recently was one of northern Syria’s most powerful commanders, had been held up by the Syrian opposition as a model rebel leader who shunned extremism and was among the first to take up arms against the Islamic State. He had also, however, established a reputation as a warlord.” More here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick on arrests in Israel: “Israeli security authorities said they had uncovered a West Bank cell of Palestinian militants sympathetic to the extremist group Islamic State who were allegedly planning bombings and attacks on soldiers.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on denials of a U.S. raid in Syria: “Media reports raising the possibility of an attempted raid in Raqqa surfaced after a group known as ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ detailed what it described as two failed approaches by coalition aircraft.” More here.

North Korea

USA Today’s Katharine Lackey on anger over new sanctions: “North Korea lashed out at the U.S. on Sunday for imposing new sanctions in retaliation for its suspected role in the cyberattack against Sony Pictures, saying the move shows the White House’s ‘inveterate repugnancy and hostility’ toward the nation.” More here.

FP’s David Francis details the sanctions. More here.

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris on a long investigation: “The FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies for years have been tracking the hackers who they believe to be behind the cyber attack on Sony.” More here.


The Hindu on Secretary of State John Kerry signing off on a Pakistani aid package: “The authorisation is likely to spark outrage in India. Mr. Kerry is due to visit the Vibrant Gujarat summit, which begins in [India] on January 11, ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit on January 24.” More here.

The Times of India’s Indrani Bagchi on Indian expectations for Obama’s visit there later this month: “India and US are likely to renew a 10-year defence pact. With India opening up the defence sector to foreign investment, both sides will look for possibilities for joint production and co-development under the rubric of defence cooperation.” More here.

The Hindustan Times on a terror threat: “Security was tightened at Delhi airport on Sunday after intelligence agencies warned that terrorists could try to hijack an Air India flight between the national capital and Kabul in the run-up to Republic Day and US President Barack Obama’s visit to India.” More here.


The Associated Press’s Ahmed Al-haj: “Al-Qaida militants bombed an office of Shiite Houthi rebels south of Yemen’s capital Sunday, killing six Houthis and wounding 31, officials said.” More here.


The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren on tax revenue: “Israel is withholding $127 million in tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority in response to its move last week to join the International Criminal Court, further escalating tensions with a step that could have serious repercussions for both sides.” More here.

Defense News’s Barbara Opall-Rome on a deal with Japan: “The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved an investment plan aimed at strengthening trade ties with Japan across a spectrum of sectors, including space- and cyber-related research and development.” More here.


The Daily Beast’s Dave Majumdar on the U.S. drone program: “The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of drones is being strained to the ‘breaking point.’” More here.

Terror Trials

USA Today’s G. Jeffrey MacDonald on the start of the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: “Prosecutors want a jury that will not only convict but also vote unanimously, as required, to impose a death sentence.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Adam Goldman reports on the death of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai days before he was supposed to be tried on charges of helping to plan the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. More here.


The New York Times‘ Eric Schmitt on the FBI’s mistrust of employees with foreign ties: “The FBI is subjecting hundreds of its employees who were born overseas or have relatives or friends there to an aggressive internal surveillance program that started after Sept. 11, 2001…. The program has drawn criticism from F.B.I. linguists, agents and other personnel with foreign language and cultural skills, and with ties abroad.” More here.


The New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink on a move that could make a nuclear deal with the West more likely: “Iran’s president said Sunday that he might invoke a powerful but neglected tool in his fight with hard-liners, suggesting the possibility of organizing direct referendums that would bypass the institutions the conservatives control and give more of a voice to Iranian voters.” More here.

The Associated Press with an update on nuclear talks: “Speaking to an economic conference in Tehran, Rouhani both countered hard-line critics worried Iran will give up too much while also attempting to signal his administration remains open to negotiation with the six-nation group leading the talks.” More here.


NBC News on a potential American case: “An American health care worker who experienced high-risk exposure to the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone has arrived at a Nebraska hospital for observation.” More here.

The BBC on the status of an Ebola patient in the U.K.: “A British nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from Sierra Leone is now in a critical condition, the London hospital treating her has said.” More here.

The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff on the children of Ebola patients: “Few diseases are less understood than the Ebola virus, which has claimed more than 7,900 lives across West Africa. But one thing is clear: Pregnant Ebola patients rarely survive. And their babies never do.” More here.


The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan on road bumps in the Cuban relations thaw: “Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), an outspoken critic of President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, predicted Sunday that the administration would face stiff resistance on Capitol Hill when it seeks to confirm an ambassador to the Caribbean country.” More here.

Revolving Door

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on the search for DoD’s new Yoda: “The Defense Department just advertised that is searching for a new director for its Office of Net Assessment. The position was held for decades by Andrew W. Marshall, 93, who founded the Pentagon’s internal think tank in 1973 and was the only leader it ever had.” More here.

Roll Call’s Emily Cahn and Alexis Levinson report on National Republican Senatorial Committee hires. More here.

And finally, the Wall Street Journal’s Bradley Hope on the strange disappearance of a Russian hedge fund manager: “Blackfield Capital CJSC was one of Moscow’s hottest hedge funds, hosting glitzy parties and embarking on ambitious plans to expand to the U.S.… Now, the founder is missing, allegedly along with all of the firm’s assets, according to former employees, in an international mystery that has captivated Moscow’s investment community.” More here.



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