The Cable

FP’s Situation Report: Obama sticks to the Asia pivot; Ukraine rebels prepare for all-out war; Carter would consider troops in Afghanistan; and much more from around the world.

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat Obama’s $4 trillion budget sticks to the Asia-Pacific pivot. Crises in Ukraine and the Middle East are hot right now. But President Barack Obama’s 2016 spending plan shows that the White House doesn’t believe these problems are lasting. The long-term challenges are in Asia, FP’s Gopal Ratnam and Kate ...

By David Francis with Sabine Muscat

Obama’s $4 trillion budget sticks to the Asia-Pacific pivot. Crises in Ukraine and the Middle East are hot right now. But President Barack Obama’s 2016 spending plan shows that the White House doesn’t believe these problems are lasting. The long-term challenges are in Asia, FP’s Gopal Ratnam and Kate Brannen report. Meanwhile, FP’s John Hudson details the Obama administration’s efforts to stop illegal immigration before it starts in Central America. Finally, the Pentagon wants $585 billion for its 2016 budget, including $1.3 billion to fight the Islamic State. It ignores sequestration, which caps DoD’s budget at $499 billion, Brannen reports.

More on the budget below.

Ukraine rebels plan for all-out war. Pro-Russian rebels have made significant gains in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. After peace talks failed, leaders are threatening to escalate the fight. The New York Times’ Rick Lyman: “[T]he top commander, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said that the rebels would answer Ukraine’s recent announcement that it would conscript more troops by organizing a voluntary mobilization of their own that, he vowed, would increase the size of the rebel army to as many as 100,000.”

More on Ukraine below.

Ashton Carter puts troops in Afghanistan back on the table. Some lawmakers and U.S. military officials are urging President Obama to consider changing his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the next year. While the president has steadfastly refused to consider it, his pick for the next defense chief would. The Associated Press’s Lolita C. Baldor: Carter “said he is aware of reports that Islamic State militants may try to expand into Afghanistan, and said he will work with coalition partners to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

More on Afghanistan and the Islamic State below.

PRESS PACK: The Impending Budget Fight

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe on Obama’s Reagan-esque budget: “While the Defense Department doesn’t need to spend as much as it did during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it still needs the cash to prepare for a variety of crises.”  

The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “Obama proclaimed victory in the long climb from deep recession and said the time had come to loosen the strictures of austerity to invest in the nation’s future.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos and Carol E. Lee: “Some Republicans have expressed interest in reaching economic deals with the president, and relatively few GOP lawmakers took aim at the White House proposal to blunt the impact of mandatory spending caps, known as the sequester.”

Politico’s Seung Min Kim: “President Barack Obama hammered congressional Republicans again Monday for insisting on gutting his executive actions on immigration alongside a must-pass appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security.”

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the Situation Report, where we’re closely monitoring the fight for Pitbull’s political soul.

Connect with me at and @davidcfrancis and spread the word about SitRep — your destination for global security news and Washington whatnot. Like what you see? Tell a friend. Tell your colleagues. Don’t like what you see? Tell me. Or holler with tips, reports, or anything else the world needs to know, and I’ll try to include it.


9:45 a.m. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C. 10:00 a.m. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testifies on the budget for Fiscal Year 2016 before the House Ways and Means Committee. 10:00 a.m. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on U.S. relations with Cuba. 10:00 a.m. Members of the Joint Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency testify on global threats in front of the House Armed Services Committee.


The New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar on Russia’s plan to save its economy: “‘That plan is nonsense,’ the Russian oligarch Aleksandr Y. Lebedev said in an interview, describing it as throwing away money to rescue some of Russia’s worst companies. ‘Lots of words and little specific.’”

Reuters’s Barani Krishnan on oil’s brief rally: “Oil prices rose strongly again on Monday, tacking on a total of 11 percent over two straight sessions.”

FP’s Daniel Altman on the end of a good run for wealthy Germans.


Last week, we told you about efforts to reverse Gen. John F. Campbell’s decision to classify Afghan army data. It took just a few days for that to happen.

The Pentagon changed course Monday, making much of the classified data on equipment, strength, and infrastructure of the Afghan army public again. It had been available for the previous six years.

However, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) does not yet know exactly what was declassified.

“We received the information in hard copy in Afghanistan and [are] trying to get an electronic copy so our folks in D.C. can analyze it. As of right now, we don’t know what was declassified,” SIGAR spokesman Alex Bronstein-Moffly told Foreign Policy in an e-mail.

The decision to make the data public follows complaints from SIGAR, who accused the Pentagon of withholding important information from the American public. The United States has spent $65 billion training and equipping Afghan troops.

SURVEILLANCE: The United States changes how long it will hold data on Americans and foreigners.

The New York Times’ David E. Sanger: “[T]he administration will announce new rules requiring intelligence analysts to delete private information they may incidentally collect about Americans that has no intelligence purpose, and to delete similar information about foreigners within five years.”

UKRAINE CONFLICT: The United States weighs sending anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Fighting continues amid concerns Russia is trying to create a new country.

The Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous: “[T]he White House and military leaders have begun taking another look at providing lethal assistance such as the antitank missiles. An administration official said Susan Rice, the White House national-security adviser, has reopened the discussion.”

Reuters’s Aleksandar Vasovic: “Separatist rockets streaked across hills in eastern Ukraine on Monday as rebels pounded the positions of Ukrainian government troops holding a strategic rail town, while both sides prepared to mobilise more forces for combat.”

The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall on Russia’s intentions in Ukraine: “The public disclosure that the US is considering supplying lethal weaponry to Ukraine in its battle with Russian-backed separatists, reflects heightened American concern that Moscow is intent on carving out an expanded, economically viable enclave.”

The New York Times’ John Ismay tracks the weapons used in the fight.

ISLAMIC STATE: Hostages expose splits in Japan and Jordan. The Kurds continue their gains near Kobani.

The Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib and Suha Ma’ayeh: “Jordan’s effort to win the freedom of a pilot captured by Islamic State is exposing growing opposition here to the government’s involvement in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremist group.”

Reuters’s Tom Perry: “Kurdish militia backed by U.S.-led air strikes are making rapid advances against Islamic State forces in rural areas around Kobani.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Toko Sekiguchi: “[O]pposition leaders Monday began to question more openly whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for expanding the role of the country’s military in international security would place more Japanese citizens in danger.”

McClatchy’s David Lerman and Tony Capaccio: “Islamic State fighters are starting to create ‘a growing international footprint’ in the Mideast and North Africa.”

EUROPE: Hayat Boumeddiene, the wife of the man who attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris, is now France’s most wanted fugitive as the country struggles with its national identity.

The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Souad Mekhennet: “Boumeddiene, a 26-year-old native of France, is emerging as a key target for investigators, who think she knows crucial details about the planning of the three days of violence that terrorized France and claimed 17 victims.”

The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger: “[T]he debate is about whether the French sense of identity has become so intertwined with secularism that the country is failing to honor its ideals as it becomes a multicultural society in which Islam is taking a more prominent place.”

AFRICA: Nigeria’s president narrowly escapes a suicide attack. In the Indian Ocean, floating security business grows.

The BBC: “A female suicide bomber has blown up herself in northern Nigeria’s Gombe city, minutes after President Goodluck Jonathan left a campaign rally there.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Kent and Cassie Werber: “Shippers traversing the dangerous waters off Somalia want armed guards to protect their cargo and crews.”

YEMEN: The U.S. drone campaign continues despite political instability.

Reuters: “The attacks show there has been no let up in a U.S. campaign against suspected militants despite a power vacuum left by the resignation of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.”

CHINA-TIBET: China extends its anti-terror fight from Xijiang to Tibet.

The Diplomat’s Shannon Tiezzi: “China’s draft anti-terrorism law features an extraordinarily broad definition of terrorism.”

NORTH KOREA: The United States and North Korea “talk about talks” behind the scenes.

The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield: “The United States and North Korea have been actively discussing the possibility of returning to denuclearization talks.”

EBOLA: Trials for two new drugs begin.

Reuters’s James Harding Giahyue: “The trial to test two vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and New Link/Merck began at the government-run Redemption Hospital in Monrovia.”

CUBA: Outreach from Washington splits Cubans.

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung: “While many here see opportunity in restored diplomatic ties and expanded U.S. trade and travel to Cuba, others charge betrayal.”


The Washington Business Journal’s Jill R. Aitoro on the Professional Services Council acquiring the TechAmerica Foundation from CompTIA: “TechAmerica, once the pre-eminent trade organization for technology companies, struggled to remain relevant in recent years, with membership declining from about 2,000 in 2009 to about 300 in 2014.”

AND FINALLY, writing for Foreign Policy, Secretary of State John Kerry on the need to protect the Mekong River.

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