The Cable

Situation Report: Mystery cash in Afghanistan; bigger guns for U.S. troops in Eastern Europe; Russia continues to bulk up; and more fun stuff

By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson When too much still isn’t enough. Seems that for a brief time, U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan found a new way to fund their wartime projects by pulling cash out of a fund set aside for small reconstruction projects. Unsurprisingly, we have no real idea where that cash went. ...

By Paul McLeary and Ariel Robinson

When too much still isn’t enough. Seems that for a brief time, U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan found a new way to fund their wartime projects by pulling cash out of a fund set aside for small reconstruction projects. Unsurprisingly, we have no real idea where that cash went.

Between 2008 and 2014, Congress set aside $3 billion for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) which gave small unit commanders in Afghanistan pretty wide leeway to fund small projects in their areas of operation. In the end, only about $1.7 billion of that was spent in the way intended, according to a congressionally-mandated inspector general report released on April 24. Of the remaining $1.3 billion, a full $659.9 million was “reprogrammed for other purposes” according to the report, while the remaining $609.1 million was kicked back to the U.S. Treasury. While the whole thing hardly rises to the level of a high crime — cash is moved around all the time — one wonders why the estimated $686 billion the U.S. spent in Afghanistan from 2001 – 2014 wasn’t enough, and where that $659 million eventually went…

Welcome to the team! Let’s start slow.Just in time for a White House review of a botched drone strike in Pakistan that killed American citizens, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general,” FP’s Lara Jakes notes. And as the newly minted head of the Justice Department, “Lynch will oversee much of the legal debate over targeting U.S. citizens and whether strikes on foreign suspects are consistent with international law.” With that debate picking up again with the White House’s disclosure that it accidentally droned two civilians in Afghanistan in January, Lynch is going to have to hit the ground running.

Good luck, fellas! The Defense Department is pretty excited about its new cyber and tech strategy that Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined at great length on Thursday. But some people outside the department aren’t so convinced. P.W. Singer, senior fellow at the New America Foundation told FP’s Paul McLeary that “you can’t reset relations rapidly, all the more so in a post-Snowden world. My sense is that we’ll make some headway…but don’t expect a sea change any time soon.”

We’ve made it through another week of the Situation Report. And with it we’re still waiting for the flood of super double secret background emails that we were promised. There’s always next week. We’re still at paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com, or on Twitter at @paulmcleary.

Russia

“Amidst rising anxieties over Russia, one of the last U.S. combat units still based in Europe, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment has asked for bigger guns. The House Armed Services Committee is already setting aside money for the urgent upgrade,” reports Breaking Defense’s Sydney Freedberg, Jr.

The supply of the Russian S-300 missile defense system to Iran “is not a matter of the nearest future,” a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday, according to Haaretz. “It is more important that a political and legal decision, which opens up such a possibility, is taken,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to TASS official news agency.

Russian hackers broke into unclassified networks at the Department of Defense earlier this year, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter disclosed Thursday. The Hill writes that the department was able to identify the culprits quickly and boot them off the network.

NATO is seeing a “substantial Russian buildup,” along the border with and inside Ukraine, violating the Minsk ceasefire agreement, Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary general, said on Thursday at a launch event for  Politico Europe.

Israel

The Financial Times reports that “six months after the international community pledged $3.5bn to rebuild Gaza, barely a quarter of the funds have been released and ‘further conflict is inevitable’, a group of 46 aid agencies warned last week.”

Iraq

The Obama administration is mulling the possibility of training Iraqis to call in air strikes directly to U.S. and coalition fighter planes bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq, a State Department official told reporters, according to Agence France Presse.

Yemen

The Economist notes that while “it has been a rough decade for al Qaeda,” generally, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, is on the up. In the past month or so it has widened the territory under its control, including a port and an airport.”

Army

Eight women have made it through the Ranger Assessment Phase (RAP), the first step toward getting their Ranger tabs. Nineteen women started the grueling, four-day process along with 381 men, 184 of whom passed. The success rates are pretty on par with past years, Dan Lamonthe writes for the Washington Post.

Terrorism

It is ok for the FBI to pose as terrorists to snare suspected terror sympathizers? Jenifer Fenton’s article for Al-Jazeera America discusses some of these controversial tactics and their results.

And finally: This won’t make many people happy, but Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security takes to the pages of the National Review to argue that that U.S. Navy needs not only reassess how it project power in the coming decades, but that the age of the aircraft carrier is over. That’s right. Ditch the carrier. He’s serious, and he’s worth reading.

Weekend Long Read:The Untouchable John Brennan” by Buzzfeed’s Gregory Johnsen. “How did the candidate of hope and change turn into the president of secret kill lists, drone strikes hitting civilians, and immunity for torturers? The answer may lie in his relationship with the CIA director, a career bureaucrat turned quiet architect of a morally murky national security policy who isn’t going to let a little thing like getting caught spying on the Senate bring him down.”

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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