A deadline missed: Nuclear talks with Iran are expected to resume next month. Reuters this hour: “Iran and six world powers are expected to break off negotiations on Monday and meet again next month after missing a deadline to clinch a final deal to resolve their 12-year standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, diplomatic sources said.
“Details about the resumption of negotiations were still being worked out, though one source said on condition of anonymity that Iran could not expect any new sanctions relief for the time being. Possible venues could include Vienna and Oman, one of the sources said, though nothing had been decided.” More here.
No deal isn’t such a bad deal, said Janine Davidson, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Plans at the Pentagon, at an event last week for reporters at the Truman National Security Project. Davidson, to reporters: “No deal is not such a problem, if we freeze what we have in place.”
Why members of Congress blasted an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that hasn’t even been written yet. Joseph Cirincione of Ploughshares Fund rolls up the pressure from hardliners both in Iran and here in the states: “Logic and fair debate is little heard in Congress these days. Show hearings are packed with deal opponents. National security concerns are pushed aside for short-term political gain… The favored approach to Iran’s program is reminiscent of Rome’s approach to Carthage: the entire program must be razed to the ground, never to grow again… The problem is that you cannot get that deal. There is not a politician in Iran that could agree to completely destroy the machines Iran has given up so much to build. If they did, they wouldn’t be in power very long…” Read that piece here.
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Read Kevin Baron’s reporter’s notebook from the Halifax International Security Forum, down below.
In Defense One: A “heartbreaking reminder that we need to do more for our veterans.” As her family struggles to process Air Force Tech Sgt. Brooke Leigh Caffrey’s suicide nearly two years ago, the Pentagon’s latest data on troop suicides shows downward trends since the worst year in 2012—but the issue is only now getting serious traction with lawmakers on the Hill. Our own politics reporter Molly O’Toole offers a deep-dive into the issue in Defense One: “’When we started to focus on the suicide issue this year, we knew many things could come up and divert attention, that we’d have to struggle to bring it back,’ [Alex Nicholson, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America] said… Servicewomen face singular challenges in aspiring to a military career that often lead them to get out before serving as long, or earning as high a rank, as Brooke did. While combat exposure tends to be associated with PTSD and other mental health issues, in general, women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report worse mental and emotional health… One in three military women has been sexually assaulted, contrasted with one in six civilian women. And regardless of gender, those who report assaults are often victimized further.” More on the tragic issue that still plagues nearly all the services, here.
Also in Defense One: Getting good intelligence sources to talk via mobile phone could become a bit more difficult in the days ahead, and it all comes down to the FBI’s encryption fight with companies like Apple and Google. Tech editor Patrick Tucker spoke with two former Navy SEALs about the “Blackphone” and other means of communication under discussion in the wake FBI Director James Comey’s recent encryption warnings aimed at lawmakers.” Read that bit by Tucker in Defense One, here.
In Afghanistan, an attack at a volleyball tournament killed at least 45. Reuters this morning, here.
A bicycle-borne IED killed 2 NATO troops and injured one civilian in Kabul today. AP this morning, here.
And Afghan President Ashraf Ghani lifts the ban on nighttime raids: “…Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume the raids in 2015, and in some cases the raids will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory role, according to Afghan military officials as well as officials with the American-led military coalition… Night raids were banned for the most part in 2013 by President Hamid Karzai. Their resumption is likely to be controversial among Afghans, for whom any intrusion into private homes is considered offensive. Mindful of the bad name that night raids have, the American military has renamed them “night operations.” Rod Nordland for the NYT here.
Meantime, Obama quietly expanded the authorization to use U.S. troops in Afghanistan to include offensive ops next year—in spite of previous statements that American troops would have no combat role there beyond 2014. NYT’s Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt broke the story Friday: “…generals both at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan urged Mr. Obama to define the mission more broadly to allow American troops to attack the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants if intelligence revealed that the extremists were threatening American forces in the country. The president’s order under certain circumstances would also authorize American airstrikes to support Afghan military operations in the country and ground troops to occasionally accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.” More here.
Odd: It’s not clear when the White House was going to tell anyone about the change to U.S. policy in Afghanistan in 2015 that amounts to a fairly significant change in course. Despite the crisis that has visibly unfolded in Iraq in the last 10 months – arguably allowed, in part, due to the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 – the Obama White House seemed definitive on the point of whether it would reassess its strategy in Afghanistan in which all but a handful of U.S. troops would be out of the country by 2016. But in fact, President Obama did make a change to the policy but it remains unclear just when how (or if?) the U.S. was going to announce the change until the NYT broke the story Saturday.
There were hints, of course, that the U.S. military wanted this, as our own Ben Watson pointed out earlier this month, quoting Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson, chief of ISAF’s Joint Command: “What’s yet to be defined explicitly will be coalition assets in support of ANSF based on what types of operations they’re doing and again what the strategic consequences may be.” Read that wrap-up, here.
The Taliban are reportedly carving up significant territory in a province just northeast of Kabul, Azam Ahmed reports for the NYT, here.
Deploying to a war that’s seen as all over: In the latest from a wide-ranging series on the effects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on U.S. troops, WaPo’s Greg Jaffe relays the emotional pre-deployment scene at Fort Campbell, where 700 soldiers will depart for Afghanistan in a few days. More here.
Page One of the NYT: How graft hobbles Iraq military’s ability to take the fight to the Islamic State. David Kirkpatrick in Baghdad, with a great lede: “One Iraqi general is known as ‘chicken guy’ because of his reputation for selling his soldiers’ poultry provisions. Another is ‘arak guy,’ for his habit of enjoying that anis-flavored liquor on the job. A third is named after Iraq’s 10,000-dinar bills, ‘General Deftar,’ and is infamous for selling officer commissions. They are just a few of the faces of the entrenched corruption of the Iraqi security forces, according to Iraqi officers and lawmakers as well as American officials.” Read the rest here.
Iraqi security forces on Sunday launched an offensive to re-take IS-held ground in Diyala province neighboring Iran, AFP reports, here.
Click Bait: The Rise of the Islamic State explained in three minutes. And it has cool graphics. HuffPo’s Nick Robbins Early, here.
There’s a new multi-stage, Stuxnet-like virus targeting Russia, Saudi Arabia and eight other countries—but not the U.S. AFP reports this morning, here.
Kiev says it lost more than a half-dozen soldiers to fighting with pro-Russian separatists this weekend, bringing the total number of Ukraine troop deaths to nearly 150 since the ceasefire was announced in early September. Reuters this hour, here.
Who’s up to what today? Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges who commands U.S. Army Europe, updates the Pentagon Press Corps on exercise Operation Atlantic Resolve and wider NATO interoperability at 10:00 a.m. … SecDef Hagel meets his New Zealand counterpart Gerry Brownlee with an honor cordon at the Pentagon River Entrance at 1 p.m.
Did you miss the Defense One Summit last week or were unable to come? No problem, you can watch video segments on youtube of our conversations with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Undersecretary for Intelligence Mike Vickers and more. Click right here for the menu of the talks and enjoy.
Islamic militants surround areas the Somali government controls once again – leaving people isolated and helpless – and raising questions of the effectiveness of the AU and other peacekeepers. The WSJ’s Heidi Vogt: “…Hudur and many other liberated urban centers now struggle to survive because African peacekeepers—backed by the U.S. and other Western governments—have yet to secure the areas around them. That raises questions about the pace of AU operations… If the AU troops and the Somali army aren’t able to widen control of rural areas, those towns could easily fall again. These same forces seized control of Hudur in 2012, only to relinquish it to al-Shabaab a year later, forcing government sympathizers to flee. More here.
Burkina Faso appoints a transitional government, and the military gets a strong nod. Al Jazeera: “Transitional leaders in Burkina Faso have agreed on a new government to guide the country to elections next year, allocating several key cabinet posts to the military…Of the 26 posts available, the army claimed six, including mines, communications and the interior ministry. Isaac Yacouba Zida, who initially took control of the west African country, will head the defence ministry.” More here.
“Navy Tim,” whose day job was as the nation’s No. 2 nuclear officer, made counterfeit poker chips with paint and stickers. AP’s Bob Burns: “The admiral fired last year as No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces may have made his own counterfeit $500 poker chips with paint and stickers to feed a gambling habit that eventually saw him banned from an entire network of casinos, according to a criminal investigative report obtained by The Associated Press.
“Although Rear Adm. Timothy M. Giardina’s removal as deputy head of U.S. Strategic Command was announced last year, evidence of his possible role in manufacturing the counterfeit chips has not previously been revealed. Investigators said they found his DNA on the underside of an adhesive sticker used to alter genuine $1 poker chips to make them look like $500 chips. Nor had the Navy disclosed how extensively he gambled.” More here.
Is the monitoring of troops for Ebola too much? Military Times’ Jeff Schogol, on the latest case in which an Air Force major was thought to have contracted the disease, here.
How much would Jim Webb’s military background help in a bid to become commander in chief? The WaPo’s Dan Lamothe, here.
A paralyzed Marine stood up with the help of an exoskeleton on Friday to receive his Bronze Star with valor device. Stars and Stripes’ Jennifer Hlad with the inspirational story out of Camp Pendleton, here.
Broadening concerns about security at Marine bases could extend to those access decals you have to put on your windshield, Derrick Perkins reports for Marine Corps Times, here.
U.S. Marshalls have been fighting drug cartels south of the border while dressed as their Mexican marine compadres, WSJ’s Devlin Barrett reported Friday, here.
ICYMI: The Army’s uniforms are going a little darker all the way around next year, including last week’s announcement of new “coyote-brown” combat boots to go along with the multicam-like uniforms with the official descriptor “Operational Camouflage Pattern.” Expected launch date for the ensemble: Summer 2015. More at Military.com, here.
The Pentagon is eliminating shady spending practices that let troops send portions of their paychecks straight to lenders. Tom Vanden Brook for USA Today, here.
The 2014 Halifax International Security Forum, a $3 million event gathering 300 folks in national security from 60 countries, convened this weekend and our own Kevin Baron attended, reporting that the main question there this weekend was: “How can the West stop ISIS?”
Baron: “The terrorist-insurgent-proxy group dominated remarks from world leaders, politicians, 4-star commanders, academics and journalists… The impressive forum speakers list included Gen. Frank Grass, National Guard bureau chief; Gen. John Kelly, of Southcom; Gen. Chuck Jacoby, of Northcom; Adm. Mike Rogers, of NSA and Cybercom; and Adm. Cecil Haney, of Stratcom. Adm. Michelle Howard, vice CNO, also appeared on panel on resource scarcity of energy, water and food, moderated by Defense One’s own Kevin Baron. Others: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, new envoy to the ISIS crisis, Gen. John Allen, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
Overheard in Halifax from Baron: “Dov Zakheim argued that after 9/11, Congress threw so much money at DOD to go fight in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, and then on and on into global terrorism it has mucked up the Pentagon, which he said has grown by 80,000 civilians. “When that happens, you get growth that is almost beyond rationality.” McCain came out swinging with some old punches, saying, “We predicted every one of” Iraq failures, which Baron, tweeting from the forum, noted “makes him wiser than Pentagon and intelligence community.”
Baron: “Gen. John Kelly, from SOUTHCOM, almost made news when he was asked about the collapse of Iraq, where he spent more than three years fighting. ‘Do we need to have ‘boots on the ground?’ Yes,’ he said, adding quickly ‘Someone’s boots have to be on the ground,’ he said, but only if that country deems it’s in their security interest. Oh. Kelly waxed nostalgic about Iraq, arguing ‘We won’ and handed it off to the Iraqis, and they lost the win for us.
“But he was most passionate about the global drug trade he’s now overwatching from Miami. Without hesitation, he said, there is terrorism being financed around the world by cocaine consumption in the U.S. and Canada. Kelly told Defense One that of the group of his 25 buddies he grew up with in Boston, all but one died early from drug use: himself. The cartels, he said, are so much bigger than we realize. “Think multinational corporations,” he said. “When my organization seizes money we don’t count it, we weigh it,” Kelly said, in a quip we think we’ve heard him say before, but whatever, it’s a good line.
The three most important conversations at Halifax, by the Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber, here.