The D Brief: Dempsey hints at expansion into Anbar; Hagel: “it’s complicated;” Did the military give us a sleep disorder?; Shane Harris leaves FP; and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
Gen. Marty Dempsey emphasized publicly for the first time that the mission in Iraq should probably expand into Anbar Province. Despite the fact that the Islamic State controls wide swaths of territory in Anbar, west of Baghdad, the Pentagon has publicly shrugged in response to questions if the U.S. military train-and-advise mission should expand into Anbar, the birthplace of the Sunni Awakening that became a turning point of sorts for the war in Iraq in 2006-2007 and where some of the hardest-fought battles played out. The U.S. has trainers in Baghdad and Irbil.
Establishing a base of operations in Anbar would practically, politically and optically deepen the U.S. war effort in Iraq. But last week in Tampa, senior military officials hinted to reporters that Anbar could be the next step. Then on Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey said it publicly. The Iraqi forces operating there are “in defensive positions,” Dempsey said yesterday, and would likely be unable to respond to a request from Sunni tribes in Anbar for assistance. Dempsey yesterday: “What I can say is that's why we need to expand the train-advise-and-assist mission into the Al Anbar Province. But the precondition for that is that the government of Iraq is willing to arm the tribes. By the way, we have positive indications that they are, but we haven't begun to do it yet.”
Asked to expand on the idea, Dempsey said there are three components to the train-and-advise-assist mission. They include the Iraqi forces, the peshmerga fighters in the north and the Sunni tribes. A big concern is that units within the Iraqi forces are spread too thin to support each other. If the U.S. can help effectively de-isolate some of those forces, that will allow a “platform” to begin reaching out to the Sunni tribes. Ultimately, Baghdad could decide to create a National Guard of sorts, but that’s down the line, Dempsey said. “You need all three of those eventually. Right now, we're focused on the Iraqi security forces,” he said.
Dempsey emphasized that the Iraqi army is unable to protect Sunnis resisting the Islamic State. The WaPo’s Missy Ryan, here.
Iraqi Kurdish forces enter Syria to fight the Islamic State. Reuters, here.
Is John Allen in over his head? Writing for FP, Mark Perry asks if John Allen’s detractors inside the Pentagon are making life difficult for him. Read that behind a paywall, here.
ISIS executed dozens in the town of Hit in Anbar. McClatchy’s Jonathan S. Landay and Hussein Kadhim: “Photographs of those allegedly killed were posted on Twitter. The pictures showed a long row of bodies, some blindfolded, all with their hands bound behind their backs, lying along a pavement and in the street. A single bullet hole could be seen in some of their heads.” More here.
Buried in the NYT story yesterday on how Obama could replace some of his top aides—featuring John Kerry and Chuck Hagel—buried the lede, and so did we. The story that was perhaps more interesting was that Hagel had written a “sharply critical” memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice about his concerns about the policy in Syria. Landler: “[Defenders of Hagel] also insist that he is more assertive on policy than his reputation suggests, citing a sharply critical two-page memo that he sent to Ms. Rice last week, in which he warned that the administration’s Syria policy was in danger of unraveling because of its failure to clarify its intentions toward President Bashar al-Assad.” That Thursday story in re-runs, here.
Indeed, U.S. strategy in Syria is hitting major hurdles, the Los Angeles Times reports this morning. “The Obama administration's plan to raise a 15,000-strong rebel army in Syria has run into steep political and military obstacles, raising doubts about a key element of the White House strategy for defeating Islamic State militants in the midst of a civil war. Pentagon concerns have grown so sharp that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a two-page memo to the White House last week warning that the overall plan could collapse because U.S. intentions toward Syrian President Bashar Assad are unclear, according to a senior defense official who read the memo but was not authorized to speak publicly. President Obama has called on Assad to step down, but he has not authorized using military force, including the proposed proxy army, to remove the Syrian leader. Read the rest by David Cloud, W.J. Hennigan and Raja Abdulrahim, here.
Hagel seems to sum up policy in Syria with a Facebook relationship status: “It’s complicated.” Hagel: “This is complicated, as we've said, it's long term.” … It is probably as complicated as a set of dimensions as we've dealt with, at least that I'm aware of, in a long time.” … “First, again, baseline is this is a complicated issue.”
Many inside the military and out do not believe the U.S. strategy in Iraq or Syria amounts to anything that could be described as winning. “These guys are not going to be defeated by what we’re doing,” said a former government official to D Brief and other reporters. “There is enormous frustration within the ranks.”
Welcome to the Friday edition of The D Brief, Defense One's new, first-read national security newsletter. If you like what you see and you want us to subscribe a friend or colleague, we're very happy to do that. Subscribe here or send us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll put you on the list. Please send us your tips, your tidbits, your scoops and stories, your think tank reports and best of all your candy, but send it to us early for maximum tease. And whatever you do, we hope you'll follow us @glubold and @natsecwatson.
Yesterday Slate made a big correction that’s worth noting: An Oct. 30 magazine article stated that candy corn has an orange base and a yellow middle. Obviously that’s completely wrong: candy corn has a yellow base and an orange middle, duh.
Pullquote! Chuck Hagel, noting his situational awareness after being asked at yesterday’s Pentagon press briefing if he understood the public policy implications of supporting a measured quarantine policy for military personnel returning from West Africa: “Well, I'm not unaware of society.”
Another good one from yesterday’s briefing: Gen. Dempsey, when asked about his access to President Obama and the now famous limousine ride he took with POTUS to talk Syria policy: “…The limousine is not that comfortable, I want you to know that. It's actually a pretty rough ride.”
Who’s doing what today? Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey keynotes "Public Service in an Age of Complex Global Security Challenges" at Syracuse University's Maxwell School at 10:15 a.m. Then Marty heads over to Fort Drum for a town hall meeting scheduled at 12:15 p.m.
The Brookings Institution, which influences public policy in a number of ways, including in national security (and home to Michael O’Hanlon and others) is increasingly emphasizing fundraising and how donors get a voice in setting the agenda. The WaPo’s Page Oner this morning by Tom Hamburger and Alexander Becker, with a “double-truck” spread inside the paper (and oddly no headline on the second page in some editions, here.
France is denying that it’s about to deliver a helicopter-carrying warship to Russia—The NYT, here.
The military’s effort in West Africa isn’t just a novel effort, writes a professor of medical ethics and health policy and a retired one-star in today’s WSJ: the military facilities in place could serve as vaccination centers once there is a vaccine that’s shown to be safe,” they write. “The U.S. military deployment to this afflicted region could turn out to have incalculable benefits.” Read that bit here.
Ebola is by no means the only problem in West Africa. The push by the President of Burkina Faso to run for a fifth term—extending his 27-year-rule—pushed angry forces over the edge; now they’ve seized power in Ouagadougou. The BBC this morning, here.
A day after protesters in Burkina Faso set the parliament ablaze—and commandeered a state TV studio—they returned to demand President Blaise Compaore resign from his 27-year post immediately. AFP, this hour.
Catch up on the jarring images out of Ouagadougou, curated by Robert Mackey at NYT’s Open Source, here.
Yesterday we told you about how Fox News would air a special in a week or so featuring the SEAL who shot Bin Laden. Today in the NYT, news of how the former SEAL Matt “No Easy Day” Bissonnette is in legal hot water for allegedly disclosing classified information perhaps not in his book so much—which was never vetted through the Pentagon’s security screeners pre-publication—but for speeches he’s been giving. The NYT’s Christopher Drew and Nicholas Kulish, here.
One of our favorite former colleagues is moving on. Foreign Policy’s Shane Harris, a “monster reporter” with whom we worked closely at FP, is leaving FP to go to The Daily Beast. Shane’s post on Face last night: “I'm thrilled to be back in action with my pal Noah Shachtman, and so grateful to all my friends and colleagues at Foreign Policy. I've had a great time here and am so proud of all the work we've done.” HuffPo’s Michael Calderone on the move, including the memo from The Beast’s (and our former editor) Noah Shachtman, here.
Stateside troops told to elevate their security posture. Andrew deGrandpre, Lance M. Bacon and Jeff Schogol for Military Times: "A recent directive published by the Army Threat Integration Center calls on troops to disable mobile apps that track their whereabouts and to avoid posting anything on social media that reveals where their kids attend school or would otherwise allow someone to know ahead of time where they’ll be… Uniforms, even military T-shirts and car bumper stickers, could put people at risk," troops at MacDill AFB in Tampa were also told recently. More here.
Has the military given us a new sleep disorder? Army doctors at Washington’s JBLM think so. From Patty Kime at Military Times: “Four service members observed in a sleep lab were found to be re-enacting their nightmares mentally and physically while asleep, often not awaking from their dreams and not remembering the violent episodes in the morning... The symptoms didn’t exactly match the most common diagnoses for combat-related sleep issues: nightmare disorder or REM behavior disorder. So Mysliwiec and fellow researchers are building a case for combat-related nightmares to go by a new name: Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder.” More here.
The Pentagon clamps down on leaks. DoD put out a new directive this week intended to cut back on unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the press, designating them “serious security incidents.” It’s more of a formality for standardizing protocols previously laid out in a 2005 directive. The Federation of American Scientists’ Steven Aftergood has more here.
It’s like it’s 1957 in the Pentgon, ok, not really, but still: BlackBerry mobile use at the Pentagon ain’t going away any time soon. Government Executive’s Bob Brewin with this peek at DISA’s plans to test mobile devices on top secret networks, here.
Afghanistan’s post-war transition—by way of Kosovo. The last decade of war showed the world that nation-building with a military force can quickly turn into a divisive and unsustainable mission. Kosovo’s transition, however, proceeded differently; and understanding why could help Afghanistan from going the way of Iraq or worse, Paul Hughes and Linwood Ham write for the U.S. Institute of Peace, here.
Spending on national intelligence declined for the fifth straight year, and is now below 2006 levels. Marshall Erwin from the online intelligence and natsec blog Overt Action: “At $50.5 billion, spending is now way down from recent highs… It seems clear that intelligence capabilities, not military might, now shape U.S. responses to national security problems. That means that, while the Pentagon is beings asked to do less with less, the Intelligence Community is being asked to do way more with much less.” More here.
From Her Majesty’s government: Russian pilots weren’t the only ones causing trouble “across the pond” this week. A Latvian Antonov An-26 shook up British air traffic control when it detoured over London on Wednesday. An RAF pilot intercepted the plane in this very British way: “MLA1605 from the L9T47, I’m instructed by Her Majesty’s government of the UK to warn you if you do not respond you will be shot down.” The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti posted audio of the smooth RAF warning, here.
Jerusalem is on edge as Israel shut off access to a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews—the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount—a move one Palestinian spox called “a declaration of war.” Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner for NYT: “The rare closing came after an Israeli counterterrorism unit killed a Palestinian man suspected of trying the night before to assassinate a leading agitator for increased Jewish access to the site, a cause that has fueled clashes at the site. It also followed months of rising tension and violence across the deeply divided city of Jerusalem, where Israel recently added 1,000 police officers in an effort to ward off what some experts warn could become a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.” More here.
Russian special forces are reportedly training 1,200 Nigerian soldiers, police and members of the state security service. CFR’s Africa expert John Campbell flagged this one for us at Defense One: “Abuja has turned to Moscow following an ‘alleged snub or nonchalant attitude of the United States and the United Kingdom toward Nigeria in her fight against Boko Haram terrorists.’” Why, you ask? “Abuja has refused to acknowledge and investigate repeated and credible reports of security service human rights abuses and to prosecute alleged offenders. These abuses largely preclude the United States from providing military training or other assistance to Nigeria under U.S. law, specifically the Leahy amendment.”
Rosie the Riveter’s old factory gets a reprieve in Ypsilanti, Michigan. “The former plant is where Rose Will Monroe and others built B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II,” as the AP reports here.