Jordan considers airstrikes; Hawks swoon for Carter; Arming Ukraine; Carter’s tie collection; The Navy’s new fire-fighting robot; The Fat Leonard sings; And a bit more.
The murder of the Jordanian pilot brings rage and talk of revenge, as Jordan considers expanding airstrikes into Iraq. Jordan would be the first Arab country to conduct strikes in Iraq and the move would be seen as a significant turn as the Arab world galvanizes against ISIL.
Jordanian jets let loose yesterday, killing 55 ISIS members, including a senior commander known as the “Prince of Ninevah,” al-Arabiya reports, here.
The WaPo’s William Booth and Taylor Luck: “Jordan’s King Abdullah II vowed Wednesday that his military forces would hit Islamic State militants with ‘relentless’ strikes upon ‘their own homes,’ an escalation that could place Jordan in the middle of the Syrian civil war. The king huddled with his security cabinet and top generals Wednesday just hours after Jordan hanged two convicted terrorists in retaliation against the Islamic State, which posted a video Tuesday of its fighters burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot in a cage.” More here.
The WSJ’s Julian Barnes and Felicia Schwartz: “The Royal Jordanian Air Force in recent days has begun rehearsals for a large-scale attack on Islamic State forces. But the initial wave of reprisal strikes, which will include Jordanian and U.S. warplanes, is being focused on targets in Syria, coalition officials said. Any strikes in Iraq would come later.” More here.
Ash Carter pledged to cut through red tape to get assistance to Jordan, Reuters, on the SecDef nominee’s promise, here
Is Jordanian outrage against ISIS over the barbaric murder of First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh the sort of Arab Spring the Pentagon has been waiting for? Defense One’s Kevin Baron: “Jordanian officials announced Wednesday increased air strikes against ISIS are on the way… The bloodthirsty statements from Jordanian leaders came with remarkably strong backing by Muslim religious authorities across the region… Indeed, Jordan is home to one of the world’s premier counterterrorism proving grounds, the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center. Opened in 2009, a wave of top U.S. brass toured the impressive center, which was built exactly for this purpose.” Read the rest here.
A good primer on Jordan and the decisions it faces from Jane Arraf writing for Time, here.
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Ash Carter received a friendly grilling from senators during his confirmation hearing to be the next Pentagon chief Wednesday, one of whom mistakenly referred to the nominee prematurely as “Secretary Carter.” As expected, the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing became an indictment of Obama administration policies by mostly Republican critics who think the White House’s national security strategy is at best misguided or at worst, nonexistent.
“This hearing really isn’t about Ash Carter,” Sen. Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina declared before launching into an attack on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, listing Ukraine, ISIS, al-Qaeda and China as examples.
Carter on arming Ukraine: “I very much incline in that direction.
Carter on Afghanistan drawdown: “I understand we have a plan, the president has a plan, I support that plan. At the same time, it’s a plan. And if I’m confirmed, and I ascertain as the years go by that we need to change that plan, I will recommend those changes to the president.”
Carter on fighting ISIS and regime change in Syria: “The forces that we are supporting there have first and foremost the job of defeating ISIL… But I believe they also need to be creating the conditions for the removal of Assad.”
Carter on dealing with White House micromanagers:
“I intend to be what I’ve always been in all the decades I’ve worked in the Department of Defense, which is I’ll be entirely straight and up front with the president and — and make my advice as cogent and as useful to him in making his decisions as I possibly can,”
Read the rest of Lubold’s story on Defense One here.
Is Carter fashion-forward? Read below for Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber’s thoughts and advice.
The WaPo’s Dana Milbank’s treatment of the Ash Carter hearing yesterday, about how hawks are swooning: “…With such joyful sounds of young love in the air, it seems churlish to point out the obvious: This relationship will almost surely end in tears, like those before it. Bob Gates. Leon Panetta. Chuck Hagel. Each time, lawmakers hoped that the defense secretary would be a forceful voice for the military’s interests within the administration. And each man wound up getting rolled by whippersnappers at the White House who took a more docile view of American power but were closer to Obama.” More here.
Senate Republicans were expected to assail Carter at his hearing yesterday to force a clarification of the president’s national security strategy. But our own Molly O’Toole explains, for the most part they simply lobbed softballs at the presumptive SecDef's way, with many saving their sharpest words for reporters afterward. That, here.
In the wake of Carter’s interest in arming Ukraine, here’s a cool thing if you’re interested in Ukraine – a “vehicle tracking project.” Click here for this homemade-looking project by Bellingcat that helps to track movements of Russian military equipment, based on a collection of sightings from social media that has been poured into a big database.
The White House is about to ask for new war powers that may include language on ground troops. The Hill’s Kristina Wong and Scott Wong: “…The request, expected within the next week, would come days after ISIS released a video showing a caged Jordanian pilot being burned alive — a further display of the group’s brutality that one Republican lawmaker described Wednesday as a ‘game-changer.’”
“Obama has repeatedly said he will not send combat troops to Iraq to fight ISIS, even as he has increased the number of U.S. military advisers in the country. But the White House also does not want the military’s hands tied in Iraq, and is likely to oppose any language ruling out the use of ground troops. Democrats say any AUMF should contain a time limit for the authorization and also ban the use of U.S. ground troops in combat in Iraq and Syria.” More here.
President Obama needs to provide lethal military assistance to Ukraine immediately, says Rep. Mike Turner, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Chairman, writing in Defense One, here.
The ISW turns its eye to Ukraine. The folks at the Institute for the Study of War cut their teeth on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars before devoting resources to the Syrian conflict, and now Ukraine/Russia. Analyst Hugo Spaulding kickstarts the project with a 10-page backgrounder—including the separatists’ anticipated limits of advance through Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts—which you can start reading, here.
NATO’s 28 defense ministers are meeting in Brussels today where they’re expected to agree on upgrading their rapid reaction force and a plan to forward-deploy small units across the Baltics. AP’s John-Thor Dahlburg, here.
Released just last week, NATO’s Annual Report on threats from Russia, Syria, Afghanistan and beyond can be found over here.
Russia’s next annexation may be well under way. Putin just ratified a treaty with Georgian separatists in Abkhazia, and a South Ossetia leader says he’s got pen in hand ready to sign a similar doc, should Russia send one his way. RFEFL, here.
Check out the Navy’s new experimental fire-fighting robot—roughly 10 years before it’s slated to become standard equipment on board Navy ships. Defense One tech editor Patrick Tucker has the details—and videos to illustrate—over here.
Who’s doing what today? State Secretary Kerry is off to Kiev while VP Biden is in Brussels. The prospect of a U.S.-armed Ukrainian army is expected to highlight both visits … U.S. and Chinese officials have scheduled Defense Policy Coordination talks today at the Pentagon … SASC talks the future of Gitmo and U.S. detainee policy at 9:30 a.m. with Principal Deputy Under Secretary Of Defense For Policy, Brian McKeon; Nicholas Rasmussen, Director of the ODNI’s National Counterterrorism Center; and the Joint Staff’s Vice Deputy Director For Nuclear, Homeland Defense and Current Operations, RADM Ross Myers… and SASC’s McCain & Co. have an 11:30 a.m. presser scheduled “to urge the Obama Administration to provide defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine.
Will 2015 be a year of no Pentagon wish list for lawmakers? The on-again, off-again practice of informally requesting items not included in the Pentagon’s official budget proposal to lawmakers is not looking terribly likely this year, our own Marcus Weisgerber and Molly O’Toole report: “In the past, the military brass from services compiles the lists, at the request of lawmakers. It’s seen as a way for service chiefs to go around the administration’s budget request and ask Congress to fund or put back items they want... Michael Amato, spokesman for Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking Democrat on the House panel, said unfunded lists have not been discussed but the committee would probably not request them from the services.” More here.
NBC News’ Brian Williams apologized yesterday for inaccurately claiming to have been inside a Chinook in 2003 that was brought down by RPG fire in Iraq. Troops actually on board the aircraft called shenanigans on the tale, as Stars and Stripes’ Travis J. Tritten reports: “Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years... [In truth] Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.” More here.
From troops to wonks—kind of. Troops planning to head to college after service can take an “academic boot camp” to help ease the often very stark transition. Paul Fain for Inside Higher Ed: “Several start-ups are stepping in to help the large numbers of veterans attempt to adjust to campus life. One, a nonprofit dubbed the Warrior-Scholar Project, is an academic boot camp aimed at veterans who plan on attending or transferring to a 4-year college… The project began at Yale in 2012, [David Howell, the group’s director of studies] said, with 9 participants. Since then the boot camps have spread, first to Harvard University and then to the University of Michigan. This year more than 150 students will attend sessions at 11 institutions, including both public and private universities.” More here.
Will anyone pay for Abu Ghraib, the NYTs editors ask this morning: “… more than a decade after the fact, only a few low-level military personnel have been held criminally accountable for the abuse and torture that went on there. Meanwhile, the private companies that contracted with the United States military to help ‘interrogate’ detainees are still trying to avoid any accounting at all by civilian courts.” Read that bit here.
Charlie Sifford, an Army vet who became a golfer and broke the color barrier in a very white sport, dies at 92, in the NYT, here.
The Fat Leonard sings in the Navy’s corruption case: The WaPo’s Craig Whitlock and Matt Zapotosky: “The Navy’s sex-for-secrets corruption scandal may be about to get worse: Investigators’ prize catch has started to squawk. Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian defense contractor who made a fortune by supplying Navy ships throughout Asia, has begun cooperating with federal investigators and pointing the finger at new suspects, court records indicate.” Read the rest here.
Iraq’s Kurds say they’re ready for an influx of foreign ground troops, despite Prime Minister al-Abadi’s insistence Iraqi troops alone will shoulder the burden of the ISIS war. AP’s Bram Janssen, here.
Meantime, a former U.S. Army soldier from Wisconsin joined the Kurdish fight against ISIS. AP’s Vivian Salama and Bram Janssen from Sinjar: “I decided that if my government wasn't going to do anything to help this country, especially Kurdish people who stood by us for 10 years and helped us out while we were in this country, then I was going to do something,” Matson said. More here.
Check out this piece of ISIS machinery—by all appearances, modeled crudely on the Star Wars Sandcrawler—that was wiped off Iraq’s battlefield recently, here.
Return of the Taliban in Kunar? The Taliban are reportedly resurgent in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where judges are handing down death sentences for helping coalition forces. Bilal Sarwary for Al-Jazeera, here.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had his army’s operations chief executed last month over a difference of opinion, a South Korean official says. Bloomberg’s Sam Kim, here.
From threat to tantrum: North Korea’s defense ministry said America’s “time of the nightmare” is near before taking time to boast about Pyonyang’s offensive cyber and nuclear capabilities. That via ABC News’ Molly Hunter, here.
What’s not part of a deal to restore relations with Cuba: Handing over Gitmo. McClatchy’s William Douglas, here.
A Distinguished Service Cross revoked. A Fort Bragg Green Beret major had the second-highest award for battlefield bravery reversed after an investigation found he’d violated the rules of engagement when he killed a known bomb maker in Afghanistan. WaPo’s Dan Lamothe with more on the unusual story of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, here.
ICYMI on Tuesday: Rep. Duncan Hunter says soldiers today have a point when they say they don’t trust their generals. Hunter, writing in The Daily Beast, runs down the stories of Golsteyn, Clint Lorance and Will Swenson, here.
Roll call: Mac Thornberry posted vice chairs for 6 HASC subcommittees yesterday. The newly added include:
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) – Seapower and Projection Forces
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) – Readiness
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) – Strategic Forces
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) – Intel, Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) – Military Personnel
Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) – Tactical Air and Land Forces
Not to diminish this in any way—but ever heard the heart-stopping statistic 22 veterans commit suicide every day? It’s missing a good deal of context and updating, and WaPo’s Michele Ye He Le provides both, here.
10 perspectives on the new budget, in one place: The Center for Strategic Studies published a collection of 10 different perspectives on the Pentagon’s new budget, including an outlook for U.S. ground forces and what to expect on the Defense Department’s OCO side in the months ahead. Catch all that, here.
Meantime, is Carter fashion-forward? Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, our serious-minded global business writer, has nonetheless scrutinized the sometimes peculiar, colorful but always bold wardrobe choices of Chuck Hagel, today reports on the sartorial behavior of the next SecDef: “After just about two years of chronicling SecDef Hagel’s socks and other flashy wardrobe items, some have expressed concern that the Pentagon style beat might get a little dull over the next few years. Carter reminded us at his Senate confirmation hearing that that would not be the case. After all, Carter has quite the bright tie collection.
At Wednesday’s hearing, he sported a bright burnt orange and gold tie (possibly Vineyard Vines?) with what looks to be some sort of patterned symbol or logo. (Hat tip to anyone who can tell us what it is.) That pic here. The tie appears to be the same one Carter wore to the White House on Dec. 5 when President Obama announced his nomination in the Roosevelt Room. (Good eye, Marcus.)
Some advice from Weisgerber: Since ties will be Carter’s flair, he must have the proper clip. Carter is a classic kind of guy. He prefers the four-in-hand knot, which Brooks Brothers calls one of “the five tie knots every man should know.” He also tends to sport a long, pinch-clasp tie bar, positioned on the lower half of the tie. Carter is an animated guy who talks with his hands, meaning the low-positioned tie clip moves around a lot, oftentimes leaving it crooked. As a confirmation present to himself, Carter should pick up a smaller, pinch-clasp tie clip. Maybe something from The Tie Bar? Positioned a little higher up the neck of the tie, it would certainly up his style game, and what SecDef wouldn’t want to do that?
Meantime, if things get boring at the Pentagon, Carter and his wife Stephanie could travel all around the country. On Wednesday he was invited by senators to Maine, Alaska and New Hampshire - twice.