What 450 new US troops will—and won’t—do for Iraq; Jeb searches for natsec cred in Europe; Insurgency spreading in Egypt?; And a bit more.
450 extra U.S. troops are headed to Iraq, despite “no change” to the mission. President Barack Obama yesterday bumped up the total authorized force in Iraq to 3,550, but that’s not expected to increase Iraqi capacity as soon as critics want, as the New York Times’ Michael Gordon writes. U.S. officials are hopeful, however, that they will speed up coalition airstrikes, as Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.
The insistence on keeping U.S. advisors “inside the wire”—on Iraqi training bases and away from front lines—underscores “Obama’s reluctance to plunge the military deeper into war and risk the sight of more body bags coming home from Iraq,” AP’s Jim Kuhnhenn and Lita Baldor write.
“It is a great first step, but it should be the first in a series of steps,” Michèle Flournoy, a senior Pentagon policy official during Obama’s first term, tells NYT’s Gordon, who adds that “…only a quarter of the 450 troops—some 110—will be directly involved in training and advising. The remainder will be security and support personnel.”
“As far as it goes, I support this effort,” said House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, adding that “disconnected from a broader coherent strategy, it is not likely to be any more successful than our previous efforts.” Said Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., “America possesses the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, but we can’t put the Middle East back together by ourselves,” the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Colleen McCain Nelson report.
It’s time everyone faced up to the fact that it’s going to be a long, long war, the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan write.
Everyone should also brace for the possibility that ISIS might win; that is, it “becomes a real state and demonstrates real staying power,” argues Stephen M. Walt at Foreign Policy.
Afghan troops have reportedly killed some 30 Taliban fighters in far northeastern Badakhshan province, but haven’t yet dislodged the roughly 270 thought to be holed up at the Yamgan district center, Stars and Stripes’ Slobodan Lekic reports from Kabul.
Who was Krissie Davis, the native of Talledega, Ala., killed Monday at Bagram Air Field? One of the civilians helping remove excess U.S. equipment from Afghanistan. Her death is a reminder of the danger to the Americans — 9,800 U.S. troops and their contractor support — still working in the now 14-year-old battle space, the Anniston Star’s Tim Lockette writes.
And this morning in the east, bombers attacked the offices of Afghan news agency, Pajwok, in Nangarhar province, wounding two, Reuters reports.
The Russian Navy is back, writes the NYT’s Andrew Higgins from Lithuania, taking stock of close encounters and presence missions in seas from the Baltic to the Black. Also worth pointing out that Russia grounded its Tu-95 Bear bomber fleet on Monday after one overshot a runway and its engine caught fire.
Two warships shadowed a Canadian frigate bearing Stephen Harper, reports the National Post, “giving the prime minister a front-row seat Wednesday to the naval chess game between the West and Russia.” (It’s all part of an increasingly contested maritime century, as the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman noted just a short while ago in Defense One.)
Back on land, Russian groups are crowdfunding separatists in Ukraine, the NYT’s Jo Becker and Steven Lee Myers report, while the Washington Post editorial board argues the U.S. should send aid to the Ukrainian military.
From Defense One
Jeb Bush’s Eurotrip—George W. Bush said he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and got “a sense of his soul.” John McCain quipped that he saw “a K and a G and a B.” But Jeb Bush doesn't need that close a look. In Germany, Poland and Estonia this week, the soon-to-be presidential candidate is talking tough on Russia, calling Putin a “a ruthless pragmatist who will push until someone pushes back.” But will it boost his national security credentials just days before he officially enters the race? Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole has the story.
Attachment disorder—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his intention to bundle the big cyber security bill into the pending defense authorization legislation, instantly infuriating Democrats who say the debate over new rules and standards for keeping networks safe has been so long and complex that rushing to pass it now does everyone a disservice. National Journal’s Dustin Volz reports, here.
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An Islamist insurgency could be spreading in Egypt. That after two attackers were killed—one after detonating his explosives vest, the other shot by security forces—and another injured outside a tourist destination in Luxor, 400 miles south of Cairo, WaPo’s Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib reported yesterday. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which wounded four civilians and prompted President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to raise security around antiquities and tourism sites across the country.
The hack into the Office of Personnel Management’s records may have swept up the data of Chinese associates of American diplomats, leaving them exposed to blackmail by Beijing officials, NYT’s David Sanger and Julie Hirschfeld Davis report. “Federal employees who handle national security information are required to list some or all of their foreign contacts, depending on the agency, to receive high-level clearances. Investigators say that the hackers obtained many of the lists, and they are trying to determine how many of those thousands of names were compromised.”
America’s “microphone diplomacy” with China is unwelcome, a Chinese embassy official in Washington said yesterday. He said such matters are better handled behind closed doors—like at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue taking place in Washington in less than two weeks, Reuters’ David Brunnstrom reported.
America’s fixation on long-range strike capability has a pretty dismal track record in deterring Washington’s enemies, retired Marine Col. T.X. Hammes argues in War on the Rocks. Hammes starts his review with naval shelling of Shia targets in Lebanon in late 1982 and carries on through to the current air campaign against ISIS. “We are deep into a revolution of small, smart, and many (3-D printing, drones, e.g.). Is continued investment in the few and exquisite (F-35s, Long-Range Strike bombers) a good procurement strategy?”
Senate Democrats want to attach a provision to the defense funding bill that eliminates all U.S. ground troops in Iraq—except those assigned for “rescue operations, intelligence gathering and planning,” The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports. The amendment comes from Connecticut’s Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal; New Mexico’s Tom Udall; and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
“There is nothing about the last ten years of American occupation in Iraq that tells us that U.S. troops inside Iraq can have the effect of killing more terrorists that are created,” Murphy said.
That new war powers debate on the counter-ISIS fight is (predictably) floundering on Capitol Hill, Carney reports again.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., just brought Vietnam into the ISIS debate, Pete Kasperowicz writes for the Washington Examiner. The additional 450 troops, the former prisoner of war said on the Senate floor, “is so reminiscent of another war, another time many years ago, where under then-Secretary of Defense McNamara, this same kind of strategy prevailed… This is incrementalism at its best or worse, depending on how you describe it.”
And former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is none too pleased with the way the Times of London portrayed a recent interview with him that drew attention to the violent business of establishing a democracy in Iraq. “I have a healthy respect for what we’re not capable of doing, and that’s nation-building,” Rumsfeld told WaPo’s Dan Zak yesterday in an effort to set the record straight.
The Pentagon may have just cleared the path for a dramatic transformation in military retirement, Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman reports. “The Pentagon is officially backing a ‘blended’ system that would shrink the size of the current pension by about 20 percent yet supplement that benefit by offering government contributions to individual retirement investment accounts” while offering “a modest retirement benefit for the vast majority of service members who leave the military before reaching 20 years of service to qualify.”
And a plan in the Senate’s defense bill contains a highly contentious provision to curb housing payments for those often without much voice in these debates—junior enlisted and women, Air Force officer Marcus Cunningham writes over at Task and Purpose.
A Green Beret goes before Congress today. “Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, a decorated Special Forces soldier, says the Army investigated him for reporting to Congress. Now he has been called to testify at a Senate hearing on Thursday about whistleblowers and retaliation against them,” Army Times’ Kyle Jahner writes in this preview of today’s Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing.
The U.S. Navy wants to delay damage assessment tests to America’s costliest warship, the lead ship of the Ford class of aircraft carriers, until roughly six years after its planned deployment. Stephen Welby, the Pentagon’s head of systems engineering, couldn’t disagree more with plans for “full-ship shock tests” conducted with underwater charges. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio has the story.
From Langley to Los Angeles, and doing quite well for himself. With two books down and one million-dollar movie deal in his pocket, former CIA operative Jason Matthews is the latest in “a long line of former spies who turned to fiction but the first to have spent a full career at the CIA, rising to management, and then emerge to write with such commercial and critical success,” AP’s Ken Dilanian writes of Matthews’ second and newest book set in modern day Russia entitled, “Palace of Treason,” which hit bookshelves last week.
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