Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
October 6, 2015

Right and Wrong Ways to “Train-and-Equip” Foreign Forces

Rosa Brooks: “The United States has spent untold billions training, equipping, and advising fighters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, only to see the beneficiaries of that investment run for the hills at the earliest opportunity… If I had to pinpoint the single most important reason recent U.S. train-and-equip efforts have failed, I’d say it’s this: We consistently fail to understand that other people want to pursue what they see as their interests and objectives, not ours.”

“We go into complex foreign conflicts with a profound ignorance of history, language, and culture; as a result, we rarely understand the loyalties, commitments, and constraints of those we train. Sure, we undertake ‘vetting,’ but it’s remarkably shallow: If there’s no evidence of actual collaboration or affiliation with groups we don’t like, and no evidence of participation in egregious human rights abuses, a trainee or military unit is good to go. People fight and die for what they care about. When fighting for U.S. interests is convenient or lucrative — and not too dangerous — they’ll fight for what we care about, too. But when push comes to shove, there’s no particular reason for an Iraqi Sunni to keep fighting the Islamic State when cutting a deal offers a greater likelihood of his family’s long-term survival.”

“If we take this seriously, it gives us a framework for understanding the limited circumstances in which training, equipping, and advising local forces will be worthwhile. If we have to recruit a partner force more or less from scratch, for instance, this should tell us that the odds of success are low; if local people haven’t mobilized on their own, it suggests that they don’t consider it a priority. If we insist that partner forces break up tribal or religious affinity groups in a culture in which such groups define an individual’s identity, we may also have low odds of success; when you rip people out of the groups they care about, their loyalty to the new group you have artificially created may be minimal. Similarly, if a local militia has long sustained itself through corruption, don’t imagine that we can simultaneously get it to fight on our side while trying to dismantle the corrupt networks on which it relies.”

Pentagon Resumes Survey of Colorado Facilities for Potential Guantanamo Replacement

“A Pentagon team tasked with finding potential alternatives inside the United States for Guantánamo captives is resuming its site survey in Colorado,” Miami Herald reports.

“The White House notified state and congressional politicians that a team would inspect a now empty state facility, Colorado State Penitentiary II, as well as a federal prison 10 miles away adjacent to the Florence ‘supermax’ prison…now holding 405 inmates, many of them convicted terrorists. They include former Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani, 41, convicted of the East Africa embassies bombings; Ramzi Yousef, 47, the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, serving life for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; ‘Unibomber’ Ted Kaczynski, 73, and FBI agent turned spy Robert Hanssen, 71.”

“The state facility under consideration is an empty 948-cell solitary confinement prison at Cañon City, about 10 miles northwest of Florence. It is also known as Centennial South, and has been vacant since 2012. The state closed it as unneeded surplus maximum-security cell space after a drop in the state crime rate… At this point, the effort is highly theoretical: U.S. law blocks the Pentagon from bringing Guantánamo’s captives to the United States for any reason — neither for trial nor for medical care — and the latest draft of the National Defense Authorization Act keeps that embargo, and adds additional restrictions on overseas releases. The House adopted it this week. The Senate is expected to take it up Tuesday.”

CIA Undergoes Major Reorganization

“The CIA unveiled a radically altered org chart on Thursday,” according to The Washington Post, “formally unveiling the first new directorate in 50 years, completing a sweeping realignment of its ranks of spies and analysts, and unleashing an avalanche of new acronyms.”

“Perhaps the most ambitious addition is the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is responsible for helping the CIA adapt to evolving technologies and is the first new directorate at the agency since 1963. The unit is led by a career analyst, Andrew Hallman, who previously served as a briefer to President George W. Bush… The CIA also identified 10 new ‘mission centers,’ which will combine analysts and operators in hybrid units focused on specific parts of the world or security threats. Most track longstanding CIA alignments, with centers devoted to weapons proliferation, for example, and the Near East. The centers are largely modeled on what for years had been known as the CTC, the counter-terrorism unit that mushroomed in size after the Sept. 11 attacks and became a paramilitary entity with its own fleet of armed drones.”

“The proliferation of such clunky acronyms, and the agency’s expenditures on management consultants during the reorganization, have drawn fire from CIA veterans otherwise supportive of the changes. One bridled at the jargon employed in Thursday’s announcement, with references to the agency’s ‘Modernization journey’ and ‘cycles of digital innovation.'”

Engineering the Next Leap in Space Exploration

Since first setting foot on the moon, the United States and countries around the globe have endeavored to explore and understand “the final frontier.” We’ve raced, studied, failed and tried again — achieving great things in that time frame. Now, NASA is looking forward to what’s next.

The International Space Station (ISS) was first occupied in 2000, and it continues to host to astronauts to this day. According to NASA, more than 200 people from 15 countries have visited the facility, spending countless hours researching and gathering data for the benefit of people on Earth.

Recently, NASA awarded a five-year $1.18 billion contract to extend engineering support of the ISS through 2020. The agreement allows the Boeing team, who has more than 50 years of experience in space, to maintain the station at peak performance levels and assess the viability of ISS structures into 2028.

So what really is next for the ISS?

Research on ISS has led to numerous improvements on Earth – from the medical field, to Earth observations, to providing clean water in underdeveloped countries, to how we diagnose and treat patients in remote areas. ISS also is enabling deep space human exploration by validating key technologies and understanding the long-term effects of space on the human body.

Finally, ISS is helping companies like Boeing shape development of spacecraft like the (CST)-100 Starliner that will take a mix of crew and cargo to low-earth orbit destinations, and the Space Launch System (SLS) – the most powerful rocket ever built – that will propel America’s exploration of deep space.

So let’s take that next leap in exploration together, knowing that the ISS will be ready and waiting the next 200 people who will make history.

For more on the ISS, check out this video.

Understanding the Putin Doctrine

Steven Lee Myers offers insight into the motivations behind Russia President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria.

“On the night of Dec. 5, 1989, Vladimir V. Putin, then a lieutenant colonel in the K.G.B., watched with alarm as thousands of East Germans in Dresden swarmed the riverside compound of the dreaded secret police, the Stasi… East Germany soon ceased to exist, as did the Soviet Union following the abortive putsch in August 1991, suffering from an affliction that Mr. Putin described as ‘a paralysis of power.’… That diagnosis has been a driving force in his consolidation of political power, and it does much to explain Russia’s forceful intervention last week to bolster the besieged government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.”

“The specter of mass protest — of mob rule — is one that has haunted Mr. Putin throughout his political life, and that fear lies at the heart of his belief in the primacy of state authority above all else, both at home and abroad… The collapse of the Soviet Union and the chaos that followed darkened Mr. Putin’s opinion of freewheeling democracy — and of the character of his own constituents… What is striking, though perhaps consistent, is how Mr. Putin’s view of public protest has become the basis for an increasingly assertive foreign policy, one aimed at countering what he views as efforts by the United States and others to violate the sovereignty of nations by encouraging political change.”

“The civil war in Syria, in that view, is merely the latest in a series of messy conflicts that arise from the toppling or weakening of central authority through American aggression… Many have variously interpreted Mr. Putin’s intervention in Syria as a response to domestic pressures caused by an economy faltering with the drop in oil prices and sanctions imposed after Crimea; a desire to change the subject from Ukraine; or a reassertion of Russia’s position in the Middle East. All are perhaps factors, but at the heart of the airstrikes is Mr. Putin’s defense of the principle that the state is all powerful and should be defended against the hordes, especially those encouraged from abroad. It is a warning about Russia, as much as Syria.”

Pentagon Voices Worries Over Defense Industry Mergers

Defense One looks at Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall’s concerns that mergers between major defense companies will reduce market competition.

“The Pentagon’s top arms buyer worries that Lockheed Martin’s upcoming $9 billion acquisition of Blackhawk helicopter maker Sikorsky is part of a bad trend in which large defense firms get bigger and competition wanes… Pentagon leaders have been expecting an uptick in industry mergers for several years. In 2011, Ash Carter — then the acquisition chief, now defense secretary — warned that the Pentagon would not support mergers among the biggest companies.”

“Kendall called the Lockheed-Sikorsky deal the most significant change to the defense industry since the general consolidation that followed the Cold War… Despite their concerns, the Defense Department leaders did not ask the Justice Department, which reviews such deals for antitrust concerns, to block the acquisition. The world’s largest defense company by revenue, Lockheed is the lead contractor on the $400-billion-plus F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. But it does not build helicopters, which are Sikorsky’s specialty, and so the Justice Department approved the deal last week.”

Russian Airstrikes Target CIA-Backed Syrian Revels

“Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn’t targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

“One of the airstrikes hit an area primarily held by rebels backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services, U.S. officials said, catapulting the Syrian crisis to a new level of danger and uncertainty. Moscow’s entry means the world’s most powerful militaries—including the U.S., Britain and France—now are flying uncoordinated combat missions, heightening the risk of conflict in the skies over Syria.”

“U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia’s approach to the Syrian war—defending Mr. Assad while ostensibly targeting extremists—was tantamount to ‘pouring gasoline on the fire.’… American officials were taken aback by Russia’s decision to announce the strikes by sending a three-star Russian general to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday. The general gave U.S. officials an hour’s notice before he arrived, delivered the message that Russia was going to start bombing, said American aircraft should get out of Syrian airspace and left.”

KC-46 Tanker Program Achieves Aviation History on Historic Air Force Day

The U.S. Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus tanker completed its historic first flight on Sept. 25. That paves the way for additional testing, including aerial refueling, and to Boeing providing the Air Force with the first of the next-generation aircraft in 2016.

During the four-hour flight in the skies above Washington state, Boeing test pilots checked the engines, flight controls and environmental systems. During future flights the test team will deploy the aircraft’s refueling boom and wing aerial refueling pods before actually providing fuel in flight to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

The KC-46A, derived from Boeing’s 767 commercial airplane, is a multi-role tanker that will refuel U.S. and allied and coalition military aircraft along with being able to carry passengers, cargo and patients.

Boeing is building four test aircraft – two 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The 767-2Cs enter flight test as commercial freighters prior to receiving aerial refueling systems, while the KC-46As are fully-equipped tankers. The different configurations are used to meet FAA and military certification requirements. The program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C, has completed more than 170 flight hours since its inaugural flight in December.

The KC-46A’s first flight coincided with another historic Air Force event. On Sept. 25, 1947, President Harry Truman appointed Gen. Carl Spaatz chief of staff of the new United States Air Force. Coincidentally, when he was a major in 1929, Spaatz commanded the historic aerial refueling demonstration, code name “Question Mark”, involving a Fokker C-2 and two Douglas C-1 aircraft.

Check out this video of the U.S. Air Force’s new tanker on its first flight:

American Ground Forces Assist Afghans in Battle for Kunduz

“American Special Operations troops and on-the-ground military advisers from the NATO coalition joined Afghan forces trying to retake the northern city of Kunduz from Taliban militants Wednesday,” according to The Washington Post.

“Personnel from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan were on a mission near the Kunduz airport, where hundreds of Afghan troops had gathered after retreating from the city, when they were engaged by insurgents and called in an airstrike… The increased support from the coalition comes amid growing signs that Afghan forces are struggling to repel the Taliban fighters, who were able to seize Kunduz in a lightning strike Monday, dealing a major blow to Afghanistan’s Western-backed government.”

“An Afghan official from Kunduz confirmed that coalition advisers are engaged in the effort to drive the Taliban from the city… The rules of engagement for U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan allow them to fight if they are threatened by insurgents.”

Putin Takes Advantage of Obama’s Efforts to Contain the Middle East

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon & Molly O’Toole: “President Obama used the pulpit of the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Russian military meddling in Syria and implore world leaders to back his own strategy: contain the conflict militarily while seeking a political exit for Bashar al Assad. And at all costs, avoid U.S. ‘boots on the ground’ in yet another Middle Eastern conflict. But Moscow’s buildup of troops and assets in Syria in avowed support for Assad underlines the limits of this approach.”

“With each of Russia’s moves in Syria and now Iraq, both NATO and the Obama administration have said they were caught off guard — but critics say there’s little surprise that an all-in Putin would step beyond Obama’s red line in the ISIS fight. Putin answered Obama in his own United Nations address, questioning U.S. resolve and outlining his own version of the situation, which he said requires military action against ISIS — and to support Assad… As Russia moves its military assets into Syria, it is also helping to determine the next phase of the bloody conflict — and to show that Moscow, not Washington, is now shaping the region.”

Drone Strikes Take Toll on Militant Leadership

“A dedicated manhunt by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command has been methodically finding and killing senior militants in Syria and Iraq, in one of the few clear success stories of the U.S. military campaign in those countries,” according to AP.

“The drone strikes — separate from the conventional bombing campaign run by U.S. Central Command — have significantly diminished the threat from the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria that had planned attacks on American aviation, U.S. officials say. The group’s leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, and its top bomb-maker, David Drugeon, were killed this past summer.”

“In an effort that ramped up over the last year, intelligence analysts and special operators have harnessed an array of satellites, sensors, drones and other technology to track and kill elusive militants across a vast, rugged area of Syria and Iraq, overcoming the lack of a significant U.S. ground presence and the awareness by U.S. targets that they can be found through their use of electronic devices. The strikes won’t defeat the Islamic State, but they are keeping its leadership off balance.”

“But unlike in Pakistan and Yemen, JSOC, not the CIA, has been pulling the trigger in Syria and Iraq, officials say. JSOC’s armed drones operate separately from, but in concert with, a conventional bombing campaign run by U.S. Central Command, which has overall responsibility for the war… Even in a post-Edward Snowden era in which U.S. electronic spying is widely understood, al-Qaida and Islamic State operatives in Syria can’t avoid using electronics to communicate.”

KC-767 Tanker Certified to Refuel a U.S. Air Force Jet

In a major milestone for the U.S. Air Force and the Italian Air Force, Italy’s Boeing-built KC-767 air refueling tanker is now certified to refuel a U.S. fighter jet. It’s a first for any international Air Force, and its successful completion is a key strategic step for both nations as they strengthen interoperability capabilities.

Boeing provides Performance-Based Logistics support for Italy’s tanker fleet, delivering the full spectrum of maintenance, repair, and overhaul services, field support operations, and other support services.

Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look as operators maneuver the KC-767 boom for a successful refueling:

U.S. Launches Airstrike in Afghan Effort to Retake Kunduz From Taliban

The Washington Post looks at U.S. participation in the Afghanistan government’s efforts to reclaim the city of Kunduz from the Taliban.

“The showdowns took shape before dawn — less than 24 hours after Taliban militiamen stormed into Kunduz — as Afghan reinforcements poured into the area after a U.S. airstrike helped clear the way. The fight to reclaim Kunduz — Afghanistan’s sixth-largest city and a strategic gateway to Central Asia — serves as one of the Afghan military’s biggest tests in the 14-year-long war against the Taliban insurgency and raised questions about the withdrawal timetable for U.S. and other coalition troops.”

“A spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan said the U.S. air attack sought to ‘eliminate a threat to the force.’ Coalition officials did not specify the target or whether the airstrikes will be followed up by others… The U.S. military still has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, but it was unclear whether any American personnel were stationed near Kunduz, about 150 miles north of Kabul.”

U.S., China Reach “Understanding” on Economic Cyber Espionage

“President Barack Obama announced on Friday that he had reached a ‘common understanding’ with Chinese President Xi Jinping on curbing economic cyber espionage, but threatened to impose U.S. sanctions on Chinese hackers who persist with cyber crimes,” according to Reuters.

“The two leaders said they agreed that neither government would knowingly support cyber theft of corporate secrets or business information. But the agreement stopped short of any promise to refrain from traditional government-to-government cyber spying for intelligence purposes. That could include the massive hack of the federal government’s personnel office this year that compromised the data of more than 20 million people.”

“Xi reiterated China’s denial of any government role in the hacking of U.S. corporate secrets and said the best way to address the problem was through bilateral cooperation and not to ‘politicize this issue.’ ‘Confrontation and friction are not the right choice for both sides,’ he said. China has routinely insisted that it too is a victim of cyber hacking.”

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