Shortly after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced he would be stepping down, it appears that two top contenders to serve as his replacement have taken themselves out of the running. In a letter to the board of directors of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy and the current CEO of CNAS, announced she was not interested in leading the Pentagon. The Washington Post reports that the needs of her family prevent Flournoy from taking the post.
The Los Angeles Times informs us that Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has also preemptively removed himself from consideration. That apparently leaves only former deputy secretary of defense Ashton Carter among the top contenders for the position.
Foreign Policy notes that although Carter is “respected for his intellect and management skills,” he has a tendency to be “acerbic and condescending.” Two former administration officials believe Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Army Secretary John McHugh, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus are also contenders for the position of Secretary of Defense.
Whoever is ultimately nominated will face a difficult confirmation, according to Military Times. The Senate’s new Republican majority will likely take the opportunity “to pick apart the White House’s foreign policy and defense spending plans.”
McClatchy reports that Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, is close to falling to the Islamic State. According to local Iraqi security officials and tribesmen, “a lack of continuous air support and reinforcements has made it impossible to hold that territory.” The fall of Ramadi would be the most significant victory in months for the terrorist militant group.
According to the Daily Beast, efforts to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State forces likely will not begin until March or April. Congress approved a “train-and-equip mission” in September. Since then, U.S. officials have been working to vet rebel groups.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government regime yesterday launched at least eight airstrikes on the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, an Islamic State stronghold. The Wall Street Journal informs us that the areas hit were “largely residential or commercial.”
Reuters explains why Russia’s most recent efforts to renew Syrian peace talks are unlikely to prove successful.
Although nuclear talks with Iran have been extended through June, the Guardian reports that negotiators are looking to reach some kind of agreement by January 6, when a new Republican-controlled Congress takes office in the U.S. “After that date, the Democratic leadership will no longer be able to stop a new Iran sanctions bill from going to a vote.”
Still, even with more time, the Associated Press notes that major problems remain. Iran appears to be digging in its heels, refusing to budge on enrichment demands.
Reuters informs us that the U.S. is planning to leave more troops in Afghanistan than originally intended. An additional 1,000 American soldiers may be stationed in Afghanistan “to fill a gap left in the NATO mission by other contributing nations.”
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has initiated a full-scale review of his country’s military forces. The AP has details.
Ukrainian officials are again accusing Moscow of dispatching equipment to pro-Russian separatists. According to Reuters, “five columns of heavy equipment were seen crossing onto Ukrainian territory on Monday.”
Still, the Pentagon has not changed its mind about sending military assistance to Ukrainian forces. During a briefing yesterday, defense spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby stated, “We continue to evaluate all Ukrainian requests for military aid and assistance but right now the focus remains on nonlethal.” The Hill has more.
Meanwhile, France has delayed transfer of two Mistral-class warships to Russia, citing the current controversy in Ukraine. The LA Times shares details.
Officials have corrected reports regarding Tuesday’s U.S.-led raid in Yemen. Originally, sources stated that troops had freed seven Yemeni citizens and one American, all of whom were being held hostage by al-Qaeda affiliates. The New York Times notes that it was actually six Yemeni nationals, a Saudi, and an Ethiopian who were rescued.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking to develop a “portable ‘Care Cube’” so that health officials can help Ebola patients without having to wear bulky suits. USA Today has details.
Real Clear Defense explains why future conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region will be land-centric, as opposed to air- or sea-based.
Yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan ruled that Irfan Kahn, a Pakistani-American man suing the U.S. government for malicious prosecution, has the right to review “up to 700 previously unreleased calls in which he was a participant.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) claimed that turning over such information would jeopardize national security. However, Kahn intends to use the calls to demonstrate that the FBI knew he was innocent before charging him with conspiracy to provide financial support to the Pakistani Taliban. The AP reports the story.
The FBI has charged two Somali Americans with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State militant group. In May, officials intercepted Abdullah Yusuf before he flew from Minnesota to Turkey. According to the National Journal, Yusuf was arrested yesterday. His partner Abdi Nur, however, is believed to have successfully reached Syria.
And from the Lawfare family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving!
ICYMI: Yesterday, On Lawfare
Phil Walter argued that Congress should require more strategic planning on the part of the President before U.S. troops are deployed to hostile situations.
Rachel Brand explained why it is impossible for the National Security Agency (NSA) to apply the Fair Information Protection Principles (FIPP).
Matthew Waxman examines the import of China’s Air Defense Identification Zone one year since its declaration.
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