By Charles Hoskinson
THE NOW-VIRAL CRITIQUE OF AFGHAN POLICY by Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis is about to cause headaches for the administration in Congress, with a group of lawmakers using it as ammunition to push for an accelerated withdrawal.
REP. WALTER JONES OF NORTH CAROLINA, a senior GOP HASC member, and two Democrats – Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and John Garamendi of California – plan to highlight Davis' account Wednesday in floor speeches calling for an end to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Jones tells us. “We've got no more business being over there than I do walking on Newt Gingrich's moon.”
JONES, WHOSE OPPOSITION to the Iraq war put him out of step with his fellow Republicans, also said he'd try to get HASC to hold hearings on Davis' report, “but I know that the odds of that happening are very slim.”
DAVIS' CRITIQUE – made public Monday in Armed Forces Journal – is problematic because it's a direct assault from the inside on one of the pillars of the administration's Afghan strategy: a reliance on the ability of the Afghan government and its security forces to hold off the Taliban once NATO forces leave in 2014. The evidence he offers bolsters those who argue that two years just isn't enough time to build a stable regime capable of fending off an insurgency which appears to have significant internal support as well as the backing of Pakistan's powerful security establishment. As Jones put it: “It won't happen.”
EXPECT PUSHBACK FROM ISAF when Scaparrotti fields questions from Pentagon reporters Wednesday at 9 a.m. by video feed from Kabul. We'll keep you posted on what he says.
WHITE HOUSE EFFORTS TO TIGHTEN THE SCREWS on Iran are being seen as part of a campaign to hold off an Israeli attack. The White House Monday released an order signed over the weekend by Obama freezing assets of Iran's Central Bank and other financial institutions, as well as those who deal with them, further impeding Iran's ability to move money. The president's order is here: http://1.usa.gov/xywLl4
HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIRWOMAN Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida called the move “a step in the right direction, but the Administration's Iran sanctions policy needs to get much tougher, and fast.” She's the sponsor of House legislation that would target Iran's Central Bank directly.
IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTRY denounced the new U.S. sanctions as “antagonistic” and said they would have no impact. http://reut.rs/xEOpGK
MEANWHILE, THE WHITE HOUSE has offered little explanation for why Obama and his intelligence chief offered dramatically different opinions in recent days on whether Iran is or is not trying to step up operations on U.S. soil. POLITICO's Josh Gerstein has the story here: http://politi.co/x7SSl8
THE F-35 IS COMING UNDER new pressure in Congress, with SASC leaders demanding in a letter to Panetta an explanation for why the short-takeoff/vertical landing F-35B version was taken off probation. In a separate letter, chairman Levin and ranking Republican McCain want GAO to investigate whether issues with the aircraft have been resolved. Their letter to Panetta is here: http://bit.ly/xeLdJV. The GAO letter is here:http://bit.ly/wvuWa3
MEANWHILE, acting USD for acquisition Frank Kendall told an audience at CSIS Monday that “putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice,” a widely reported statement sure to further set off McCain and other critics of the program. Kendall said “we're paying the price for being wrong” about the idea that design tools, simulations and modeling would be enough to detect problems with the aircraft without the need for pre-production test flights. See the transcript here: http://bit.ly/w31sth
OBAMA AND HIS WIFE WILL HOST a Feb. 29 dinner at the White House for troops who have served in Iraq. “This dinner, an expression of the nation's gratitude for the achievements and enormous sacrifices of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq war, and of the families who supported them, will include men and women in uniform from all ranks, services, states and backgrounds, representative of the many thousands of Americans who served in Iraq,” spokesman Jay Carney said.DEMPSEY, ON HIS FACEBOOK PAGE, SAID: “We will be honored to be a part of 'A Nation's Gratitude' hosted by President and Mrs. Obama to recognize the significant contributions of the U.S. military and military families to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. These heroes and those they represent have sacrificed to defend our nation and provide the Iraqi people an opportunity for a peaceful and secure future. I'm proud of their courage and appreciate this appropriate recognition of their service.”
THE JCS CHAIRMAN ALSO ISSUED GUIDANCE MONDAY on implementing DOD's new strategy. You can see it here: http://1.usa.gov/ykcSPx
THE AIR FORCE WOULD GET its first female four-star general if the Senate approves Monday's nomination of Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger as commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Wolfenbarger currently is the military deputy to the service's assistant secretary for acquisition.
AFGHAN OPS UPDATE – An Afghan and coalition security force operating in Pul-e 'Alam district of Logar province today captured a Haqqani Network leader, ISAF spokesman Lt. Cdr. Brian Badura said. One additional suspected insurgent was detained during the operation, he said.
TODAY ON THE HILL – House Foreign Affairs holds a 10 a.m. hearing on export controls and foreign arms sales. It's in 2172 Rayburn.
WHO'S WHERE WHEN – Panetta meets with Obama and Biden at the White House at 4:30 p.m. Mabus is in Raleigh, N.C., to speak at N.C. State University's Emerging Issues Forum at 11 a.m. Donley and Schwartz have meetings in the building. McRaven speaks at 8:15 a.m. at the SO/LIC symposium and exposition at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington.
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