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NATO Out of Afghanistan in '15? Confidence in VA Care Plummets, White House Defends Bergdahl Deal NATO Out of Afghanistan in '15? Confidence in VA Care Plummets, White...

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NATO Out of Afghanistan in '15? Confidence in VA Care Plummets, White House Defends Bergdahl Deal

By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email earlybird@nationaljournal.com.

 

The Six U.S. Soldiers Who Died Searching for Bowe Bergdahl
(Time: Mark Thompson)
Troops suggest that Bergdahl's desertion makes him more traitor than hero.

White House: Prisoner Swap Doesn't Mean Obama Thinks He's Above the Law
(McClatchy: Lindsay Wise)
The White House on Monday pushed back against criticism that President Barack Obama sidestepped the law.

Poll: Confidence in Veterans' Care Plummets to New Low
(USA Today: Susan Page)
Just one in five rate the job the government does in providing veterans with medical care as excellent or good.

 

U.S. Says Troop Plan Only Guarantees NATO Afghan Mission Until End of 2015
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom, Adrian Croft)
U.S. ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute said it was unclear if the NATO mission would last beyond 2015, even assuming the next Afghan president signed agreements with the United States and NATO. 

Obama Announces New Security Aid to Poland
(USA Today: David Jackson)
Obama is expected to discuss the new security aid in meetings Tuesday with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

CONGRESS

Dems: White House Serious About NDAA Veto
(Politico: Jeremy Herb)
The Obama administration has threatened to veto the defense authorization bill every year since Republicans took control of the House, and every year it's backed off in the end.

House Armed Services Chairman Vows Hearings on Deal to Release Bergdahl
(The Washington Post: Sean Sullivan)
Lawmakers were not informed about the transfer of the five detainees until after it happened, even as the law requires 30 days notice.

 

Senate GOP Seeks Bergdahl Hearing
(Politico: Burgess Everett)
Republicans are demanding an open hearing on the negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in return for five Taliban prisoners.

Senators Working on Competing Plans to Fix VA
(The Washington Post: Ed O'Keefe)
Republicans are set to announce on Tuesday a plan to let some veterans access private medical care.

Sen. Harry Reid: Senate Should Pass VA Fix 'as Soon as Possible'
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox)
The majority leader said that every senator should support a bill that aims to hold senior VA officials accountable for delays in health care.

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A-10 Supporters Rebuffed in Defense Spending Legislation
(Bloomberg News: Roxana Tiron)
The move by the Appropriations subcommittee added to uncertainty over the Air Force's plan to retire all 283 of the planes to save $4.2 billion over five years.

House Appropriators Authorize Funding for 12 Growlers, Carrier RCOH
(Inside Defense)
Subcommittee members in their markup of the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill included $975 million for the Navy to procure an additional 12 EA-18G Growler aircraft.

Democrats on Benghazi Panel See Role as Defensive
(Associated Press: Bradley Klapper, Donna Cassata)
The five Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are being counted on to defend the Obama administration's record as November's elections creep closer.

U.S. Lawmakers Question Aid to New Palestinian Unity Government
(Reuters: Patricia Zengerle)
Abbas swore in the government in a reconciliation deal with Hamas that led Israel to freeze U.S.-brokered peace talks.

BERGDAHL

U.S. Concluded in 2010 That Bergdahl Walked Away
(Associated Press: Ken Dilanian, Deb Riechmann)
An investigation concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military decided not to exert extraordinary efforts to rescue him.

White House Notifies Congress of Prisoner Transfer 30 Days Late
(The Washington Post: Karen Tumulty)
The White House formally notified Capitol Hill of the transfers of five Taliban commanders from the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. Worried To Very End About Bergdahl's Release
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
It was touch and go. But then came the call at 5:12 p.m. Saturday on a secure phone line at the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar.

Hot Debate Over Bergdahl-Taliban Swap
(Associated Press: Ken Dilanian, Deb Riechmann)
Even in the first hours of Bergdahl's handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration.

Bergdahl Getting Treatment, Requires Hospitalization, Landstuhl Medical Center Says
(Stars and Stripes: Jennifer Svan, Chris Carroll)
Bergdahl is in stable condition but will require further medical treatment and hospitalization.

How Obama Convinced His Spies to Support the Taliban Prisoner Release
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
The Pentagon and the nation's top intelligence official opposed releasing the Gitmo Five in 2012. This time around the White House got the answer it wanted when the Taliban was ready to deal.

POW/MIA League: Bergdahl Release Sets Troubling Precedent
(Military Times: Kevin Lilley)
The POW/MIA community's support for Bergdahl's safe return has been unanimous, but not without what she called "a universal concern about negotiating."

White House Petition Calls for Bergdahl's Punishment
(Marine Corps Times: Kevin Lilley)
The petition asks the White House to "Punish Bowe Bergdahl for being AWOL/Desertion during Operation Enduring Freedom."

ASIA/PACIFIC

U.S. Troop Leader in South Korea Wants Deployment of New Missile Defense
(Reuters: Ju-min Park)
The United States has carried out a site survey in South Korea for possible locations for the THAAD battery, but no final decisions have been made to deploy the system.

Report: Chinese Cruise Missiles Could Pose Biggest Threat to U.S. Carriers
(Defense News: Wendell Minnick)
Saturation strikes from Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles could become the biggest threat to U.S. Navy carrier strike groups.

China Is Sending Combat Troops to Africa
(War Is Boring: Kevin Knodell)
Assertive Beijing deploys infantry to Mali.

Filipino Nabbed in Bombing That Killed Two U.S. Troops
(Associated Press)
Philippine police captured a suspected Muslim rebel bomber who allegedly was involved in a 2009 land-mine attack that killed two U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers and a Filipino marine.

MIDDLE EAST

U.S. Says Intends to Work With Palestinian Unity Government
(Reuters)
The United States said it will continue to disburse aid to the Palestinian Authority but will monitor its policies.

Israel Rejects Negotiations With Palestinians
(Associated Press)
Israel has issued a tough condemnation of the new Palestinian unity government.

New Research Links Iraq Dust to Sick Soldiers
(USA Today: Kelly Kennedy)
Titanium and other metals found in dust at a base in Iraq have been linked to the dust found in six sick soldiers' lungs.

What Does Qatar Get Out of the Prisoner Swap?
(CBS News: Tucker Reals)
It was a role that no other country could have played, and the ability to act as a bridge between the West and the world of radical Islam makes Qatar a vital player in geopolitics.

IRAN

U.N. Probe of Iran Nuke Program May Slow Iran Talks
(Associated Press)
The head of the U.N. nuclear agency suggested Monday that a probe of suspected atomic arms work by Iran may stretch into next year.

SYRIA

Florida Bomber in Syria Raises Fears for U.S.
(The Washington Post: Greg Miller, Adam Goldman, Nicole Rodriguez)
The inability to track Moner Mohammad Abusalha's whereabouts reflects what officials describe as a blind spot for intelligence agencies trying to monitor a flow of fighters in and out of Syria.

The Syrian War Comes Home to Europe
(The Daily Beast: Ghaffar Hussain)
The first targets were Jews visiting a museum in Brussels. The next targets could be in America.

Russia Signals Opposition to Western-Backed Syria Aid Plan
(Reuters: Steve Gutterman)
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled that Russia would oppose a U.N. resolution authorizing cross-border aid deliveries to Syria if it threatened to enforce it by military action.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Why U.S. Coast Guard Is in Land-Locked Afghanistan
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
For the 13 Coast Guardsmen in Afghanistan, it is the most common comment they get. "Why are you here? There is no water out here."

Report: Russia Lifts Arms Embargo to Pakistan
(Agence France-Presse)
Russia has lifted its embargo on arms supplies to Pakistan and is holding talks on supplying Islamabad with combat helicopters.

EUROPE

Ukraine Military Launches Offensive Against Rebels
(Associated Press: Nebi Qena)
Ukrainian troops launched an offensive against pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern city of Slovyansk and advanced through the city's outskirts.

U.S. Reviews Military Presence in Europe After Russian Moves in Ukraine
(Reuters: Jeff Mason)
Obama will call on Congress to support a "European Reassurance Initiative" of up to $1 billion to increase U.S. military rotations on the continent.

NATO Defense Ministers Meeting On Russia Challenge
(Associated Press: John-Thor Dahlburg)
NATO defense ministers gathered Tuesday for the first time since the Ukraine crisis.

Biden to Attend Ukraine Inaguration
(The Hill: Justin Sink)
Biden will head to Kiev in a signal of support for the fledgling Ukrainian government.

France Hosts Dueling Dinners for Obama, Putin
(Associated Press: Angela Charlton)
French President Francois Hollande certainly won't go hungry Thursday night. He's dining twice—first with President Obama, then with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Cooling in Poland's Love Affair With the U.S.
(The New York Times: Rick Lyman)
Poland's relationship with the United States is still seen as a crucial one here, most notably in terms of national security.

ARMY

Two-Star Outlines Impending Officer, NCO Separations
(Army Times: Michelle Tan)
The Army has flagged nearly 2,500 officers and noncommissioned officers for involuntary separation as its works toward decreasing its end strength.

Ft. Hood Soldier Accused in Prostitution Ring
(Associated Press)
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen is accused of pandering and several other offenses.

Fort Bragg Paratrooper Dies in Training Accident
(Associated Press)
The cause of death is under investigation.

Army Pilots Recognized for Dangerous Missions
(The News Tribune: Adam Ashton)
The Army gave the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment recognition for safety excellence.

U.S. Soldiers Accused of Inappropriate Behavior at Korean Water Park
(Stars and Stripes: Ashley Rowland, Yoo Kyong Chang)
South Korean police said there were three Camp Casey-based soldiers who were drunk and been causing a disturbance at the Everland theme park.

NAVY

Navy Swaps Dallas, Norfolk Inactivation Dates
(Navy News)
The Navy announced changes to the inactivation timelines for two Los Angeles-class submarines that are scheduled to retire from active service.

Navy to Cut Midwest Regional Command
(Seapower Magazine: Richard Burgess)
The Navy will disestablish its regional command in the Midwest and align its bases with its Mid-Atlantic region as part of a reduction in flag officers.

Tests Will Put Unmanned Carrier Jet Alongside F/A-18s
(Navy Times: Meghann Myers)
The Navy's one-of-a-kind autonomous drone heads to the fleet later this summer for the next step of testing: landing and taking off alongside manned aircraft.

MARINE CORPS

RIMPAC to Include Experiment on Small-Unit Operations
(Marine Corps Times: Gina Harkins)
In an experiment next month, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab will take a hard look at the challenges that await them.

Probe Continues Into Marine Who Fell From Osprey
(Daily News: Thomas Brennan)
The results of an ongoing investigation surrounding the death of a Marine who fell from an MV-22B Osprey are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Former Marine Gets Death in Sailor's Killing
(Associated Press: Matthew Barakat)
An ex-Marine was sentenced to death for the 2009 murder of a Navy sailor at a barracks in northern Virginia.

AIR FORCE

Air Force Training Command Head Says Lackland Morale on Upswing
(San Antonio Express-News: Sig Christenson)
Gen. Robin Rand said it was a rough time on the base when the survey of instructors was done last July.

VETERANS

Fraud May Mask True Wait Times for Vets Seeking Care
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya, Meghan Hoyer)
The Veterans Affairs Department official internal data show it failed to treat three out of five veterans within its 14-day target period for care.

VA Hospitals Vary in Patient Care
(The Wall Street Journal: Thomas Burton, Damian Paletta)
The Phoenix facility at the heart of the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs is among the VA hospitals that show significantly higher rates of mortality than the agency's top-tier hospitals.

Ex-Senator Jim Webb Not Interested in VA Chief's Job
(USA Today: Catalina Camia)
But he is still mulling a White House bid.

Coburn, Reed Dispel VA Rumors
(Politico: Burgess Everett, Jeremy Herb)
Sens. Jack Reed and Tom Coburn quickly took themselves out of the running to replace Eric Shinseki atop the Veterans Affairs Department.

Veterans Find Their Niche—and Run With It
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
Far from the scandal over delays at Veterans Affairs in treating thousands of former service members, the three veterans live life on their own terms.

IAVA Veterans Group Outlines Eight Steps to Fix the VA
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said its plan would ensure accountability for "bad employees" and "incompetent managers."

CYBER

White House Security Strategy Maintains Pressure for Congressional Action on Cyber
(Inside Cybersecurity)
The upcoming National Security Strategy could serve to underscore the administration's stance on the need for congressional action to achieve national cybersecurity objectives.

Little Public Action In Chinese Cyberspying Case
(Associated Press: Eileen Sullivan, Eric Tucker)
The five hackers have yet to be placed on Interpol's public listing of international fugitives.

U.S. Says Global Effort Has Hobbled a Cybercrime Ring
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima)
The operation's alleged Russian ringleader has been indicted on charges of hacking, conspiracy and bank fraud.

INTELLIGENCE

Sealed Court Files Obscure Rise in Electronic Surveillance
(The Wall Street Journal: Jennifer Valentino-Devries)
Law-enforcement requests to monitor cellphones routinely get sealed. They usually stay that way, even after investigations are over.

TERRORISM

Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect's Friend Expected to Testify
(Associated Press)
Lawyers for a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have called a linguistics expert to help to make their case that their client was not proficient enough in English.

DETAINEES

U.S. Kept Red Cross in the Dark About Guantanamo Prisoner Release
(The Miami Herald: Carol Rosenberg)
The organization said the Pentagon, unusually, did not invite delegates to the remote base in advance to interview the five Afghans on their willingness to leave, or conduct medical checkups.

MEDIA

Bin Laden Raid Expected to Be Centerpiece of Hillary Clinton's Memoir
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker)
The book is called Hard Choices, and its title refers in part to one of the hardest Hillary Clinton faced as secretary of State.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Why Veterans Affairs Can't Root Out Its Corruption
(Time: Rep. Jeff Miller)
Eric Shinseki may be gone, but there are still indefensible civil-service rules in place that put failing bureaucrats' job security ahead of the safety of the veterans they should be serving.

The VA's Two Underlying Problems
(The Washington Post: Michael O'Hanlon)
Now that the political fight over Eric Shinseki has ended, our nation can focus on reforming the VA system.

How Obama Thinks About Counterterrorism
(The Atlantic: David Rohde)
The president wants to fight militants with partnerships rather than U.S. troops.

Was Bowe Bergdahl's Price Too High?
(The Washington Post)
The White House's handling of the matter raises troubling questions.

Sergeant Bergdahl's Duty
(The Wall Street Journal)
He owes his comrades an account of how and why he left his post.

Freedom for Sgt. Bergdahl, at a Price
(The New York Times)
Obama's decision is likely to make it harder for the United States to implore other countries not to negotiate with terrorists in the future.

The U.S.-Afghanistan Prisoner Swap Doesn't Signal Peace on the Horizon
(Time: Michael Kugelman)
The Taliban remains ideologically divided, and the Afghan government isn't necessarily prepared for talks.

Obama Didn't Negotiate With 'Terrorists' for Bergdahl
(Time: Michael Crowley)
The story is more complicated than Republicans say.

The Two Kinds of Bowe Bergdahl Backlash
(The Atlantic: David Graham)
The release of an American prisoner of war from Taliban custody raises questions about how he was captured and the legality of the exchange that freed him.

Here's What Happens When Taliban Leaders Are Released
(The Washington Post: Marc Thiessen)
According to our own military, they are all "high risk" to return to the fight.

5 Ways Europe Can Help the U.S. Pivot
(The Diplomat: James Holmes)
Crimea has woken Europe up to geopolitics. Here's how it can help the U.S. pivot to Asia.

Bridging Our Surface-Connector Gap
(Proceedings Magazine: Gen. James Amos)
The Marines' ability to expeditiously get people and equipment ashore may be more important than ever.

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