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U.S. Could Cut Afghan Troops to Below 5,000, Obama Must Turn Over Drone Memo, Tries Again on Pivot U.S. Could Cut Afghan Troops to Below 5,000, Obama Must Turn Over Dron...

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Early Bird

U.S. Could Cut Afghan Troops to Below 5,000, Obama Must Turn Over Drone Memo, Tries Again on Pivot

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.

President Obama Tries Again on Asia Pivot
(The Wall Street Journal: Colleen McCain Nelson)
Obama heads to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines with a long to-do list. Security and trade issues have grown all the more urgent following his decision to cancel an Asia trip last fall.

 

U.S. Must Disclose Version of Drone Memo
(Reuters: Jonathan Stempel)
The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said the government waived the secrecy of the legal analysis by having publicly discussed the justification for such killing, including Americans.

Guard Apaches Less Ready and Must Move to Regular Army, Fox Tells Hill
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
National Guard attack helicopter units just can't be as battle-ready as full-time regular Army ones, Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox has been telling the Hill.

Biden Tells Ukranian Leaders U.S. Stands With Them
(Associated Press: Nedra Pickler)
Biden told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms.

U.S. Force in Afghanistan May Be Cut to Less Than 10,000 Troops
(Reuters: Missy Ryan, Arshad Mohammed)
The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 U.S. troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force.

UKRAINE/RUSSIA

Russia PM Says Can Minimize Sanctions Impact
(Reuters: Darya Korsunskaya)
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said told parliament Russia would insist on fair access to foreign markets for its energy exports.

Ukraine Crisis: U.S. Warns of Dangerous Precedent for Other Territorial Disputes
(The Guardian: Dan Roberts)
U.S. officials asked Asian countries not to seek to take commercial advantage of sanctions against Russia on eve of Obama Asia trip.

Russian Foreign Minister Accuses Kiev of Flouting Ukraine Accord
(The New York Times: Andrew Kramer)
The accusations made by the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, came as Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev in a show of support for its increasingly besieged government.

Russians Inspect Montana Nuclear Launch Facilities
(Associated Press: Matt Volz)
Russian nuclear inspectors visited the U.S. amid heightened tensions between the two nations to verify that 18 nuclear missile launch facilities had been demolished as part of a 2011 arms control treaty. 

Russia Displays a New Military Prowess in Ukraine
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon)
Russian forces skillfully employed 21st-century tactics that combined cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign, and the use of special operation troops in its annexation of Crimea.

Pro-Russian Separatists Block Monitors From Buildings in East Ukraine, Diplomats Say
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung)
Free passage of the monitors and the disarming of separatists were key elements of the agreement reached in Geneva.

CONGRESS

Dem: Russia Not Sticking to Ukraine Deal
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Rep. Adam Schiff also called for the U.S. to base more U.S. assets in the region, in addition to conducting military exercises there, to reassure NATO allies.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Leadership 'Accountable' on Military Sexual Assault, Chuck Hagel Says
(McClatchy: Lauren Kirkwood)
The Defense secretary visited a rape-crisis organization to stress the Pentagon's commitment to ensuring that victims of sexual violence are taken seriously in the armed forces.

Hagel Vows to Keep Fighting Sexual Assault
(USA Today)
Solving the crisis, the Defense secretary said, will require sustained attention and changes "wide and deep" within the military.

Caught Between Military and Civilian Justice, a Battered Wife Waits and Waits for Help
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
Over a year ago, a civilian woman accused her Marine ex-husband of beating and raping her. She's still waiting for the incidents to be fully investigated.

ASIA/PACIFIC

Obama Asia Strategy Hobbled by Pressure at Home and Abroad
(The New York Times: David Sanger, Mark Landler)
President Obama is expected to announce an agreement with the Philippines that would help facilitate a stronger American military presence there, but the deal could antagonize China. 

Obama Visit Seen as Counterweight to China
(Associated Press: Elaine Kurtenbach)
Obama's travels through Asia in coming days aim to reassure partners about the renewed U.S. commitment to the region.

North Korea Slams Obama's 'Dangerous' Asia Tour
(Agence France-Presse)
North Korea warned that an Asian tour by Obama could escalate military tensions.

North Korea Shows Signs of Planning Nuclear Test
(The New York Times: Choe Sang-Hun)
The South Korean Defense Ministry said it had "detected various types of activities" at the North Korean site used for previous underground nuclear tests.

SYRIA

State Department: 'Indications' Chemical Weapons Used, Again, in Syria
(Fox News)
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki discussed the allegations a day after French President Francois Hollande said France also had indications the regime is still using chemical weapons.

White House Debates 'Game-Changer' Weapon for Syria
(Time: Michael Crowley)
White House officials are weighing whether to send surface-to-air missiles to opposition factions at the risk of a possible terrorist "nightmare."

Syria Calls Presidential Election for June Amid Raging War
(Reuters: Alexander Dziadosz, Dasha Afanasieva)
Syria on Monday set a presidential election for June 3, preparing the ground for leader Bashar al-Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power.

MIDDLE EAST

About 55 Al-Qaida Militants Killed in Yemen Air Strikes
(Reuters: Mohamed Ghobari)
Three leading members of the militant group were also killed.

Drone Strikes Alone Won't Stamp Out Al-Qaida in Yemen
(Reuters: Mohamed Ghobari, Yara Bayoumy)
A weak central government, a rivalry-ridden and poorly equipped security force, endemic poverty, and corruption have made Yemen the ideal haven of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. 

Former Officials Seek U.S. Disclosure on Alleged Israeli Nuclear Theft
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
Two former atomic officials say revealing U.S. findings on a decades-old alleged nuclear theft by Israel may bolster Washington's present-day diplomacy.

IRAN

Iran Admits Nuclear Agency Reshuffle to Pave Way for 5+1 Talks
(Reuters: Mehrdad Balali)
President Hassan Rouhani's government confirmed rumors it had reshuffled the leadership of Iran's atomic agency.

ARMY

Records Reveal Details of Soldiers' Deaths
(The Daily Oklahoman: Andrew Knittle)
An investigative report prepared by the U.S. Army after the death of all soldiers killed while deployed reveals just how tragic, terrifying, and heroic the final moments of these soldiers can be.

As Army Shrinks, Young Officers Being Pushed Out
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
After the 9/11 attacks, tens of thousands of young men and women joined the military, heading for the rugged mountains of Afghanistan and dusty deserts of Iraq.

NAVY

Navy Cruisers Go Into 'Laid Up' Status at Pearl Harbor
(Military Times)
A 20-year-old guided-missile cruiser will join two other ships in "laid up" status at Pearl Harbor.

Navy: SEAL Died in Dive Full of Safety Lapses
(Honolulu Advertiser: William Cole)
The death of special operations Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew John Leathers, 33, was likely caused by drowning due to shallow-water blackout during the breath-hold dive training.

DETAINEES

FBI Not Investigating Publication of 9/11 Mastermind's Letter, DOJ Tells Guantanamo Judge
(The Huffington Post: Ryan Reilly)
The Justice Department court filing leaves unanswered the question of what two FBI agents were investigating earlier this month.

Future of 9/11 Tribunal Unclear After Rocky Week of Hearings at Guantanamo
(The Guardian: Spencer Ackerman)
War-crimes commissions left hanging in the balance as division between attorneys and intelligence agencies boils to the surface.

High Court Rejects New Guantanamo Appeal
(Associated Press)
The justices rejected an appeal from Abdul al Qader Hussain of Yemen, who was captured in Pakistan and denies that he ever was affiliated with al-Qaida or the Taliban.

VETERANS

Gulf War Illness: Thousands Still Report Symptoms
(El Paso Times: Diana Washington Valdez)
Army veterans Michael Patiño and David Garcia say they still suffer health problems related to their service in the war.

Five Questions for Naked Veteran
(Navy Times: Jeff Schogol)
Vietnam War veteran Max Sanchez struggles with controlling issues stemming from post-traumatic stress, and is pursuing an unconventional treatment: nudity.

POLITICS

Would Jeb Bush's Defense Policy Look More Like His Father's or Brother's?
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Veteran national security officials and political observers say his philosophy seems to align more with his realist father, George H.W. Bush, than his neoconservative brother, George W. Bush.

AMERICAS

Cuban-American Leaders Helped 'Cuban Twitter'
(Associated Press: Christine Armario, Laura Wides Munoz)
Leaders with the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans quietly provided strategic support for the federal government's secret "Cuban Twitter" program.

U.S. Plans to Sell Mexico 18 Black Hawks to Tackle Drug Trade
(The Wall Street Journal: Doug Cameron)
Spare parts, training, and other expenses push value of potential contract to $680 million.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Obama's China Challenge
(The Wall Street Journal)
U.S. allies look for support against Beijing's new aggression.

Obama's Asia Trip and U.S. Credibility
(The Wall Street Journal: Sen. Bob Corker)
The trip's success hinges equally on the president's actions when he comes home.

Dithering on Ukraine
(The Washington Post)
President Obama disregards his own red line.

Putin Adversary to Obama: We Need You
(Bloomberg: Jeffrey Goldberg)
Earlier this month, I spent an afternoon trying to imagine what it might be like to be prime minister of Moldova.

Air Force Drone Plan Leaves Troops Without Vital Recon
(Forbes: Loren Thompson)
Rather than being forced to choose between the U-2 and the Global Hawk, the Air Force should be given the funding to sustain both in the fleet.

Future Threats Will Require Much More Than the A-10
(Defense One: Robert Spalding)
Those fighting to save the A-10 jet fighter are missing the point.

The U.S. Military Is a Socialist Paradise
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
It may come as an unwelcome surprise to conservatives, but America's military has one of the only working models of collective living and social welfare the country has ever known.

Want your defense news even faster? Follow the Early Bird on Twitter: @NJEarlyBird. And tell your networks to sign up directly here.

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