Pentagon Pulls Security Clearance of Trump White House Aide

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Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, May 4, 2017:

The Pentagon this week suspended the security clearance of a White House National Security Council analyst that U.S. officials say was the target of political retribution by government bureaucrats opposed to President Trump’s appointees.

Adam S. Lovinger, a 12-year strategic affairs analyst with the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA), has been on loan to the NSC since January when he was picked for the position by then-National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn.

Lovinger was notified in a letter from the Pentagon on Monday that his Top-Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS-SCI) clearance had been suspended and that he had to return to the Pentagon.

The letter cited unspecified outside activities by Lovinger. The notice said the suspension was approved by Kevin Sweeney, chief of staff for Defense Secretary James Mattis.

One official said Lovinger was targeted by Trump opponents because of his conservative views and ties to Flynn, specifically his past association with the Flynn Intel Group, Inc., a consulting business.

Flynn was forced out as national security adviser in February after top-secret intelligence communications intercepts were disclosed to the press revealing he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Disclosure of the clearance suspension followed a report in the Washington Free Beacon Monday stating the security clearance process at the White House has been politicized by government officials opposed to Trump and his advisers.

Suspending or revoking clearances is a frequent tactic used by government officials to sideline officials whose views and policies they oppose.

Documents disclosed last year revealed the FBI in 2009 had rejected issuing an interim security clearance for Ben Rhodes, who eventually would be granted access to top-secret intelligence as former President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Lovinger is the second NSC staff official under Trump to lose his clearance. In February, Robin Townley, an African affairs specialist on the NSC staff, was denied a TS/SCI clearance by the CIA. Townley, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, had worked with Flynn in the past.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Brindle denied that the security clearance was suspended as a result of political retribution. “This is a personnel matter that we do not discuss,” he said.

Spokesmen for the NSC did not return emails seeking comment. Lovinger could not be reached for comment.

Lovinger, a lawyer, is expected to challenge the clearance suspension. But the process is expected to take months and could prevent him from continuing to work on the NSC staff.

Officials familiar with the matter said Lovinger’s clearance was suspended after he wrote several memos criticizing the director of the Office of Net Assessment, James H. Baker.

According to the officials, the clearance dispute appears to involve a bureaucratic turf battle, as well as a larger, behind-the-scenes effort by anti-Trump officials in the national security bureaucracy to neutralize key Trump aides.

Lovinger is senior director for strategic assessments at the NSC. In that position, he has proposed shifting the Office of Net Assessment from the Pentagon to the White House, where it was located when established during the Nixon administration.

Lovinger wrote a memo to current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on the need for a net assessment capability within the NSC.

Net assessments are highly classified reports that assess foreign threats and U.S. capabilities. Unlike intelligence estimates that are focused solely on foreign targets, assessments include details of U.S. strategic vulnerabilities. The assessments are used by national security leaders for strategic planning.

Lovinger, who holds a doctorate in law, also has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and McDonough School of Business.

At ONA, Lovinger specialized in issues related to U.S.-India relations, the Persian Gulf, and sub-Saharan Africa. He also worked as a Pentagon general counsel focusing on reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his Georgetown biography.

Other aides on the NSC staff said to be targeted by anti-Trump officials include Lovinger’s supervisor, Kevin Harrington, deputy assistant to the president for strategic planning, and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence programs.

Cohen-Watnick was present during the recent review of intelligence documents at the White House by Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Nunes has charged the intelligence documents exposed improper electronic surveillance of Trump and members of his transition team by the Obama administration.

Baker has come under fire from critics for his role in managing ONA, until recently headed for several decades by Andrew Marshall, who was considered one of the U.S. government’s premier strategic thinkers.

Emails made public from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server revealed last fall that Clinton had arranged meetings in 2009 between senior State and Pentagon officials and Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, a close friend of Chelsea Clinton and long-time contractor for ONA.

Deal is head of the defense consulting group Long Term Strategy Group and has received millions of dollars in contracts from ONA for studies such as “On the Nature of Americans as a Warlike People.” Another study the group completed for ONA was called “War and the Intellectuals.” It concluded that American elites hold stronger anti-war attitudes than the general public.

The Pentagon has defended the Long Term Strategy Group’s studies for ONA.

The group’s work “has consistently informed ONA’s internal analysis and they continue to be a responsive vendor,” ONA said in an October statement. “The firm, however, is just one of 90 sources that ONA has commissioned work from over the past decade.”

PC Pentagon Caves To CAIR, Agrees to ‘Review’ Anti-Terror Training Program

Assigns case to Muslim chaplain who graduated from radical Islamic school raided after 9/11.

Front Page Magazine, by Paul Sprry, April 26, 2017:

The Pentagon has agreed to formally review an anti-terror training program taught to special forces by a private contractor for material deemed offensive to Islam and Muslims, even though the Muslim group that lodged a complaint against the allegedly “Islamophobic” program has been accused by the Justice Department of supporting terrorism and is currently banned from outreach activities by the FBI.

The instructor hired to teach the program says he fears his class might not get a fair hearing, because military brass have assigned the review to a Muslim military chaplain who graduated from a radical Saudi-funded Islamic school raided by federal agents after 9/11 on suspicion of terrorist activities. He is their second choice for conducting the review. They had originally picked a more radical military chaplain to inspect the training materials before learning he has ties to an imam with a history of ministering to Muslims later convicted of terrorism.

Brass decided to launch the review after receiving a letter from the Council on American-Islamic Relations last month demanding the commander of US Air Force Special Operations sever ties with longtime counterterrorism instructor Patrick Dunleavy, claiming his lessons “contain anti-Islamic content.” CAIR, a suspected terrorist front organization, did not cite any examples of content from his “Dynamics of International Terrorism” course to support its claim.

Dunleavy formerly served as deputy inspector general of New York State prisons’ criminal intelligence division and also worked with the NYPD’s intelligence division for several years. His five-day course, which he’s taught complaint-free at the AIr Force for several years, covers homegrown terrorism and prison radicalization, which tie directly into recent ISIS cases.CAIR claims to be a “Muslim civil-rights organization,” but the feds have ID’d

CAIR and its founder as “members of the US Muslim Brotherhood,” while designating them both as “unindicted co-conspirators” in a 2008 terror-financing case involving Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and a US-designated terrorist group.

“From its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists,” US prosecutors charged in one court filing.

As a result, the FBI has cut off ties to CAIR until investigators “can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas.”

Air Force Special Operations commander Lt. Gen. Marshal Webb received the CAIR letter and, in turn, ordered Special Operations School commandant Lt. Col. Christopher Portele to initiate a review. It is not clear if Webb is aware of CAIR’s well-documented support of terrorists. A spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Dunleavy says top brass more than likely are in the dark about the extent of CAIR’s terrorism ties. “I’m sure they don’t have a complete knowledge of CAIR or other Muslim Brotherhood groups,” he said in an interview.

He notes that the military also has a problem vetting Islamic clergy.

Air Force chaplain Walid Habash is expected to begin reviewing slides from Dunleavy’s lesson material later this week, despite the fact that he received his Islamic education from a radical Muslim Brotherhood school in Virginia. Habash’s alma mater  the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, or GSISS, was raided by federal agents in 2002 as part of a post-9/11 terrorism investigation. The longtime director of GSISS — Saudi-tied Taha Jabir Alalwani — is an unindicted co-conspirator in two federal prosecutions related to terrorist financing.

Other GSISS alumni include former New York prison chaplain Warith Deen Umar, who preached that the 9-11 hijackers should be honored as martyrs and that black converts to Islam are natural recruits for carrying out future attacks against the US.

Habash has led Islamic prayer service at the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention camp. In 2005, the FBI busted up what was described as an Islamist “spy ring” for al-Qaida at Gitmo involving other Muslim military chaplains, as well as Arabic translators, accused of “serious breaches of national security.”

Habash was substituted last week for Muslim military chaplain Rafael Lantigua after Air Force brass learned of his radical associations, apparently for the first time.

It turns out that Lantigua sits on the board of directors of an Islamist group with a radical cleric who ran a New York mosque where the terrorists who plotted to bomb synagogues in the Bronx were radicalized. That 2009 case — which touches the cleric, Imam Salahuddin Muhammad — is one of Dunleavy’s presentation slides. Muhammad, a former convicted armed bank robber, was a protege of Umar.

In addition, Lantigua recently spoke at a New York Islamic conference where cop-killer Jamil Al-Amin and Luqman Abdullah, a Detroit imam killed in a shootout with the FBI, were honored. Muhammad gave the keynote address at the February event.

Once this information came to light, and questions were raised over how impartial Lantigua, who holds the rank of captain, could be regarding the subject of Islamic radicalization in the prisons, Air Force brass began a search for a new Muslim chaplain to review Dunleavy’s lesson plan.

“The military has an ongoing problem vetting their Muslim clergy,” Dunleavy told me. “Nobody wants to touch this political powder keg.”

In a press release  CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper accused Dunleavy of being an “anti-Muslim propaganda mouthpiece” with a “personal prejudice against Islam and Muslims.” The same spokesman once told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he wants the US to become a Muslim country.

“I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future,” Hooper said, betraying CAIR’s real agenda.

Nonetheless, CAIR has found success already in convincing law enforcement to alter training programs, including bleaching references to “Islam,” “Shariah,” “caliphate” and “jihad” and other allegedly offensive terms from state and federal anti-terrorist training materials. It has also pressured the sidelining of some instructors.

Emboldened, the group is now targeting military training curricula for censorship. Dunleavy is just the latest subject-matter expert targeted for a smear campaign.

He and other trainers chiefly blame “political correctness” for the capitulation to CAIR at the highest levels of government. Talking honestly about the violent nature of Islam, a minority religion, is taboo in Washington. It’s much safer for career advancement to apologize for it — even though officials know that sweeping the religious doctrines and motives behind growing Islamic terrorism under the rug won’t make them disappear. In fact, it will only lead to more attacks and more American victims.

“The concerted effort by groups like CAIR to remove any material from law enforcement or military training that outlines the process of Islamic radicalization is fraught with danger,” Dunleavy warned, particularly in light of the case of the Paris terrorist Karim Cheurfi.

Cheurfi, an ISIS-tied Muslim who last week fatally shot a police officer while wounding two others with an AK-47, had all the indicators outlined by Dunleavy in the material the Pentagon is now second-guessing thanks to CAIR protesting. They include: prison radicalization, exposure to radical Islamic preachers, and attraction to jihadi violence. In spite of these and other warning signs, Cheurfi escaped close monitoring by authorities. Identifying ingredients in this “radicalizing cauldron” is key to authorities stopping such jihadists, says Dunleavy, author of “The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism’s Prison Connection.”

It’s also important for screening military recruits, especially now that the Pentagon has started issuing more waivers for applicants with prison records.

Dunleavy says the government is basically letting supporters of the bad guys — working on both the outside and inside — blindfold law enforcement and military personnel to the point where they can’t effectively spot the bad guys.

Indeed, his case is the latest example of how baseless charges of “Islamophobia” and “anti-Muslim bigotry” are used to hamstring legitimate counterterrorism efforts, which will only pave the way for more islamic terror attacks in the future.

PAUL SPERRY IS A FORMER HOOVER INSTITUTION MEDIA FELLOW AND AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLERS “INFILTRATION” AND “MUSLIM MAFIA.” FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER: @PAULSPERRY_.

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Lee Stranahan shares a clip from his upcoming documentary, “Caliphate”. In the clip, Clare Lopez explains the history of  “The Purge”” of counterterrorism training materials. We are allowing the enemy to blind us.

Mattis seeks out Soros-funded think tanker for top Pentagon post

Ralph Alswang | Flickr

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, March 22, 2017:

Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis wants to nominate a senior fellow at a Soros-funded think tank as undersecretary at the Pentagon, as the embattled Cabinet official continues to clash with the White House over prospective nominees.

Politico reports that Mattis wants Rudy deLeon — a senior fellow at the far-left Center for American Progress (CAP) — to come on board as undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

DeLeon previously served in the Clinton administration as deputy secretary of defense. During that time, Gen. Mattis served as his senior military assistant.

DeLeon worked for Boeing as senior vice president from 2001 to 2006 and currently serves on the board of major defense company General Dynamics.

This appears to be a peculiar choice for an undersecretary, given that deLeon recently endorsed a letter opposing the president’s immigration moratorium from six terror-linked countries. The letter calls Trump’s national security order “beneath the dignity of our great nation” and advised government workers to apply “discretion,” in an attempt to essentially undermine the president’s initiative.

As a CAP official, he has engaged in campaigns to advance “progressive values.” deLeon advocates for government to take “steps that will be a lasting legacy to the progressive societies for decades to come.” He is also a proponent of President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal with the terror state in Tehran.

DeLeon’s employer is funded by fringe leftist billionaire George Soros. It was co-founded and run by John Podesta, a longtime Obama and Clinton operative. Moreover, CAP is currently funding a “Resist” campaign to undermine the president’s agenda.

Why Sec. Mattis continues to vouch for Obama- and Clinton-era officials to run the Pentagon remains a controversial topic in D.C. Several Republicans are said to be growing frustrated with the retired general’s unwillingness to promote ideological allies of conservatives to top Pentagon posts.

Mattis has attempted to nominate Anne Patterson — the former ambassador to Egypt who became cozy with the Muslim Brotherhood — as one of his deputies, until the White House quashed the idea. Mattis also intended to hire Michele Flournoy, an Obama Pentagon official who co-founded the left-leaning Center for a New American Security, as a top official at the Defense Department.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel

White House Announces Six Names for Top Pentagon Positions

AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

Breitbart, by Kristina Wong, March 16, 2017:

The White House announced Thursday six new names for top political appointments at the Pentagon, including Deputy Defense Secretary.

The bunch has vast experience in the defense world: Three have congressional staff experience on defense-related committees, two have prior military experience, and four have prior government experience under the Bush administration.

The nominee for deputy defense secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, boasts long-time business experience at Boeing, one of the largest defense contractors in the country.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the nominees were personally recommended by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He said:

These are all highly qualified individuals who were personally recommended by Secretary Mattis to the President for nomination. Secretary Mattis is grateful to Deputy Secretary Bob Work for agreeing to continue serving until his successor is confirmed. His steady leadership is critical during this time of transition, and Secretary Mattis continues to have full confidence in him as he carries out crucial work in managing in the Department.

They are as announced:

Robert Daigle of Virginia will serve as Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE), Department of Defense. Mr. Daigle previously served in CAPE during the Bush Administration as Director of Program Resources and Information Systems Management Division. Mr. Daigle earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Vermont. He was granted an MBA in Finance from Columbia Business School and a Master of Science in International Security Studies from Georgetown University. Mr. Daigle is a Professional Staff Member on the House Armed Services Committee and was the Executive Director of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. He previously served in the United States Army.

Elaine McCusker of Virginia will serve as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller. Ms. McCusker is the Director, Resources and Analysis, Headquarters U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, FL.  Previous to this position, she served as a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, with the Department of Navy Headquarters, and with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller). Ms. McCusker previously worked in the private sector and academic community, including with Argonne National Laboratory/Department of Energy and the University of Washington.

David L. Norquist of Virginia will serve as Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller. Mr. Norquist is a Partner with Kearney and Company, a Certified Public Accounting firm.  He has 27 years of experience in Federal financial management beginning as a Federal employee in 1989 with the Department of the Army.  He has also served on the professional staff of the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense and as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).  He was the first Senate confirmed Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Homeland Security where he established a formal process to eliminate pervasive weaknesses in DHS’s financial statement and put the Department on its path to a clean audit opinion.  Mr. Norquist attended the University of Michigan where he received both a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Public Policy in 1989.  He also received a Master of Arts in National Security Studies from Georgetown University in 1995.  He is a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM).

Kenneth P. Rapuano of Virginia will serve as an Assistant Secretary of Defense, Homeland Defense and Global Security. Mr. Rapuano has a long career in national security and homeland security affairs in the private, public and academic sectors.  He currently serves as Senior Vice President and Director of the Studies and Analysis Group at the ANSER Corporation, and previously led the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute. Mr. Rapuano served as White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor from 2004-2006, has served in numerous roles with the departments of Energy and Defense, and has deployed numerous times on Active Duty, Reserves Duty with the United States Marine Corps and as a civilian with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Patrick M. Shanahan of Washington will serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense. Mr. Shanahan is senior vice president, Supply Chain & Operations at the Boeing Company, where he is responsible for oversight of the company’s manufacturing operations and supplier management functions. Mr. Shanahan came to this position from Boeing Commercial Airplanes, where he served as senior vice president of Airplane Programs and oversaw the management of profit and loss for the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs. Previously, Mr. Shanahan was vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems and vice president and general manager for Rotorcraft Systems in Philadelphia, where he was responsible for all U.S. Army Aviation, including the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, the CH-47 Chinook and the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter. Mr. Shanahan is a Royal Aeronautical Society Fellow, Society of Manufacturing Engineers Fellow, and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Associate Fellow. He serves as a Regent at the University of Washington and participates in numerous professional and charitable organizations, including the Washington Roundtable. Mr. Shanahan holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and two advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a Master of Science in mechanical engineering, and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

David Joel Trachtenberg of Virginia will serve as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Policy. Mr. Trachtenberg is the President and CEO of Shortwaver Consulting, LLC, a national security consultancy.  Prior to this role, Mr. Trachtenberg was the Vice President and head of Strategic Analysis Division at CACI-National Security Research. Mr. Trachtenberg previously served in several roles at the Department of Defense, most recently as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy where he was responsible for issues relating to NATO, Europe, Russia and Eurasia, technology security, counterproliferation, missile defense, nuclear forces, and arms control.  Additionally, Mr. Trachtenberg was a professional staff member with the House Armed Services Committee. Mr. Trachtenberg holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of Southern California and a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

14 Obama Holdovers Still at the Pentagon

Drew Angerer – Pool/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Kristina Wong, March 16, 2016:

WASHINGTON – There are 14 Obama holdovers still at the Pentagon, two months into the Trump administration.

Currently, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is the only presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed appointee at the Pentagon, out of 53 such positions.

Obama holdovers are filling four of those positions: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work remains in his position; Robert Speer is serving as Acting Army Secretary; Sean Stackley is serving as Acting Navy Secretary; and Lisa Disbrow as Acting Air Force Secretary.

The Pentagon said there are 10 other Obama holdovers still serving, but has declined to name who they are or what positions they are filling.

Trump has filled an additional 32 slots for non-Senate confirmed positions, for a total of 33 hires, including Mattis. That number is less than a fourth of the 163 political appointees at the Pentagon on election day.

The White House was expected to announce a handful of names for top political positions at the Pentagon as soon as this week, a defense official told Breitbart News. The White House declined to give a time frame for the announcement.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis on Monday brushed off suggestions it was taking longer than usual to get appointees in:

“You have to remember, eight years ago, we kept our secretary — Secretary [Robert] Gates at the time, so a lot of people stayed on with him, and you didn’t have as abrupt of a transition. For those of us who were around 16 years ago, it was pretty abrupt and we saw positions that went unfilled for many months. It takes time to interview, to find the most qualified candidates, to vet them, to get agreement on them, to send them to the Senate for confirmation.”

Trump has also named picks for Pentagon general counsel and Air Force Secretary, but the Senate has not yet confirmed them.

“There will be more to come. It’s a process,” Davis said.  He said Mattis has “put a lot of names forward that are currently going through the final stages of vetting. We think that there will be multiple announcements coming very soon.”

Civil servants and former defense officials say the lack of political appointees has had an effect on Pentagon’s operations.

One civil servant complained privately that the Joint Staff — military staff who support a body of senior military leaders who advise the president — is running “roughshod” over the Office of Secretary of Defense, according to a former defense official.

The former official said civil servants who are filling leadership roles temporarily don’t want to formulate new policies that get ahead of Trump appointees who may change or disagree with them, and either sit silent in meetings or advocate for previous policies.

It’s not clear how that might be affecting several reviews the Pentagon is currently undergoing, including on the strategy to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), on how to rebuild readiness of the armed forces, and on its nuclear missile defense posture.

Former Obama administration defense official Loren DeJonge Schulman said without a trusted agent from the Trump political team in the building to lead those reviews, it may be a more military-led process.

“There are fewer politicals, there are civilians who are not in power, and President Trump trusts the military more…the [elements] are there to have a more military-led process,” said Schulman, currently deputy director of studies and the Leon E. Panetta Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

“It’s hard to run a strategy review when you don’t have your political leader in place,” she said.

Another official at the Pentagon said it is possible the military is having more influence in policy discussions, but pointed out that at the end of the day, policy decisions go to Mattis, who despite being a retired-four star Marine general, is a civilian.

A spokesman from the Joint Staff said in an email to Breitbart News: “From our perspective, the Joint Staff is being participating, contributing and working collaboratively with OSD fully when, where and how asked,” he said.

Schulman, who first served as a special assistant to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said that what is more worrisome is that the lack of appointees is preventing important work from being done, particularly with foreign partners.

She said, for example,  the prime minister of a small country who is visiting the U.S. may not meet with the president but will often meet with senior defense officials instead.

Now, she said, there is rarely anyone to meet with. Some defense officials have gone overseas to meet with foreign counterparts, but could only sit and listen, not participate or negotiate since they lack policy guidance, she said.

“Any meeting they go to which requires them to have a position or be a part of a negotiation, it either requires them to stay silent, or to rely on the old administration’s policy, or to have to go to Mattis and say, ‘Hey what’s our position on X, Y, and Z,’ and that’s simply not possible for him to weigh in on everything DOD does. That’s why we have political appointees,” said Schulman.

There has also been grumbling from Capitol Hill, with lawmakers complaining there is no one to talk to at the Department.

Schulman said it has always taken awhile for administration to get top appointees in place, such as under secretaries. However, she said under the Obama administration, deputy assistant secretaries put almost immediately in place in priority areas, she said.

“We’re not seeing that here,” she said.

Also see:

Obama Quietly Transfers 10 Guantánamo Prisoners to Oman

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, January 16, 2017:

Outgoing President Barack Obama has transferred 10 prisoners from the U.S. military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to Oman on his way out of the White House.

As of 10:30 AM Monday, the Pentagon had not announced the transfers as it has consistently done in the past. The identities and nationalities of the prisoners remained unknown at the time.

Nevertheless, the government of Oman announced it has received the 10 jihadists, saying in a statement it responded to a request from the Obama administration and acted “out of consideration for the men’s humanitarian situation.”

“At the request of Sultan Qaboos and the US government for a solution to the question of Guantánamo detainees, 10 of these detainees arrived today in the sultanate to reside here temporarily,” the state-controlled Oman News Agency (ONA) quotes the ministry as saying.

Oman, which sits on the eastern edge of the Arabian peninsula and is bordered by Saudi Arabia and war-ravaged Yemen, has been ruled ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said since 1970.

Obama’s recent move reduced the Gitmo prison population down to 45, compared to 242 who were still held at the facility at the start of his presidency.

Read more

Trump Admin Inherits Continued Insecurity, Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghan security personnel inspect at the site of roadside bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2016 / AP

Afghan security personnel inspect at the site of roadside bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2016 / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant,January 12, 2017:

Donald Trump will need to confront the continued instability and corruption in Afghanistan as well as a resilient Taliban insurgency that continues to challenge Afghan military and police forces, according to the special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction.

John Sopko, the U.S. government’s special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction, offered a bleak assessment of the security situation and rebuilding efforts in the war-torn country on Wednesday during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, admitting that little has improved in Afghanistan over the past two years despite billions of dollars in investments from the United States.

The special inspector general unveiled a list of high-risk challenges facing the new administration in Afghanistan, including the capacity and capabilities of Afghan security forces, corruption, sustainability, on-budget assistance, counter-narcotics, contract management, general oversight, and planning and strategy.

Failure in any one of these eight areas, Sopko said Wednesday, could “fatally undermine the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan.”

The special inspector general identified corruption and poor leadership of the Afghan military and police forces as the root cause of the persisting insecurity in Afghanistan. He pointed to the tens of thousands of U.S. taxpayer-funded “ghost soldiers,” as well as evidence of Afghan forces selling U.S.-bought weapons and fuel for profit.

“Afghan commanders often pocket the paychecks of ghost soldiers for whom the U.S. is paying the salary,” Sopko said. “The number of ghost soldiers is not insignificant. It likely reaches into the tens of thousands of soldiers and police.”

“[Corruption] is so bad that there is evidence that the Taliban have instructed their field commanders to simply purchase U.S.-supplied weapons, fuel, and ammunition from the Afghan government because it is both easier and less expensive for the insurgents to do so,” he continued.

“There are reports that when fuel finally reaches the frontlines in Afghanistan, that some Afghan commanders refuse to use it, refuse to go on patrols, so they can save the fuel which they then can sell on the open market,” Sopko said.

The special inspector general has said as much as 50 percent of U.S.-purchased fuel is siphoned off and sold for profits.

“Our new administration and Congress should ask: Is it finally time to stop talking about combatting corruption and time for the Afghan government to start prosecuting senior officials who are either corrupt or feel they are above the law?” Sopko said.

The Taliban has continued to launch attacks and seize territory in Afghanistan, as U.S. and allied forces have withdrawn troops from the country. President Obama last year decelerated his planned drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, leaving some 8,400 service members in the country through the end of his term. Gens. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, have both characterized the security situation as a “stalemate.”

The Taliban on Tuesday set off two large bombs near a government compound in Kabul, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens. The attack was among 56 security incidents that occurred over the last two days in 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, according to the special inspector general.

The Pentagon’s latest assessment of the Afghan military and police forces evaluated them as effective in repelling insurgents in key population areas and retaking territory seized by the Taliban. But Sopko on Wednesday offered a negative take on the assessment, saying that the Afghan forces are “basically playing whack-a-mole, following the Taliban around Afghanistan and retaking territory that was lost.”

“The DoD report reiterates this point by noting that the vast majority of the Afghan national army has little offensive capability,” the special inspector general said. “So, the best spin the Afghan security forces can put on their activities in 2016 is that they were able to retake strategic areas that had temporarily been lost to the Taliban. So, we’re defining success as the absence of failure. At a minimum, they are playing defense and are not taking the fight to the Taliban.”

The United States announced this week that it will send 300 Marines to Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, in order to train, advise, and assist Afghan government forces fighting Taliban insurgents. Obama marked the end of combat in Afghanistan in December 2014.

Trump has not yet outlined a strategy for Afghanistan, which after 15 years has stretched to America’s longest war, but has pledged to end “nation building” by the United States. Under the new administration, the Pentagon will likely be led by retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who faces a confirmation hearing to become defense secretary this week.

The United States has spent $115 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan and is expected to contribute between $5 and $6 billion annually through 2020.

Sopko, who was appointed to the inspector general post in 2012 by President Obama, urged the incoming administration to “conduct a thorough assessment of resources and personnel to ensure they are sufficient to meet our military, law enforcement, and civilian objectives in Afghanistan.” He also recommended the new government work with Afghan and coalition allies to develop a “new and better strategy” in Afghanistan that avoids failures revealed by his office and other oversight investigations.

“Fifteen years in, there is no reason we should be seeing the problems we continue to witness and document in the nearly 250 reports my little office has released,” Sopko said. “My hope, and the hope of my staff, is that the high-risk report we are issuing today and the examples it provides will help guide Congress and the Trump administration as we move into 2017 to ensure a strong, better, and more effective reconstruction effort in what has become America’s longest war.”