Outgoing Army Secretary Blasts Congressional Budget Politics

"On Monday, Army Secretary John McHugh criticized his former fellow lawmakers for not providing clear and predictable funding for the U.S. military," Defense One reports. "McHugh also had strong words for Beltway types who favor a smaller force with a smaller budget."  

Is Putin's Syria Intervention Meant to Teach a Lesson

Ivan Krastev : "Is Russia in Syria simply for the sport of watching a humiliated President Obama? Is damaging the value of American power the only purpose of Russia’s 'spoiling'? It’s more accurate to say that the Kremlin is in Syria for pedagogical reasons: It wants to teach Americans a lesson, and a valuable one. It wants to show that America should either be prepared to intervene in any civil war that follows a troubled revolution inspired by its lofty rhetoric, or it should quit goading people to revolt."  

Top Commander in Afghanistan Recommends More Troops Stay for Longer

"The U.S. Army general leading the 14,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan made a plea on Tuesday to leave American forces in Afghanistan longer to train the faltering Afghan security forces," Paul McLeary reports, "a move that would require President Barack Obama to scrap his December 2016 timeline for withdrawing the last U.S. troops from the country."  

"Afghans still 'cannot handle the fight alone' without American close air support and a special operations counterterrorism force to hit Taliban leadership, Gen. John Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee... Campbell said he has provided the White House a variety of options on troop strength, but he hedged when asked specifically how many of the 9,800 American troops should remain in Afghanistan and for how long."  

Pentagon Resumes Survey of Colorado Facilities for Potential Guantanamo Replacement

"A Pentagon team tasked with finding potential alternatives inside the United States for Guantánamo captives is resuming its site survey in Colorado," Miami Herald reports.  

"The White House notified state and congressional politicians that a team would inspect a now empty state facility, Colorado State Penitentiary II, as well as a federal prison 10 miles away adjacent to the Florence 'supermax' holding 405 inmates, many of them convicted terrorists. They include former Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani, 41, convicted of the East Africa embassies bombings; Ramzi Yousef, 47, the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, serving life for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; ‘Unibomber’ Ted Kaczynski, 73, and FBI agent turned spy Robert Hanssen, 71."  

Pentagon Voices Worries Over Defense Industry Mergers

Defense One looks at Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall's concerns that mergers between major defense companies will reduce market competition.  

"The Pentagon’s top arms buyer worries that Lockheed Martin’s upcoming $9 billion acquisition of Blackhawk helicopter maker Sikorsky is part of a bad trend in which large defense firms get bigger and competition wanes... Pentagon leaders have been expecting an uptick in industry mergers for several years. In 2011, Ash Carter — then the acquisition chief, now defense secretary — warned that the Pentagon would not support mergers among the biggest companies."  

Putin Takes Advantage of Obama's Efforts to Contain the Middle East

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon & Molly O'Toole : "President Obama used the pulpit of the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Russian military meddling in Syria and implore world leaders to back his own strategy: contain the conflict militarily while seeking a political exit for Bashar al Assad. And at all costs, avoid U.S. 'boots on the ground' in yet another Middle Eastern conflict. But Moscow’s buildup of troops and assets in Syria in avowed support for Assad underlines the limits of this approach."  

Drone Strikes Take Toll on Militant Leadership

"A dedicated manhunt by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the military's Joint Special Operations Command has been methodically finding and killing senior militants in Syria and Iraq, in one of the few clear success stories of the U.S. military campaign in those countries," according to AP .  

"The drone strikes — separate from the conventional bombing campaign run by U.S. Central Command — have significantly diminished the threat from the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria that had planned attacks on American aviation, U.S. officials say. The group's leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, and its top bomb-maker, David Drugeon, were killed this past summer."  

U.S. Launches Airstrike in Afghan Effort to Retake Kunduz From Taliban

The Washington Post looks at U.S. participation in the Afghanistan government's efforts to reclaim the city of Kunduz from the Taliban.  

"The showdowns took shape before dawn — less than 24 hours after Taliban militiamen stormed into Kunduz — as Afghan reinforcements poured into the area after a U.S. airstrike helped clear the way. The fight to reclaim Kunduz — Afghanistan’s sixth-largest city and a strategic gateway to Central Asia — serves as one of the Afghan military’s biggest tests in the 14-year-long war against the Taliban insurgency and raised questions about the withdrawal timetable for U.S. and other coalition troops."  

U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Surrender Arms to Al Qaeda

The Long War Journal reports that "US-backed rebels in the so-called 'New Syrian Forces' (NSF) have turned over at least some of their equipment and ammunition to a 'suspected' intermediary for Al Nusrah Front, US Central Command (CENTCOM) conceded in a statement."  

"The admission further jeopardizes the unit’s ability to receive American arms in the future. Rebels belonging to Division 30, a group supported by the US, suffered losses immediately upon entering the Syrian fray earlier this year. More than 50 members of Division 30 were sent into Syria in July. But Al Nusrah quickly thwarted their plans, even though the US-backed rebels intended to fight the Islamic State, Al Nusrah’s bitter rival."  

Administration Working Group Shies Away From Proposing Encryption "Backdoors"

The Washington Post reports on the latest in the battle between technology companies and federal law enforcement over the inclusion of "backdoors" into encrypted communications.  

"An Obama administration working group has explored four possible approaches tech companies might use that would allow law enforcement to unlock encrypted communications — access that some tech firms say their systems are not set up to provide. The group concluded that the solutions were 'technically feasible,' but all had drawbacks as well... The approaches were analyzed as part of a months-long government discussion about how to deal with the growing use of encryption in which no one but the user can see the information... 'Any proposed solution almost certainly would quickly become a focal point for attacks,' said the unclassified memo, drafted this summer by officials from law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic and economic agencies for eventual consideration by Cabinet members."