Why Does the United States Operate Blind in Yemen?

“Southern Yemen’s stability is a more recent phenomenon than Somaliland’s, but it is just as real. While the Saudis struggled unsuccessfully to push back the Houthis, Emirati forces working in tandem with local forces drove out Al Qaeda elements who had occupied Aden, Mukalla and other towns and ports. Multiple flights depart Aden each day for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Djibouti; the Sana’a airport handles at most a single flight daily. Hotels in Aden thrive. Security has returned. Aden is safer today than Karachi, Peshawar, and many Latin American and African capitals. An American is more likely to be taken hostage in Beijing or Moscow than Aden.
That the United States has not at least temporarily relocated its Yemen embassy in Aden is itself an acknowledgment that Yemeni unity is a fiction. American diplomats know that northern Yemenis consider southern Yemen a foreign land and vice versa. Southern Yemen has more in common with Somaliland, with whom many southern Yemeni families share blood, than with the Houthi-dominated areas.

Just as with Somalia and Somaliland, however, neither the White House nor State Department have the foresight to acknowledge the benefits of Yemeni disunity. Even short of recognizing southern Yemeni self-determination, maintaining a diplomatic office in Aden would bring huge diplomatic and security rewards at little cost. Southern Yemen may be secure now, but it was not long ago that Al Qaeda filled the vacuum. A U.S. presence tips the balance further by providing Yemenis hope and encouraging both Western and Arab investment. Intelligence also matters. Just as U.S. Embassy in Somalia reporting is risible given its blindness to dynamics in Somaliland where the State Department has no presence, the lack of a diplomatic office in Aden denies diplomats and intelligence analysts insight into local dynamics, including that across the de facto border in northern Yemen.

Revisionist powers are on the offensive, while the American presence erodes. In Yemen, this takes the form of Iranian support for the Houthis, while China operates its first overseas naval base just a couple dozen miles away in Djibouti. Rather than rectify the problem, the State Department appears aloof to it. If the State Department cares about the Yemeni people and consolidating stability in a region where it is elusive, there can be no further delay to an official diplomatic office or consulate in Aden.”

https://www.aei.org/op-eds/why-does-the-united-states-operate-blind-in-yemen/

Explainer-What is ISIS-K, the group that attacked a Moscow concert hall?

“Earlier this month, the top U.S. general in the Middle East said ISIS-K could attack U.S. and Western interests outside of Afghanistan “in as little as six months and with little to no warning.””

“While the attack by ISIS-K in Russia on Friday was a dramatic escalation, experts said the group has opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years.
“ISIS-K has been fixated on Russia for the past two years, frequently criticizing Putin in its propaganda,” said Colin Clarke of Soufan Center, a New York-based research group.

Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Wilson Center said that ISIS-K “sees Russia as being complicit in activities that regularly oppress Muslims.”

He added that the group also counts as members a number of Central Asian militants with their own grievances against Moscow.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/explainer-why-did-isis-k-011615857.html

4 Chinese citizens charged with helping Iran obtain U.S. technology for military use

“Four Chinese nationals have been charged with providing U.S. technology to Iran, according to the Justice Department.
“Baoxia Liu, aka Emily Liu; Yiu Wa Yung, aka Stephen Yung; Yongxin Li, aka Emma Lee; and Yanli Zhong, aka Sydney Chung, unlawfully exported and smuggled U.S. export-controlled items through China and Hong Kong,” the Justice Department said”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/4-chinese-citizens-charged-helping-203639055.html

Iran goes public with stark warning over suspected spy ship as U.S. refuses to rule out more strikes

Iran goes public with stark warning over suspected spy ship as U.S. refuses to rule out more strikes

https://www.yahoo.com/news/iran-goes-public-stark-warning-130042353.html

U.S. intel agencies believe hospital blast caused by Palestinian rocket that broke apart after engine failure, officials say

https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-intel-agencies-believe-hospital-014522065.html

‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine

“Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for international economics, National Security Council, White House: We thought we had quelled his appetite for territory by meeting him in Geneva and trying to address some of the strategic concerns he’d been raising, but then here we were again, with an even larger force.”

“Gen. Mark Milley: It’s 30 days after the exit from Afghanistan. Some people said that the invasion of Ukraine was a result of the withdrawal. I don’t agree. It’s obvious the invasion was planned before the fall of Afghanistan.”

“Bill Burns: [While I was in Moscow,] I was talking to [Putin] on a secure phone. It was a strange conversation. He was in Sochi — this was the height of yet another wave of Covid, Moscow itself was under a curfew — so he was isolating himself. The conversation was pretty straightforward. I laid out what the president had asked me to lay out to him. His response was a lot of what I had heard before from him about his convictions about Ukraine, and in many ways, his cockiness about Russia’s ability to enforce its will on Ukraine. His senior advisers were pretty consistent as well. Not all of them were intimately familiar with his own decision-making, so at least one or two of them were a little bit surprised with what I laid out to them because the circle of advisers had gotten so small.”

“Bill Burns: My own impression, based on interactions with him over the years, was a lot of this had to do with his own fixation on controlling Ukraine. He was convincing himself that strategically the window was closing on his opportunity to control Ukraine.”

“Bill Burns: His conviction was that without controlling Ukraine and its choices, it’s not possible for Russia to be a great power and have this sphere of influence that he believes is essential. And it’s not possible for him to be a great Russian leader without accomplishing that.”

“Wally Adeyemo: The diplomacy between the president and the secretary getting people aligned on sanctions before Russia invaded was probably the biggest difference between this time and Crimea in terms of our ability to act quickly and effectively — things that we were unable to do back then.”

“Gen. Paul Nakasone: We sent a [U.S. Cyber Command] team forward, and they land in Kyiv on the fourth of December. Within a day or two, the leader calls back, and she tells my Cyber National Mission Force commander, her boss, “We’re not coming home for a while. In fact, send more people.” We sent our largest “hunt forward” package into Kyiv. That stays there for a little over 70 days. What is a “hunt forward” operation? A hunt forward operation is focused at the partner’s request to look at a series of networks — we identify malware, tradecraft and anomalous behavior in those networks that point us to adversaries and allow the partner — in this case, Ukraine — to strengthen those networks.
The interesting thing that she — the team leader — said: “They’re really serious about this.” This is the third time that we had been back in Ukraine, and there was just a different feeling in terms of how Ukraine was approaching it. When we provided information, they were moving on it, correcting the vulnerability, and looking for more.”

“Amb. Michael Carpenter: We thought, “OK, if there’s a crisis of European security, then let’s talk about it. Let’s identify the Russian concerns and see if there’s a way that we can address them through diplomacy.” Poland assumed the chairperson-ship of the OSCE on January 1, 2022, and so I immediately went to go visit with the Polish Foreign Minister to talk about the diplomatic angle. He was very receptive, and subsequently launched a process called the renewed European Security Dialogue. Russia basically refused to engage, and that’s when it became increasingly clear the Kremlin really had no interest in diplomacy all along. It was bent on war.

All of its alleged concerns — everything that it was putting out there in the public domain — was really a smokescreen. They turned their backs completely on the diplomacy that we were proposing at the OSCE, the diplomacy that was being proposed on behalf of NATO and then also bilaterally what we were discussing with the Russians. There was nothing to offer them, because they didn’t even want to talk.”

“Bill Burns: I saw Zelenskyy in the middle of January to lay out the most recent intelligence we had about Russian planning for the invasion, which by that point had sharpened its focus to come straight across the Belarus frontier — just a relatively short drive from Kyiv — to take Kyiv, decapitate the regime and establish a pro-Russian government there. With some fair amount of detail, including, for example, the Russian intent to seize an airport northwest of Kyiv called Hostomel, and use that as a platform to bring in airborne forces as well to accelerate the seizure of Kyiv.”

“Antony Blinken: I saw Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva in late January, the 21st, because we were determined to exhaust every diplomatic avenue. It was incredibly blustery in Geneva — I’ve never seen Lake Geneva more agitated in my life, like an ocean with a major storm setting in. I alluded to that and said, “You know, we have a responsibility to see if we can calm the seas — calm the lake.” Lavrov was uncharacteristically focused on his talking points, and there wasn’t much extemporaneous give and take, which is not usually the case with him.

I wanted to see if there was some final way of breaking through and suggested we spend some time alone after the meeting with our teams. We sat in chairs about a foot from each other. I asked him, “Tell me, what are you trying to do? What is actually going on here? Is this really about your purported security concerns? Or is this about something theological, which is Putin’s conviction that Ukraine is not an independent state and has to be subsumed into Russia? If it’s the former, if this is genuinely from your perspective about security concerns that Russia has, well we owe it to try to talk about those and our own profound security concerns about what Russia is doing, because we need to avert a war. But if it’s about the latter, if this is about this profoundly misplaced view that Ukraine is not its own country, and you’re determined to subsume it into Russia, well, there’s nothing to talk about.” He couldn’t or wouldn’t give me a straight answer.”

“Emily Horne: We decided Jake was going to go out to the podium with [White House spokesperson] Jen [Psaki] the next day and do a couple of things: One, was going to make very, very clear that any American or dual nationals in Ukraine needed to get out immediately and that the calvary would not come to rescue Americans after an invasion has begun. That was certainly a lesson learned from Afghanistan: You can’t over-message that, and you have to be extremely clear, even at the risk of causing a little bit of panic. The Ukrainians were not terribly happy about that message, but we absolutely did not have a choice, given what we were seeing. The new phrase that Jake deployed on that February 11 press conference was “We are in a window where an invasion could begin at any time.””

“Gen. Mark Milley: I know that was a huge lot of diplomacy. There’s a lot of effort being done by Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, Jake Sullivan, myself, the president himself, to try to dissuade Russia from doing this and to warn them if they did it these will be likely consequences.

Derek Chollet: There have been multiple attempts — not just by us. There were other countries, the French, the Germans, others were engaging Putin. No one was getting anywhere.”

“Antony Blinken: The invasion didn’t take place for another week, precisely because we were able to call Putin out publicly. The fact that we were able to continue to declassify information, call him out at the Security Council, have the president use the ultimate bully pulpit to call him out — that put them a little bit off the timeline that we had seen.”

“Jake Sullivan: This was uncharted territory — the idea that there would be a major land war in Europe, with all of the ripple effects that that could cause, that felt like an enormous weight on me, on the whole team, most especially on the president. It was extremely hard to sleep.”

“Gen. Mark Milley: The Ukrainians, at the very end — probably about two weeks prior — really begin to mobilize their country into a nation at arms. They really got into full swing, where you started seeing all the men — and a lot of the women — learning how to use weapons, mines, hand grenades, explosives and all that stuff. Then you also saw a significant mobilization of Ukrainian people into the army — reservists — and you saw the disposition of the Ukrainian forces to begin to change into their wartime locations.

There was a large evacuation of civilians out of what was expected to be the frontline areas, a real flurry of diplomatic activity, and then also decisions made by the international community — most countries pulled out their embassies out of Kyiv. That’s a big, big decision. When you start seeing stuff like that happening, you start realizing that war is getting close.”

“Matthew Miller: There is sometimes this unrealistic sense that America can wave a magic wand and control the world. That’s just not true. We don’t have magic wands.”

“Colin Kahl: Sometimes people say, “Well, if you were going to give them this stuff, why didn’t you give them all at the beginning?” And the reality is, as a matter of dollars and logistics, we couldn’t. We’ve given $27 billion of security assistance. We didn’t have $27 billion at the beginning of the war. As a matter of actual and bureaucratic physics, you have to prioritize. What the secretary has been ruthless about is, “What does Ukraine need right now for the fight?” In the initial phases of the conflict, that was anti-armor, man-portable and short-range air defense systems, and artillery and ammunition for their Soviet legacy systems, and more Soviet legacy air defense systems. We poured in the Javelins and the Stingers and scoured our own stocks from the Cold War for Soviet era ammunition and stuff we swept up around the globe.”

“Gen. Mark Milley: People don’t think about war — even today. When I say to people, “There have been 35,000 or 40,000 innocent Ukrainians killed in this war, a third of their economy has been destroyed, an estimated 7 million internally-displaced persons, and another 7 million refugees out of a pre-war population of 45 million — you’re looking at 30 to 40 percent of that country displaced out of houses.” People sit there and go: “Oh?””

We Already Have 18 Intelligence Agencies. We Still Need 1 More.

“The U.S. cannot adequately address its national security challenges related to China, which are increasingly driven by technology, without the help of a potentially surprising partner: the Department of Commerce.

Unfortunately, the department itself lacks the critical support needed for these efforts. Most crucial: Commerce needs its own intelligence agency.”

“The cases that come before CFIUS are privileged and not publicly disclosed. But I can say this: The most challenging ones usually revolved around issues of advanced or dual-use technology, an area in which the Department of Commerce plays a critical role given its international trade and export control responsibilities.

Today, the Department of Commerce is an agency unexpectedly on the frontlines of vital U.S. national and economic security challenges, most prominently demonstrated by its leading role on ensuring critical access to semiconductors, and as evidenced by the CHIPS Act and recent rules promulgated by the department to protect against even knowledge transfers between the United States and China.

But these efforts are certain to be a beginning for Commerce, not an end. And a dedicated in-house intel agency can better identify emerging threats and challenges from China that Commerce needs to tackle, including potential spyware and other intrusions embedded in foreign technology. For instance, in late November, the U.S. issued a ban on new Huawei and ZTE equipment — along with that of three other Chinese companies — for fear it would be used to spy on Americans. Last month, Congress proposed limiting U.S. exposure to Chinese 5G leaders, including Huawei, by restricting their access to U.S. banks, adding them to Treasury’s Specifically Designated Nationals List.

In fact, Commerce’s current position is not unlike that of the Treasury Department’s in 2004.

That year — as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act — Congress established the current iteration of Treasury’s intelligence agency, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and formally made it part of the broader intel community. Since then, OIA has played a critical role for almost two decades combating terrorist financing, helping support sanctions efforts and providing financial intelligence to Treasury policymakers.

OIA’s successes would simply not have been possible without it being a full, integrated member of the intelligence community. Indeed, its assessments often find their way to the White House and to other senior policymakers across town, even as its primary focus is supporting the Treasury Department.

In the same way, the Commerce Department cannot be expected to play a more fulsome role in U.S. national security if its leaders are not fully informed of the strategic goals and illicit tactical efforts of U.S. adversaries. To meet that expectation, requires the launch of a new, 19th intel agency to be housed at the department.”

Kabul’s collapse followed string of intel failures, defense officials say

“Military planners sounding the alarm about Afghanistan’s imminent collapse failed to predict the speed with which the Taliban would overrun the country, leaving the Biden administration scrambling to evacuate thousands of American citizens, embassy staffers and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul’s international airport.
Though officials warned repeatedly over the past few weeks that the Afghan government could fall far sooner than previous estimates — weeks or months after the last American troops depart the country — they overestimated the capability and will of the Afghan security forces to fight back as the Taliban seized city after city in recent days, defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning, told POLITICO.

In fact, DoD officials briefed lawmakers last month on the intelligence assessment that the combination of Afghan special commandos, air force and local militias could hold off the Taliban long enough for a political settlement, according to a senior Democratic aide with knowledge of the briefings.”