National Security Brief: December 14, 2011

— Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday that Iraq will welcome all U.S. corporations with open arms as all American troops withdraw, saying they could find opportunities to help rebuild in Iraq.

— The Shia-dominated Iraqi government wants former Sunni insurgents groups known as the Awakening — who took money from the U.S. to switch sides at the height of the war — to disband by the end of the year, causing tensions and raising fears of sectarian strife.

— Gen. John R. Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that the direct combat role of NATO forces will lessen in the following year as American and allied military trainers deploy directly with Afghan security forces.

— Boris V. Gryzlov, a staunch Vladimir Putin ally and chairman of Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, resigned from his position as speaker of the lower house of Parliament in an attempt to defuse anger over perceived fraud in recent elections.

— The Office of Personnel Management announced that the federal government hired the highest percentage of veterans in more than 20 years during the past fiscal year.

— U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) says a spy drone captured by Iranian forces came down “due to a technical problem” and was not downed by the Iranians. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Fox News that the drone campaign along the Iran-Afghanistan border will “absolutely” continue despite the setback.

— Led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a group from Congress’s upper chamber plans to prevent military spending cuts and launch an alternative plan to the mandated reductions to security spending triggered by failure of the so-called “super committee” to find cuts elsewhere.

— The U.N. asked donor countries for $7.7 billion for humanitarian aid — less than last year’s ask — to help an expected 51 million people, the largest chunk of which would go to 4 million people in Somalia suffering from continuing conflict and famine.