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3:48 pm, November 26, 2014

Pentagon & Beyond

National Security Correspondent J.J. Green has traveled three continents covering intelligence, terrorism, and security issues. From Afghanistan to Africa, Iraq to Ireland, there isn't anywhere J.J. won't go, nor anyone he won't talk with, to get the stories affecting the defense and national security communities.

Where's Bashar Al-Assad?

There are reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recently been living on board a warship in the middle of the Mediterranean under Russian protection, along with his family members and close aides. According to the Saudi-backed Al-Watan online publication that "Al-Asad is being transported from the ship to Syria using a helicopter when he had official appointments. " nternational aid organizations say more than 60,000 people have died in the 22 month old crisis.

Al Qaida pushes deeper into Mali

Mali's president has declared a state of emergency on national television a day after Islamists pushed the closest ever from the north toward government-held territory. President Dioncounda Traore said late Friday that the declaration would remain in effect for 10 days and could be renewed. The president called on mining companies and non-government organizations to give up their pickups and other trucks to the Malian military, raising questions about the capacity of the army. The U.S. is concerned about Mali because of Al Qaida's strong base there.

Changes in 9-11 cases

The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military tribunals says he will seek to dismiss one of the eight charges against five prisoners accused of planning and aiding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins has asked a Pentagon official to strike the charge of conspiracy. The prisoners would still face charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder and could still get the death penalty. Their trial at the U.S. base in Cuba is likely at least a year away.

Brennan nomination may be held up

Trouble may be looming for President Barack Obama's pick for CIA director. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee, says until the administration provides answers on the deadly Sept. 11 assault in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, he's going to delay the confirmation of John Brennan. Graham said the administration has been stone-walling on Benghazi and it has to stop. At issue is the finger-pointing about who changed the talking points concerning what happened in the attack.

Concern growing in Mali

The Pentagon is preparing small military teams to send to Africa to help deal with growing insurgencies in the Northern part of the continent. In the meantime, officials in Mali say Islamists who seized the northern half of the country are moving closer to areas under government control. The insurgent advance was noted recently as Al-Qaida linked militants used bulldozers and heavy machinery to construct hideouts in the in Northern Mali. Now there's concern they could take over the whole country.

Uniform changes take place

Marines and sailors assigned to Marine units are required to wear the appropriate seasonal service uniform. American Forces Press is reporting, the designated uniform worn from November to March will be the Service B "Bravos" and from April to October, the Service C "Charlies". The Air Force rescinded its "Blues Monday" policy that had required most airmen to wear the blue uniform every Monday. Neither the Army nor Navy have service wide requirements regarding wear of service uniforms.

Reports of air strikes in Myanmar's Kachin State

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about reports of air strikes in Myanmar's Kachin State, A 20-month conflict between government troops and rebels has been escalating in recent days. The hostilities have already caused large-scale displacement of civilians who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma was under military rule for almost a half century until 2011.

Al Qaida moving into new home

You may find it hard to believe, but Al Qaida elements have been busy the North West Africa country of Mali. They've been using bulldozers, earth movers and other heavy construction equipment left behind by fleeing construction crews to dig an elaborate network of tunnels, trenches, shafts and ramparts into remote desert bases, and in the and cliff faces of northern Mali. US intelligence sources say they're preparing for an attack on their new home by African and Western forces.

Ahmadinejad losing standing

A sign of the times in Iran. A top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was temporarily freed from prison this week. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad's press adviser and head of the state news agency IRNA, was sent to Tehran's Evin prison in September to serve a six-month term for publishing an article deemed offensive to public decency. Javanfekr's arrest was regarded as an indication of Ahmadinejad's dwindling clout.

President Obama calls Army Secretary about Fort Myer Day Care investigation

President Barack Obama placed a call to Army Secretary John Mchugh yesterday. The reason -- concern about abuse at the Fort Myer, Va., day care center. He is said to have made clear that there must be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members. The call came after arrests and problems with background checks at that day care center. During call the President asked for a speedy investigation.

We've turned the corner in Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the U.S. has turned the corner in Afghanistan. "In my book, the significant turning point in 2011 was that for the first time we saw the transition working, the Afghan Army able to do its job, and violence going down and that continues to be the trend," said Panetta. He said at a National Press Club speech, U.S. troops will be leaving Afghanistan, but the U.S. will still have a presence there.

F-35 pilot training set to begin

Reuters is reporting that "the U.S. Air Force on Monday approved the formal start of pilot training on the A-model of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at a Florida military base, paving the way for 36 expert pilots to be trained next year as instructors for the new stealth warplane." This looks to be a way to stop the automatic budget cuts, the could be brought on by the "fiscal cliff" from digging into the program.

Obama urges suit dismissal

The Obama administration is urging a federal court to dismiss a damage lawsuit over the drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen last year, including an al-Qaida cleric. The Associate Press is reporting that, In a court filing Friday, the Justice Department said the issue is best handled by the government's political branches, not the judiciary. U.S.-born al-Qaida leader Anwar al- Awlaki (ahn-WAHR' al-aw-LAH'-kee) and al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki's son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.

Karzai coming to Washington

President Hamid Karzai says he will meet President Barack Obama in Washington next month to discuss a postwar U.S. role in his country. At a news conference with visiting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Karzai said he and Mr. Obama will discuss how many U.S. troops will remain after the Western combat mission ends in December 2014. Immunity from Afghan laws for those remaining Americans is said to be of great importance" to Obama administration, but Karzai said he has his own priorities in negotiating a postwar U.S. role.

New PM for Mali

Mali's new prime minister has vowed to deal with a growing concern over insurgents in the north after his predecessor was forced out of office and placed under house arrest by soldiers responsible for a military coup earlier this year. The international community is considering backing a military intervention, including Malian soldiers, to wrest the country's north from the hands of radical Islamists. Diango Cissoko was chosen as the new prime minister in Mali's transitional government.

Secret space mission underway

The military launched a rocket into orbit on yesterday on what appears to be a mystery mission. The Air Force launched the unmanned spacecraft on top of an Atlas V rocket. It's a small, top-secret version of the space shuttle and it is the second flight for this the X-37B space plane. The craft circled the planet for seven months in 2010. A second X-37B spacecraft spent more than a year in orbit.

Lawmakers endorse defense cuts

Eleven Republicans and 11 Democrats sent a letter yesterday to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders pushing strategic reductions in the long term Pentagon budget. The Associated Press is reporting, a bipartisan group of House members says any budget deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts should include "substantial defense savings." The lawmakers noted that organizations of various political leanings have backed cuts of $550 billion in projected military spending. They also cited retired Adm. Mike Mullen's argument that the nation's debt is the greatest threat to national security.

Officer Ethics Review Underway

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey says ethics training for senior leaders is adequate but should begin earlier in an officer's career and be reinforced more frequently. That comes in response to a request by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for a review of ethics training following a series of highly publicized ethical lapses by top military officers. Dempsey also suggests that the number of staff they have be reviewed as well.

DoD's legal chief resigns

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer has resigned and says he will return to private practice. Johnson is leaving at the end of December after four years that included a number of controversial legal issues including the escalation in the use of drone strikes and the repeal of the Pentagon's ban on openly gay military service. He left the New York City- based law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, to take the Pentagon job, and is expected to return there.

Defense budget passes

The Senate has voted for a broad $631 billion defense bill, that among other things, calls for accelerating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and tightens sanctions on Iran. The legislation which passed 98-0, would authorize money for weapons, aircraft and ships and provide a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel.

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