National Security

Exclusive: Assad used chems; Meet the man who doles out U.S. aid to Syria; Putin’s got Wasta; O’Bagy gets axed from ISW; P4 gets mobbed (scary video); Winnefeld talks to the IT Crowd; and a bit more. [Presented today by Lockheed Martin]

By Gordon Lubold

U.N. inspectors have collected a ‘wealth' of evidence that point to Syrian President Assad using chemical weapons, FP has learned. FP's Colum Lynch with this exclusive: "The inspection team, which is expected on Monday to present U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with a highly anticipated report on a suspected Aug. 21 never agent attack in the suburbs of Damascus, will not directly accuse the Syrian regime of gassing its own people, according to three U.N.-based diplomats familiar with the investigation. But it will provide a strong circumstantial case -- based on an examination of spent rocket casings, ammunition, and laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples -- that points strongly in the direction of Syrian government culpability. A Western official, to Lynch: "I know they have gotten very rich samples -- biomedical and environmental -- and they have interviewed victims, doctors and nurses... It seems they are very happy with the wealth of evidence they got."  Lynch: "The official, who declined to speak on the record because of the secrecy surrounding the U.N. investigation, could not identify the specific agents detected by the inspector team, but said, "You can conclude from the type of evidence the [identity of the] author." Read the rest here.

Meet the man who delivers American non-lethal assistance to Syria. An American whom the Syrian opposition knows as "Mr. Mark" is about to be one of the most important players in the planet's most important conflict. Mark Ward is the U.S. State Department's senior advisor on assistance to Syria, and from his perch across the border in Gaziantep, Turkey, he oversees a growing American assistance package. Much of it is humanitarian aid provided to Syrians in need of help during the civil war. But an enlarging pot of assistance -- from packaged meals to pickups -- goes to the Syrian opposition's Supreme Military Council (SMC). Ward has been working out of hotel rooms and warehouses in Gaziantep since last November. With his San Francisco Giants ball cap and the authority of a veteran foreign service officer seasoned in world crises, Ward is the face of American assistance in Syria. He now oversees the $1.2 billion aid package that has flowed or, to some critics, trickled into the country since March 2012... The delay, perceived or real, frustrates Ward, too, who himself wishes assistance could be faster. But as he told FP, shipping aid and equipment into Syria too quickly could mean that it goes to the wrong organizations or communities. Experts on Syria who guide Ward and his team on where best to send it tell him to go slowly. "It's like vetting the end users of our aid to be sure they aren't bad guys," he said in an interview with FP during a visit to Washington last week. "Rush it, and you could do real harm." Read the rest of our story, "The Delivery Man," including why Ward believes MREs are the key to the crawl-walk-run approach, here.

And just in time, too: Arms have begun to arrive in Syria. The WaPo's Ernesto Londono and Greg Miller: "The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear - a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria's civil war... The weaponry ‘doesn't solve all the needs the guys have, but it's better than nothing,' the opposition official said. He added that Washington remains reluctant to give the rebels what they most desire: antitank and antiaircraft weapons. The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces." The rest of their story here.

WSJ's Page Oner about rebels feeling the delay in assistance from the U.S. has hurt if not almost killed their cause. The WSJ's Nour Malas: "Rebels in Syria, already frustrated with delays in promised U.S. military aid, said on Wednesday that they gave up on the prospect of decisive foreign help after President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on striking Syria...Rebels in Syria, already frustrated with delays in promised U.S. military aid, said on Wednesday that they gave up on the prospect of decisive foreign help after President Barack Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on striking Syria... Supreme Military Council leader Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss and other council members said support so far has been inadequate. U.S. officials said rebels had unfounded expectations and often misinterpreted their statements and actions." More here.

Welcome to Thursday's laden edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us and we'll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Putin is taking center stage as the man at the moment with the most Wasta when it comes to Syria. The NYT's Steven Lee Meyers, in Moscow: "...Suddenly Mr. Putin has eclipsed Mr. Obama as the world leader driving the agenda in the Syria crisis. He is offering a potential, if still highly uncertain, alternative to what he has vocally criticized as America's militarism and reasserted Russian interests in a region where it had been marginalized since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although circumstances could shift yet again, Mr. Putin appears to have achieved several objectives, largely at Washington's expense." That here.

Putin's bold op-ed at the NYT today: "No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack - this time against Israel - cannot be ignored. It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America's long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you're either with us or against us.' But force has proved ineffective and pointless...In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes." The rest, here.

Elizabeth O'Bagy, let go from the Institute of the Study of War. O'Bagy, who had emerged as a lead analyst on Syria, was abruptly shown the door yesterday after it was confirmed that she had padded her academic credentials with a PhD from Georgetown University. Questions were raised last week after an op-ed she wrote in the WSJ that portrayed rebel forces positively - and cited by the likes of Sen. John McCain and others - that failed to disclose that she was part of a pro-Syrian rebel political group, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. ThinkProgress's Zach Beauchamp has an inside look her firing yesterday: "...O'Bagy had already begun to misrepresent her credentials. [ISW President Kim Kagan] told me that she ‘knew [O'Bagy] was a student at Georgetown in a combined masters/PhD program,' and that new hire was writing a dissertation on ‘female militancy in Islamic extremist organizations.' Several media outlets have repeated this account as fact in their write-ups of O'Bagy's firing, all maintaining that she is still in the process of completing a Georgetown doctorate. This is almost certainly false. Either O'Bagy was at one point enrolled a PhD program and dropped out, or she has been lying the entire time. Some evidence points to the latter... She is not listed as a PhD student on the Government department's website. She does not exist in the university directory. A search of the entire Georgetown website turns up only one hit, a congratulations notice for Masters graduation... The [WSJ's] mistake (which it later corrected) led to more intense scrutiny of O'Bagy's past. The Daily Caller, which first broke the Journal's omission on September 5th, did a follow-up on September 9th in which O'Bagy claimed to have written her dissertation. More importantly, September 9th was also the day that a discussion broke out amongst a group of scholars about O'Bagy's purported Georgetown credentials. Records obtained by ThinkProgress show a conversation, which included members of the Georgetown faculty, in which a number of academics expressed deep skepticism about O'Bagy's Ph.D. Near the end of the conversation, one participant mentioned that ‘ISW was contacted' with the group's concerns." Read the rest here.

Learn here how satellite imaging could be used to detect border wars and other activity. The United States Institute for Peace's Viola Gienger, on the Olive Branch blog: "Publicly available satellite imaging used to document atrocities in Darfur and wartime destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo will be tested by scientists in a USIP-funded project to gauge its usefulness in tracking the signs of impending cross-border conflict. USIP recently awarded $119,474 to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to analyze satellite images from six past conflicts in Asia, Eurasia, and Africa. Scientists will be looking for signs such as the massing of troops, construction of trenches, or the building of military facilities near borders that might in the future help signal looming war. The idea would be to detect evidence of impending fighting without risking the danger of injecting monitors on the ground, and therefore buy time to try to de-escalate potential conflict. "This is a cutting-edge initiative," said Katherine Wood, a consultant for USIP who helped screen grant applicants. "The emphasis is on developing an early-warning system." Read the rest here.

Military Times poll shows that troops oppose Syria strikes, 3:1. Gannett-owned Military Times Newspapers is out with a poll of uniformed troops that shows that 75 percent answer "oppose" to this question: "Would you favor or oppose U.S. airstrikes against military targets in Syria in response to reports that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons to kill civilians in that country?" Another 21 percent favor strikes in response to the chemical attack; 4 percent gave no opinion. The Military Times poll is an "unscientific" polling of about 750 officer and enlisted personnel who read Military Times and was taken earlier this week. Military Times' Andrew Tilghman: "To the list of skeptics who question the need for air strikes against Syria, add an another unlikely group - many U.S. troops... A higher percentage of troops, about 80 percent, say they do not believe getting involved in the two-year-old civil war is in the U.S. national interest. The results suggest that opposition inside the military may be more intense than among the U.S. population at large. About 64 percent of Americans oppose air strikes, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll published Monday... For many troops, money is a key consideration. Troops question the cost of bombing Syria at a time when budget cuts are shrinking their pay raises, putting their benefits package at risk and forcing some of their friends to separate involuntarily." Army Sgt. 1st Class Chris Larue, a maintenance expert at Fort Eustis, Va.: "We don't have money for anything else but we have a couple hundred million dollars to lob some Tomahawks and mount an expensive campaign in Syria?" More here.

Petraeus Resurrection, Version 3.0: Petraeus gets mobbed, screamed at, chased down a New York street and protesters call him a "scumbag" and a "war criminal." Angry demonstrators followed David Petraeus down a street Monday, taunting him as he walked alone and without his infamously large entourage, calmly in a dark suit and red tie down a street near the City University of New York. Petraeus has accepted a teaching gig at the school in recent months. Protesters screamed angrily at him, pledging to be there for each class and demanding his departure from CUNY. He had at first accepted a $200,000 job for being an adjunct professor until students and faculty rebelled and accepted lower pay. But the protests this week seemed a bit overdone. They were organized by another adjunct professor, CUNY Hunter College Adjunct Professor of Latin American History S. Sandor John, who said: "Most of our students at CUNY are from the working class and from oppressed communities, specifically from families whose roots are in countries where the effects of U.S. imperialism and militarism have been experienced in the most unspeakable and horrific ways." Ann Kirschner, the dean of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY sent a statement to NPR last night: "We may disagree, but we must always do so in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. While the college supports the articulation of all points of view on critical issues, it is essential that dialogue within the academic setting always be conducted civilly."

Former Petraeus spokesman Steve Boylan, to Situation Report, this morning: "As you know, he is a determined individual, has faced adversity in many forms in the past and will probably do so in the future. He is no shrinking violet and suffice it to say, something like this would not deter him from doing his job or what he feels is right."

NPR's intro to the video is perhaps a bit overstated, but still: "We warn you the video contains a couple of expletives and the aggressiveness means it can be tough to watch." Click bait, here.

Michael Lumpkin to be nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Ops and Low Intensity Conflict, Jamie Morin to go to CAPE to replace Christine ("Top Gun") Fox.  A senior defense official e-mails Situation Report: "As a former SEAL team commander, Michael has deep operational background that makes him well suited to one again help oversee policy for U.S. special forces. But Michael will bring to the role more than just the tactical knowledge of how to fight and win. For the last six months he has advised Secretary Hagel on complex personnel issues facing the Department of Defense. Coupled with his service as V.A. Deputy Chief of Staff he is deeply aware of all that goes into supporting our special forces before, during, and after their time on the battlefield." Meanwhile, Morin will go to replace Fox, who left CAPE, or the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which produced the ever-popular "Strategic Choices Management Review," or SKIMMER - or "Scammer," as it's not so affectionately known around the Department.

Sandy Winnefeld joins the IT Crowd this morning, speaking at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Joint Warfighter Day this morning.  Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, this morning: "...the question I would pose to this room full of professionals . . . is whether or not the department's information technology enterprise is meeting our warfighting needs, and if not, what can we do about it? Now, I tell people that strategy is about balancing ends, ways, and means, and that all three are shifting under our feet, including the particular "way" we call IT.?We have learned a great deal about network warfare in the last 12 years of war. We've also learned a great deal about intelligence-operations integration, which is so heavily dependent on networked warfare. Nobody does this like we do." Remarks will likely go up here.




National Security

Never forget: the mil don’t do pinpricks; Why the Russian plan wouldn’t be easy; Mabus: Navy’s ready for Syria; Dempsey, to the point; Where is Koenig’s (peace) Sphere? and a bit more. [presented today by Lockheed Martin.]

By Gordon Lubold

Obama makes a case for military action - but asks Congress to hold off. President Barack Obama spoke before the nation last night to make an impassioned plea for military action in Syria - if a last minute plan presented by the Russians to put the Assad regime's stockpile of chemical weapons under international control fails. He urged Congress to delay a vote on the authorization of force - a vote for which the White House had little support. Addressing Secretary of State John Kerry's gaffe about an "unbelievably small" strike on Syria, Obama was clear. Obama: "Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don't think we should remove another dictator with force -- we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons."

The Russian plan sounds good on paper, but securing Assad's stockpile could take years - and potentially many (American) BOGs. FP's Yochi Dreazen: "The plan would be nearly impossible to actually carry out. Experts in chemical weapons disposal point to a host of challenges. Taking control of Assad's enormous stores of the munitions would be difficult to do in the midst of a brutal civil war. Dozens of new facilities for destroying the weapons would have to be built from scratch or brought into the country from the U.S., and completing the job would potentially take a decade or more. The work itself would need to be done by specially-trained military personnel or contractors. Guess which country has most of those troops and civilian experts? If you said the U.S., you'd be right." Mike Kuhlman, chief scientist for national security at Battelle, which does chemical weapons disposal: "This isn't simply burning the leaves in your backyard... It's not something you do overnight, it's not easy, and it's not cheap." Read the rest here.

But Kerry's headed to Geneva to meet Lavrov. Writing for the WaPo today, FP's own Colum Lynch (with Karen DeYoung): The purpose [of the meeting], a senior State Department official said, is to make sure that what Russia has in mind for Syria's weapons is comprehensive and verifiable in the midst of a protracted civil war, and to make clear that the United States and its partners insist that the proposal includes consequences if Syria does not comply. An administration official: "We're waiting for that proposal, but we're not waiting long. We will take a hard look at it, but it has to be swift, it has to be real, and it has to be verifiable. .?.?. If the U.N. Security Council seeks to be the vehicle to make it happen, well, then, it can't be a debating society."

In the bungled messaging campaign of the last weeks, was Dempsey's opening remarks yesterday at the HASC hearing one of the most concise descriptions of what the military would do? Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, yesterday: "We've reached the point at which Assad views chemical weapons as just another military tool in his arsenal, a tool he's willing to use indiscriminately. And that's what makes this so dangerous, dangerous for Syria, dangerous for the region and dangerous for the world. My role is to provide the president options about how we could employ military force. He has directed me to plan for a militarily significant strike that would do the following: deter the Assad regime's further use of chemical weapons and degrade the regime's military capability to employ chemical weapons in the future.

"We've assembled target packages in line with those objectives. We have both an initial target set and subsequent target sets should they become necessary. The planned strikes will disrupt those parts of Assad's forces directly related to the chemical attack of 21 August, degrade his means of chemical weapons delivery and finally degrade the assets that Assad uses to threaten his neighbors and to defend his regime. Collectively, such strikes will send Assad a deterrent message, demonstrating our ability to hold at risk the capabilities he values most and to strike again if necessary. The United States military has forces ready to carry out the orders of the commander in chief.

"The limited nature of these strikes seeks to mitigate the potential for a miscalculation and escalation as well as minimize collateral damage. However, we are postured to address a range of contingencies, and we're prepared to support our friends in the region should Assad choose to retaliate."

Welcome to Wednesday's 9/11 edition of Situation Report and, as the Obama White House urges action in Syria, the permanent (war) campaign. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us and we'll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Today at NDU, Ray Mabus will tie Syria, the Navy, continuing resolutions and sequestration together. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus speaks today at noon about the constant presence the Navy has in the Mediterranean and beyond, but asks pointedly how it will continue to do so in an age of CRs and sequestration. Mabus, in excerpts of the speech provided to Situation Report: "Last night the President laid out the reasons we should take action in Syria. Yet it is critical to note that today no one is questioning our ability to take action. Our naval presence in the region provided that ability the day of the regime's chemical weapons attack. It provided the day before the attack, and continues to provide it today.

"If sequestration continues for its statutory ten-year duration, until 2022, or even for a relatively small part of that time, our naval presence and thus the ability to deliver flexible, adaptable, immediate options will almost certainly be compromised and diminished. It is impossible to know what tests await our country over the next decade. The only thing certain is that it will be different from what we believe it will be today. For seapower, the only certainty for the future is that we must have the presence worldwide to provide whoever is President with a wide range of options... Whatever course of action our nation decides to take in Syria, I do know this: The maritime options available are flexible and they are significant.  They are swift.  And they are sovereign.  But unless we act to address the damage of continuing resolutions and sequestration, they are options which may be limited or unavailable in the future."

Walt Jones wants Mabus to have Amos investigated. The folksy congressman from North Carolina wants Mabus to look into Commandant Gen. Jim Amos for his actions surrounding the infamous urination video. Marine Corps Times: "Republican Rep. Walter Jones has taken interest in the service's prosecution of Capt. James Clement, the only officer to be charged criminally in connection with the video showing four enlisted scout snipers urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan. Clement's case was abruptly dismissed Friday, but he still faces administrative punishment and possible dismissal from the service. In a Sept. 3 letter to Mabus, Jones says ‘my concern is that Captain Clement's future has been irreparably damaged due to decisions made by the commandant,' Gen. Jim Amos, and his legal advisers. The congressman's letter cites three issues raised by Clement's defense team: "unlawful command influence, improper classification of evidence and serious issues with discovery,' a reference to the disclosure of information prior to legal proceedings. Jones has asked Mabus to ‘personally address this possible abuse and ask for an investigation.'" Read the rest here.

Did Assad woo the American right and outsmart American propaganda? FP's David Kenner: "Even before President Barack Obama put his plans to strike the Syrian regime on hold, he was losing the battle of public opinion about military intervention. Part of the credit, no doubt, goes to a successful media blitz by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and its supporters. In an interview aired on Monday night, Assad himself advanced his government's case to Charlie Rose, saying that the United States had not presented a single shred of evidence' proving the Syrian military had used chemical weapons. Assad has always been able to skillfully parry Western journalists' criticisms of his regime -- and, at times, it has won him positive international coverage." Read the rest here.

Rand Paul: forget holding off on a vote for or against force; do a "permanent hold." FP's own John Hudson, of The Cable: "The Senate's leading critic of President Obama's war plans in Syria is now calling for a "permanent hold" on the vote to authorize military force in Congress following a surprise proposal from Russia to avert a military confrontation. On Tuesday, as the Obama administration ramped up its lobbying on Capitol Hill, Sen. Rand Paul convened a group of some 30 lawmakers skeptical of a military intervention in Syria. The group -- which included Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) and two dozen others -- discussed different strategies for staving off a military intervention and the desire to call off a vote to authorize military force. Paul, to Hudson: "I think everybody is hopeful that putting the vote on a permanent hold would be the best route forward." Read the rest here.

Playing politics? The testy exchange between Kerry and Rep. Jeff Miller, Republican from Florida from the HASC hearing yesterday. A reflection of the times: Kerry gets taken to task for not owning up to reality on the votes in Congress - or the lack thereof.  From yesterday's hearing:

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.): Secretary Kerry, you just said, again, there should be no delay. Is that correct?

Kerry: Well, I mean, there has to be a reasonable period to try to work this out. Obviously, you've got to see whether or not this has any meat to it. And if it does have meat, I think that's important.

Miller: So, again following up on Mr. --

Kerry: The Senate has already delayed.

Miller: Because they don't have the votes, Mr. Secretary. That's why they delayed. You know that.

Kerry: Actually, no, I don't.

Miller: Well, I do.

Kerry:  Well, I'm glad you know something. And I think this is not -- you know, this should not be a political discussion about whether there are votes or not.

Miller: I'm not being political, Mr. Secretary. It's the truth.

?They don't have the votes. Read any newspaper in this country and you will find that out.

Kerry:  As I said to you, I don't know that.

Miller:  Should the House delay or should the House move forward?

Kerry:  I believe that the Senate has made --

Miller:  This is the House of Representatives. (I understand it, sir ?).

Kerry:  Look, do you want to play politics here or do you want to get a policy in place? The policy that can be put in place is to try to get this particular option of getting control of chemical weapons in place. Now, if you want to undermine that, then play the politics.

Miller: OK. How --

Kerry: If you want it to work, then I'm asking you to be serious about what we got here.

Miller: -- about this, Mr. Secretary. (Inaudible.) Reclaiming my time.

Mr. Chairman, would you please ask the witnesses to limit their answers to the questions that are asked?

A Candid Camera moment for the 9/11 Era. ABC's What Would You do? goes to a deli in Kingston, N.Y. to find out what Americans think about Muslims generally. It's all very contrived to be sure, but, as an American soldier genuinely defends a man he believes to be a Muslim being tormented by a Muslim-hating American, the vid is ultimately poignant. Click Bait here.

At the 9/11 Museum, a missing WTC artifact. Michael Burke, the brother of a firefighter who responded on 9/11 in New York, Billy Burke, asks why the new 9/11 Museum doesn't include the Koenig Sphere. Burke: "For 30 years the Koenig Sphere, a 25-foot-tall bronze globe sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig, stood in the center of the WTC as a symbol of world peace. Office workers and visitors of every nationality lunched around it or posed before it for photographs. On Sept. 11, though badly damaged, the Sphere was found in the ruins still intact-an emblem of world peace had been transformed into a symbol of American strength and resiliency... Americans might have assumed that once a 9/11 memorial was completed the Sphere would be moved from its temporary home and restored to the WTC site-possibly even as the centerpiece of such a memorial. It didn't happen. Instead, we have a memorial with waterfalls and trees mean to encourage a sense of healing, and deep pools in the footprints of the towers called ‘Reflecting Absence.' One absence in particular: Koenig's Sphere." Read the rest here.

Will USAID's grape farmer program in Afghanistan wither on the vine? The WaPo's Pamela Constable, in Mir Bocha Kot, Afghanistan, writes about an AID program that helps Afghanistan farmers learn a new way of growing grapes. "Qudoos, 38, made that leap with support from a U.S.-funded agricultural marketing program that American officials call a small but exceptional success in a decade of economic assistance. The project has endured many difficulties, including Taliban attacks and resistance from farmers. But now, it may face its biggest challenge. With most U.S. troops scheduled to withdraw by next year, and an uncertain presidential election set for April, the project must soon be turned over to Afghan hands." Read the rest here.

The French seek to prevent a "rebel revival" in Mali. The Journal's Drew Hinshaw, in Gao, Mali reports on what the French are doing to make sure Mali stays rebel-clean. Hinshaw: "Since March, French soldiers have shoveled out weaponry buried under dunes, hidden behind rocks and sunk into the waters of at least one oasis. They have uncovered 220 tons of ammunition, thousands of Kalashnikov rifles, and similar volumes of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, plastic explosives and fertilizer for bombs, according to Gen. Laurent Kolodziej, the top commander for France's missions in Mali's north. The majority of firearms are workaday Chinese-made assault rifles stolen from local garrisons, worn down by time and sand. Then there is the heavier hardware from Libya. As they dig, soldiers here are pulling up remnants of al Qaeda's Saharan stockpile that were looted in 2011 from the arsenals of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. And: "In one jarring discovery, servicemen unearthed a fighter-jet bomb burrowed into the foot of a mountain." Read the rest here.

From the Department of Life Imitating Art: Could (former Senator) Byron Dorgan's book about a cyber attack on the power grid become reality? The NYT's Matthew Wald: "It's electrifying. Iran and Venezuela want to destroy the United States, so they conspire with a rogue Russian spy to launch a cyberattack on the North American power grid, beginning by electrocuting a lineman in North Dakota. Their main obstacle is a small-town sheriff in the state's badlands, Nate Osborne, a former Marine Corps lieutenant in Afghanistan whose titanium leg ultimately saves the day. That is more or less the plot of "Gridlock," co-written by former Senator Byron L. Dorgan, the latest offering in a peculiar Washington genre. But life is increasingly imitating Mr. Dorgan's potboiler. More than 200 utilities and government agencies across the country, from Consolidated Edison to the Department of Homeland Security to Verizon, are now expected to sign up for the largest emergency drill to test the electricity sector's preparation for cyberattack. The drill, scheduled for November, will simulate an attack by an adversary that takes down large sections of the power grid and knocks out vast areas of the continent for weeks. The drill, organized by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, is to explore how the country would respond to an enormous grid failure that interrupts supplies of water, food and fuel and creates disruptions on a scale far beyond those of Sept. 11, 2001." Read the rest here.