National Security

FP's Situation Report: Syria is in free fall

24 MOHs today at the WH; The FOIA-Unfriendly Administration; Asian countries don't want to reveal security weaknesses; An Army three-star earns a black belt; and a bit more.

It's done: Putin prepares to annex Crimea.  The WaPo's Will Englund, Carol Morello and Pamela Constable: "President Vladimir Putin put the annexation of Crimea on a fast track Tuesday morning, ordering the drafting of an accession agreement between Crimea and Russia. Later in the day he will be making an unusual address to a joint session of the Russian parliament, where he will lay out his plans for the region.

"The speech comes as a defiant Russia shows no sign of bending to American or European pressure over the Crimea crisis, which has turned into the sharpest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Crimean parliament voted Monday to request "reunification" with the Russian Federation, and Putin officially recognized its independence from Ukraine a few hours later. This was a first step toward formal accession." More here.

FP's John Hudson and Jamila Trindle, on sanctions: "Earlier in the day, President Obama warned Putin not to take such action. "We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity and government of Ukraine," President Obama said Monday. 'We're making it clear there are consequences for their actions.'

"The U.S. sanctions will block the assets of seven Russian officials and four Ukrainian leaders, among them ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and separatists in Crimea. Congress is considering legislation that would go even further.

A punishing, if double-edged, weapon to use against Russia would be to target the country's energy powerhouses, especially Gazprom and Rosneft. The two companies dominate Russia's energy production and exports, and are the key levers by which Putin wields energy as a geopolitical weapon. German newspaper Bild reported last week that top Russian energy officials, including the chief executives of both firms, are on the long list of possible European sanctions targets." More of Hudson and Trindle's bit here.

Putin: Crimea has always been part of Russia. CNN's Alla Eshchenko and Laura Smith-Spark: "Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed this weekend's referendum in Crimea on Tuesday, saying the 96% who voted to join Russia was 'an extremely convincing figure.'

Putin, speaking to a joint session of Parliament in Moscow, also stressed the historical and cultural ties between Russia and Crimea, and said Crimea is an inalienable part of Russia. 'In our hearts we know Crimea has always been an inalienable part of Russia,' he said." More here.

Tit for tat:  The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin: "Putin is set to respond to Obama's sanctions of Russian officials with his own list. Several U.S. Senators and officials will be banned from visiting Russia, including Sen. Dick Durbin. U.S. senators, congressmen and top Obama administration officials are sure to be on Vladimir Putin's sanctions list; a response to the Obama Administration's announcement on Monday that 7 Russian officials and 4 Ukrainian officials would be barred from holding assets or traveling to the United States." More here.

NATO plans to help Ukrainian forces. The Hill's Kristina Wong: "NATO officials don't expect to see near-term military "stand offs" with Russia as President Vladimir Putin appears poised to annex the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, but are planning to bolster Ukrainian forces in the long-term, a NATO official told the Hill. NATO plans to help Ukrainian forces build capacity via joint exercises, advice and other unspecified things, the official said on background. Although the official did not specify exact exercises, the U.S. Army is planning to conduct an exercise in Ukraine this July, according to the Army Times. Exercise Rapid Trident 2014 is expected to take place near L'viv, Ukraine, and will involve units from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, Lt. Col. David Westover Jr. told the Army Times." More here.

Reading Rosa: How politicians mis-read a 'city on a hill' and butcher the real meaning of American exceptionalism. Rosa Brooks, on FP, here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  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, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please do follow us @glubold.

Count 'em: 24 individuals, three of them living, will receive the Medal of Honor today. Army Times: "... President Obama will present the awards in recognition of their actions in World War II, Vietnam and Korea. The Medal of Honor will be presented posthumously to the families of 21 soldiers who have died. Each of the soldiers previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest military award. That award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor in recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty. Congress, through the Defense Authorization Act, called for a review in 2002 of Jewish American and Hispanic American veteran war records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.

"During the review, records of several soldiers of neither Jewish nor Hispanic descent were also found to have criteria worthy of the Medal of Honor. The 2002 Act was amended to allow these soldiers to be honored with the upgrade, in addition to the Jewish and Hispanic-American soldiers." More here.

Another chapter for the Big Red One: The 1st Infantry division's Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston will receive the medal on behalf of the family of Sgt. Candelario Garcia, who passed away more than a year ago. Garcia's story here. Meantime, the granddaughter of a Korean War recipient will receive the medal on his behalf - and she's an active duty sergeant in 3rd Infantry Division. More here about the story of Sgt. Ashley Randall and her grandfather here. More from the Army on all the MOH recipients here.

Free fall: Syria war enters its fourth year and 150,000 people are dead. The NYT's Anne Barnard reporting from Beirut on Page One: "Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political center of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cruelty on a nearly incomprehensible scale. Families are brutalized by their government and by jihadists claiming to be their saviors as nearly half of Syrians - many of them children - have been driven from their homes. At the start of the fourth year since Syrians rose up in a peaceful movement that turned to arms after violent repression, a snapshot of the country presents the harsh truth that Syria's descent is only accelerating, with nothing to check it.

"The government bombards neighborhoods with explosive barrels, missiles, heavy artillery and, the United States says, chemical weapons, then it sends in its allies in Hezbollah and other militias to wage street warfare. It jails and tortures peaceful activists, and uses starvation as a weapon, blockading opposition areas where trapped children shrivel and die.

"The opposition is now functionally dominated by foreign-led jihadists who commit their own abuses in the name of their extremist ideology, just last week shooting a 7-year-old boy for what they claimed was apostasy. And some of those fighters, too, have targeted civilians and used siege tactics... All the while, Syria is falling apart. Last weekend, another vital center of opposition life - the city of Yabrud, near the Lebanese border - fell to pro-government forces. As each such haven has been shattered, like Homs and Qusayr, it has become a watchword for civilian suffering, and more are displaced." More here.

The new envoy for Syria promises to support anti-Assad forces but isn't specific about how he'll do that. The WaPo's Anne Gearan: "... Rubinstein is expected to follow Ford's model of frequent contact with opposition groups, despite the current impasse. Announcing Rubinstein's appointment Monday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Rubinstein would travel to the region soon but gave no details. 'This week is indeed a somber occasion and a sober reminder to all of us of the work still ahead - and the United States will stand with you,' Rubinstein said in his message, also posted on the Web site for the U.S. Embassy in Damascus." More here.

Not good at sharing: A lack of radar points to security weaknesses in the search for Flight 370. The WSJ's Tefor Moss: "A dearth of useful radar data in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines  Flight 370 has exposed both the weaknesses of regional air-defense systems and also a deep-seated reluctance to share military information.

"While Malaysia's air force has drawn ire for its failure to track Flight 370 effectively in the early hours of March 8, military and aviation analysts say that other Asian countries have similar deficiencies. They also say that governments continue to view one another with suspicion in a part of the world characterized by historical tensions that make countries disinclined to share military data, even in a crisis. The mistrust includes nearby neighbors and China, which remains highly secretive."

"...Malaysia's neighbors "would be as helpful as they could be without giving away anything about their own weaknesses," Mr. Huxley said. Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said last week that Malaysia was divulging unprecedented national security information and invited other nations to overcome their reluctance and help find the plane. India and China, which Flight 370 would have crossed if it moved along the northern corridor plotted by investigators, have more capable air-defense networks than Malaysia and its neighbors." Read the rest here.

James Fallows' interactive map on The Atlantic: Where Flight 370 Might Have Landed, here.

Reading Pincus: Hagel turns up the heat on excess military bases. The WaPo's Walter Pincus: "The third time may be the charm for the Defense Department in getting Congress to start the procedure that ultimately could close more excess military bases.

That would mean authorizing the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Past and proposed reductions in force numbers have created what defense officials say is more than a 25 percent surplus of military bases and facilities that are wasting billions of dollars each year. A separate Army analysis found that its excess capacity within the United States ranges between 12 and 28 percent, depending upon the facility. That figure will grow, because the Army is shrink by an additional 70,000 troops in the next five years.

"This year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Pentagon colleagues may be trying to mount their own political pressure to begin a BRAC process that could lead to approval by 2017 of a list of installations to be closed. At hearings and in news conferences, Hagel and his team have referred to a section of law that they say gives the secretary unilateral authority to take some steps. As he put it on March 6 before the House Armed Services Committee, 'As you probably know, in Title 10, I think it's Section 2687, the secretary does have some authorities in reorganizing different bases.' That section of the law says in part that the secretary can act 'if the President certifies to the Congress that such closure or realignment must be implemented for reasons of national security or a military emergency.'" More here.

The FOIA-Unfriendly administration: The WaPo's Erik Wemple: "A new report from the Associated Press is tearing the stuffing right out of the Obama administration's pledge to be remembered the most transparent ever. An AP investigation into the handling of Freedom of Information Act requests found administration 'has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records.' Headlining the categories of information subject to denial is anything related to national security." AP with the stats: "In a year of intense public interest over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times - a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama's first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times. The Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those. The Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once."  Wemple noted: "Reporters seeking documents on breaking news "fared worse than ever last year." Among the examples of such stories are the Navy Yard shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and Benghazi." 

Wemple here. The AP report, by Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum, here.

Sinclair's accuser stands by her testimony that he sexually assaulted her. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "The female accuser in the sex-crimes trial of an Army general is satisfied with the plea deal that was reached in the case, but she stands by her assertion that he sexually assaulted her, according to her lawyer. Jamie Barnett, a retired Navy rear admiral who serves as an unpaid lawyer for the general's accuser, said Monday that the accuser stands by her testimony that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair forced her to perform oral sex on two occasions and threatened to kill her and her family if she reported their three-year affair." Read the rest here.

The Sinclair case was the worst thing for defenders of the current military justice system, and the best thing for the McCaskills and the Gillibrands of the world. The NYT's top editorial today, "A Broken Military Justice System: "On Monday, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair avoided prosecution on sexual assault charges that could have brought him a life sentence. In an agreement with the prosecutor, General Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including mistreating his accuser, an Army captain and his former mistress. The deal followed a stunning ruling by a military judge last week suggesting that by holding out for more severe punishment, and by rejecting an earlier plea deal, the senior Army officer overseeing the prosecution might have been improperly influenced by political considerations in bringing the most severe charges against the general because of a desire to show new resolve in the military against sexual misconduct. The prosecution had also been badly shaken by revelations that the general's accuser may have lied under oath.

"The episode offers a textbook example of justice gone awry, providing yet another reason to overhaul the existing military justice system, which gives commanding officers with built-in conflicts of interest - rather than trained and independent military prosecutors outside the chain of command - the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. In the Sinclair matter, the commanding officer appears to have ignored his colleagues' reservations in an effort to look tough on sexual assaults and avoid criticism at a moment when the military is under pressure to address its sexual assault crisis." More here.

So this Army three-star just became a black belt. Army Times' Michelle Tan: "The general officer who shepherded the creation of the Army combatives program has earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he credits the service with introducing him to a discipline that grows leaders and builds confidence and competence. Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, the commanding general of Installation Management Command, said he got his first taste of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 1997, when he was a lieutenant colonel commanding a battalion in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The regimental commander, then-Col. Stanley McChrystal, called on his battalion commanders to renew their emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, and the leaders and their soldiers began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Ferriter said.

Said Ferriter: "I was a baseball player, a basketball player... I used to look at wrestlers and grapplers and think, ‘I guess they can't catch a ball, so they just grab people.'" More here.



National Security

FP's Situation Report: SEALs board a tanker

Hagel considers non-lethal aide to Ukraine, but the Pentagon's options are limited; Terrain masking: Did Flight 370 fly at 5,000 feet? Clancy predicted Crimea; Sinclair to plead guilty to lesser charges; and a bit more.

Navy SEALS board the commercial tanker Morning Glory seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans. From a statement of Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, arriving in the inbox at 2:25 a.m. this morning: "No one was hurt tonight when U.S. forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans. The boarding operation, approved by President Obama and conducted just after 10 p.m. EDT on March 16 in international waters southeast of Cypress, was executed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs attached to Special Operations Command Europe. The SEAL team embarked and operated from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80). USS Roosevelt provided helicopter support and served as a command and control and support platform for the other members of the force assigned to conduct the mission. The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained from the Libyan port of As-Sidra. The Morning Glory will be underway soon to a port in Libya with a team of sailors from the USS Stout (DDG-55) embarked. The sailors will be supervising the transit."  From the WaPo's Fred Barbash: "... The ship appears to have been wandering around the Mediterranean piloted by unknown sailors under an uncertain flag, with at least one effort made by three men in a boat near Larnaka to buy oil from it." And the NYT story, here.

Meantime, Count them out: the votes are in and Crimea looks to want to secede from Ukraine. FP's John Hudson: "The Obama administration and its allies couldn't prevent an overwhelming majority of Crimea's residents from voting to secede from Ukraine. It's looking increasingly likely that they also won't be able to prevent Russian strongman Vladimir Putin from annexing the restive Ukrainian province. Western powers spent much of the last week asking Putin and Crimea's new pro-Russian government to cancel the secession referendum, but the appeals failed and residents of Crimea turned out in droves Sunday to vote. There had never been much doubt about what the outcome would be in the pro-Russian peninsula of Ukraine, but the margins were still startling: with 50 percent of the votes counted, more than 95 percent of voters opted to join Russia and secede from Ukraine, according to local Crimean election officials. The officials said 80 percent of eligible voters turned out to cast ballots.

"In separate statements Sunday, the United States and European Union called the vote illegal and refused to recognize its results. 'This referendum is contrary to Ukraine's constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law,' said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney." More here.

For the Pentagon confronting the Crimean crisis, options are limited. Defense News' Aaron Mehta: "As the situation in Ukraine continues to worsen, the US and its allies in Europe find themselves with a limited set of options at the same time the Pentagon is trying to plan for potential fallout. The most likely path seems to be economic sanctions of some kind, hand in hand with moves to isolate Russia internationally. But even without direct conflict, experts warn Russia's reaction could lead to fallout with the world's militaries. Economic sanctions are 'the most viable national security tool we've got,' said David Asher, adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security." More here.

Hagel considering non-lethal aide to Ukraine. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is said to support the White House in its approach to apply "diplomatic and economic levers of pressure" to the situation in Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told Situation Report. Also, he said, Hagel is "willing to consider options" for providing non-lethal assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces. Kirby would not expand on what form that assistance could take or when it would come. Dempsey agrees. Senior military leaders are "solidly behind" the administration's twin efforts - ongoing diplomatic efforts as well as "military re-assurance" to NATO allies with whom the U.S. has Article V treaty obligations, we're told. At the same time, "no one is leaning towards direct military engagement over Ukraine," a senior defense official at the Pentagon told FP. "However, General Dempsey remains concerned over the precedent that Russia is setting using protection of Russian ethnic minorities as a justification for violating a nation's sovereignty."

A senior defense official adds that "Hagel understands there is a delicate balance to strike here.  We need to put enough pressure on Moscow to change their calculus, but do so in such a way that we don't escalate the tension. Careful, steady and flexible is where he thinks we are -- and where we need to be -- right now."

Welcome to Monday and the St. Patrick's Day edition of Situation Report. It's an awesome blanket of white where Situation Report lives, schools are closed and the feds shut down the government. Yeah, it's groundhog day and some curse the weather, but we like what may be winter's last hug. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  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, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please do follow us @glubold.

Is the Obama approach working? The commander-in-chief's favorite non-combatant command is Treasury.  The NYT's David Sanger: "For five years, President Obama has consciously recast how America engages with the world's toughest customers. But with Russia poised to annex Crimea after Sunday's referendum, with a mounting threat to the rest of Ukraine and with the carnage in Syria accelerating, Mr. Obama's strategy is now under greater stress than at any time in his presidency... As he learned to play the long game, the Treasury Department became Mr. Obama's favorite noncombatant command. It refined the art of the economic squeeze on Iran, eventually forcing the mullahs to the negotiating table.

"But so far those tools - or even the threat of them - have proved frustratingly ineffective in the most recent crises. Sanctions and modest help to the Syrian rebels have failed to halt the slaughter; if anything, the killing worsened as negotiations dragged on.

The White House was taken by surprise by Vladimir V. Putin's decisions to invade Crimea, but also by China's increasingly assertive declaration of exclusive rights to airspace and barren islands. Neither the economic pressure nor the cyberattacks that forced Iran to reconsider its approach have prevented North Korea's stealthy revitalization of its nuclear and missile programs. In short, America's adversaries are testing the limits of America's post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan moment."

A former senior national security aide, to Sanger, about Obama's forpol policies: "We're seeing the ‘light footprint' run out of gas... No one is arguing for military action, for bringing back George Bush's chest-thumping," the former aide said... At the same time, he said, the president's oft-repeated lines that those who violate international norms will be "isolated" and "pay a heavy price" over the long term have sounded "more like predictions over time, and less like imminent threats." More here.

Crimean crisis: Sweden likes it some NATO. Defense News' Gerard O'Dwyer in Helsinki: "Sweden's government is examining a proposal to boost military spending to defend its own territories and the strategic Baltic Sea area in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine. There is also a movement among high government officials to re-examine the long-running issue of joining NATO. The Swedish Cabinet will discuss, in coming weeks, a cross-party coalition proposal to signifi­cantly increase capital spending on the Navy's submarine fleet. In a direct response to Russia's military actions in the Crimean Peninsula, Jan Björklund, the Liberal Peoples' Party leader and Sweden's deputy prime minister, is pushing for a 'comprehensive strategic military re-think on capability.' Björklund also wants Sweden to "set the wheels in motion" to join NATO." More here.

ICYMI: Tom Clancy totally predicted Crimea. The HuffPo's Pablo Freund last week: "The late spy-thriller novelist and military historian Tom Clancy's posthumous novel Command Authority, published in December of last year, revolves around an ex-spy strongman president of Russia who gambles that he can make an armed incursion into Ukraine while NATO and the world watch powerlessly as he flexes his military might with impunity. The novel's characters, as with most works of fiction, are based on real situations, but I can't decide if his story is eerily prescient or just the playing out of a predictable scenario that was well understood in the policy and military arena. Regardless, the crisis unfolding in the Eastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula is very real, revealing once more that the global governance system is ill-equipped to effectively handle real-world power dynamics, in this case Putin's realpolitik maneuvering." More here.

State just announced formally that Daniel Rubinstein will be Syria's new envoy. From a statement from Secretary of State John Kerry this morning: "Daniel Rubinstein will be an outstanding successor to Ambassador Robert Ford as the U.S. Special Envoy for Syria. This position is as important as it is challenging. Like Robert, Daniel is a Senior Foreign Service officer who speaks fluent Arabic and is widely respected in the region. It's more than fair to say that he is among our government's foremost experts on the Middle East and has served with distinction in some of our most challenging and high profile regional Missions, including Damascus. Wherever he's served -- from Jerusalem to Amman, from Baghdad to Tel Aviv, from Tunis, to the Sinai, and most recently back in Washington in the INR Bureau where I was reacquainted with him -- Daniel has excelled."

Terrain masking is the new buzzword in the ever deepening Malaysia Airlines mystery, and pilots of Flight 370 may have flown as low as 5,000 feet to avoid detection. New Straits Times' Farrah Naz Karim and Tasnim Lokman in Sepang: "MAS Airlines flight MH370 dropped to an altitude of 5,000 feet, or possibly lower, to defeat commercial (secondary) radar coverage after it turned back from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route on March 8. Investigators are poring over the Boeing 777-200ER's flight profile to determine if it had flown low and used "terrain masking" during most of the eight hours it was missing from the radar coverage of possibly at least three countries.

"Top officials, who make up the technical team that had been holed up from morning till late at night here, are looking at the possibility that the jetliner, carrying 239 people, had taken advantage of the busy airways over the Bay of Bengal. By sticking to commercial routes, the flight may not have raised the suspicion of those manning primary (military) radars of the nations it overflew. To them, MH370 would appear to be just another commercial aircraft on its way to its destination. 'The person who had control over the aircraft has a solid knowledge of avionics and navigation, and left a clean track. It passed low over Kelantan, that was true,' said officials." More here.

Malaysia to the U.S.: we've got this. The NYT's Michael Schmidt and Scott Shane: "With malicious intent strongly suspected in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, American intelligence and law enforcement agencies renewed their search over the weekend for any evidence that the plane's diversion was part of a terrorist plot. But they have found nothing so far, senior officials said, and their efforts have been limited by the Malaysian authorities' refusal to accept large-scale American assistance.

"There are just two F.B.I. agents in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, where local investigators are hunting for clues that the two pilots or any of the other 237 people on board had links to militant groups or other motives to hijack the flight. In the days after the plane went missing on March 8, American investigators scoured their huge intelligence databases for information about those on board but came up dry. A senior American official: "We just don't have the right to just take over the investigation... There's not a whole lot we can do absent of a request from them for more help or a development that relates to information we may have."

Meanwhile, theories abound: "... With no obvious motive apparent, American investigators are considering a range of possibilities, though they caution that all remain merely speculative. Among them are involvement by Al Qaeda's Southeast Asian affiliate, which once discussed recruiting commercial pilots in Malaysia to crash a plane; an act by members of China's Uighur minority, who have recently become more militant and could conceivably have targeted a plane headed to Beijing; a lone-wolf attack by someone without ties to established terrorist groups; or even a suicidal move by a troubled individual." More here.

Sinclair to plead guilty to lesser charges today. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "The legal defense team for a general whose sex-crime trial has gripped the U.S. military said Sunday that the Army has agreed to drop the most serious charges in exchange for his admission that he 'maltreated' a junior officer with whom he had a long affair and caused her emotional distress.

"The plea deal is scheduled to be presented to an Army judge at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Monday. It would result in the dismissal of sexual-assault charges and other counts that would have required Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair to register as a sex offender and almost certainly would have resulted in prison time. Sinclair's sentence remains to be determined, although his attorneys said they have agreed to a side deal with the Army that would cap his punishment. They declined to disclose details Sunday, but his punishment is expected to be finalized in court this week. Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, the lead prosecutor, declined to comment. Maj. Crystal Boring, an Army spokeswoman at Fort Bragg, said, 'Right now, the Army is allowing the outcome to be announced in the courtroom [today].' More here.

For the record: They're not exactly blowing up trucks in Afghanistan. The military services have identified that there are approximately 4,000 vehicles and other pieces of equipment that are considered "excess" to the services' needs and requirements. The U.S. command in Afghanistan is working with the services to validate their assessment, and officials are working to see what excess vehicles could be provided to U.S. allies in the region. Contrary to a media report and concerns of a perception within Congress that the U.S. command was taking excess trucks in Afghanistan and destroying them by blowing them up - the final disposition for them remain unclear as of yet. Dunford, last week: "We are not - we are not destroying any of those vehicles right now.  Some months ago, I said, just make sure that we don't destroy any good vehicles.  The vehicles that we're destroying in Afghanistan today are those vehicles that are battle-damaged to the point where they cannot be replaced or -- or restored as more properly."

Also, he said: "One of the challenges with that is a rule that we have to live by, which is, any equipment that we provide to our partners is on an as-is, where where-is basis.  In other words, I can't pay to move it, and I can't pay to fix it.  So, if a country wants one of those 4,000 vehicles, they have to come and get it in the current condition that it's in.  That's -- that's the rules.  It's -- it's because the United States is not going to invest more money in a vehicle that we're not going to use."

But Dunford did say that if a vehicle the U.S. military doesn't need is going to cost too much to bring home, he'll have to make a decision about what's best to do with it. "My initial framing of the problem is, that if I bring a vehicle home that I don't need, I pay $50,000 for it, and then I have to maintain it when it comes home, or I could destroy it in Afghanistan for a fraction of that cost... this is an issue that is not -- is not closed.  I'm still working through it..."