SOUTH OF THE BORDER
The APs Kim Dozier, on "another expansion of [Admiral McRaven’s] special operations empire":
Based at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, Special Operations Command-North will build on a commando program that has brought Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officials to study U.S. counterterrorist operations, to show them how special operations troops built an interagency network to target al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and his followers.
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The special operations team within Northcom will be turned into a new headquarters, led by a general instead of a colonel. It was established in a Dec. 31 memo signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. That move gives the group more autonomy and the number of people could eventually quintuple from 30 to 150, meaning the headquarters could expand its training missions with the Mexicans, even though no new money is being assigned to the mission.
The special operations program has already helped Mexican officials set up their own intelligence center in Mexico City to target criminal networks, patterned after similar centers in war zones built to target al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq, two current U.S. officials said.
The creation of the new command marks another expansion of Adm. Bill McRaven’s special operations empire, as he seeks to migrate special operators from their decade of service in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to new missions, even as the rest of the military fights postwar contraction and multibillion-dollar budget cuts.
The new headquarters will also coordinate special operations troops when needed for domestic roles like rescuing survivors after a natural disaster, or helping the U.S. Coast Guard strike ships carrying suspect cargo just outside U.S. territorial waters, according to multiple current and former U.S. officials briefed on the mission. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the Pentagon has not formally announced the new headquarters.
ON THE FIGHT
The White House and the Pentagon are in raucous disagreement about how best to combat a resurgent al-Qaeda in Mali and across Africa.
As of last night, the Air Force has begun evacuating American citizens in Algeria.
Jennifer Rubin poses a pertinent question: who, exactly, falls within the "fuzzy contours of al-Qaeda"?
The commandant of the U.S. Army War College speaks on how he hopes to prepare the next wave of officers and senior leaders to lead a 21st-century Army.
ON THE FORCE
The Marine Times has sources on background that say General Mattis, the storied Marine leading USCENTCOM, may be pushed out sooner than anticipated.
ON SECRECY – OR LACK THEREOF
The Air Force destroyed a Maxim mens magazine and a poster of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader in an apparent bid to rid a command of "pornography". A complete list of the supposed or actual contraband can be found here.
A mass grave has been uncovered in Aleppo, Syria, amid heavy fighting between rebels and the Syrian government.
A former diplomat has called for storied Foreign Policy diplomatic correspondent Josh Rogin to be arrested.
Robert Caruso is a veteran of the United States Navy, and has worked for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Business Transformation Agency and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.