Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 3:29 PM

Let's start off with a cheery topic: nuclear disarmament. Over at Time's Battleland blog, Mark Thompson reminds us that the Lugar in Nunn-Lugar will be out of the Senate come January (the Nunn has been out for quite some time), and wonders what that means for nuclear and other WMD proliferation. The latest extension of Nunn-Lugar ends in June 2013. And Vladimir Putin came out late last week saying that Russia doesn't plan to extend Nunn-Lugar, because it no longer has to secure its nuclear stockpile. Here's NPR's story on that.

Steve already wrote about the D.C. Circuit's decision in Hamdan here, and here's Lyle Deniston of SCOTUSblog on the decision as well.

In case you didn't get a large enough helping of Wells' stellar coverage of the 9/11 hearing yesterday (of which he’s generating more today), here's the AP and the Guardian. And here's Charlie Savage's piece in the New York Times.

Ernesto Londono and Liz Sly of the Washington Post report on new militant jihadist groups that are coming out of the woodwork in the Arab world, particularly in Syria.

GOP Senator Dan Coats supports Senate Majority Leader Reid's decision to bring cybersecurity legislation to the floor again this fall  (during the lame duck session). Here's The Hill's story.

Another national security issue to be considered in the post-election, pre-inauguration Congress: scanning all cargo that comes into the U.S. at foreign ports. Alexander Bolton of The Hill has a story here. You'll recall that the deadline for DHS to have implemented this policy by the end of June.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is taking on the responsibility of embassy security on CNN, the AP reports. Here's the Post story, and the Times report. And U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice is still on the hot seat for her remarks in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, write Anne Gearan and Colum Lynch of the Post.

The U.S. has plans in the works to support Libya's creation of an elite military force to fight against the Islamic extremists in the country, reports Eric Schmitt of the Times.

And David Kirkpatrick of the Times writes on the impact of the presidential election on the investigation into the Benghazi attack, and the difference between local accounts and U.S. politicians' explanations for the attacks:

To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.

“It was the Ansar al-Shariah people,” said Mohamed Bishari, a 20-year-old neighbor who watched the assault and described the brigade he saw leading the attack. “There was no protest or anything of that sort.”

United States intelligence agencies have reserved final judgment pending a full investigation, leaving open the possibility that anger at the video might have provided an opportunity for militants who already harbored anti-American feelings. But so far the intelligence assessments appear to square largely with local accounts. Whether the attackers are labeled “Al Qaeda cells” or “aligned with Al Qaeda,” as Republicans have suggested, depends on whether that label can be used as a generic term for a broad spectrum of Islamist militants, encompassing groups like Ansar al-Shariah whose goals were primarily local, as well as those who aspire to join a broader jihad against the West.

Another insider attack over the weekend killed two Americans and four Afghan intelligence agency officials, says the New York Times. The story also reminds us that 15 percent of coalition troop deaths this year were from these attacks.

As if we didn't have enough worries about the readiness of Afghan security forces to take over when ISAF departs in 2014, Rod Nordland of the Times gives us more pause with his analysis of the Afghan Army's low reenlistment rates and other challenges. Oh, and NATO has released its plan for a post-2014 presence in Afghanistan alongside the U.S., writes Carlo Munoz of The Hill.

This New York Times story over the weekend reports on some questionable U.S.  and Honduran government efforts in the war on drugs:  Honduran Air Force pilots are shooting down suspected drug planes. Honduras and the U.S. government work closely in joint operations in the war on drugs, and Democrats in the Senate have decided to stall financing for Honduras in response.

Here's the latest in the Colombian government's negotiations with FARC: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has been helping to ensure that the FARC leaders taking part in talks with the government have felt "secure." Read Juan Forero's report in the Washington Post.

The Philippine government has signed an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, in the hopes of reducing violence and disarming the group in exchange for autonomy over parts of the island of Mindanao. Here's Floyd Whaley of the New York Times.

I know you didn't think we could get away one day without the word "drone" in our roundup, so here is Columbia Law Human Rights Institute's report entitled "Counting Deaths from Drone Strikes." And here's a post on a certain Guardian blog—by a certain blogger whose name does not appear on this web site—striking back at Ben's recent analysis of New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan's piece on the drone program.

And here’s our nerd story of the day: researchers are trying to design an explosive detector that surpasses that of trained sniffer dogs. Here's Henry Fountain of the Times on those efforts.

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