The Envoy
  • No. 2 Defense official to step down

    Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III says he plans to step down. (Department of Defense)Less than a week after Leon Panetta started as Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon's low-profile number 2, Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn, says he plans to step down from the job, but has agreed to stay on until a successor is appointed, the Associated Press' Robert Burns reports:

    Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said in an Associated Press interview that he told Panetta last Friday, on Panetta's first day as Pentagon chief, that he planned to resign for personal reasons.

    "I thought this was a logical point for me to depart the Pentagon," Lynn said during the interview in his office.

    He said he told Panetta that he would be best served by having a deputy who was willing to stay at least through President Barack Obama's first term, which ends in January 2013. ...

    Lynn said he was leaving for "personal, family reasons," and wanted to spend more time with his children. He said it had nothing to do with Obama's choice of CIA director Panetta to succeed Robert Gates. Lynn said he knew Panetta only slightly from periodic contact while both served in the Clinton administration. [...]

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  • The father of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has long asserted that he conducted all his nuclear bomb-making and proliferation activities with a full complement of blessings, winks and nods of the Pakistani state. Naturally, Pakistan has denied all of Khan's claims--but also freed Khan from house arrest and refused to give U.S. officials access to question him.

    Today, the Washington Post reported on documentation released by Khan purporting to show that North Korean officials bribed senior Pakistani military officials to help obtain and transport nuclear enrichment technology in the late 1990s.

    The Post has tried to authenticate one 1998 letter that is allegedly from a top North Korean official to Khan, describing the terms of the supposed transaction. U.S. officials told the Post's Jeffrey Smith they believe the document and signature to be authentic and describe transactions they believed had occurred, while also saying they couldn't be absolutely confident of the document's veracity.

    Meanwhile--and again, unsurprisingly--the two retired generals described as receiving bribes in the letter vigorously deny the claims and denounce the letter as a fabrication. (Adding to the awkwardness, one of them, former Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jehangir Karamat, served as Pakistan's ambassador to Washington from 2004-2006.)

    "The major takeaway from the story here is the extent that corruption in Pakistan—which we already know exists—may have crossed over into facilitating proliferation," Paul Brannan, a nuclear expert with the Institute for Science and International Security, told The Envoy.

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  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, center, is seen with Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey, left, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2011. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)The United States is planning for keeping as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq next year, the Associated Press reports. The decision would require a formal request from the Iraqi government, which as yet has not issued it, though U.S. leaders have dropped numerous hints it might be a good idea.

    "Already ... the White House has worked out options to keep 8,500 to 10,000 active-duty troops in Iraq to continue training security forces in 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials," the Associated Press reported, citing foreign diplomats in Baghdad who have also been briefed on the matter.

    "We have said for a long time now if the Iraqi government asks us to maintain some level of troops beyond that end of the year deadline, we would consider it," White House spokesman Jay Carney told journalists Tuesday, adding the United States has not yet received such a request.

    "Right now there are no plans to keep troops in Iraq beyond" the end of the year, National  Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told the Washington Post Tuesday. He added that an Iraqi request for a follow-on force "would be given serious consideration by this administration."

    One troubling recent shift in the Iraqi conflict: the increasingly brazen use by Iranian-backed Shiite militias of Iranian-origin weapons in their attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. envoy to Baghdad Jim Jeffrey and the top U.S. military commander in Iraq Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Post. 

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  • Mexico nabs Zetas drug cartel leader 'Z-42'
    Mexico nabs Zetas drug cartel leader 'Z-42'

    Mexican authorities captured Zetas drug cartel leader Omar Trevino, dealing a blow to the feared gang and giving the embattled government a second major arrest in a week. The suspect, known as "Z-42," was detained without a shot being fired by federal police and soldiers in San Pedro Garza Garcia, an upper-class suburb of the northern industrial city of Monterrey, officials said. Trevino, who had a combined bounty of $7 million on his head, took over the Zetas after his brother, Miguel Angel Trevino, or "Z-40," was captured by marines in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in July 2013. He was considered "one of the most dangerous and bloodthirsty criminals in Mexico," said Tomas Zeron, the investigations chief at the attorney general's office, adding that Trevino is accused of organized crime, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

  • Van Gaal 'very irritated' by Giggs rift talk
    Van Gaal 'very irritated' by Giggs rift talk

    Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal on Thursday angrily rejected media speculation that there is a rift between him and assistant manager Ryan Giggs. Van Gaal reacted jubilantly to Ashley Young's late goal in United's 1-0 victory over Newcastle United at St James' Park on Wednesday. In marked contrast, Giggs greeted the dramatic winner in subdued fashion and failed to react when van Gaal playfully jabbed the Welshman in the face as he celebrated. The 41-year-old former midfielder has been earmarked as a future manager at Old Trafford and potentially a successor to van Gaal in 2017.

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