Situation Report

Panetta never read the Allen e-mails; The U.S. military begins Mali airlift; Hagelians push back on nuke critics; CSIS gets some love; Kaplan at Politics and Prose tonight, and a little more.

Panetta never read the Allen e-mails; The U.S. military begins Mali airlift; Hagelians push back on nuke critics; CSIS gets some love; Kaplan at Politics and Prose tonight, and a little more.

Panetta didn’t read the Allen e-mails. The DOD inspector general’s exoneration of Gen. John Allen means his promotion to the top job in Europe can move forward if the White House re-nominates him. With Pentagon press secretary George Little expressing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s "complete confidence in the continued leadership" of Allen, it seems unlikely the White House would think twice about sending his name back to the Senate, where there has been no indication that Allen would face substantive opposition. One indication that Allen was expected to be cleared: there never was a Plan B — another person who was being seriously considered for the job in Europe — and still isn’t, an American official told Situation Report. (There are other options, however — the Air Force’s Gilmary "Mike" Hostage being just one.)

Still, defense officials told us there was a sigh of relief when the news came that Allen had indeed been cleared and they are hopeful his career will move forward. "This news came as a relief to Pentagon insiders and people are rooting for him to head to Europe as SACEUR," one Pentagon official told Situation Report this morning. "He’s a stand-up guy who commands great respect from civilian and military officials alike."

Allen was caught up in the scandal with David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell when the FBI stumbled onto emails between him and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, but it quickly seemed that Panetta had acted out of an abundance of caution in calling for an investigation. In private, U.S. officials conceded they thought Allen would be cleared. At no point did Panetta even read the e-mails, Situation Report is told, leaving it to "legal professionals" and investigators to determine if there was wrongdoing.

But it was still unclear which way it would go for Allen. It took more than two months for the DOD IG to investigate the emails — and the clock was ticking for Allen because if he hadn’t been cleared in the next month or so, he would have risked reverting to a two-star rank, since federal regs dictate that a senior officer can’t be unassigned for more than 60 days, and his career may not have recovered. But investigators were taking care to avoid the perception that they had rushed through an investigation of a senior officer and then cleared him, perhaps mistakenly. "The last thing you want is to go through an investigative process that clears someone only to have someone pop back up and say, ‘Well, what about this?’" one U.S. official told Situation Report.

The U.S. military got off its hands on Mali. After days of wrestling over how it could legally support France in its bid against Islamic extremism in Mali’s north – since the U.S. severed ties with Mali’s government after its most recent coup –  U.S. military operations are now in full swing. We’re told that there have been five C-17 sorties from France to Bamako, moving more than 120 tons of equipment and supplies and more than 80 troops. Pentagon officials expect 2-3 sorties or mission-trips, per day for the duration of the U.S.-supported airlift. And the expectation, Situation Report is told, is that the mission will be completed in the next two weeks.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report, where lip-synching is not an option. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN or just drop me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

HRC testifies this morning on Benghazi. Watch: http://cs.pn/WKfowU

Fred Kaplan is at Politics and Prose tonight. The author will read from his new book, "The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War," at the Washington bookstore at 7 p.m.

Rising star goes to work for the military’s special operators. Maj. Gen. Mike Nagata has been assigned to command special operations forces at U.S. Central Command. The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron reports that Nagata has been one to watch, first gaining attention when he was the head U.S. military officer in Islamabad. "Operating from the shadows in support of the fight against al Qaeda and the affiliate’s senior leaders," said Frank Kearney, now retired, who at one time had the job Nagata is about to step into. "General Nagata has developed inter-agency, country team and U.S. embassy relationships throughout CENTCOM and the Horn of Africa," he said, describing him as "unassuming and affable." His experience makes him the "perfect choice" to lead, Kearney said. http://atfp.co/UkmbyV

CSIS gets some love from Penn. CSIS was chosen for the second time as the world’s "top security and international affairs think tank" by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies program. For more: http://bit.ly/10OU1kL

The most worrisome fight against Hagel is now about nukes. As Situation Report reported Jan. 9, some critics of Chuck Hagel have targeted things he has said about disarmament. His signing on with Global Zero, an advocacy organization that supports the elimination of nuclear weapons, was seen as a problem by some of his critics, including Rep. Mike Turner, the Republican from Ohio,, even though the group has many notable backers.

The attacks, however, are concerning to the Hagel camp, who say those individuals are "totally misrepresenting" his record on nuclear policy. They have now begun to defend his record by actively promoting his record. "The fact of the matter is that his views are perfectly in line with the President’s," we were told. "He believes in an effective deterrent and a strong arsenal as long as America faces nuclear threats." Hagel’s confirmation hearings are scheduled for next Thursday. http://1.usa.gov/XdShct

The Stan

Noting

Into Africa