OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Syrian civil war spills into Turkey

Democratic lawmakers like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinDemocrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate For the sake of American taxpayers, companies must pay their fair share What the Iran-Contra investigation can teach us about Russia probe MORE (D-Mich.) and House Armed Services ranking member Adam SmithAdam SmithTrump’s defense spending boom that wasn’t No, Mr. President, you don't have the 'better ideas' on trade GOP chairman's Pentagon acquisition bill looks past ‘bright shiny objects’ MORE (D-Wash.) praised the administration’s July guidance that called issuing the notices before sequestration “inappropriate.” Other defense-minded Democrats have been keeping quiet over the latest guidance and GOP claims that the Obama administration is issuing policy to boost Obama’s election chances.

Of course, part of the reason that Democrats are likely not saying much is that the election is one month away, and so everything is being viewed from a campaign lens.

Defense and the debate: Will national security and military issues come up at tonight’s debate? While the first presidential debate is focused on domestic issues — foreign policy and national security is saved for presidential debate No. 3 — the Obama administration’s handling of the Libya attack will likely be fodder for the first of three showdowns between the president and GOP hopeful Mitt Romney.   

The White House has yet to address its shifting stories on the attack, initially claiming it was a protest and later admitting it was a planned terror strike. The Romney camp could look to press the issue early to weaken Obama’s foreign policy credentials. Another possible defense issue are the looming sequestration spending cuts and their ties to the “fiscal cliff” that is waiting for Congress and the White House after the election. 

Both candidates could use the cuts to go on the offensive: Romney to say Obama is hollowing out the military, and Obama to say Romney is protecting tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the military. DEFCON will be blogging whatever action does — or perhaps does not — happen tonight relating to the defense beat in the first debate.

Shoulder to shoulder: On Wednesday, NATO commanders tried to walk back comments by the alliance's top official suggesting coalition forces could be going home ahead of their American brothers-in-arms. British Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said U.S. and NATO forces would leave the country together in 2014, according to the White House's plan. "There will be minor adjustments across the battle space but there will be no change to the [withdrawal] strategy," he said Wednesday. 

Bradshaw's comments come after NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the British newspaper The Guardian that he is considering pulling out NATO troops ahead of the Obama administration's schedule. "If the security situation allows, I would not exclude the possibility that in certain areas you could accelerate the process," Rasmussen said on Monday.

While the NATO chief's quote appeared prominently in the article, Bradshaw said Rasmussen's comments were taken badly out of context. The Guardian's story was "at best misleading ... at worst mischievous," he said. NATO leaders on Wednesday approved plans to extend Rasmussen's mandate as secretary-general through 2014. 

Book report: The American public will have to wait a little longer before reading about the exploits of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, according to the Pentagon. McChrystal's upcoming memoir, My Share of the Task, is on indefinite hold so DOD officials can review the book and ensure it does not contain any sensitive or classified information. “We are currently working together with Gen. (Ret) McChrystal within the security review process,” said DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale. A new date has not been set, the publisher said.

President Obama's picked McChrystal to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2009. Before the pick, the four-star general led the Pentagon's vaunted Joint Special Operations Command. He resigned his command and retired from the military in 2010, after making disparaging comments about Obama administration officials in a Rolling Stone article. 

DOD is still dealing with the fallout from the book No Easy Day, by a former Navy SEAL who participated in the Osama bin Laden raid last May. The book reportedly contained classified details of the raid, known as Operation Neptune Spear, and other special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In Case You Missed It: 

— U.S. begins drafting Afghan postwar deal 

— Obama wanted Osama trial in civilian court

— DOD plans counterstrikes in Libya 

— Congress questions DHS intel strategy

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