— The House Republicans’ passed their plan to avoid defense cuts, although it’s likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which would make deep cuts in antipoverty programs and other domestic programs in order to protect the defense budget from automatic spending cuts.
— Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta criticized House Republicans for approving the bill and ignoring the strategic review which was the basis for the 2013 budget proposal and budgeting $8 billion more than what Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer.
— The Yemeni branch of al Qaeda now has “a whole outfit designated to target the U.S. homeland” and the U.S. now believes Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is working on “several type of bombs” that could get past airport screening machines, a source working with U.S. intelligence agencies and the military tells CNN.
— The supposed suicide bomber — actually a Saudi spy whose information allowed the U.S. to disrupt another “underwear bomb” — held a European Union passport and grew up in the West, making him attractive to Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate because of his freedom of movement in the U.S. and Europe.
— Another Afghan soldier opened fire on Western troops, killing one, NATO reported on Friday, while Afghan officials reported that two Western soldiers were wounded in addition to the one killed.
— A monitoring group consisting of Afghan and international officials cited what it called a “pattern of bad behavior” at a U.N.-administered fund that pays to train and maintain Afghanistans national police force. — As the U.S. grows closer to giving up on the faltering U.N.-backed peace plan in Syrian and seeking other options, a suicide bomb in the capitol could hold back multilateral action by raising concerns among powerful international players China and Russia.
— Some European countries want to scale back an aspect of the impending oil sanctions on Iran to allow European insurance of ships carrying Iranian oil — a move that would likely be welcome in Iran and other non-European countries that buy Iranian oil.