Acting Defense Secretary Christoper Miller announced Wednesday that U.S. Special Operations Command will now report directly to him, putting it on par with the service branches.

Miller made the announcement at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on his first trip outside the Pentagon since being appointed to take over from fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Nov. 9.

The job of reporting directly to Miller will go to Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former aide to Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn. Cohen-Watnick is now filling the role of assistant secretary of defense for SO/LIC on an acting basis. 18 Nov 2020 | | By Richard Sisk

The change makes the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict a service secretary-like position responsible for the oversight and advocacy of the military’s special operations forces, said Miller, who is expected to serve in the Defense Department’s top job only about two months.

The policy change comes one day after Miller announce the first major shift for the military under his watch — the hastened withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Congress urged the Pentagon to speed up the elevation of the position in its fiscal year 2020 NDAA, the annual law that sets Pentagon policy and spending priorities. Esper told Congress last year that the Defense Department was making progress on the ordered changes.

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 18, 2020

In other news:

[Obrador] wanted Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, a former Mexican defense minister charged by the United States with drug trafficking, returned to Mexico.

On Wednesday, President ­Andrés Manuel López Obrador got his way, welcoming the decision of a federal judge to drop the charges in one of the Justice Department’s biggest drug-trafficking cases in recent history, clearing the path for Cienfuegos’s release to Mexico as a free man.

Mexican officials were incensed to learn that U.S. prosecutors had been investigating Cienfuegos for years without informing them. They learned of the probe only after his arrest — a scandal here that prompted official threats to limit future cooperation with the United States, including restrictions on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s work in Mexico.

Prosecutors insisted in court Wednesday that their case against Cienfuegos was strong; they said they were seeking dismissal to preserve the delicate relationship between the two countries.

The Justice Department spent years investigating Cienfuegos, who served as Mexico’s top defense official from 2012 to 2018 under then-President Enrique Peña Nieto. Prosecutors said they discovered thousands of exchanges that showed that he was also working with the H-2 cartel to expand its territory and move drugs into the United States.

Cienfuegos pleaded not guilty this month. It appeared to be a blockbuster case, revealing deep connections between the Mexican state and the country’s criminal underworld.

Amon called the decision to dismiss it “a matter of foreign policy.”

Mexico welcomes U.S. release of accused former defense minister, but episode has deepened mistrust on both sides — Kevin Sieff and Shayna Jacobs November 18, 2020 at 9:28 p.m. EST