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Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins announced this week that he would be retiring ahead of the much-delayed trial of the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the New York Times reports.

State of play: The retirement comes as a surprise since he had obtained an extension to serve until Jan. 1, 2023. Martins now will retire on Sept. 30, and no clear reason for his departure has been given, per the Times.

  • Martins' retirement was announced via a message to some of the families who lost loved ones on 9/11.
  • The message, obtained by NPR, was sent by Karen Loftus, director of the prosecution team's Victim Witness Assistance Program. Loftus noted that the 9/11 trial would begin soon after pausing due to the pandemic, and added: "this is the time to transition to new leadership."
  • While Martins was in charge of overseeing all war crime prosecutions at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, the 9/11 case —  set to resume during the first two weeks of September — has remained the most high profile.

The big picture: Martins' departure is the most recent setback in the process to bring the 9/11 case to trial (in which no military judge is presently assigned), NPR notes.

  • The defense is also set to lose its chief counsel, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, who is set to retire in November.
  • The same day that he announced his retirement, Martins asked the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review for more time to respond to an appeal for a different case.
    • “Was he asked to resign or did he quit in protest?” military defense attorney and Navy Capt. Brian L. Mizer asks in the Times story. “I don’t know.”

Context: The Obama administration decided in 2011 to pursue the prosecution of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices via the military tribunal system.

  • This case, in particular, has come up against repeated obstacles, including allegations of alleged torture of the defendants, as well as whether information obtained via torture could be used in court.

Between the lines: Most of the detainees held at Guantanamo have been released or transferred to different countries. President Biden has declared the end of the so-called "forever" war in Afghanistan and as the U.S. troop drawdown nears completion, questions remain about whether detainees captured on the battlefield can continue to be held.

What's next: Deputy chief prosecutor Michael O'Sullivan will become acting chief prosecutor once Martins retires in September.

Go deeper

In photos: Drought-ravaged California lashed by major storm

Workers try to divert water into drains as rain pours down on Oct. 24 in Marin City, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A major storm system was pummeling Northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains overnight.

The big picture: "Atmospheric river" storms, associated with a record-strong "bomb cyclone" offshore from the Pacific Northwest, have brought flooding and mudslides to parts of California that were razed by recent wildfires and in severe drought. It's also caused widespread power outages in California, Oregon and Washington state.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

2 hours ago - World

Sudan's military places civilian prime minister under house arrest

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were also detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

Why it matters: The arrests of the civilian faction in the Sudanese government came a day after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the head of the military faction of the Sudanese government General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and warned him against staging a coup.