August 8th, 2011
03:47 PM ET

State Department: Americans targeted for visa issues in Pakistan

In a long and detailed Travel Warning, the State Department Monday said the number of U.S. citizens arrested, detained, and prosecuted for overstaying their visas in Pakistan this year has "increased markedly across the country."

According to the report, Americans throughout Pakistan have been "arrested, deported, harassed, and detained for overstaying their Pakistani visas or for traveling to Pakistan with the inappropriate visa classification."

The Travel Warning, updated from February 2, 2011, noted that Americans who try to renew or extend their visas while in Pakistan "have been left without legal status for an extended period of time and subjected to harassment or interrogation by local authorities."

FULL POST

August 8th, 2011
01:32 PM ET

Panetta on Afghanistan special ops attack: "We will fight on until we have achieved the final goal"

Newly sworn-in Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta commented Monday on the helicopter attack in Afghanistan over the weekend that resulted in the single-day loss of American life since the beginning of the war there. Panetta spoke at a change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Here are some of his remarks:

Two days ago we lost 22 Navy and three Air Force members of our force who died along with five Navy aviators, seven Afghan soldiers, and one civilian interpreter. And early this morning we lost another Army ranger.

They were far from home, but we know that they were also where they wanted to be, doing what they wanted to do alongside men who were perhaps closer to them than their own brothers. We owe them our deepest gratitude for their willingness to put their lives on the line, for their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their nation. But we also must pledge to them and to their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause for which they gave their lives, cause of a secure and safer America. We will honor the fallen by showing the world our unyielding determination to press ahead. To move forward with the hard work that must be done to protect our country... As heavy a loss as this was, it would even be more tragic if we allowed it to derail this country from our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and deny them a safe haven in Afghanistan. Instead, we will send a strong message of American resolve from this tragedy, we draw even greater inspiration to carry on the fight. To continue to hunt down those who would do us harm. We will never stop, we will fight on until we have achieved the final goal of victory over terrorism.

This is a reminder, a reminder to the American people, that we remain a nation still at war. One that has seen its share of triumph and tragedy. Special Operators have been at the heart of many of those triumphs. The entire world saw the precision and skill of our military in the operation that brought down Bin Laden, but we know that these successes are driven by the willingness of these brave warriors to shoulder heavy burdens, to take on great risk, and as we all know, that comes often times at a very high cost.

On behalf of a respectful Special Operations Community, I extend our deepest condolences to the families, teammates and friends of our fallen warriors. We will mourn their loss, honor their sacrifice and press on as we have done so many times before. It's what they would want and what we must do.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Panetta
August 8th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

Tragedy underscores Afghan war's realities

By CNN's Tim Lister

The shooting down of a Chinook helicopter in central Afghanistan with the loss of 38 lives - most of them U.S. Navy SEALs - highlights two crucial aspects of the conflict in Afghanistan, as U.S. forces begin to draw down and Afghan security forces start taking the lead.

The first is the growing reliance on U.S. Special Operations Forces to combat the Taliban and other insurgent groups - in operations every night across the country.

The second is that many areas far beyond the Taliban's traditional strongholds in the south remain very insecure, areas where the Taliban have exploited an instinctive wariness of a foreign force among locals - and punished those who dare to work with them.

One such place is the Tangi Valley in Wardak province, where the crash occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning. Soldiers who have served there describe it as perfect territory for insurgents, with steep mountainsides of shale and boulders overlooking orchards and thick vegetation.

Improvised bombs are regularly planted along the one road that runs through the valley, next to the Logar River, and detonated from vantage points above. (NATO officials say that the IEDs' control wires are laid across the river, making pursuit of the insurgents more difficult.)

Tangi is only 60 miles from Kabul, close to the main highway south. But the Taliban (though not al Qaeda or other foreign groups) have long been active in the area. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Military • NATO • Navy SEALs • Special Operations Forces • Taliban