Why the Kabul attack lasted 20 hours
An ISAF helicopter arrives to transport wounded foreign soldiers from the building where Taliban fighters attacked the most heavily protected part of Kabul on September 14, 2011. (Photo credit SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
September 15th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Why the Kabul attack lasted 20 hours

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

To hear the Pentagon and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials tell it, when a group of insurgents began an attack on the US Embassy and ISAF headquarters in the heart of Kabul, the Afghan security reacted “quickly” with a “strong response”.

So why did it take 20 hours to end the battle.

The main fight pitted seven insurgents armed with AK-47s, Rocket-propelled grenades and ordinary grenades against, US, British and Afghan Special Forces backed up by helicopter gunships and the world’s most sophisticated command and control system.

Maj. Gen. Tim Evans of the British Army serves in Kabul as the Chief of Staff for the ISAF Joint Command. He said ISAF thinks the date of the attack was not arbitrary. “We do believe they were trying to do an attack on the anniversary of 9/11,” Evans said during a satellite briefing from Kabul with the Pentagon press corps.

Evans said Afghan Security forces quickly “contained” the insurgents inside a 13-story hotel that was still under construction.

“Once they were contained, there was no point trying to rush that operation,” Evans said. “If at night, as you try and clear through the stairways, the lift shafts, up through the different floors, you are going to do it deliberately, particularly when you know that those individuals are willing to die.”

“As you will understand on these operations, it does take time,” he said.

Evan’s made clear that it was the results of the fight, not the duration that mattered most. “All seven of the insurgents died. But we did not have any deaths as we cleared the operation. Which I think as you can understand is a good affect and a good result.”

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Filed under: 9/11 • Afghanistan • ISAF • Kabul • Military
Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' is on track for Tuesday
President Obama signs the bill repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell last December. On Tuesday the repeal becomes official (White House Photo)
September 15th, 2011
05:44 PM ET

Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' is on track for Tuesday

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

The Pentagon announced the repeal of the long-controversial ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military will happen on Tuesday.

But the repeal comes as two of the most powerful Republicans on the House Armed Service Committee call for a delay on the process of ending "don't ask, don't tell."

Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Joe Wilson, chairman of the committee's personnel subcommittee, wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this week asking him to "take immediate action to delay the implementation of repeal."

A Defense official who handles questions about "don't ask, don't tell" said the Department of Defense would not respond to a congressional letter through the media. But a spokesperson sent CNN a statement that read, in part, "The repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' will occur, in accordance with the law and after a rigorous certification process, on September 20."

McKeon and Wilson said Congress has not been adequately informed of the policy changes that will accompany the repeal.

The Pentagon statement said, "Senior Department of Defense officials have advised Congress of changes to regulations and policies associated with repeal. We take that obligation seriously. Senior department officials, including the general counsel, have met with House Armed Services Committee staff and shared with them all of the proposed revisions to the regulations and new policies to be promulgated."

So far, no plans for any Pentagon ceremonies or events regarding the repeal have been announced.

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Filed under: Congress • Military • Obama • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
In Libya, beware when things aren't 'miya miya'
September 15th, 2011
03:18 PM ET

In Libya, beware when things aren't 'miya miya'

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty on assignment in Tripoli, Libya

It punctuates almost every Libyan's conversation: "Miya miya." Literally it mean "100%, 100%" In other words, "Things are OK. Fine. Great. Cool."

How's the weather? Miya miya. How's life? Miya miya.

Even in this revolution, when things are not OK, or great, or cool Libyans use the phrase.

This week, as we stood at a rebel checkpoint some nine or ten miles from the besieged town of Bani Walid, private cars with civilians fleeing the fighting slowed as the guards, in a motley collection of military gear, sneakers, hipster sunglasses and head bands waved them through. We stuck our heads in windows and asked the families what conditions were like in the city center.

"Miya miya," they said. But their eyes told a different tale. With no electricity, little water, food running low and shells raining down on their houses how could it possibly be "miya miya," we thought.

In August, our CNN producer, Raja Razek, had a "miya miya" moment right after the rebels entered Tripoli. On her way with correspondent Sara Sidner and crew to what then was known as Green Square, now Martyrs' Square, they drove down Ghirgharsh Street. Anti-Gadhafi forces were pulling back to the suburb of Janzour to regroup.

The crew asked a rebel how things were looking at the Square.

"It's not completely miya miya," he said.

The crew blanched. It was the first time they'd heard that expression.

They turned around and headed back. "Miya miya- NOT." In Libya, that's bad.


Al Qaeda leader killed in Pakistan
September 15th, 2011
12:38 PM ET

Al Qaeda leader killed in Pakistan

By National Security Supervising Producer Adam Levine

An al Qaeda figure identified as the terrorist network's chief of operations in Pakistan has been killed, a U.S. officials said Thursday.

Abu Hafs al-Shari was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan, according to one of the sources.  While there was no explanation how he was killed, it is known armed predator drones have been used to kill suspected terrorists.

One US official called it a "blow" to the core of Al Qaeda.

"The loss of their chief of operations in Pakistan, an individual who played a key operational and administrative role for the group, will pose a challenge for Zawahiri.  Abu Hafs was a contender to assume some of [recently killed Atiyah abd al-Rahman's] duties, coordinated al Qaeda’s anti-US plotting in the region, and worked closely with the Pakistani Taliban to carry out attacks inside Pakistan."

A senior administration official said the strike will "further degrade" Al Qaeda's ability to recover from the Rahman killing in August because " because of his operations experience and connections within the group."

The pressure on Al Qaeda in Pakistan has been significant with a number of key leaders, most notably Osama bin Laden, being eliminated.  Earlier this week, the top intelligence official at the Pentagon said US counterterrorism operations have left the group feeling "besieged."

"Its senior leaders are being eliminated at a rate far faster than al Qaeda can replace them, and the leadership replacements the group is able to field are much less experienced and credible," said Michael Vickers, the Under Secretary for Defense Intelligence at an event in Washington on Tuesday. Vickers said the pressure on Al Qaeda has left it in a "precarious" postiion and predicted that at this rate the group could be eliminated wtihin the next two years.

"We have substantially attrited AQ's mid-level operatives, trainers and facilitators, its recent recruits, including several westerners, and senior leaders and operatives of its safe haven providers," Vickers said.

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, told Congress on Tuesday that the pressure could lead to Al Qaeda rank and file fleeing Pakistan to Afghanistan or leaving south Asia.

Vickers said that this year alone the terror group has lost eight of its "top 20" leaders and of all its top leaders from 2001 only one, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remains. The killing of al-Shari raises the total to nine.

– Pam Benson, Larry Shaughnessy and Alex Mooney contributed to this report

September 15th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Seeing the cost of revolution in Libya

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty on assignment in Tripoli, Libya

At Libya's largest hospital, the Tripoli Medical Center, the State Department's point man on Libya, Assistant Secretary of State for New Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, saw the price of revolution up close.

Accompanied by doctors, Feltman visited three rooms in which civilian men lay in hospital beds recuperating from gunshot wounds. Most of them had been hit by Gadhafi loyalist snipers. Feltman shook his head as the doctors described the indiscriminate nature of the attacks.

One man was standing on his roof shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!"), they said, in support of the rebels. Another was standing in front of his house. When the doctors told Feltman that one man was shot with an anti-aircraft weapon, he seemed shocked.

Like many Libyans in the capital these days, the men flashed the rebel "v for victory" sign, even though the war is not over. Anti-Gadhafi forces still are fighting for control over three remaining Gadhafi strongholds of Bani Walid, Sirte and Sabha.

Leaving the hospital, Feltman told CNN he found the men "inspiring." FULL POST