By CNN Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
America's top commando said Thursday that special operations forces had conducted some 2,000 raids in Afghanistan over just the past year but that talking - not shooting - is the way forward.
"We are not going to be able to kill our way to victory in Afghanistan," Adm. William McRaven told a House Armed Services subcommittee. "We've always understood that."
By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty on assignment in Tripoli, Libya
After an almost nine-month absence, Ambassador Gene Cretz is home in Tripoli, back at the residence he and his wife had to flee, under threat, after Wikileaks released diplomatic documents allegedly containing his blunt comments about Moammar Gadhafi's personal predilections.
"I left Libya suddenly last year under very difficult conditions" Cretz tells guests at an embassy flag-raising ceremony. "At that time I could not imagine I would be returning to a new, free Libya that is brimming with joy, optimism and new-found freedoms."
Gadhafi is in hiding. The revolutionary leadership, the National Transitional Council, is busy trying to form a government. Rebel forces are trying to take out the last Gadhafi strongholds of Bani Wali, Sirte and Sahba.
Ambassador Cretz stands at the podium set up in front of his residence - a cream-colored, red-tiled house that would not seem out of place in suburban Florida. Two men raise the American flag to the strains of the U.S. National Anthem, followed by the jaunty melody of the new revolutionary national anthem. Libyans stand nearby in the shade of a tree, hands over hearts, and sing along. FULL POST
By National Security Team Supervising Producer Adam Levine
In Mullen's final days as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs he is certainly pulling no punches, especially in regards to what the United States believes are dangerous ties between Pakistan's intelligence agency ties to the Haqqani network.
Appearing for the last time in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today, Mullen continued to criticize the Internal Services Intelligence agency (ISI), something he has been doing publicly over the last few days. Just this past weekend, Mullen met with his Pakastini counterpart and warned that a crackdown on the Haqqanis is needed.
Mullen said the Haqqani network is a "veritable arm" of the ISI.
"With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted" recent attacks including last week's assault on the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.
Pakistan is "exporting" violence to Afghanistan, Mullen said. That violence, including attacks on U.S. soldiers, has led to the CIA targeting Haqqani insurgents in Pakistan, as Security Clearance reported on Wednesday.
Mullen's comments were part of a wide-ranging hearing with the chairman and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta defending the Obama administration plans in Iraq and Afghanistan. See full story HERE
In the second part of CNN's exclusive behind-the scenes look at the State Department's operations at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott shows us the detailed preparations that go into setting up a photo opportunity between the Secretary of State and a foreign diplomat.
By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
Opponents of slashing the defense budget are shouting about the ripple effect that would be felt in the job market, arguing that Pentagon cuts equal job cuts. But how many jobs are really at stake when hundreds of billions of dollars are axed? That's where the numbers get fuzzy.
The Defense Department's $680 billion budget pays for over 3.1 million employees, both military and civilian. Another 3 million people are employed by the defense industry both directly, making things like weapons, and indirectly, such as working in local businesses supported by a contractor's location in a town, according to various sources. It's these big money and job figures that make lawmakers fight for defense contracts in their districts and defense contractors lobby for their contracts.
The Defense Department is already required to cut $400 billion from its budget as part of an agreement that allowed President Obama to raise the debt ceiling. The same deal created a congressional "super committee" tasked to find another $1.5 trillion in government savings over the next decade.
If the commission cannot come to agreement on where the cuts should come from by the end of November, another $600 billion would automatically be axed from the defense budget.
By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
The defense industrial base is at risk of dwindling to such an extent that when the Pentagon needs a new technology in the future, there may be limited or no options for companies that can create it, according to a new report from defense budget analysts.
The defense industry does not operate like a normal free market, the analysts argue. Instead, they say, it is a highly regulated market in which the U.S. government is both the regulator and the customer, causing the contractors to rely solely on the demand of the Pentagon.
The defense industrial base wasn't created until the 1950s, and continued to maintain its presence throughout the Cold War. But with the wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan and budget cuts closing up the Pentagon's wallet, it's the regulator-and-customer relationship that contractors have with the Pentagon that may cause them to begin turning away from defense.
"We are left with only a handful of big prime contractors in defense...We may see some of these firms start to diversify and (sell) commercial products," defense budget analyst Todd Harrison with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said in an interview with CNN.
By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes
China's near monopoly of essential materials for energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid engines and high-tech weapons is a looming crisis, experts warned congressional committee Wednesday.
Of particular concern is how vital rare earth minerals are for top-of-the-line weapons, including missile guidance systems, drones and the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"Manufacturers can no longer expect a steady supply of these elements and the pricing uncertainty created by this action threatens tens of thousands of American jobs," Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Illinois, said. "For American's defense industry, a total reliance on China for rare earths represents a serious weakness for national security."
Manzullo is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, which conducted the hearing.
These minerals - including cerium, neodymium and dysprosium - also can be found in wind turbines, cell phones and night vision goggles.