By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer en route with Secretary Panetta to Bali, Indonesia
Leon Panetta, just back from a long trip to engage with America's European allies, climbed back on board his plane Friday for his first trip as secretary of defense to Asia with the same goal in mind.
"It'll be a chance for Secretary Panetta to really share strategic views with his counterparts about the region," according to one of two senior defense officials who briefed reporters about the trip.
The defense secretary's first stop is Bali, Indonesia, before traveling to Tokyo, then Seoul.
But at all the stops, it's possible, if not likely, that China will be chief among the topics of discussion.
The goal of the trip is not to alienate China; the secretary hopes these visits will strengthen U.S. relations in the region, including with China.
"We are not trying to contain China, that is not our policy," the second senior defense official said. FULL POST
By Mick B. Krever
Four countries, including Pakistan, were elected Friday to join the UN Security Council in January as nonpermanent members for two-year terms. Also elected, via secret ballot, were Guatemala, Morocco and Togo.
Azerbaijan and Slovenia remained locked Friday night in a race for the fifth seat after several rounds of close voting.
This will be the seventh time Pakistan has served on the council and the fourth time it will serve alongside longtime rival India. The council could be a crucial testing ground over the next two years for Pakistan's strained relationship with the United States.
"We hope to play our usual role of taking on matters which affect the underdog, so as to speak," Pakistani Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said.
With regard to India, Haroon said that both countries "have been beneficial in starting dialogue" and avoiding "usual tendencies."
Manjeev Singh Puri, India's deputy ambassador to the UN, embraced Haroon after the vote and said that he warmly welcomed the election of Pakistan.
"Pakistan and India share common perception on so many global issues, and we look forward to working with them," Singh Puri said.
By CNN's Fareed Zakaria
It's midnight here in Tehran. My interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad is scheduled for 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. President Ahmadinejad, apparently, gets up at 4:00, goes for a run, then goes to the gym. And so when he's done with all of that, I will interview him.
We've got lots of issues to discuss – the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, Libya and Gadhafi, what happens in Syria, and, of course, this new announcement from President Obama about U.S. troops leaving Iraq.FULL STORY
By CNN’s Adam Levine
Moammar Gadhafi is defeated, the last of Libya’s cities are under rebel control, and NATO is seeking to ends its involvement by the end of the month.
The Obama administration is touting the Libya mission as a model of success, one in which the U.S. supports a mission but lets others, in this case NATO and the Libyan rebels, take the lead. Or, as they are calling it in Washington, “leading from behind.”
"This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has been in the past," Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd in New Hampshire on Thursday. "This is an example of how the world is beginning to work together a little bit better. A lot of problems out there, but this is what’s going on.
"We don't have to do it ourselves," Biden told CNN's Candy Crowley in an interview to air Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
"The NATO alliance worked like it was designed to do: burden sharing," Biden said. "No American lives lost.
Biden said the Libya mission contrasts with other NATO missions where the U.S. has really carried the burden, like Afghanistan. FULL POST
By CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty reporting from Dushanbe, Tajikistan
This summer the United States met with the Haqqani terrorist network at the request of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, according to a senior State Department official.
That official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Pakistan, told reporters “it was one meeting in the summer, the ISI asked us to have it, the Afghans also knew about it.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first mentioned the contact with the Haqqani network during a roundtable discussion with Pakistani journalists in Islamabad Thursday.
“We have reached out to the Taliban, we have reached out to the Haqqani network,” she said, “to test their willingness and their sincerity and we are now working among us – Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States – to try to put together a process that would sequence us toward an actual negotiation.”
Clinton called it a “preliminary meeting to essentially just see if they would show up for even a preliminary meeting." FULL POST
By CNN Correspondent Arwa Damon.
Editor's note: Damon has been reporting from Iraq since 2003
I met a young woman, 21-year-old Noof Assi, in Baghdad on my most recent trip to Iraq in September. She says, “I have dreams, I was born a dreamy girl”. But then she pauses and adds: “Sometimes the reality just tells me – wake up.”
Baghdad is not a city that she can dream in. Noof is a gutsy woman. She drives herself around Baghdad, ignoring the Iraqi security forces at checkpoints intent on harassing her for being a female driver. She demonstrates, despite the government occasionally taking a page out of the historical pagebook and deciding to use brute force and intimidation to silence those who speak against it.
She had survived the worst of it, navigating through al Qaeda killing fields to get to high school, haunted by the images of corpses she saw on a regular basis. But last year, two car bombs targeting the trade bank of Iraq exploded next to her home, destroying her only real sanctuary.
Now Noof says, “When I lost my kingdom, when I lost everything in it, I started to think I have nothing in my own country. I love Baghdad but Baghdad doesn’t love me.” FULL POST
By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
With the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year looking more likely, absent an agreement to extend legal immunity, a large contingent of U.S. contractors will still remain facing their own legal and logistical ambiguities and challenges.
The complexity of the situation is not lost on top officials at the State Department who are busy preparing to assume control of every U.S. responsibility in Iraq – including contracting operations.
"The State Department is doing something that quite frankly we have never done before, this is not going to be easy and I think we all understand that," Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told CNN.
"We owe it to the families (who have lost loved ones in Iraq), and to the taxpayers to get this transition done correctly," he added.
From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence:
A U.S. official tells CNN that the U.S. will pull all troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, as the current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq dictates. A White House official told reporters that President Barack Obama will be making a statement about "our security relationship with Iraq" following a video conference he held at 1130aET with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.
CNN reported on October 17 that the United States and Iraq have been unable to come to agreement on key issue regarding legal immunity for U.S. troops who would remain in Iraq after the end of the year, effectively ending discussion of maintaining a significant American force presence after the end of 2011, a senior U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the discussions told CNN on Monday.
There are approximately 39.000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq and the U.S. wanted to keep from 3,000 to 5,000 troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2011.
A small number of U.S. troops will be attached to the U.S. Embassy in Bagdhad
From CNN Pentagon Correspondents Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr:
A NATO official tells CNN that Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander will be recommending the end to NATO's mission in Libya today.
This official tells CNN the official meetings to discuss the end of NATO’s military mission will begin at 3pm Belgium time (9amET). He says it will involve NATO ambassadors from member nations as well as Stavridis, and the meetings are likely to last about two hours. After which, there will be some sort of explanation of what happened during the meeting – either a statement from the Sec Gen or perhaps a press conference.
By Tim Lister
Three gone (Gadhafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali), two holding on in the face of daily protests (Assad, Saleh), two more (Kings Abdullah of Jordan and Mohammed of Morocco) trying to stay ahead of the curve of protest. After ten months of the Arab Spring, the region is still in the throes of a heady and unpredictable transformation.
Gadhafi’s demise, after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine Abedine Ben Ali in Tunisia, means that three rulers in power collectively for 95 years are gone. Scholar and author Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, says that 2011 “is to the Arabs what 1989 was to the communist world. The Arabs are now coming into ownership of their own history and we have to celebrate.”
Protesters in Yemen and Syria may be re-energized by the pictures from Sirte showing the almost pathetic end of a ruler whose flowing robes and uniforms had long given him an aura of invincibility. Demonstrators in Syrian cities celebrated Gadhafi’s death and warned President Bashar al Assad that he would be next. As one Syrian activist told CNN: "The clear fate of all who kill his people is to end up under the feet of the nation."
Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Saad al Hariri, (no friend of the Syria regime) said: "Any Arab citizen, watching the course of events in Libya, cannot but think of the popular revolutionary movement that is taking place in Syria.”
There has been one refrain common across the Arab world this year – from the dusty streets of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia where it all began to the barricades that litter Homs in Syria today. "The fear is gone, the people have put away their fear” – words spoken by Tunisian activist Sana Ben Achour in January that have echoed across the region ever since. It was quickly followed by a chant: “The people want the downfall of the regime.” FULL POST