By Barbara Starr
Pakistani security forces and insurgents appear to be collaborating in some cross-border attacks, the deputy U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told Pentagon reporters that in southern Afghanistan's Paktika province, "We have seen indications where fires have originated from positions that were in close proximity to some Pakistan outposts, which - as you might imagine - give us great concern. And we immediately get in contact with our Pakistan counterparts in that case. I think the collaboration is at least in some cases local collaborations with the insurgents, and we talk very bluntly with our Pakistan counterparts about this."
Scaparrotti said those blunt discussions have helped in recent weeks.
By CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the United States would be willing to negotiate with the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban if he met conditions that have been laid out.
Testifying at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton did not dismiss the prospect when asked by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, whether reconciliation talks with the Taliban and other insurgents would include talking with Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
"You don't make peace with your friends," she said, speaking just days after concluding a weeklong trip that included stops in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There first would have to be a demonstrated willingness on the Taliban's part to negotiate and to meet the conditions already laid out for joining negotiations, she said.
By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Leon Panetta's New Year's Eve toast will be one that has been 10 years in the making. The Pentagon is confirming that a California restaurateur friend of Panetta's will open a bottle of wine with an estimated value of $10,000-$15,000, and the secretary of defense will be one of several friends toasting Panetta's CIA-run mission to get Osama Bin Laden.
Monterey, California, restaurateur Ted Balestreri made a bet with Panetta while Panetta was CIA director that if he ever "got" bin Laden, Balestreri would open the oldest bottle of wine in his restaurant.
The secretary told his friend "you're on," according to Douglas Wilson, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
Wilson said so many Panetta friends are likely to be together New Year's Eve that each will get only a small sip of the expensive wine. FULL POST
By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
A senior military leader warned Congress Thursday that further budget cuts will mean lost lives in future conflicts.
"There is just a tendency to believe at the end of a war that we will never need ground forces again. I'll tell you that we've never got that right," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army. "We have always required them. We just don't have the imagination to predict when that will be."
Chiarelli was testifying before the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee along with high-level officers from the other services.
"And quite frankly, let's be honest, it has cost us lives," Chiarelli said of cuts in the aftermath of previous wars. "Cost us lives at Kasserine Pass" in Tunisia in World War II," it cost us lives at Task Force Smith in Korea. It cost us lives every single time."
Chiarelli's blunt talk of deadly flesh-and-blood consequences broke free of the usual budget debate on the risk of a "hollowed-out force," and the cost of "modernization." FULL POST
By Tim Lister
It's not often that a terrorist suspect on trial in the United States is supported by a march to the courthouse, a website and a local pastor. But then the trial of 29-year-old Tarek Mehanna, which gets under way Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boston, is no ordinary case.
Prosecutors have charged Mehanna, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Sudbury Massachusetts, since childhood, with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill Americans in a foreign territory, and lying to FBI investigators. The prosecution argues that for nearly a decade Mehanna talked with friends about jihad and training as a terrorist.
Mehanna's lawyers say that in collecting and distributing jihadist propaganda he was doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment right to free expression. They point out that some of the materials he translated involved mujahedeen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan more than 20 years ago.
Mehanna's supporters plan a march from the site of Occupy Boston to the courthouse to mark the beginning of the trial. They have set up a website in his defense. Mehanna is popular in the local Muslim community and taught children at the school of a local mosque. His father was a professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, where Tarek Mehanna earned a doctorate.
But another group, Americans For Peace & Tolerance, is holding a counterdemonstration at the courthouse, describing the online rhetoric of Mehanna's supporters as "exceedingly poisonous." A video posted on the group's website says: "The silence induced by political correctness must be broken in order to deal effectively with the threats posed by Islamic radicalism."
The group's president, Charles Jacobs, told CNN that Mehanna's fate is up to the court, but he takes issue with leaders of Boston's Muslim community for supporting him. FULL POST
By Nick Paton Walsh reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan
More than a year after remarks he made in a controversial Rolling Stone article cost him his job, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal is heading back to Afghanistan - at the invitation of the country's presidential palace.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Thursday that McChrystal, the former commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, would soon visit Kabul.
"Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker was consulted about Gen. McChrystal's visit and he had no problem with it. (McChrystal and his wife) are traveling as private citizens and they are not carrying any particular message," embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall said.
McChrystal was removed from his post in June 2010 after the general and top aides were quoted in the Rolling Stone article disparaging top administration officials.
At the time, U.S. President Barack Obama praised McChrystal's service record but said the general exhibited poor judgment.
Afghanistan's presidential palace has not released additional information about the visit.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is defending his country's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency against recent accusations by American officials that the agency is working with elements of the Haqqani network, which has targeted Americans in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.
Musharraf delivered his remarks Wednesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, where just weeks earlier, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen - since retired as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - reiterated his belief that the Pakistani spy agency was directly linked to the terrorist organization. Mullen said the ISI played a direct role in supporting Haqqani members in a recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Musharraf said the agency is "certainly" not pro-Taliban or pro-al Qaeda.
"Why can't it be? Because Pakistan's army has suffered over 3,000 dead; because the same ISI, the much-maligned ISI, has suffered about 350 operatives dead, killed through suicide bombings. By whom? By Taliban, by al Qaeda, the same enemy," he told the audience. FULL POST
By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy reporting from Seoul, South Korea
The pace of North Korea's planned regime change from Kim Jong Il to his twenty-something son appears to have slowed at the moment, two senior U.S. military officials said Thursday.
"The accelerated rate of the succession process has slowed because there's probably not the same sense of urgency, because Kim Jong Il's health doesn't appear to be deteriorating as it was some time ago," one of the officials said.
The officials briefed reporters traveling through Asia with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Both officials spoke on the condition that their names not be used.
Kim, the father, has been seen in North Korean news reports traveling around the country and visiting China recently, a big change from 2009 when he was thought to be ill with cancer.
The slower pace does not appear to be a reflection of any lack of confidence in the son, Kim Jong Un. FULL POST