By Barbara Starr
The Pentagon has drawn up "detailed plans" developed to carry out military action against the Syrian regime, if ordered by President Obama, according to a senior U.S. official. The crucial progress in military planning comes after several weeks of initial analysis by the Pentagon of what the official says are a "full range of options."
The detailed plans for each option include more precise concepts of how a variety of operations could be carried out, as well as estimates of the numbers of personnel, types of units and military equipment and weapons that could potentially be needed.
The planning behind the scenes comes as the United States continues to pursue diplomatic and political solutions, including trying to pressure Syria's President Basher al-Assad to step aside. FULL POST
By Adam Levine
The U.S. Secretary of State said that she believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's actions fit the definition of war crimes but does not think such a path should be pursued at the moment. (Click here for the latest CNN reporting on Syria)
“I think that based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” Secretary Clinton told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
Asked by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham if charges should be pursued, Clinton said now is not the time.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that Israel and Iran don't believe the U.S. is serious about military options to stop Iran's nuclear program.
In an interview with CNN's John King, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said the U.S. needs tighter sanctions and "a real option of military consequence."
"They don't believe it - Iran, I mean - and neither does Israel. We have to change that equation if we're going to I think have an impact on Iran backing down from their nuclear weapon program," Rogers said on an interview broadcast Monday on John King, USA. FULL POST
Zachary Chesser is barely legal. At the age of 21, the self-confessed terrorist was sentenced to a 25-year prison term last year for posting radical Islamist messages online and attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
His online threat was aimed at the writers of "South Park." Their crime, according to the Virginia native: depicting the prophet Mohammed in a bear suit for an episode of the popular adult cartoon show.
In a new report released by the Senate Homeland Security Committee, staffers used Chesser's online writings and personal correspondence with him last year to get a better look at how the Internet influences his thinking. What they saw alarmed them. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
Last week the U.S. point man for talks on North Korea, Glyn Davies, met with his North Korean counterparts for the first time since the death of Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the subsequent transfer of power to his son Kim Jong Un.
The talks were aimed at reviving a proposal to exchange U.S. nutritional aid to North Korea for a halt to Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program.
The prospective deal was expected to lead to the resumption of disarmament talks between the two countries along with China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, and to more extensive quantities of food aid for North Korea. An announcement had been slated for the week Kim died, but was delayed to give the new regime a chance to regroup.
In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of "modest progress," but no breakthroughs.
Over at Time's Battleland blog, they are taking a close look at the Reaper and whether it is really the future of warfare. Or, as Mark Thompson puts it, "they’re not always the wonder weapons some believe." So for the next five days, weapons expert Winslow Wheeler "kicks the tires of the MQ-9 Reaper and, well, finds it lacking."
Read the beginning of the series on Battleland.
And if that doesn't satisfy your urge for all-things-drone, Foreign Policy has "10 Things You Didn't Know About Drones" including how for all the talk of military use, the civilian use is expanding even faster.
By Barbara Starr
In the latest sign of how strained U.S. and Afghan military relations have become, a senior U.S. official tells CNN, "There is a strong sense inside the Obama administration that the Afghans did not do enough to quell the violence" that has erupted since the burning Qurans and other religious material a week ago.
"We are not going to settle for what has happened to our troops in recent days," the official said. He declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation. This official has access to the latest intelligence about the situation and is involved in discussions inside the administration.
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, said the Afghans have not been totally absent in trying to stop the violence.
"I think we need to bear in mind that the Afghan security forces, throughout this whole process, have been seeking to quell these demonstrations," Crocker said in an exclusive interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
"They've done so with loss of life on their side as well as some of the protesters, and they have been defending U.S. installations. So they are very much in this fight trying to protect us," Crocker added.
The intense violence following the burning of religious materials by NATO forces will be quelled as Karzai's latest appeal for calm will hopefully quell the violence, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan told CNN's Candy Crowley in an exclusive interview that aired Sunday on State of the Union.
"At a certain point it tapers off," Crocker said.
Crocker said the violence, and the Afghan government's seeming inability to stop it, cannot be seen as a reason for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan. (Read also about concerns about Afghan military violence against NATO and U.S. troops) FULL POST
By Adam Levine, with reporting from Nick Paton Walsh, Masoud Popalzai, Larry Shaughnessy, Moni Basu, Chris Lawrence and Tim Lister
The gunman who shot two U.S. military officers on Saturday in the highly secured Afghan Ministry of Interior was a junior intelligence officer with ties to a Pakistani religious school, an Afghan counter-terrorism official said.
It's just the latest incident of "green on blue" attacks which have been a rising problem for the U.S. and NATO. A recent Congressional hearing looked at the issue and found that while some were influenced by Taliban ideology, some of the motives were more personal.
It adds another layer of difficulty to tamping down the anger and mistrust that has arisen from the admission by NATO that troops burned some religious documents seized from prisoners. FULL POST
By Elise Labott, reporting from Rabat, Morocco
Criticism of President Barack Obama's apology for the burning of Qurans in Afghanistanis not helpful, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday in a wide-ranging interview with CNN.
"I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would enflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan," Clinton said of the complaints by Republican presidential candidates and some experts about Obama's apology.
Obama apologized Thursday in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Qurans, which he called "inadvertent" and an "error."
"It was the right thing to do to have our president on record as saying this was not intentional, we deeply regret it," Clinton said. FULL POST