March 27th, 2012
08:28 PM ET

Defense Department: Yemeni branch of al Qaeda a serious threat to U.S.

By Larry Shaughnessy

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula represents a "serious threat" to attack the United States, according to a Defense Department official who oversees special operations.

In testimony before a Senate Armed Service subcommittee, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of Defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, said the United States has made important gains against the al Qaeda affiliate over the past year, but "the group's intent to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States continue to represent a serious threat."

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Anwar al-Awlaki
Discontent among U.S.troops in Afghanistan?
March 27th, 2012
06:41 PM ET

Discontent among U.S.troops in Afghanistan?

By Barbara Starr

When a recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 69% of Americans thought the U.S. military should no longer be fighting in Afghanistan, the reaction from Pentagon leadership was rather predictable. However, there may be a strong undercurrent of disenchantment among the ranks.

Those in a public role were determined to see the glass half full.

"We cannot fight wars by polls," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday. "If we do that we’re in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on. And the mission here is to safeguard our country by ensuring that the Taliban and al Qaeda never again find a safe haven in Afghanistan. "

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Treasury Dept. goes after Iranian arms shippers
March 27th, 2012
12:21 PM ET

Treasury Dept. goes after Iranian arms shippers

By Jamie Crawford

The United States sanctioned an Iranian airline, three Iranian officials, a trading company and a shipping agent Tuesday for providing support to an elite Iranian military unit that has already been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

All of the entities sanctioned were involved in the shipments of weapons to the Levant, a collection of countries on the eastern Mediterranean Sea that includes Syria, as well as to Africa, the Treasury Department said in a press release.

They have all assisted Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the Treasury Department said.

"Today's action again exposes Iran's malign influence in the Middle East, Africa and beyond," David Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the release. "As the Iranian regime exports its lethal aid and expertise to foment violence in Syria and Africa, Treasury will continue to expose the officials and companies involved and work to hold them accountable for the suffering they cause."
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Filed under: Africa • Iran • Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps • Nigeria • Quds Force • Sanctions • Syria • Treasury
Medvedev to Romney: It's 2012, not the 1970s
March 27th, 2012
10:21 AM ET

Medvedev to Romney: It's 2012, not the 1970s

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tweaked Mitt Romney for his characterization of Russia as the "No. 1 geopolitical foe" of the United States, saying the comments did not reflect the current relationship between the two countries, Gabriella Schwartz reports on CNN's Political Ticker.

"It is very reminiscent of Hollywood and also of a certain phase in Russian-U.S. relations," Medvedev said at the end of the nuclear security summit in South Korea Tuesday. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Medvedev • Obama • Romney • Russia
U.S. drone strikes in sharp decline in Pakistan
March 27th, 2012
10:09 AM ET

U.S. drone strikes in sharp decline in Pakistan

The past year has seen the number of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan plummet, according to statistics collected by New America Foundation's Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland.  (Bergen is also a CNN national security analyst).   In the first three months of 2012, there were 11, compared with 21 in the first three months of 2011 and a record 28 in the first quarter of 2010.

Bergen and Rowland write that the drone campaign in Pakistan had been slowing even before the deadly border incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops and put a freeze on a significant portion U.S. relations. There were 70 drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions in 2011, down from 118 in 2010, which saw the peak number of strikes since the program began. FULL POST

State Dept to court: Don't meddle with terror list decisions
Iranian-Americans rally outside the White House to urge the administration to remove the MEK, from the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organizations List
March 27th, 2012
08:51 AM ET

State Dept to court: Don't meddle with terror list decisions

By Jill Dougherty

The State Department is asking a U.S. appeals court to deny a suit that would force Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide, within 30 days, whether to remove an Iranian opposition group from the U.S. list of foreign terror organizations.

The group, the Mujahadin-e Khalq, was placed on the terror list in 1997 because of the deaths of Americans during attacks in the 1970s against the U.S.-backed shah of Iran. The U.S. says the M.E.K. engaged for years in terrorist activities in Iran launched from bases in Iraq, including assassinations of high-level Iranian officials and attacks in Iran with heavy weaponry. In the 1980s, the M.E.K. supported Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. Later, it vowed to disarm. Since 2003 the group has been living under U.S. protection on a former U.S. military base in northern Iraq, Camp Ashraf.

The Iraqi government is in the process of moving the residents from Camp Ashraf to another location in Iraq. Clinton has said the way that transfer is carried out could influence whether the group is removed from the terror list. A number of residents have objected to the move.
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Insider threat: One third of all 2012 US troop deaths at hands of Afghan security forces
A US servicemember stands a post on a hill in Afghanistan. (CNN Photo)
March 27th, 2012
03:48 AM ET

Insider threat: One third of all 2012 US troop deaths at hands of Afghan security forces

By Larry Shaughnessy

One third of all American troop deaths in Afghanistan this year has been at the hands of Afghan security forces.

The latest occurred Monday when a man alleged to be a local Afghan policeman killed an American service member in eastern Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Gen. Allen • ISAF • NATO
March 27th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

Billions in cash leaving Afghanistan

Sara Sidner and Mitra Mobasherat reporting from Kabul

In the busy street markets of Kabul, stacks of cash sit in piles as moneychangers shout the day's exchange rate to shoppers bustling by. Currency is bought and sold in the open air.

But all the money changing hands on the streets is barely a drop in the bucket compared to all the cash being siphoned out of the country in suitcases, and that is not a metaphor.

"It's hard to estimate exactly how much is going out of Afghanistan, but I can tell you in 2011 4.5 billion was out of Afghanistan, said Khan Afzal Hadawal, deputy governor of the bank of Afghanistan. FULL POST


Filed under: Afghanistan • Karzai