Allen: U.S. troop drawdown from Afghanistan to begin “very soon”
May 23rd, 2012
11:43 PM ET

Allen: U.S. troop drawdown from Afghanistan to begin “very soon”

By Larry Shaughnessy

The man in charge of the war in Afghanistan said Wednesday that about a quarter of the American troops there will begin coming home "very shortly."

Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that 23,000 of the 88,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan will be home by September 30, 2012.

The so-called Phase 2 drawdown is going to begin "very shortly," Allen told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

When the drawdown is complete, ISAF will still have 65,000 U.S. troops available, plus about 40,000 troops from other ISAF nations like the UK, Canada and Germany.

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Filed under: 10 years of war • Afghanistan • Gen. Allen • Military
May 23rd, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Filmmakers' access to bin Laden info

By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell

Newly released documents have reignited the debate in Washington over whether Obama administration officials granted too much access to filmmakers making a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - and whether national security was compromised in the process.

The documents show, for example, that a defense official offered the filmmakers access to a planner from SEAL Team Six, the super-secret special ops division that successfully executed the high-stakes raid in Pakistan last year.

It is not clear if any such access eventually took place. But according to a transcript from the meeting, on July 14 of last year, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow that the defense department would offer up a plum interview.

"They'll make a guy available who was involved from the beginning as a planner; a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander," Vickers said, according to the transcript.
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Clinton, top U.S. military leaders request passage of sea treaty
May 23rd, 2012
06:10 PM ET

Clinton, top U.S. military leaders request passage of sea treaty

By CNN National Security Producer Mike Mount

TheUnited Statesmust secure its rights for rare minerals and oil under the ocean before countries such asChinabegin to infringe on the country’s territorial rights, according to the nation’s top diplomat andU.S.military leaders.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey urged a Senate panel Wednesday to sign onto a long-opposed international sea treaty that they say will also strengthen the nation’s ability to apply military sea power.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations committee in a rare appearance together, the three leaders called on the Senate panel to pass the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas because it was a, “matter of utmost security and economic urgency.”

The treaty would give the U.S.a 200-mile exclusive economic zone off of its coastlines as well as access to mineral and other natural resource rights within that area but allows other signatories the right of transit within the economic zone.

The panel, led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), led a mostly bipartisan supported group of senators in favor of signing onto the treaty which has been relatively ignored by theUnited Statessince 1994.  More than 160 nations are signed onto the treaty; theU.S.is the only major nation that has not signed it.
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Filed under: Boxer • Clinton • Congress • Hillary Clinton • Military • Navy • Panetta • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Secretary of State • Senate • State Department
May 23rd, 2012
05:34 PM ET

Al Qaeda's growing reach in Syria

CNN's Barbara Starr reports from Jordan on growing worries about an al Qaeda presence in neighboring Syria.  A senior Jordanian official tells CNN that there are nearly 1,500 al Qaeda members and sympathizer in Syria. While some US officials say the Jordanian estimate is high, one U.S. expert on jihadists in Syria agrees with Jordan's view.

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan.  Read all her reporting here.

Satellite images show North Korea building rocket launch pad
An April 15th GeoEye satellite image of North Korea's launch facility at Tonghae shows existing facilities (outlined in white) and construction of new rocket assembly and launch sites (outlined in yellow)
May 23rd, 2012
01:31 PM ET

Satellite images show North Korea building rocket launch pad

By Jennifer Rizzo

New satellite images show that North Korea is building a rocket launch pad and assembly center with similarities to a facility in Iran, according to an analysis by the defense publication IHS Jane's.

New construction at Tonghae, a facility on the country's eastern coast that was previously referred to as Musudan-ri, appears in satellite images taken by GeoEye in April.

Jane's calls the construction "major" and says it appears to include work on a launch pad or engine test stand. While construction is in its early stages, some components, including fuel housings, are similar to those at the Semnan Space Center in Iran, according to Jane's.

This is the same site of failed satellite and missile launch attempts in 2006 and 2009. The recent April 13 satellite launch that ended in failure took place at the newer and larger Sohae Satellite Launch Station on North Korea's west coast.

A new building is also being constructed in a small village at the center of the Tonghae site, Jane's says. Analysis of the size and layout of the building by Jane's suggests it will be a horizontal assembly and checkout facility for rockets. This building is also similar to the recently completed rocket assembly and checkout facility at Semnan in Iran.

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Filed under: North Korea • Satellite imagery
May 23rd, 2012
09:47 AM ET

Pakistani doctor who helped track bin Laden sentenced

By Reza Sayah in Islamabad

A Pakistani doctor accused of helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden was sentenced Wednesday to 33 years in prison for treason, officials told CNN.

Shakeel Afridi was also fined $3,500 for spying for the United States, said Nasir Khan, a Khyber Agency official, and Fazal Mehmood, an official from the tribal court that handed down the sentence.

The court heard the case against Afridi for two months. The doctor was not afforded a chance to defend himself, which is in accordance with the laws of the tribal justice system, the two officials said.

Afridi was present at the sentencing and was sent to central jail in nearby Peshawar.

READ FULL STORY HERE


Filed under: CIA • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
May 23rd, 2012
09:01 AM ET

Senators: Al Qaeda calls for 'electronic jihad'

By CNN Wire Staff

An al Qaeda video calling for "electronic jihad" illustrates the urgent need for cybersecurity standards for the most critical networks in the United States, a group of senators said.

"Internet piracy is an important field of jihad," the narrator of the video says, according to a translation. He advises followers with expertise to "target the websites and information systems of big companies and government agencies of the countries that attack Muslims."

The video calls for cyberattacks against networks such as the electric grid and compares vulnerabilities in the United States' critical cyber networks to the vulnerabilities in the country's aviation system before 9/11, according to a statement Tuesday from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

READ FULL STORY HERE


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Cybersecurity • Senate • Terrorism
As sanctions tighten, Iran gets squeezed
Iran is increasingly stockpiling its oil production as purchases decline because of sanctions.
May 23rd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

As sanctions tighten, Iran gets squeezed

By Jamie Crawford

Despite recent assurances by senior officials in Iran that the country will weather sanctions targeting the country's petroleum and financial sectors, the international effort is having a noticeable impact on the Iranian economy. And the situation may well figure into talks scheduled for Wednesday in Baghdad over the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program, U.S. officials say.

Iranian exports of crude oil fell sharply in April, and could be down by as much as 1 million barrels a day, as many countries seek to reduce their imports of Iranian oil ahead of sanctions set to come into full effect later this summer, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report released earlier this month.

President Barack Obama has until June 28 to decide whether countries that purchase Iranian oil have significantly reduced their purchases, or face a cutoff in access to the U.S. financial system under legislation signed in December.

Separately, the European Union is set to enter into a complete embargo of Iranian oil on July 1. As countries diversify their purchases ahead of both sets of sanctions, U.S. officials say Iran's declining customer base for oil, as well as prohibitions on Iran's central bank, are having a broad impact on the overall Iranian economy.
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Filed under: Iran • Sanctions
Deadly drones and the classified conundrum
A U.S. Predator drone is shown here armed with a missile
May 23rd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Deadly drones and the classified conundrum

By Suzanne Kelly

The high-powered U.S. aerial delivery system of Hellfire missiles to suspected terrorist targets overseas has to be the worst kept secret in Washington. Better known as the "drone program," there are lingering questions over whether the program that is no longer secret remains "classified."

The president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan, publicly acknowledged the program last month, and offered more detail than anyone previously regarding the administration's rationale for the use of drones.

"Yes, in full accordance with the law - and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives - the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones," Brennan told a crowd at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a prestigious think tank in Washington.

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