By the CNN Wire Staff
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Afghanistan early Saturday as part of a 13-day trip that will tackle some of the thorniest U.S. foreign policy issues.
Clinton was in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit and will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
During the trip, the top U.S. diplomat also will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders, visit Egypt, where tensions are rife between military and civilian leaders, and attend a conference of leading Asia-Pacific nations, the region of increasing strategic focus for the United States.
In Paris, the first stop of the trip, Clinton attended a meeting Friday of the Friends of Syria, a group of more than 60 countries that aims to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.
From Mike Mount
CNN Senior National Security Producer
Congress is asking top U.S. defense contractors to disclose their corporate plans if the military is forced to cut $500 billion from its budget early next year, putting the companies in the middle of a political fight between Republicans and the White House.
In a letter sent Thursday to 15 major defense contractors by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and six other GOP senators as well as independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut, the companies were asked to answer five questions about the effect the potential massive cuts, known as sequestration, would have on their bottom line, employees and suppliers.
By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Wounded Afghan soldiers, lying in dirty beds, with unchanged bandages and festering wounds. Some starving because their families have no money to pay for their food. Some beaten when they tell the staff they need pain medication. These are examples of alleged abuse that one Pentagon official described to CNN as "atrocities."
It is said to have happened in 2010 at the Afghan National Military Hospital in Kabul, a hospital in large part funded by the United States and a place where U.S. military personnel were training Afghan medical staff in how to properly treat patients.
It is those U.S. personnel who first brought the alleged abuse to light by taking photos and documenting what happened. Two years later, the United States insists conditions have dramatically improved after two investigations by the Pentagon's inspector general.
But for one man, that's not enough.
By Jill Dougherty
Two senior U.S. State Department officials warned Friday that the government of Iraq and an Iranian exile group that the Iraqi government is trying to remove from its refugee camp at a military base in Iraq are at a dangerous "impasse" and the issue must be resolved soon.
Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism, told reporters in a conference call that the Iraqi government's "patience is running thin" over the refusal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq to continue transferring to another location in Iraq.
The U.S. government has designated MEK as a terrorist group. It is committed to overthrowing the government of Iran but also has been implicated in a series of terrorist attacks, including the deaths of seven Americans in the 1970s.
Benjamin said it appears that the group has misunderstood a recent court order that requires U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by October 1, to decide whether to remove the MEK from the terror list. The secretary has said several times that her decision would be guided, in part, by whether the group moves peacefully from Camp Ashraf to a holding facility near Baghdad as the Iraqi government is demanding.
By Carol Cratty
A review of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage will recommend the FBI make 18 changes in policies and operations, according to a letter by the former FBI director leading the independent review.
The Fort Hood shootings outraged members of Congress when it was learned that the accused shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, had been communicating with Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamic radical.
In a July 3 letter to a member of Congress, Judge William Webster said he would be handing over his report to FBI Director Robert Mueller within 10 days.
Webster said his report will have 18 "formal recommendations for corrective and enhancing measures on matters ranging from FBI policies and operations to information systems infrastructure, review protocols, and training." But he did not provide any specifics in his letter to Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginian Republican.
From Elise Labott reporting from Paris
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lambasted Russia and China on Friday for blocking efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose much-reviled regime has endured a serious crack in its armor - the defection of a key member of its inner circle.
Speaking at the Friends of Syria conference in Paris, Clinton called on Russia and China to "get off the sidelines" and accused them of "standing up for" al-Assad's regime. She urged the other 60 or so nations represented at the summit to "make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price" for that support.
"I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and not only ask but demand that they get off the sidelines," she said. "I don't think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all, nothing at all, for standing with (the) Assad regime."
But it was unclear whether those two nations will reverse their longstanding opposition to forcing al-Assad from power. The two trade partners of Syria have vetoed previous efforts by the U.N. Security Council to condemn the violence in Syria and oust al-Assad. Neither Russia nor China was represented at the Paris meeting.
By Elise Labott and Joe Sterling
Manaf Tlas, a Sunni general in Syria's elite Republican Guards, has defected, a Western diplomat said Friday, a stunning blow to the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Tlas, the son of a former Syrian defense minister and cousin of a first lieutenant in al-Assad's army, is possibly the most senior Sunni in a power structure dominated by the Alawite minority.
"He's an inside confidant of Assad. So it counts that even an insider thinks it's time to go," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to speak to the media.
Syria has been engulfed in nearly 16 months of unrest. Thousands have died as Syrian government assaults against protesters led to a nationwide uprising.