September 27th, 2012
11:09 PM ET

Netanyahu asks U.N. to draw 'red line' on Iran's nuclear bomb plans

By Michael Martinez

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exhorted the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to draw "a clear red line" to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

In a theatrical gesture, Netanyahu held up a cartoon-like drawing of a spherical bomb and drew a red line below the fuse, "before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment to make a bomb," he said.

"It's not a question of whether Iran will get the bomb. The question is at what stage can we stop Iran from getting the bomb," said Netanyahu, who also accused Iran of aggression.

"I ask, given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons," the Israeli prime minister said. "Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who would be safe in Europe? Who would be safe in America? Who would be safe anywhere?"

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Critic: "Absurd" for Panetta to call Taliban attacks a "last gasp"
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff brief reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday.
September 27th, 2012
08:09 PM ET

Critic: "Absurd" for Panetta to call Taliban attacks a "last gasp"

By Larry Shaughnessy

One of Washington's foremost analysts of military issues has some harsh words about Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's take on the insider attack problem in Afghanistan, calling it "absurd."

During a recent trip to Japan, Panetta was asked about U.S. and other International Security Assistance Force troops being killed by members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents dressed like them.

He said, "And we think, frankly, it is kind of a last gasp effort to be able to not only target our forces, but to try to create chaos, because they've been unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost." On Thursday, Panetta reiterated his point during a briefing with reporters, saying, "It's near the end of their effort to really fully fight back."

"Quite frankly i think that most intelligent people and military people would privately think that Secretary Panetta's comments are absurd, perhaps harmful. Because they just can't be taken seriously," said Anthony Cordesman a senior analyst at CSIS, a major Washington think tank, and a recipient of Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award for his work at the Pentagon before joining CSIS. "They are not at the last gasp, all they really have to do is at this point outwait us, constantly put pressure on areas that give them political visibility. They don't have to defeat ISAF, it's leaving."

While Cordesman does not agree with Panetta's remarks, he says that doesn't mean the Taliban is on the road to victory.

"The fact that statement clearly is untrue doesn't mean that necessarily the Taliban can win," Cordesman said. "Whether this will give them control of the country or not is something nobody can determine. It's a long way from talking about last gasp."

Even Panetta conceded Thursday that insider attacks may not be the Taliban's final arrow in their insurgent quiver. "Whether or not, you know, it's the end of their bag of tactics to come at us I think is still an open question."

September 27th, 2012
04:29 PM ET

Defense secretary says Benghazi assault was planned terror attack

By Barbara Starr and Adam Levine

The assault on the diplomatic office in Benghazi was clearly a planned assault by terrorists, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday.

"As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place, it became clear that there were terrorists who planned that attack," Panetta said.

Panetta's comments are the most definitive to date by an administration official that the Benghazi assault was planned.  The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on September 16th that the attack "began spontaneously" as a protest against an anti-Muslim film that "spun" from there. Last week, testifying to Congress, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center said, at that point, there was no indication of "significant" plotting.

"What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack," Matt Olsen said. FULL POST

Intel quickly saw signs of al Qaeda links in consulate attack
September 27th, 2012
01:07 PM ET

Intel quickly saw signs of al Qaeda links in consulate attack

By Barbara Starr

Within a day or so of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya earlier this month, the U.S. intelligence community began to gather information suggesting it was the work of extremists either affiliated with al Qaeda groups or inspired by them, a senior U.S. official told CNN Thursday.

"We started to get a strong sense of it," the official said. He declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the information.

A law enforcement source told CNN National Security Analyst Fran Townsend that this was the understanding of the intelligence community within 24-hours after the attack on September 11.

"The law enforcement source ... said to me, from day one we had known clearly that this was a terrorist attack," Townsend said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" Wednesday night.

The efforts by al Qaeda, especially the Mali-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to extend its reach into Libya and elsewhere has been of concern to the United States. FULL POST

September 27th, 2012
12:52 PM ET

Watching Afghan forces take over the fight

By Anna Coren, reporting from Delaram, Afghanistan

U.S. Marines stand under the blazing sun at Camp Bastion airfield waiting for their ride to take them far beyond the perimeter fence.

Wearing body armor and weapons, they dump their helmets and bags in the dirt and look out onto one of Afghanistan's busiest runways.

A $25 million Harrier jet flies past, leaving the roar of its engine in its wake, while a monstrous C-130 Hercules touches down to pick up troops and cargo. An Osprey helicopter - half helicopter, half plane - hovers in the distance before landing to join the dozen other Ospreys sitting on the tarmac.

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Filed under: Afghan Security Force • Afghanistan
September 27th, 2012
10:01 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Senior al Qaeda figure 'living in Libyan capital'

By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank

A veteran al Qaeda operative indicted in connection with the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa is alive and well in Libya, according to Western intelligence sources.

Image of al-Libi from the FBI poster seeking information to help in his capture

Abu Anas al Libi, 48, has been seen in the capital, Tripoli, the sources say, and there is concern that he may have been tasked with establishing an al Qaeda network in Libya.  It's unclear whether Libya's government is aware of his presence, or whether it has been approached by Western governments seeking al Libi's arrest.

One Libyan official told CNN he didn't know whether al Libi was back in Tripoli but was aware that he had been in Afghanistan.

Counterterrorism analysts tell CNN that al Libi may not have been apprehended because of the delicate security situation in much of Libya, where former jihadists - especially those who once belonged to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - hold considerable sway.  He is wanted in the United States, but there is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Libya.

Alternatively, al Libi may have dropped off the radar screen, as have several jihadist leaders in Libya - some of whom have previously been associated with al Qaeda.

Just when al Libi returned home is unclear. According to one intelligence source, he appears to have arrived in Tripoli in the spring of last year, amid Libya's civil war.   According to this source, a Western intelligence agency had placed al Libi under surveillance and had taken photographs of him. But back in December 2010, before the outbreak of unrest, Libyan authorities told the United Nations al Qaeda Sanctions Committee that al Libi had returned, even providing a Tripoli street address for him.

Whether he is still active in jihadist circles is unclear. FULL POST