Panetta: America beating al Qaeda but hasn't won yet
November 20th, 2012
09:48 PM ET

Panetta: America beating al Qaeda but hasn't won yet

By Larry Shaughnessy

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.

Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."

He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."

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Filed under: 10 years of war • Abu Yahya al-Libi • Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Benghazi • Diplomacy • drones • Libya • Mali • Nigeria • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Somalia • Special Operations Forces • Yemen
November 20th, 2012
09:39 PM ET

Watching Israel's missile defense

All eyes are on Israel's missile defense systems as the country's Iron Dome missiles have intercepted about 85 percent of the Hamas rockets fired at civilians.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports on why the violence may be sending cautionary signs to Iran and Hamas who will be looking for the system's potential weak spots.

What would bring an end to Gaza conflict?
Fire rises during an explosion following an Israeli strike on the border tunnels between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 20, 2012.
November 20th, 2012
07:06 PM ET

What would bring an end to Gaza conflict?

By Jill Dougherty

A short time after arriving in Jerusalem for a late-night meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke slowly and deliberately in outlining the purpose of her trip.

"The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike," Clinton said about ending the violence in Gaza.

You could almost see Clinton underlining the word "durable." Standing beside her, Netanyahu had a similar emphasis, speaking of the desire for a "long-term solution to this problem."

Too many cease-fires in the region have been shattered and long-time experts on the Middle East cautioned that guns that fall silent often don't stay silent for long.
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U.S. still concerned over violence in Bahrain
A Bahraini Shiite Muslim protestor holds petrol bombs to be used against riot police during an anti-government demonstration
November 20th, 2012
06:22 PM ET

U.S. still concerned over violence in Bahrain

By Mike Mount

Continued violence by protesters and security forces and a deeply divided population remain concerns of the United States a year after an independent commission offered a scathing report into Bahrain's crackdown on anti-government protests.

Two Obama administration officials briefed reporters in Washington about concerns the U.S. had over the tiny Persian Gulf nation, considered to be a longtime ally in the Middle East and home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

"There needs to be created an environment for the possibility of genuine dialogue and negotiation that leads to a prosperous and rights-respecting Bahrain," according to a senior Obama administration official.

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Why Obama administration is avoiding 'cease-fire'
November 20th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

Why Obama administration is avoiding 'cease-fire'

By Jamie Crawford and Adam Levine

The Obama administration is stressing that the aim in talking to all parties is for a "de-escalation" of the fighting between Israel and Hamas. But while administration officials talk about trying to stop the fighting, they are assiduously avoiding using the term "cease-fire."

At a press conference Tuesday in Cambodia, National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes said he was not refraining from using the term, but then he refrained from using the term:

REPORTER:   Ben, you keep using the phrase “de-escalate the situation.” Are you avoiding using the word “cease-fire”?

RHODES: No, I mean, there are many ways that you can achieve the goal of a de-escalation. Again, what our bottom line is, is an end to rocket fire. We’re open to any number of ideas for achieving that goal. We’ve discussed any number of ideas for accomplishing that goal. But it’s going to have to begin with a reduction of tensions and space created for the situation to calm. So we’ll be discussing going forward, as we have been over the last several days, what are the various ways in which we can accomplish that goal.

At the State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also emphasized de-escalation over cease-fire, saying there are many ways to lessen the violence: FULL POST

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Gaza • Israel • Middle East • Palestine
Detour at beginning of Hillary Clinton’s farewell tour
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel on Tuesday evening.
November 20th, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Detour at beginning of Hillary Clinton’s farewell tour

By Jamie Crawford

Before breaking off her trip to Asia to fly to the Middle East to address the crisis in Gaza, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the midst of what in many ways was the start of her world farewell as America's top diplomat.

During a historic stop this week in Myanmar at the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, the celebrated Nobel laureate and advocate for Burmese democracy, Barack Obama made a point to praise Clinton on what would likely be their final foreign trip together as U.S. president and secretary of state.

The symbolism of the trip's importance, and Clinton's role, was captured through the image of her walking off Air Force One with Obama – the first by a sitting president to the former pariah nation.

Also: Why Obama administration is avoiding the term 'cease-fire'

"This is her last foreign trip that we're going to take together, and it is fitting that we have come here to a country that she has done so much to support," Obama said referencing Clinton's own history-making trip to Myanmar last December.
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November 20th, 2012
05:32 AM ET

California men charged with supporting the Taliban

By Ben Brumfield

Four men from the greater Los Angeles area were allegedly on their way to train with the Taliban in Afghanistan and were plotting to kill American soldiers and bomb government installations, according to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.

They were charged Monday in a federal court in California, where three of them appeared for the first time. The fourth man was already in Afghanistan, where he was also apprehended, said U.S. attorney André Birotte Jr. and assistant director Bill Lewis from the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office in a joint statement.

Sohiel Omar Kabir, Ralph Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali face charges of supporting terrorists who conspired to kill, kidnap or harm U.S. officers and other U.S. citizens, as well as bomb public places and government facilities.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force in Riverside, California, arrested Deleon, 23, Santana, 21, and Gojali, 21 on Friday. Kabir, 34, spent over six months in Germany before arriving in Afghanistan in July, and is in custody there, according to the statement.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • FBI • Taliban • Terrorism
Clinton heads to the Middle East
November 20th, 2012
05:23 AM ET

Clinton heads to the Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to the region in an attempt to help resolve the incessant violence.

Clinton left Cambodia late Tuesday for a trip to Israel, Ramallah and Egypt.

"She'll meet with regional leaders, beginning with our Israeli partners, to consult on the situation in Gaza," Deputy National Security Director Ben Rhodes said. Rhodes said Clinton will not be meeting with Hamas leaders but rather the Palestinian authority.

He said the visits will support the "de-escalation of the violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and restores broader calm in the region."

"Our bottom line is to end the rocket fire. We're open to any number of ideas for achieving that goal and discuss any number of ideas for accomplishing that goal but it's going to have to begin with reduction of tensions and, you know, space created for the situation to calm, " Rhodes said. "So, we'll be discussing going forward as we've been over the last several days, what are the various ways that we can accomplish that goal."

"She will emphasize the United States' interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel's security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza; and that can reopen the path to fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for
two states living in peace and security," according to a State Department statement. "She will continue to express U.S. concern for the loss of civilian life on both sides."


Filed under: Diplomacy • Egypt • Hillary Clinton • Israel • Israel-Gaza 2012 • Middle East • Palestine • Secretary of State