By Jamie Crawford
While Syrian rebel forces have made significant military advances on the ground against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in recent days, the U.S. ambassador to Syria says there's no imminent end to the fighting.
"It's very clear to me that the regime's forces are being ground down," Robert Ford said Thursday at a conference sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. "That said, the regime's protection units continue to maintain some cohesion, and they still have some fight left in them, even though they are losing. I expect there will be substantial fighting in the days ahead."
The fighting has taken a more severe turn in the last week, with U.S. officials now concerned the Syria's president could use chemical weapons out of desperation. This intensifying 20-month conflict has frustrated those who have long argued that the U.S. should intervene militarily.
Editor's Note: The sourcing in the story was changed to Department of Defense officials. The original story did not accurately describe the source.
By Barbara Starr
The Navy is moving some warships into position to monitor a possible upcoming North Korean launch of a long-range ballistic missile, U.S. Department of Defense officials said Thursday.
The USS Benfold and the USS Fitzgerald - both guided missile destroyers - are moving into positions, although the Navy declined to give their exact location. They are being sent to monitor for a possible launch and "provide reassurance to allies," according two Defense Department officials.
It's possible two additional ships will be sent in the next few days, the officials added.
By Jill Dougherty reporting from Dublin, Ireland
Amid reports that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to use chemical weapons, the United States is making a new diplomatic push to end the conflict that has killed at least 40,000 people.
In Dublin for a European security meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and take part in a three-way meting with Lavrov and U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
"They had an exchange on how extremely seriously we need to be in continuing to send messages about the red lines and unacceptability of use or loss of control of chemical weapons," a senior State Department official told CNN after Clinton's first meeting with Lavrov in Dublin. "Secretary Clinton thanked Minister Lavrov for his strong public statements on that."
Russia has blocked action against al-Assad at the United Nations, but diplomats say that Moscow, which has insisted there should be no "regime change" in Syria, now increasingly doubts that al-Assad can survive in power. Brahimi has not yet proposed a specific plan to try to end the fighting, but Clinton and Lavrov did work one out in June in Geneva.
By Mike Mount
With little fanfare Monday, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford was confirmed by the Senate as the newest commander for the international forces in Afghanistan, charged with overseeing the final two years of the U.S.-led war and executing the White House plan to phase out troops and leave a small number behind after 2014.
Dunford, much like his confirmation, has made a career of flying under the radar, but he will be front and center as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, replacing Gen. John Allen. He is well-known in the tight-knit Marine Corps community as a thoughtful and calm leader and has 22 months of commanding in Iraq.
Until his name emerged in August as the nominee for the top job in Afghanistan, few people had heard of him.
His first real position in the public spotlight came at his confirmation hearing last month, which was notable mostly for Sen. John McCain's rant that Dunford lacked Afghanistan experience. McCain seemed amazed that Dunford was not part of the planning phase of the Afghanistan drawdown.
The Arizona senator's concern about Dunford's lack of experience in Afghanistan is quickly refuted by those close to Dunford, who said his work as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps took him to Afghanistan many times. He is no stranger to the country operationally because he was also the head of the Marine Corps command that handles operations and logistics in Afghanistan. He also spent time in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he focused on Afghanistan.
Dunford would not be the first ISAF commander with no real Afghanistan ground experience. When then-Gen. David Petraeus took the position, he had commanded Central Command, which oversaw the war from the U.S., but had never commanded troops on the ground inside Afghanistan. Petraeus's experience was in Iraq.