By Barbara Starr
U.S. troops will be in direct position for the first time to take action against the government of Syrian President Bashr al-Assad with the deployment of 400 American forces and two Patriot missile batteries in Turkey, possibly as soon as mid-January.
The missiles and troops will be under the overall control of NATO. But the missiles will be operated by U.S. forces with the ability to choose whether to override computer systems that automatically order firing against any incoming Scud missiles, according to U.S. military officials.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he had signed orders for the Patriot missiles, emphasizing that he was sending a clear message to Syria that NATO will defend Turkey.
Syrian rocket and artillery fire have landed in Turkey and Syria has launched short range Scuds close to the Turkish border.
By Tara Kangarlou
It's become one of the most dangerous jobs in the Afghanistan government. Six months after a car explosion killed the head of the women’s affairs department in Eastern Laghman, in the province of Kandahar, her successor, Najia Seddiqi, was shot to death by two gunmen on her way to work on Monday morning.
The murders have brought to the fore, once again, the fragile standing of women in Afghanistan, 11 years after the Taliban were ousted. As the United States and other countries prepare to exit in 2014, there is significant concern that women's rights could disappear in Afghanistan's conservative Muslim society.
Over the past 10 years, there has been modest but tangible economic progress from the regressive rules women have lived by under the Taliban. Under President Hamid Karzai, there has been improved access to health care, technology and education, which have all dramatically raised the quality of life for Afghan women.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted some of that progress in March 2012 at the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, noting that since 2001, life expectancy for women in Afghanistan has lengthened from 44 to 65 years; back then, almost no girls went to school, and today, 3 million attend school; and now nearly 500 women are on university faculties.
The United States is to deploy 400 troops and two Patriot air-defense missile batteries to Turkey in the coming weeks to defend against potential threats from Syria, defense officials said Friday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order en route to Turkey, where he is visiting Incirlik Air Base, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters.
Little declined to give details of where the two batteries would be located, or to specify how long the deployment would last.
"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," he said.
Turkey and NATO insist the Patriot missile deployment would be used only for defense.
CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.