January 14th, 2013
04:48 PM ET

U.S. looks to support France's Mali offensive

By Chris Lawrence

The United States military could provide logistical and intelligence support in the French effort against Islamist rebels in Mali, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

The U.S. will "provide whatever assistance it can" as part of what Panetta said was the U.S. global efforts against al Qaeda.

"We have a responsibility to go after Al Qaida wherever they are. And we've gone after them in the FATA. We're going after them in Yemen and Somalia. And we have a responsibility to make sure that Al Qaida does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali," Panetta told reporters traveling with him to Europe.

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January 14th, 2013
02:59 AM ET

Mission impossible? Creating the 'Syria of the future' right now

By Jill Dougherty

On Syria, Russia and the United States agree on one thing: The only way the civil war can be solved is politically with a transitional government.

But there's the rub: the U.S. insists president Bashar al-Assad can't be part of that government; Russia says it's up to the Syrians to decide, but the opposition won't deal with any government that includes al-Assad.

No matter how many meetings Moscow and Washington have, they get hung up on this crucial point. But now U.S.  diplomats say they're not waiting. They're trying to foster creation of a transitional government on the ground, even before al-Assad might go. As State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland puts it: "Creating de facto, particularly in liberated areas, the Syria of the future that the Syrian people want."

Nuland describes it as "both a top-down process and a bottom-up process happening at the same time in Syria."

Bottom-up, local coordinating councils are taking over and providing services to residents in towns and villages liberated from government control.

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Who's the spy boss?
CIA Director Nominee John Brennan and DNI James Clapper
January 14th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Who's the spy boss?

By Pam Benson

Creating the office of the director of national intelligence in 2005 was meant to improve the management of the nation’s intelligence gathering in the wake of 9/11, but it has often led to turf wars between national intelligence directors and directors of the CIA.

Now President Barack Obama’s nomination of his trusted counterterrorism aide, John Brennan, as CIA director may leave the impression the CIA director is the top spy, even though the director of national intelligence technically would be his boss.

The problem, past directors in both posts and other experts say, is that the DNI’s role is ambiguous.

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