January 29th, 2013
06:48 PM ET

Clinton defends her diplomatic legacy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she can't be faulted for not solving some of the thorny diplomatic issues she faced her in term.

In her final week of Secretary of State, Clinton defended her legacy in an exit interview with CNN's Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott.

Clinton acknowledged that her legacy includes unsolved problems in some of the world's hot spots, but noted that she assumed the job four years ago at a time of great uncertainty.

"I think we have to go back to my beginning in January '09 to remember how poorly perceived the United States was, how badly damaged our reputation was, how our leadership was in question, how the economic crisis had really shaken people's confidence in our government, our economic system, our country.

Clinton said she had sought initially simply to restore international confidence in American leadership, "sometimes against pretty tough odds," which included a crisis in the world's economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The challenges went on to include responding to the Arab Spring, forming international coalitions to inflict sanctions on Iran and North Korea and dealing with changes in Burma, Europe, Latin America and Africa. FULL POST


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Secretary of State
How close is North Korea to a nuclear missile?
A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of an Unha-3 rocket at the Tangachai-ri Space Center on April 8, 2012.
January 29th, 2013
06:45 PM ET

How close is North Korea to a nuclear missile?

By Kevin Voigt, CNN

North Korea's intention to carry out a new nuclear test, coming on the heels of December's successful satellite launch, suggests that Pyongyang is moving forward toward developing a nuclear warhead and a deliverable missile system, experts say. The question remains: How close are they?

The answer, like the cloistered "hermit kingdom," remains largely a mystery as does much of its nuclear program.

"It's a question over the delivery system and the reliability of those systems," said Daniel Pinkston, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group covering Northeast Asia. "That is essentially unknown, or known by a few people inside North Korea."

FULL STORY

Filed under: Missile Defense • North Korea • Nuclear
January 29th, 2013
01:50 PM ET

U.S. to establish military presence next to Mali

By Jamie Crawford and Chris Lawrence

The United States has signed a deal with the central African nation of Niger to host American troops and surveillance drones to keep tabs on Islamic militants in the region, officials from those countries said Tuesday.

Niger is next door to Mali, where France joined the fight against Islamic rebels earlier this month

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the role of U.S. troops in Niger "has not yet been defined" - but Niger's ambassador to the United States, Maman Sidikou, told CNN that his government has agreed to let U.S. drones operate from its territory.

Sidikou says his understanding of the agreement is the drones will be unarmed and used for surveillance to monitor extremist movements. He refused to discuss where in the country the drones would be based or when they will be operational.

France: "We are winning in Mali"

Niger lies to the east of Mali, where French troops and warplanes are fighting alongside government troops to push back Islamist fighters who seized much of the former French colony in 2012.

The rebels took advantage of the chaos that followed a revolt by Touareg separatists and a military coup, and banned music, smoking, drinking and watching televised sports in the territories under their control. FULL POST

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Filed under: Africa • Benghazi • Libya • Mali • Niger
Hopes of 'Gitmo' closing dim
January 29th, 2013
12:46 PM ET

Hopes of 'Gitmo' closing dim

By Elise Labott

The State Department has reassigned the special envoy dealing with closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and has no plans to replace him, two senior State Department officials tell CNN.

Daniel Fried's office has been closed and his duties will now be handled by the State Department's legal adviser's office, according to a State Department internal announcement.

The decision leaves little indication that the administration has pressing plans to follow through on a chief promise of President Barack Obama regarding the "Gitmo" facility in Cuba.

It was established in 2001 within a remote U.S. naval base to house those classified as enemy combatants.

Fried's post was created in 2009 shortly after Obama announced his intention to close Guantanamo Bay within his first year in office.

Fried has traveled the world since negotiating the repatriation of about 30 low-level detainees and resettling about 40 more eligible for release but unable to return to their home countries due to fears of abuse.

But significant congressional restrictions on further detainee transfers left Fried's job less demanding. Most recently, he spent some of his time working to help resettle a group of Iranian exiles, known as the MEK, living in a refugee camp in Iraq.

"Guantanamo hasn't been a full time job for a year," one senior official said, citing the new congressional restrictions.

Obama signed the limits into law as part of a 2013 defense spending bill.

Administration officials initially said he might veto the defense measure if the legislation included detainee transfer restrictions, which would undercut his pledge to close the facility.

Officials insist the administration still is intent on closing it.

Fried, a career diplomat, will now become the State Department's coordinator for sanctions policy, which includes prohibitions against Iran, North Korea and Syria.