By Mike Mount
A U.S. senator insists he did not reveal any secrets when he publicly mentioned the number of people killed in drone strikes overseas.
Republican Lindsey Graham told an audience in Easley, South Carolina, on Tuesday that the little-discussed drone program had killed 4,700 people, according to a report by Easley Patch website editor Jason Evans.
"Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that, but we're at war and we've taken out some very senior members of al Qaeda," he was quoted as saying at the Rotary Club event.
Graham did not disclose the source of his information at the event, which is closely held by the government.
Reached on Wednesday, Graham told CNN's Dana Bash that the number he used was based on media reports, not U.S. intelligence. Graham said he was referring to total killed around the world.
For years, the United States has been targeting al Qaeda suspects in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and other countries with no official announcement or acknowledgement of the strikes.
By Elise Labott
World powers plan to make Iran a "serious" offer of economic incentives at talks next week on its nuclear program, Western officials tell CNN.
In exchange for easing of sanctions barring trade with Iran in gold and other precious metals, the so-called P5+1 diplomatic bloc of countries wants Iran to shut its underground enrichment facility at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom and ship out its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% purity, the officials said.
The group, comprised of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, plans to deliver the offer at talks next Tuesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The offer presents a slightly revised package to the one presented to Iran last year during talks in Moscow, Baghdad and Istanbul, in which the group proposed fuel for a medical reactor and easing sanctions on aviation spare parts in exchange for Iran suspending its uranium enrichment and shipping its stockpiles out of the country.
"We couldn't come back with the same proposal," one official said. "But the idea is to test the waters and see where the Iranians are and if they are serious. We hope to get some insight into their thinking and see what they prioritize in their asks and offers." FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
The Army has revoked the promotion of Paula Broadwell, the one-time mistress of CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a Defense Department official.
Broadwell, a major in the Army reserves, had been approved last August for promotion to lieutenant colonel. The Army made the decision to revoke the promotion earlier this month, a Defense Department official told CNN. The source declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the personnel information.
Since the Petraeus scandal broke, Broadwell has been under investigation by the Army for having classified information in her home without permission. She was initially on the list of approved promotions back on August 28, 2012. But under Army regulations "if new information comes to light" within six months of a promotion date it could make the person ineligible. Broadwell was deemed ineligible for promotion because she is under investigation for a matter that could result in her being punished by the Army, the official said. The promotion is revoked until the matter is resolved, the official said. If cleared, she would be eligible again.
Her security clearance, which was suspended last year, also has not been reinstated.
By Alex Mooney
The U.S. is seeking a more muscular response to the growing threat from foreign hackers interested in obtaining U.S. businesses’ trade secrets.
The response, in the guise of a 150-page report unveiled by Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and other leading government officials on Wednesday, includes new pledges by the Justice Department and FBI to crack down on hacking, a guide for corporations vulnerable to attacks on how to beef up their own security, and a proposal to better coordinate efforts with U.S. allies to prosecute foreign hackers.
“In this time of economic recovery, this work is more important than it has ever been before,” Holder said Wednesday at a White House event that outlined the new response. “I am pleased to report we are fighting back more aggressively and collaboratively than ever before.”
The announcement comes a day after the Virginia-based Mandiant published a 60-page report that alleges the Chinese government is sponsoring cyber-espionage to attack top U.S. companies.
By Jamie Crawford, reporting from Charlottesville, Virginia
Even in an era of budget austerity in Washington, continued investment in foreign aid and American diplomacy will benefit the economy, and is cheaper in cost and risk than requiring future overseas military deployments, Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Just days before departing on his first overseas trip as the nation's top diplomat, Kerry chose his first foreign policy address on Wednesday to lay out out the case for continued American engagement.
"How we conduct our foreign policy matters to our everyday lives – not just in terms of the threats we face, but in the products we buy, the goods we sell, the jobs we create, and the opportunity we provide for economic growth and vitality," Kerry told a University of Virginia audience.
"It's not just about whether we'll be compelled to send our troops into another battle, but whether we'll be able to send our graduates into a thriving workforce," he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: From 2009-2011, Mark R. Jacobson (Twitter: @markondefense) served as the Deputy NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan. He is now a Senior Advisor to the Truman National Security Project and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.
From Mark Jacobson, Special to CNN
Some senior diplomats have called Afghan President Hamid Karzai the most difficult leader the United States has dealt with in modern times. In fairness, Afghanistan itself may be one of the most complex and unforgiving political environments any leader can ever have to deal with.
And deal with him they must. Since 2010 when, at a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Karzai expressed the collective wish of the Afghan people for self-reliance, the United States and our allies have been moving toward Afghanistan, taking the lead on security. Both sides understood that this transition was neither going to be easy - nor completed - without disagreements about approach.
Karzai sensibly said that the "maturity" of the NATO-Afghan partnership would provide for the discussion of these anticipated difficult issues, such as detentions, civilian casualties and corruption, and that there was a premium on the need to resolve these disputes "in a spirit of collaboration and teamwork."
Unfortunately, he has continued to remain less committed to that spirit of collaboration and partnership. As a result, the international effort in support of the Afghan people may be weakening.
By Mike Mount
Having warned about freezing weapons systems and risks to national security, the armed services are now trying to show members of Congress exactly how mandatory budget cuts will impact their states.
Just days before the forced spending cuts could begin to take effect, the Army and Navy are circulating estimates about which areas will be economically hit the hardest.
In documents sent to Congress and obtained by CNN, both the Army and Navy lay out the impacts on the services and industry that would be hit by the measures that may go into effect starting March 1. The forced spending cuts, mandated by a 2011 agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, will take effect unless lawmakers come up with another deficit reduction plan.
The Army estimates that the cuts, known in Washington jargon as sequestration, will have a $15 billion economic impact across the country and affect more than 300,000 jobs nationwide.
The hardest hit states include Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania, home to major Army facilities and industrial bases for the service.
The Army anticipates it will need to slash $18 billion in spending by the end of this fiscal year, ending September 30.
If the spending cuts are carried out, the Army would be required to furlough 251,000 of its civilian employees. It estimates that would save it $1.9 billion through the end of September. FULL POST
By Mike Mount
For the past month, the U.S. military has experienced something not seen for five years in Afghanistan: No combat deaths.
Three U.S. troops have died from hostile fire injuries since Jan. 1, and one of them succumbed to wounds sustained in December.
The trend marks the longest period without a U.S. combat death in America's longest war since 2008, and clearly reflects a strategy shift that leaves much of the fighting to Afghan security forces, whose deaths are going up.
Afghans now lead more than 80% of combat operations and control areas covering more than three-quarters of the population, according to U.S. military officials.
The U.S. military has pulled back from direct combat operations into the less dangerous role of advising and assisting Afghan forces.
American military officials said a cut in the number of American forces is another reason for the decline.