By Mike Mount
Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed up to the Pentagon on Thursday with a wish list of military equipment to ensure the security of his country by the time NATO forces leave at the end of 2014.
In return, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a message to deliver – the United States wants to make sure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven again.
Karzai's meeting with Panetta, occurring under a cloud of mistrust between both countries, was expected to have some tough talk about the future of Afghanistan. But publicly, the image seemed like there was no trouble at all.
It was the first stop for the Afghan president who was to have dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday and meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.
Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."
He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."
By Jennifer Rizzo
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States waged the "war on terror," a continued combat campaign that has lasted more than a decade. Thousands of Americans have been killed and almost 50,000 troops have been wounded in the wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most lethal uses of force by insurgents have been improvised explosive devices. Blast injuries from these bombs including the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, and severe burns are prolific among wounded troops.
But service members are surviving these extreme injuries that would have proved fatal decades earlier. A warrior wounded in battle now has a 50% better chance of surviving than in any previous war, according to the Defense Department, which credits some of this advancement with improved body armor, better doctor and medic training, and an efficient and timely evacuation system. According to the Air Force the military for example is able to get a wounded service member back to the United States in three days or less if needed, compared to the 10 days it took during the Gulf War and the 45 days it took during the Vietnam War.
Just like in preceding wars, medical research has churned out advancements to better heal the wounded and prevent more from dying on the battlefield.
By Larry Shaughnessy
The man in charge of the war in Afghanistan said Wednesday that about a quarter of the American troops there will begin coming home "very shortly."
Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that 23,000 of the 88,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan will be home by September 30, 2012.
The so-called Phase 2 drawdown is going to begin "very shortly," Allen told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.
When the drawdown is complete, ISAF will still have 65,000 U.S. troops available, plus about 40,000 troops from other ISAF nations like the UK, Canada and Germany.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he is cautious about dealing with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. In an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Panetta said even though he has concerns, the U.S. has been able to deal with him on "major issues."
Here's the transcript: FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
When a recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 69% of Americans thought the U.S. military should no longer be fighting in Afghanistan, the reaction from Pentagon leadership was rather predictable. However, there may be a strong undercurrent of disenchantment among the ranks.
Those in a public role were determined to see the glass half full.
"We cannot fight wars by polls," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday. "If we do that we’re in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on. And the mission here is to safeguard our country by ensuring that the Taliban and al Qaeda never again find a safe haven in Afghanistan. "
By CNN's Nick Paton Walsh
A gunman in an Afghan National Army uniform and another man shot dead two NATO soldiers at a combat outpost in southern Afghanistan Thursday, authorities said.
The dead soldiers were Americans, according to Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, the district chief in Kandahar province, where the shooting happened. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, however, did not immediately specify the service members' nationalities.
Thursday's shooting was the third at a base or government building since news emerged that U.S. troops mistakenly burned Qurans and other religious materials early last week - an incident that has sparked outrage, protests, and violence across Afghanistan.
All three shootings were carried out by men in official clothing.
Four Americans were killed in the earlier attacks. If the troops killed Thursday are indeed American, that would bring the death toll from the three attacks to six.
Click here for the full story
by Suzanne Kelly
"There are a lot of assumptions about contractors, and a lot of the assumptions are wrong." Those are the words of a private security contractor who asked to be referred to only as "Lloyd" for this story, because like most of his colleagues he is not authorized to speak to the media.
By Lloyd's count, he has spent some 1,000 days working in Afghanistan in the past four years. He, like many other well-trained military men, decided to leave his position as a Navy SEAL and take his chances finding employment in one of the hot spots around the world where highly skilled contractors were well-paid, and in demand.
Very few people outside the contracting industry really understood just what a private security contractor did before March 31, 2004. That was the day four American security contractors accompanying a shipment of kitchen equipment through Iraq were ambushed, killed, set on fire, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge before a cheering crowd in the city of Fallujah.
As shock subsided, questions arose. Who were these American men? If they weren't members of the military, what were they doing in one of the most volatile regions of Iraq? FULL POST
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai tells CNN's Fareed Zakaria that while there is general stability in Afghanistan, "we have not been able – the United States, NATO and Afghanistan government together – to provide the Afghan people with their individual personal security. That is yet to come."
Karzai made the comments during an exclusive interview that will air on GPS this Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST. He was responding to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's recent assertion that "we're winning this very tough conflict in Afghanistan."
Panetta backtracked on that optimism a few days later saying, "we have not won, we have not completed this mission, but I do believe we are in the process of making significant progress here, we have seen reduced violence, we have seen our ability to weaken the Taliban significantly to the point that they have not conducted a successful attack to regain territory."
Karzai also talks with Fareed Zakaria about why he can no longer talk to the Taliban and tells GPS how he intervened in the case of a woman who was imprisoned after she was raped by a close relative.
See a preview on the GPS blog
EDITOR'S NOTE: Barbara Starr's conversation with Iraq war veterans, "Home from Iraq," can be seen throughout the day on CNN this Saturday, December 17.
Watch the discussion about whether the war is over for these vets here, another conversation about the invisible wounds they suffer here, and a third piece about how they feel disconnected from Americans here.
By Barbara Starr
When we walked into the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Virginia, an elderly African American veteran of World War II came up to me and said "I take my hat off to these young folks today."
At the age of 87, his war now fading from perhaps too much of the American conscience, his worry was not about himself, but about his young brothers in arms. Veterans of today's war are young enough to be his great grandchildren. On a cold rainy day, tapping his cane, he came out in the bad weather. He wanted to meet the Iraq veterans we had assembled.
The Shakespeare "band of brothers" quote is tossed around all too frequently these days, but over the next two hours at that VFW hall, I would once again see that unbroken bond that exists among those who have gone to war for this country, whether it was 1941 or 2001.
At this VFW post, five veterans of Iraq joined me to talk about the war just as the curtain is coming down after nearly nine years of conflict. All have suffered greatly from post traumatic stress. Not surprisingly, while they are deeply conflicted about the war, all five express concern about fellow veterans and why today's vets are still not getting all the help they need with health care and jobs. The veterans I spoke with make it clear that for them the war in Iraq is not over.