By Chris Lawrence
Pentagon officials are considering a preliminary assessment by Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, on "what he needs going forward" in the country as the U.S. looks to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, a U.S. official tells CNN.
One of the options being considered is "to keep a force of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan post-2014," according to the official who did not want to be identified discussing ongoing deliberations. The official said that force would comprise a small number of special operations forces dedicated to counterterrorism missions, while the remaining troops "would either continue to train and advise Afghan forces, or assist with logistical issues such as medical evacuations and air support operations."
The "10,000 option" is just one of several being examined, the official said. The options represented "different ends of the spectrum" in terms of troop levels, the official added, but the official did not provide any detail as to what those options are.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not presented a formal recommendation to the White House, Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday. FULL POST
By Jill Dougherty
For the Obama administration, the watchword is "de-escalate." Stop the fighting, especially rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, then deal with longer-term issues.
But President Barack Obama, who continues to support Israel's right to defend itself while urging that the fighting cease, cannot do it on his own.
From Southeast Asia, where he is his first international trip since his re-election, Obama has talked several times by telephone with two of the central players: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveling with him, has been even busier. She's been talking by phone with Israeli, Egyptian, Turkish, Qatari, and French officials, as well as with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and then briefing the president on those conversations.
The newly re-elected president had a busy morning returning calls to world leaders who had sent messages of congratulations, according to a White House statement.
"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," according to the statement.
Not everyone got a call returned by President Obama, mind you. The statement notes the president returned "some" of the messages personally.
Here's a list of who got called: FULL POST
By Brian Katulis, Special to CNN
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where his work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia. The views expressed are his own.
If we've learned one thing about Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's foreign policy views during this campaign, it's that he's heavy on rhetoric and ideology but light on details.
For the past year, Romney has consistently failed to provide a clear alternative to President Obama's foreign policy program that goes beyond vague speechifying about "strength" and "leadership." Throughout the campaign, it became increasingly clear that Romney's rhetoric isn't an attempt to cover up an empty foreign policy agenda - it is the policy agenda.
There is a similarity between Romney's foreign and economic policy packages on this score. As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote this past week, "the true plan is to provide an economic stimulus in the form of Romney's awesome awesomeness; the cover story is the pretense of having an actual program."
But relying on rhetoric in a debate format is harder to do. That's why I'll be watching closely and keeping track of how much Romney tries to stick to his playbook. Here is a list of catchphrases and buzzwords I'll be looking out for in Monday's debate. The more he uses these phrases, the less likely we'll hear concrete ideas. FULL POST
By Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN
EDITOR’S NOTE: Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are her own.
Fewer and fewer voters rate national security as their top priority in considering how to vote, which begs the question of who will be watching this last presidential debate, since the focus is foreign policy and national security.
Not to worry, the wonks will be out in force, and we'll be looking for a few key things from each candidate.
First, from Mitt Romney:
That vision thing: Romney needs to do more than simply be the un-Obama. We'll be looking for a positive vision that puts some meat on the bones of his call for a new era of American leadership and exceptionalism. Both are fine sentiments, but essentially meaningless without policy to go with them. And in straitened economic times, with a public weary of spending and war, he'll need to make clear that his priorities will keep America safe and strong without breaking the bank or putting more lives on the line. FULL POST
An Obama administration official whose now controversial comment that the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya was "spontaneous" relied on talking points provided by the CIA based on its assessment that an intelligence official said on Friday was updated days later with new information.
The disclosure to CNN appears to offer some clarity around the Obama administration's early stage explanation of the September 11 attack by armed militants that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
But CNN National Security Contributor Fran Townsend injected a new element into the crucial time line on Friday night, reporting on Anderson Cooper 360 that senior intelligence officials had multiple conversations with senior White House officials in the first 24 hours after the attack.
Townsend, a former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush, added that "we don't know" what was said.
"But I can tell you from having lived through these crises, you're getting a constant feed of what the intelligence community understands about what is currently going on and what has happened on the ground," Townsend said.
She added that "they will caveat the information" because in the first hours there "will be all sorts of information, some of it which will turn out not to have been true."
By Ashley Killough
President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his administration's handling of the Libya consulate attack, telling Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" that he will ultimately fix any problems involving security for diplomatic posts.
"The government is a big operation and any given time, something screws up," he said in the interview to air Thursday night. "And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."
Stewart pressed the president on the aftermath of the terror attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month. The administration has faced scrutiny over why the post was not more robustly staffed with security.
The comedian said the administration's response did not play out in an "optimal" way.
"I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page," Stewart said.
The president replied: "When four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it."FULL STORY
By Jennifer Rizzo
President Barack Obama's campaign has received almost double the amount of military donations that Mitt Romney's campaign has, according to data collected by a research group that tracks money and lobbying in U.S. politics.
It's a clue, perhaps, into who the military is rooting for in this presidential election. Obama has received more than $530,000 in campaign contributions from individual military donors, while Romney has taken in more than $280,000 in donations from individuals involved with the military.
Obama's lead in military donations comes despite hundreds of billions in cuts to the Defense Department and the Republican ticket blaming him for a potential half-trillion dollars more in cuts if Congress can't agree on a deficit deal.
The Center for Responsive Politics compiled the information using data reported to the Federal Election Commission and includes donations greater than $200 from both military and civilian employees of the nation's defense sector.
The group also looked at military donations given to former Republican candidate Ron Paul, who has advocated for a smaller military and bringing troops home from bases in countries like Germany and South Korea. Paul, too, received more military donations than Romney, totaling almost $400,000.
By Jamie Crawford
President Barack Obama took ultimate responsibility on Tuesday for issues around last month's terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"I am ultimately responsible for what's taking place there because these are my folks, and I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home," Obama said during a debate with Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney in New York.
"These are just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, often times into harms way," Obama said.
Obama's remarks came a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN's Elise Labott that she took responsibility for the security in Benghazi. That's where the U.S. mission was overrun on September 11, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
"Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job," Obama said in response to a follow-up question from CNN's Candy Crowley who served as the debate moderator. "But she works for me. I'm the president and I am always responsible."
Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, the man who wants his job, exchanged fire regarding national security in their only debate before Election Day. They challenged each other's facts and claims and offered starkly different visions for the direction of the country. CNN conducted fact checks on each politician’s assertions.
CNN Fact Check: What about the security in Benghazi?
The September attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya was the subject of a few claims at Thursday night's vice presidential debate at Centre College in Kentucky.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan contended that requests for more security at the mission were denied before the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, on September 11.
Vice President Joe Biden said Ryan is in no position to argue about diplomatic security, arguing that Ryan, in Congress, didn't provide all the embassy security funding that the Obama administration asked for. Biden also contended that the administration knew of no requests for more security at the Benghazi mission.
We'll look at these claims separately.
CNN Fact Check: Iran and the Bomb
Fears of a possibly nuclear-armed Iran took center stage early in Thursday night's vice presidential debate between incumbent Democrat Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, Paul Ryan.
The Wisconsin congressman said Iran's progress has sped along "because this administration has no credibility on this issue."
Biden hit back by criticizing what he called "bluster" and "loose talk" about the issue, saying international sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy and that U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran is "a good way away" from getting the bomb.
We’ll look at the facts.