By Allison Brennan and Elise Labott
The decision by the Obama administration to provide nonlethal aid to Syrian rebel forces seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad is drawing fire from some in the aid community, saying it politicizes aid and violates principles of neutrality which governs aid delivery.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday announced the United States would give aid to armed opposition, including medical supplies and meals. The aid marks the first signs of direct and vocal American support for the rebels in the nearly two-year bloody conflict, which the UN estimates has claimed more than 70,000 lives and forced millions more from their homes.
Washington hopes the aid will bolster the credibility of the Syrian opposition, peel away supporters from al-Assad and curb a growing allegiance to radical Islamic groups gaining favor among the population by providing basic services to citizens in rebel-controlled areas.
But some aid workers worry al-Assad’s regime could punish all humanitarian groups for the U.S. decision, thus hampering efforts to deliver aid. FULL POST
CNN's Elise Labott looks at how U.S. foreign aid could be affected by the forced spending cuts.
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.
It has been more than a year since the United States government withdrew its ambassador to Syria and closed its embassy in Damascus.
On Thursday, that ambassador returned to the region along with a U.S. delegation, touring a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey to bring more attention to the growing humanitarian crisis. As the civil war has intensified in Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other neighboring countries.
Ambassador Robert Ford gave an exclusive interview to CNN's Ivan Watson and described what the U.S. is doing to help the refugees and the Syrian opposition.FULL STORY
By Saima Mohsin
As residents of the U.S. Northeast grapple with the destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy, an offer of assistance has come from an unlikely quarter: the leader of a radical Muslim group in Pakistan that Washington has branded a terrorist group.
"We offer our unconditional support and help for the victims" of the storm, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, head of the Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, said in a statement late Tuesday. "If U.S. government allows, we will send our doctors, relief and rescue experts, food and medicine on humanitarian grounds."
India accuses Saeed of masterminding the 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai that killed 166 people - an allegation he denies.
The United States, which has declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization and put up a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed's arrest and conviction, declined the offer.FULL STORY
By CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – U.S. forces in military helicopters freed two hostages, an American and a Dane, in a nighttime raid in Somalia that left at least seven gunmen dead, local authorities said.
Kidnappers seized American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted in October after they visited humanitarian projects in the northern part of the country, according to the Danish Refugee Council they worked for.
Both are unharmed and at a safe location, the aid group said.
President Barack Obama said he authorized the raid , and thanked the Special Operations Forces for "the extraordinary courage and capabilities, " but did not provide details on the fatalities.FULL STORY
By CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott
The Taliban could make a comeback and take over Afghanistan again, the country's President Hamid Karzai warned Monday at an international conference on Afghanistan's future.
"If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001," Karzai said.
There has been progress in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in the wake of the hijacked plane attacks on the United States, he said.
But, he warned, "Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant Afghanistan is far from being achieved."
Karzai chaired the meeting in Bonn, Germany, aimed at discussing the state of affairs in Afghanistan and pushing for international contributions and support.
By Charley Keyes
Members of Congress clashed Wednesday over continuing to provide money to Iraq as American troops complete their withdrawal by the end of next month.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, portrayed the Iraqis as ungrateful for the American expenditure in lives and treasure.
"We shouldn't spend a day more, a dollar more on their behalf," Rohrabacher said.
By General Michael Hagee, USMC (Ret.) and Admiral James Loy, USCG (Ret.), Special to CNN
EDITOR'S NOTE: General Michael W. Hagee, USMC (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2003 to 2006, and Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002, and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. They are co-chairs of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
The next Commander in Chief will face a complex and difficult set of global challenges. Recently, many candidates for president have spoken of the need to listen to the advice of military leaders on national security, and we appreciate the respect shown to our men and women in uniform. As former Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps and Coast Guard, we believe our nation needs a smart power approach to national security that embraces a strategic investment in our foreign assistance programs.
When both of us entered uniformed service more than 40 years ago, the primary threats to America’s security were nation states with advanced militaries. Today, our country faces a different array of threats and potential adversaries – from rising powers and rogue nations to terrorist and militia groups that thrive in environments of deprivation and stunted development. FULL POST