By Joe Sterling
In what a new Pentagon report calls "a fundamental shift in the course" of the Afghan conflict, local security forces are improving their performance and "successfully providing security for their own people."
But according to a report to Congress on Friday, the successes come with a cost: a sharp increase in security force casualties during this year's April to September fighting season and challenges remaining for the indigenous force after U.S. forces leave.
This snapshot of the security forces is all-important as the United States prepares to withdraw all of its troops from the country by the end of next year.
The report said the Afghan National Security Forces "have seen their capabilities expand rapidly since 2009, while insurgent territorial influence and kinetic capabilities have remained static." But the report also says more needs to be done.
By CNN's Elise Labott and Shirley Henry
Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.
The former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, retired Gen. John Allen, cautioned Friday against leaving no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.
Speaking Friday at the Aspen Security Forum, Allen said that although the Afghan army has made great gains, Afghan leaders realize its forces are not fully trained and need a U.S. presence beyond next year.
"I've got a good bit of experience with senior Afghan leaders, and I can tell you almost to a person, they desperately want our presence after this war," he said. "They don't want us in large numbers, but they want us there in enough numbers to help to continue to develop the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces)."
Allen, who retired in April, said he was never asked to evaluate a "zero option" - leaving no U.S. troops behind after 2014 - but added that if that option is in play now, it's "largely out of exasperation with the rhetoric coming out of the palace," referring to the strained U.S relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
By Barbara Starr
A top general caught up in the scandal that forced former CIA Director David Petraeus to resign has been cleared of allegations that he wrote potentially inappropriate e-mails to Jill Kelley, the woman who claimed she was being threatened by Paula Broadwell, a U.S. defense official tells CNN.
The Department of Defense Inspector General has cleared Gen. John Allen, who currently is completing his post leading U.S. troops in Afghanistan and is in the running to be the next Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the military head of NATO.
"The IG has found the allegations against General Allen to be unsubstantiated. There have been no decisions made on General Allen's nomination to NATO," the official told CNN.
General Allen's nomination to be the military head of NATO was put on hold by the administration pending the outcome of the IG review. The secretary of defense now must decide whether to recommend to the White House whether the nomination, which has been put on hold, should go forward. But it was not known if Sec. Leon Panetta would make that decision or leave it for the next secretary of defense to decide.
The Pentagon released as statement late Tuesday that said Panetta was "pleased" with the conclusion of the inspector general's investigation.
"The Secretary has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan," the statement read.
By Suzanne Kelly
In the aftermath of the affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer and paramour Paula Broadwell has remained publicly silent, turning instead to family and friends as she tries to assess just how news of the affair might impact her future.
"It's been hard for her family and her to see the picture that's being painted of her," says Broadwell's brother, Steve Kranz, a Washington-based attorney. "Her real focus is her family and her husband and her boys and trying to restore the trust she had with her husband and trying to protect her children from the publicity."
After weeks of media portrayals that have ranged from spurned lover to obsessed stalker, both family and friends of Broadwell have begun to present a fuller picture of her as she grapples with the shock of her affair being thrust into the public spotlight. Part of that outreach included providing photos from the family collection, given first to CNN, of Broadwell with her family and in Afghanistan.
"She's trying to live as normal a life as possible, but there are moments of realizing all that has happened," says a source close to Broadwell who asked not to be identified.
Early on, Broadwell began quietly returning emails from well-wishing friends, but she hasn't done much beyond that, according to sources who have said she is very focused on how the news has affected loved ones. But that strategy appears to be shifting somewhat with the hiring of a Washington-based public affairs group and friends who have known Broadwell for years now going public to combat images of her that they feel are unfair. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
(CNN) - Gen. Joseph Dunford told Congress on Thursday that he was not involved in recent discussions about the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan even though he is in line to become the top commander there.
"I have not been included in those conversations," Dunford said at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.
"I think I have an understanding of the framework within which that decision ought to be made. I have certainly identified what I think are the most important variables that need to be considered," Dunford, who is assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said.
By Barbara Starr
"They are embarrassing. If they got out, John Allen would be very embarrassed by them," according to the official, who emphasized that there is no evidence of "physical contact between the two."
The official noted that the e-mails that are under investigation - which have been called "potentially inappropriate" - are from Allen. It is Allen's e-mails that are under investigation, and the official did not know the content of any of Kelley's e-mails to Allen.
"The e-mails are concerning enough to warrant an investigation," the official said.
A second U.S. official, who has had the e-mails described to him, characterized the content as "sexy," but emphasized he could not say whether they "crossed the line." FULL POST
The spiraling scandal that took down David Petraeus has apparently claimed another powerful general, as authorities announced that Gen. John Allen is under investigation for allegedly sending inappropriate messages to Jill Kelley, a woman who has been linked to the Petraeus scandal.
Allen, who is the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, has disputed that he has committed any wrongdoing, a senior defense official said.
Details of the latest angle of the scandal that has shaken the highest level of the military were sketchy early Tuesday morning.
Some details about Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, came from a terse overnight statement by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
"On Sunday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation referred to the Department of Defense a matter involving General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (or ISAF) in Afghanistan," part of the statement said. "Today, the secretary directed that the matter be referred to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense for investigation."
A defense official told CNN that there is a"distinct possibility" that the investigation into Allen is connected to the investigation that led to the resignation of Petraeus.
Allen will still retain his position as the commander of ISAF as the investigation continues, the Pentagon said.
But Panetta asked that Allen's nomination to become NATO's supreme allied commander be put on hold, the statement said.
The confirmation hearing to see if Allen would get that lofty military post was scheduled for Thursday.
The investigation was in its early stages but authorities were looking into some 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, the defense official said.
By Chris Lawrence
Top U.S. military commanders could soon be heading to new jobs with steep challenges.
President Barack Obama has nominated Gen. John Allen to become the next Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in which he would oversee NATO military operations.
Taking Allen's place in Afghanistan would be Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who would see the war through some of its final fighting seasons.
"If confirmed by the Senate, he will lead our forces through key milestones in our effort that will allow us to bring the war to a close responsibly, as Afghanistan takes full responsibility for its security," Obama said in a statement.
By Barbara Starr
A deadly assault on American forces in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend stokes fears of a disturbing new form of "insider attack" - an assault on coalition forces by an Afghan military unit rather than a lone attacker.
U.S. forces apparently took fire on Saturday from several Afghan troops shooting at them from several directions, according to a U.S. military official familiar with initial results of the investigation.
NATO and Afghan officials investigating the Wardak province assault are expected to make their findings public soon, maybe as early as Wednesday, the official said.
By Masoud Popalzai
A suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan Monday killed 12 people, including three NATO service members and four Afghan police, and wounded around 50 others, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry said.
The bomber targeted a joint patrol of ISAF forces and Afghan police, using an explosives-packed motorcycle, according to Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the ministry.FULL STORY