By Barbara Starr
Under pressure from Democrats and Republicans, the Joint Staff of the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command have updated potential military options for intervention in Syria that could see American forces - if ordered - doing everything from bombing Syrian airfields to flying large amounts of humanitarian aid to the region, a senior U.S. military official said.
The first public discussion of the updated options could come soon as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week.
The military official emphasized the options are for planning and there is no indication President Barack Obama is about to order any military action.
A senior administration official confirmed that the national security staff of the White House has been briefed on the updated planning, but emphasized that it does not differ from what already has been looked at by the administration.
"We've been saying for quite some time now, we are constantly reviewing every possible option that could help end the violence and accelerate a political transition," the administration official told CNN.
By Michael Martinez
Two attacks in Afghanistan killed six Americans - four service members and two civilians - on Saturday as a top U.S. military official arrived to assess the country's security, officials said.
The deadliest attack was the bombing of a military convoy delivering books to a school in southern Afghanistan's Zabul province in which three service members, a State Department civilian and a Department of Defense civilian were killed, according to U.S. officials.
Afghan civilians also died in that incident, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Four more State Department personnel suffered injuries, one of them critically, Kerry said.
By Barbara Starr
The U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff are putting the finishing touches on an initial review of ethics standards for senior officers, to meet a December 1 deadline for a report to President Obama.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the review earlier this month after several incidents of reported improper behavior among senior officers, although officially the Pentagon claimed the timing was coincidental.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has gathered some initial ideas from the chiefs of the military services and will send his plan to Panetta on November 30. Dempsey is now moving ahead with "forming a discussion group of retired, respected generals and admirals, and possibly academics and chaplains, to look at professional ethics and our profession of arms," said his spokesman, Col. David Lapan.
Thousands of US troops arrive in Israel to begin a joint military exercise with Israeli forces, testing the country's missile defense systems. In all, the exercise will involve 3,500 US troops at a cost of $30 million. They'll be training over three weeks, in parts of Israel, Europe and the Mediterranean. Chris Lawrence reports on whether this exercise is sending a message to Iran on the strength of ties between the U.S. and Israel.
By Barbara Starr and Adam Levine
The assault on the diplomatic office in Benghazi was clearly a planned assault by terrorists, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday.
"As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place, it became clear that there were terrorists who planned that attack," Panetta said.
Panetta's comments are the most definitive to date by an administration official that the Benghazi assault was planned. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on September 16th that the attack "began spontaneously" as a protest against an anti-Muslim film that "spun" from there. Last week, testifying to Congress, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center said, at that point, there was no indication of "significant" plotting.
"What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack," Matt Olsen said. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
Shrapnel from rocket fire Tuesday damaged the plane that had carried the top U.S. military officer to Afghanistan, officials said.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in his room at the time of the incident and was "not in any danger," said his spokesman, Col. David Lapan.
Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan on Monday for meetings with coalition and Afghan leaders, including Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO forces, and Afghan Army Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Dempsey's counterpart in the country.
The C-17 was parked at Bagram Air Field, outside Kabul, overnight when it was hit by shrapnel from two rockets, Lapan said. Two base maintenance personnel were slightly injured, he said.
By Larry Shaughnessy
The war in Afghanistan is evolving with a growing number of attacks by Afghan security force personnel on American troops, incidents that have been called "green-on-blue" attacks. It's a term that the Pentagon wants to go away.
So far this year the number of such attacks is nearly double the number for the same period last year. And this year 37 Americans have died, compared with 28 in 2011.
"Make no mistake about it, I've been very concerned about these incidents ... because of the lives lost and because of the potential damage to our partnership efforts," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the name "green-on-blue" is a misnomer.
By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer
A spate of leaks of classified information regarding recent U.S. covert operations has damaged the United States, top Pentagon officials told congressional members during a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Not long after, the Pentagon announced an initiative for cracking down on leaks.
During a hearing before the House Armed Service Committee, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and the Pentagon's top lawyer informed the house panel that damage was done, but the trio did not give the panel specifics, according to the head of the committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California.
Panetta and Dempsey told the panel the leaks did not come out of the Pentagon and McKeon, at a news conference after the hearing, said he felt "pretty secure" that they did not come from the Department of Defense.
By Jennifer Rizzo
The United States has approximately 15,000 troops in Kuwait, according to a Senate report released Tuesday, the first time the number has been disclosed.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee report looked at how to best promote U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region after the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq last year, the ongoing Arab Spring uprisings and the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
It concluded in part that a "lily pad" model of having bases throughout the region to allow for a rapid escalation of military forces is a sound approach.
The Kuwaiti bases "offer the United States major staging hubs, training ranges, and logistical support for regional operations," the report said. "U.S. forces also operate Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile defense."
By Barbara Starr
The U.S. military has completed its own planning for how American troops would conduct a variety of operations against Syria, or to assist neighboring countries in the event action was ordered, officials tell CNN.
In recent weeks, the Pentagon has finalized its assessment of what types of units would be needed, how many troops, and even the cost of certain potential operations, officials tell CNN.
Multiple military officials say initial planning is complete with a full understanding of what types of troops and units would be needed. This has been done so that if President Obama were to ask for options the military would be ready to present them. But officials say additional detailed work would have to be done before forces could be deployed.
The planning comes as the U.S. has become increasingly concerned that the violence in Syria is verging on civil war. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the recent series of bombings have heightened the worry.
Dempsey said it reminded him of the escalating violence during the Iraq war.
The violence "gives us all pause that have been in Iraq and seen how these issues become sectarian and then they become civil wars and then they become very difficult to resolve," Dempsey told CNN in an exclusive interview on Thursday.