By Jennifer Rizzo and Shirley Henry
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said Wednesday he clearly understands a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 - known as the "zero option" - is a "possibility" given Afghan President Hamid Karzai's current unwillingness to sign the security pact that would govern some troops remaining in his country beyond that time frame.
But Dempsey also said he has not been told to plan for such a withdrawal.
By Dan Merica
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Monday that if Israel were to strike Iran in an effort to damage the country's nuclear program, the United States would meet "some defined obligations" it has to the Middle East nation.
"I feel like we have a deep obligation to Israel," the military leader said. "That is why we are in constant contact and collaboration with them."
This fall, diplomats from the United States and other interested countries have met to deal with Iran's nuclear program and ways in which advancements could be halted.
By Jamie Crawford
While the United States draws closer to providing some form of lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, the debate over how extensive the package should be and the possible outcome are likely to follow any decision.
In a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey laid out the scenarios that could unfold, ranging from the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, to training and assisting the opposition through intelligence and logistics assistance.
None of the options, he said, would be easy, and all would come with a pretty extensive price tag.
"We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action," Dempsey wrote in the letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI).
"Should the regime's institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control."FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
United States military involvement in Syria would likely cost billions of dollars and carry a range of risks for the forces involved, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said in a letter released Monday.
"I know that the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly," Dempsey wrote in the letter to Sen. Carl Levin,D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It is no less than an act of war."
Dempsey's letter was in response to a request by Levin and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to provide his assessments of possible scenarios for future involvement in the Syrian civil war.
But it also came with a warning for a military now in a second decade at war. FULL POST
By Jamie Crawford
Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey traded rhetorical jabs in a lively exchange Thursday over the scope of Dempsey's role as President Obama's chief military adviser.
While the overarching concern on McCain's part was the substance of Dempsey's advice to the president on the civil war in Syria, the debate soon became a surrogate battle over the wisdom of U.S. military assistance to Syrian rebels.
McCain wasted no time in voicing his disapproval of Dempsey's tenure, and that of his deputy, Vice Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to consider their nominations for a second term in their roles.
"I must tell both witnesses at the onset I'm very concerned about the role they have played over the last two years," he said.
By Elise Labott
While America's top military officials continue in-depth discussions with their counterparts in Egypt, the Obama administration is looking how to map America's relations with the crucial Middle East ally.
Top officials huddled at the White House again on Monday to discuss the issue.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel once again talked with Gen. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Egypt's defense minister.
It's at least the fourth time Hagel has spoken to Sisi in the past week, both before and after his military deposed Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsy, and put him under house arrest.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the conversations "have been lengthy and very candid."
A defense official, who requested anonymity, says some of the calls "have lasted nearly two hours."
Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has also had two calls with the chief of staff of Egypt's armed forces, Lt. Gen. Sedki Sobhi.
The importance of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, which has been developing since the Carter-era Camp David Peace Accords, is evidenced by how carefully government officials are avoiding labeling the past week's developments a "military coup."
If Morsy's removal were to be called a coup, under U.S. law, more than $1 billion in military aid to Egypt would have to be slashed.
Israel is concerned that such a cut could jeopardize the peace treaty between the two countries
Israel and Egypt are the two biggest recipients of American military aid.
The determination of whether a coup took place is generally made by the State Department's Legal Advisor Office.
But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described it as an interagency process on Monday.
Psaki also said that the fact tens of millions of Egyptians supported the move and did not consider this a coup would be factored into the deliberations.
Senior U.S. officials say the administration is examining three potential options – calling events in Egypt a coup and cutting off aid; calling it a coup and issuing a national security waiver; or not determining it a coup, recognizing that the military has taken steps to move the country toward a civilian transitional government and move toward elections.
White House spokesman Jay Carney suggested what happens next will be very important.
"Our relationship with Egypt is not limited to or defined solely by the assistance that we provide to Egypt. It is broader and deeper than that, and it is bound up in America's support for the aspirations of the Egyptian people for democracy, for a better economic and political future, and we support that," Carney said.
"So our decisions with regards to the events that have happened recently in Egypt will be - and how we label them and analyze them will be made with our policy objectives in mind, in accordance with the law and in accordance with any consultation with Congress," he said.
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
In a move that could send small numbers of U.S. military trainers back to Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has asked his top Middle East commander to look at ways the United States could boost military sales, assistance and training in that country as well as in Lebanon and Jordan as Syria's civil war continues to affect its neighbors.
Any deployment of U.S. forces would have to have those countries' approval, and so far there is no indication that Iraq or Lebanon would agree to accept U.S. troops.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told members of Congress on Wednesday that Army special forces in Tripoli were never told to "stand down" from rushing to Benghazi to help when the diplomatic mission there came under attack last year.
In doing so, he disputed the claims of Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya who testified last month before a House committee that a unit of four special forces troops was told to stand down rather than rush to Benghazi.
The September 11 attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
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.