By Barbara Starr
A U.S. warship designed as a floating base for naval special forces is scheduled to transit through the Suez Canal for the first time as early as Friday, Navy officials say.
The USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, recently finished a complete overhaul that now has it configured to operate as a floating staging platform for the military. It is being launched into the oil shipping lanes at a time of heightened tensions across the region, U.S. Navy officials told CNN.
The ship began approaching Suez on Thursday and is expected to enter the canal shortly on its way to the Persian Gulf. FULL POST
By Mike Mount, Senior National Security Producer
In what is shaping up to be a classic congressional right vs. left fight over defense and war funding, both the House and Senate are gearing up to battle over some expected and not-so-expected items in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.
On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the bill, showing its hand to members of the House of Representatives on what it felt should be authorized for military spending.
The act authorizes spending limits and sets defense policy, but it does not actually appropriate the funds.
The committee version must still pass a full Senate vote. The House signed off on its bill this month. While a date has yet to be announced, both the final House and Senate versions will go through extensive negotiations to hammer out a final version of the legislation, expected in the fall.
Both bills have numerous amendments that will be debated and fought over in the coming months. Keep an eye on these five if you like political fireworks.
By Nasir Habib reporting from Islamabad
Top U.S. and Pakistani military officials held face-to-face meetings in Islamabad on Wednesday in the first high-level talks since NATO airstrikes killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in November.
Gen. James Mattis and Gen. John Allen discussed "bilateral matters, professional interests and the emerging geo-strategic situation of the region" with Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, the chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff, according to a statement from the Pakistani military.
Mattis is the chief of the U.S. Central Command, while Allen commands the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The meeting lasted "for some time," the Pakistani statement said.
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