By Elise Labott
In the delicate dance of diplomacy, the word "apology" can be a misstep.
Such is the case with a proposed letter of assurances from the United States to the people of Afghanistan, which is emerging as a way to overcome remaining hurdles to allowing some U.S. troops to remain in that country post-2014.
By Chelsea J. Carter and Elise Labott
Reports the United States is on the verge of a security agreement with Afghanistan that includes a formal letter of apology for past mistakes by American troops are completely false, the National Security adviser told CNN on Tuesday.
The statements came amid claims by Afghan officials that the Obama administration offered to write the letter as part of an effort to keep a small number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan well past the 2014 deadline to withdraw.
"No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on CNN's "Situation Room."
"Quite the contrary, we have sacrificed and supported them in their democratic progress and in tackling the insurgents and al Qaeda. So that (letter of apology) is not on the table."FULL STORY
By Pam Benson
The White House has agreed to turn over to the Senate Intelligence Committee additional e-mails and intelligence reports related to the lethal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, according to a congressional source.
The source said some of the materials have already been received by the panel and others "will be provided shortly."
Republican senators have threatened to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until they receive e-mails exchanged between the White House and the spy agency concerning public talking points about the deadly attack last September 11.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice relied on those talking points to explain the Obama administration's version of events several days after the armed assault. Her televised comments ignited an election-year controversy, fueled by Republicans, over whether the administration was being truthful about the nature of the attack.
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
The U.S. ambassador to Syria says the Syrian regime is slowly starting to crumble.
Ambassador Robert Ford said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Ivan Watson while touring the Islahiye refugee camp in Turkey that it is a slow process, but the signs are pointing toward decline.
"Members of the regime, little by little, are flaking off," Ford said, noting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's mother had fled the country and is now in the United Arab Emirates.
The former Foreign Ministry spokesman is now a refugee in the United States, Ford said. (Update, 9:11 p.m. - Senior administration officials tell CNN that the ambassador misspoke and that the Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman is not in the U.S.)
Ford said it is a slow process, but al-Assad’s government is falling apart.
"You can see, little by little, the inner core is weakening," Ford said. "But again, it's a gradual process."
Ford said when the U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with al-Assad in December, the closeness of the fighting was evident.
"He told us that you could hear artillery outside the president's office," Ford told Watson. "The fighting is getting that close now to the inner circle itself. And so you can imagine what that does to their own spirits, their own morale."
By Elise Labott
After months of accusations and political recriminations, the State Department is getting ready to present the most detailed explanation yet regarding the circumstances surrounding the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Monday, the State Department is expected to get a report on the incident from the independent Advisory Review Board, sources in the State Department told CNN Sunday. The review was ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Congress will receive the report from the board ahead of a classified briefing for members on Wednesday by Thomas Pickering, who led the Advisory Review Board. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was also on the panel, will be part of the briefing as well.
The State Department is also expected to present recommendations on improving security. That's likely to include an explanation of measures that have already been put in place since the September 11 attack on the consulate, which left four Americans - including U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens - dead.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration to become Secretary of State in a letter written to President Obama on Tuesday. Here is the full statement from Obama the White House released shortly after that:
"Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country."
By Jamie Crawford
It's a favorite game in Washington to weigh the odds of each potential nominee to a president's cabinet and that game is in full swing - especially in trying to anticipate President Barack Obama's choice for replacing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
With speculation mounting that President Obama may soon announce his nominee, two very well-known names - Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice - remain the two top possibilities. Each comes with strengths but with baggage as well.
Rice's name has been floated in recent weeks as being Obama's preferred candidate for the top diplomatic post.
Twice in recent weeks the president has voiced support for her as she has been at the receiving end of a barrage of criticism over how she presented the administration's explanation for the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Her appearance on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador has led to questions as to whether she is too controversial now to be chosen by the president.
By Jamie Crawford with reporting from Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott and Pam Benson
The United States is closely watching how rebel forces operate inside Syria, and what their end objectives might be as the Obama administration weighs whether or not to provide arms to the Syrian opposition.
"Will providing arms to the opposition convince the people who support [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, in many cases because they are afraid of their own existence, or will it simply lead to more fighting - that is the question that we are considering," Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, said during a panel discussion in Washington on Thursday on the crisis in Syria.
"Arms are not a strategy, arms are a tactic," Ford said about the deliberation the administration is undertaking on the question, and that a "military solution" is not the best path forward for Syria.
"The president has never taken the provision of arms off the table," he said. "And so, as we think about our policy of sending arms or not, and today we do not, we want to make sure that tactic plays into and helps us achieve a strategy of enabling the Syrian people to reach a political solution."
By Suzanne Kelly
A conciliatory meeting between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Republican critics backfired following revelations that the CIA removed terrorism references in unclassified talking points about the U.S. consulate attack in Libya.
Rice, who serves as the top U.S. envoy to the United Nations, met with Republican senators Tuesday over the September 11 attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
She asked for the meeting with Republican Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham after their sharp criticism of her response to the Benghazi attack. The Republican senators have maintained that they are concerned about her explanation on what caused the attack.
At the time of the attack that left four Americans dead this year, Rice said an anti-U.S. demonstration led to the violence, an assertion later disproved by intelligence officials and reports from the ground.