By Barbara Starr
The commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is warning his top commanders of new risks of attacks due to rising tensions between NATO forces and the Afghan president, an ISAF official told CNN Thursday.
The personal e-mail Gen. Joseph Dunford sent Wednesday is not a formal threat advisory, said the official, who did not want to be identified.
The tensions between the NATO-led coalition forces - especially those from the United States - and President Hamid Karzai escalated after a bomb blast in Kabul last weekend that killed nine people.
Karzai said afterward that there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."
Dunford quickly denounced Karzai's remark.
"We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage," he said.
In the e-mail sent Wednesday, Dunford told commanders that Karzai's recent statements "could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces - he may also issue orders that put our forces at risk."
ISAF is currently in discussions with the Afghan government about the terms for the turnover of the detention facility at Bagram to the Afghans, as well as the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from Wardak Province following still unsubstantiated complaints about U.S. troop misconduct there.
Dunford met with Karzai Wednesday to discuss the transfer of the detention center. The general said it "must be done in a way that meets the needs of Afghan sovereignty while mitigating the real threats that some of these detainees pose to Afghan and coalition forces.
"We will complete the transfer when the remaining issues have been resolved," Dunford said in a statement on ISAF's website.
Several media reported Karzai gave a speech Tuesday in which he suggested the government would take unilateral actions to assume control of the detention center if the transfer was delayed much longer.
In his e-mail, Dunford calls Karzai's remarks about Bagram "inflammatory speech."
ISAF called the general's warning "prudent given increased coalition casualties in recent days."
"ISAF routinely conducts assessments and adapts its protection posture to ensure our forces are prepared to meet potential threats and that they have a common understanding of the situation here in Afghanistan," the ISAF statement said. "General Dunford's e-mail is simply an example of this vigilance."
The growing strength of extremist groups across the Middle East and Africa has led the Obama Administration to begin a classified review of just who it can go after under its targeted killing program.
The current congressional authorization to use military force, allows the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against any persons or organizations involved in planning or carrying out the September 11th attacks–its been interpreted to include al Qaeda affiliates.
But emerging terrorist groups sympathetic to al Qaeda do not necessarily have a direct link to the core Al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11th attack, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
Reporting from Barbara Starr and Susan Candiotti
Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, who has served as an al Qaeda spokesman, was captured and has been brought to the United States, two administration officials and a federal law enforcement official said Thursday.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is being held in New York, and will appear in court Friday to face federal charges, the law enforcement official said.
A sealed indictment lays out charges against him, the administration officials said.
Abu Ghaith was captured within the past week in Jordan, according to a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York.
Congress was notified when Ghaith was taken into U.S. custody, the administration officials said.
The U.S. Treasury Department has described Abu Ghaith as "the official spokesman of al Qaeda since his appointment to that position after the attacks of September 11, 2001."
He appeared in videos as "the mouthpiece of bin Laden," the department said.
Bin Laden, leader of the terrorist al Qaeda network that staged the 9/11attacks on the United States, was killed in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan in 2011.
By Barbara Starr
The top U.S. commander for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region has recommended to President Obama that 13,600 American troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014, a number that is potentially higher than what the administration wants to leave in the country.
At a NATO meeting in February, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said up to 12,000 troops could stay behind, but not all of those would be American troops necessarily. But Gen. James Mattis, head of the U.S. Central Command, revealed the new recommendation to the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday at a hearing.
Under an agreement between the Afghan government and NATO, the bulk of U.S. and NATO combat forces are to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What remains to be decided is how many troops may remain to help train Afghan forces. Mattis also said he believes about 7,000 non-U.S. troops from the NATO alliance could also remain.
By Barbara Starr
The Obama administration is still searching through incoming intelligence reports to look for specific evidence to confirm that jihadist Moktar Belmoktar was killed in a raid by Chad military on a jihadist base in northeastern Mali, a senior U.S. official tells CNN.
"We don't have enough evidence to support the claim" made by Chad, the official said. But he emphasized the U.S. is taking it seriously and "not dismissing it out of hand."
"We want to have a level of certainty about it before we say it’s true, and we are not there yet," the official said.
He emphasized the U.S. will be looking at the broadest range of intelligence information it can to try to verify Belmoktar's death. "We'll be looking at things you can't even think of," he said. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
The United States and Pakistan will begin working together on a new fertilizer formula that could be a significant technological step to limit the ability of terror groups to make improvised explosives and car bombs using the ingredient.
An agreement to try to make a product more inert was reached last week after Pakistani officials from Fatima Group, a major fertilizer manufacturer, met with Pentagon officials.
"Such a long-term solution would be a true scientific breakthrough," Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the head of the Pentagon's Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization, said in a statement.
Barbero met with Fatima representatives to urge them again to take steps to control fertilizer inventories. The meeting itself was a step forward since the Pakistani government previously had stopped the U.S. military from talking directly to the company.
By Barbara Starr
The commander of all Navy SEALS is sharply critical of claims attributed to a man called "The Shooter," identified in a published report to have been the SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden but felt mistreated by the military when he left the service.
Esquire magazine's riveting account of the 2011 bin Laden raid in Pakistan was based on an interview with the former SEAL, who was not named but complained about losing his health care coverage when he left the Navy last year.
He was short of the full 20-year career required to receive such benefits.
"Concerning recent writing and reporting on 'The Shooter' and his alleged situation, this former SEAL made a deliberate and informed decision to leave the Navy several years short of retirement status," said Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.
By Barbara Starr
President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA met for an hour with one of the filmmakers of "Zero Dark Thirty," the movie about the agency's effort to find and kill Osama bin Laden.
John Brennan, who currently serves as the president's chief counterterrorism adviser, detailed that meeting for the first time in written answers to questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The panel is considering his nomination to head the spy agency.
Brennan told the committee that he and other White House officials met with filmmaker Mark Boal on June 30, 2011, for an unclassified discussion "on how White House officials viewed the opportunities and risks associated with a film about the raid that killed bin Laden" the previous month. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr and Larry Shaughnessy
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was packed up and ready, as he says, to "get the hell out of town." But it looks like he can't step aside just yet from the top job at the Pentagon.
The Senate on Thursday dashed Panetta's hopes of quickly confirming his intended replacement, Chuck Hagel, before the start of a one-week congressional recess.
Proponents failed to muster enough support in a procedural vote to end debate on Hagel's appointment and push the nomination toward a concluding vote.
Democrats are calling Republican opposition a filibuster, while GOP members say they simply want more time to address concerns.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will have a full detail of security agents assigned to him for the foreseeable future after he leaves office, an administration official confirmed to CNN Wednesday.
Federal security personnel will be assigned to Panetta due to concerns about potential future threats against him both as a result of his time as CIA director and secretary of defense, the official said.