Detainees' attorneys angered by cancellation of flights to Guantanamo
March 21st, 2013
07:22 PM ET

Detainees' attorneys angered by cancellation of flights to Guantanamo

By Mike Mount

The U.S. Navy has ordered commercial flights to the military base at Guantanamo, Cuba canceled because of a regulation that had been overlooked for years, outraging lawyers who use the flights to visit their clients at the detention facility.

The order comes as lawyers of detainees held at Guantanamo sent a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel complaining of tougher treatment of detainees by the base commander who arrived last summer. At least 25 suspected terrorists held at the detention facility are participating in a hunger strike, which lawyers say is a result of the treatment they are receiving.

Navy Capt. John Nettleton, the Naval Station Commanding Officer , notified the small airline, IBC Travel, in late February, according to military officials. The airline was directed to stop flying into Guantanamo by April 30th, but the airline said it would halt flights as of April 5th, according Navy officials.
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Filed under: Gitmo
Hunger strike expands at Guantanamo
March 19th, 2013
07:12 PM ET

Hunger strike expands at Guantanamo

By Mike Mount

More prisoners have joined a hunger strike at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The number of suspected terrorists involved has risen to 24 as of Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said.

There were 14 last week. U.S. military officials deny detainee lives are in danger.

Breasseale said eight require feeding tubes that are administered through the mouth.

There are 166 suspected terrorists being held at the detention facility.
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Military reviewing strategy in light of tightening budgets
March 18th, 2013
03:19 PM ET

Military reviewing strategy in light of tightening budgets

By Mike Mount

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of how steep military cuts that took effect this month might impact the Pentagon's overall strategy for deploying its resources globally.

Hagel instructed Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to lead a group of civilian and military officials in conducing the review.

Last year, the Pentagon issued new guidelines on its future strategy. The blueprint called for shifting most of its emphasis toward the Asia-Pacific region while still keeping an eye on hot spots in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The two-month review will help define major strategy decisions over the next 10 years, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman George Little.

It will look at assumptions that guided the initial strategy shift and will build a framework that Hagel can turn to for making the next round of budget decisions.

The Pentagon is expected to absorb roughly half of $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year that took effect on March 1.

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Filed under: Congress • Military
The complexity of Karzai
March 11th, 2013
06:25 PM ET

The complexity of Karzai

By Mike Mount

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not in an enviable position.

The man who has led the country for nearly 10 years is a difficult politician to deal with for the most part.

Beyond his seemingly outrageous comments toward the United States, he has also been called corrupt and often impossible to predict.

In his latest eyebrow-raiser following a bomb blast in Kabul that killed at least nine people, Karzai said on Sunday there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."

The comment effectively claimed the United States was trying to foment continued violence inside Afghanistan.

The top commander of U.S. and allied forces, Gen. Joseph Dunford, quickly denounced the remark.
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Karzai
Sending top secret information? There's an app for that
February 26th, 2013
06:34 PM ET

Sending top secret information? There's an app for that

By Mike Mount

Combat troops to four-star generals will soon be able to use cell phones or mobile tablets to quickly share classified information anywhere in the world.

The program soon to be rolled out by the Pentagon will allow the more than 600,000 Defense Department employees who use government-issued "smart" mobile devices to send top-secret information on those units or computers.

Until now, classified and other highly sensitive information has only been allowed to be shared by specially designated desktop systems.

Most Defense Department mobile device users peck away at Blackberries. Another 41,000 use Apple devices and a much smaller number use Android-based technology, according to statistics provided by the Pentagon.
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Filed under: Military • Pentagon
Graham: No secret drone data revealed
February 20th, 2013
07:52 PM ET

Graham: No secret drone data revealed

By Mike Mount

A U.S. senator insists he did not reveal any secrets when he publicly mentioned the number of people killed in drone strikes overseas.

Republican Lindsey Graham told an audience in Easley, South Carolina, on Tuesday that the little-discussed drone program had killed 4,700 people, according to a report by Easley Patch website editor Jason Evans.

"Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that, but we're at war and we've taken out some very senior members of al Qaeda," he was quoted as saying at the Rotary Club event.

Graham did not disclose the source of his information at the event, which is closely held by the government.

Reached on Wednesday, Graham told CNN's Dana Bash that the number he used was based on media reports, not U.S. intelligence. Graham said he was referring to total killed around the world.

For years, the United States has been targeting al Qaeda suspects in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and other countries with no official announcement or acknowledgement of the strikes.
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Filed under: Security Brief
February 20th, 2013
01:37 PM ET

Military shows Congress where mandatory cuts will hit home

By Mike Mount

Having warned about freezing weapons systems and risks to national security, the armed services are now trying to show members of Congress exactly how mandatory budget cuts will impact their states.

Just days before the forced spending cuts could begin to take effect, the Army and Navy are circulating estimates about which areas will be economically hit the hardest.

In documents sent to Congress and obtained by CNN, both the Army and Navy lay out the impacts on the services and industry that would be hit by the measures that may go into effect starting March 1. The forced spending cuts, mandated by a 2011 agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, will take effect unless lawmakers come up with another deficit reduction plan.

Pentagon warns Congress of coming furloughs

The Army estimates that the cuts, known in Washington jargon as sequestration, will have a $15 billion economic impact across the country and affect more than 300,000 jobs nationwide.

The hardest hit states include Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania, home to major Army facilities and industrial bases for the service.

The Army anticipates it will need to slash $18 billion in spending by the end of this fiscal year, ending September 30.

If the spending cuts are carried out, the Army would be required to furlough 251,000 of its civilian employees. It estimates that would save it $1.9 billion through the end of September. FULL POST

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Filed under: Congress • Military
February 14th, 2013
06:34 PM ET

Fewer Afghan troops could yield more Taliban violence, Senate panel told

By Mike Mount

Reducing the number of Afghan security forces could lead to an increase in Taliban violence inside that country as U.S. forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin said Thursday.

Austin was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to confirm him as the next top U.S. commander to oversee military operations in the Middle East. Austin said keeping a larger Afghan force would allow the Afghan government to mature under a bigger security umbrella.

Currently, the U.S.-led NATO operation has plans to reduce the number of Afghan forces from about 352,000 to around 230,000 after U.S. troops leave in 2014.

Afghan security forces were beefed up to improve security in tandem with the surge of U.S. troops in 2009. The larger number of Afghan troops would be too expensive to maintain and would eventually have to be reduced as security improved around the country, according to the NATO plan.
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Panetta: World is watching U.S. on budget
February 13th, 2013
07:01 PM ET

Panetta: World is watching U.S. on budget

By Mike Mount

In his final press briefing as defense secretary, Leon Panetta expressed concern over how the world will view the United States if it fails to avert steep budget cuts due to take effect in two weeks.

"What they (other countries) worry about is what I worry about, which is whether or not we can govern and whether or not we can face the tough decisions that have to be made and resolve those," Panetta said on Wednesday about the budget uncertainty.

Mandatory budget cuts impacting much of the government, also known as sequester, would kick in on March 1 if no deal is struck between the White House and Congress to avoid, defer or otherwise soften them.
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January 10th, 2013
06:03 PM ET

Karzai comes with wish list

By Mike Mount

Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed up to the Pentagon on Thursday with a wish list of military equipment to ensure the security of his country by the time NATO forces leave at the end of 2014.

In return, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a message to deliver – the United States wants to make sure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven again.

Karzai's meeting with Panetta, occurring under a cloud of mistrust between both countries, was expected to have some tough talk about the future of Afghanistan. But publicly, the image seemed like there was no trouble at all.

It was the first stop for the Afghan president who was to have dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday and meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.
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