June 8th, 2011
09:52 PM ET

Report critical of U.S. aid to Afghanistan

A new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warns that many U.S. aid programs are fueling corruption and are simply unsustainable.  It raises serious questions about a key element of the Obama Administration's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.  CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty takes a look at the issue.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Diplomacy
Lawmakers indicate support for extending FBI director's term
FBI Director Robert Mueller (Photo from Gerry Images)
June 8th, 2011
05:15 PM ET

Lawmakers indicate support for extending FBI director's term

Senators of both political parties said Wednesday they support extending FBI Director Robert Mueller's term for two more years but are worried about a legal constitutional challenge.

Mueller's term ends September 4, exactly a decade after he took the job. Under current law, an FBI director may serve no more than 10 years, but President Barack Obama wants the law changed to allow Mueller to serve a total of 12 years.


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Filed under: FBI • Intelligence • Living With Terror
June 8th, 2011
04:06 PM ET

Most wanted: Ilyas Kashmiri

Each week, CNN examines one of the most wanted terrorists around the world. Check out more of the Most Wanted.

Is Ilyas Kashmiri alive or dead? One report said that a U.S. drone strike had killed him, but later a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the United States could not confirm that Kashmiri was indeed dead. Learn more about the man some call one of the most dangerous men in the world:

Who is he?
Regarded as one of the most dangerous men in the world by counter-terrorism officials on three continents, Ilyas Kashmiri is a veteran jihadist who in his early years fought Indian security forces in the disputed territory of Kashmir and the Russians in Afghanistan, where he lost an eye and finger.

After falling out with his sponsors in the Pakistan military, Kashmiri moved his base of operations from Pakistani Kashmir to North Waziristan, the semi-autonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. FULL POST

Filed under: Most Wanted
Leon Panetta: ultimate insider
Defense Secretary nominee Leon Panetta (photo by: CIA)
June 8th, 2011
04:03 PM ET

Leon Panetta: ultimate insider

Even by Washington's standards, Leon Panetta's resume portrays the ultimate insider - a smooth navigator of Congress, the federal budget, the White House and the CIA. He's worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents. And the CIA's role in last month's successful Osama bin Laden raid and the killing of America's Number One enemy, gave his solid gold credentials new lustre.

And now, after four decades of public service - and years after most people are long retired - the 72-year-old Panetta is taking on his most challenging job ever: Secretary of Defense, as the nation fights a grueling war in Afghanistan, extricates itself from Iraq, and the Arab world is imploding.


June 8th, 2011
10:50 AM ET

McCain lavishes new Afghan envoy with praise

As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began its hearing into the nomination of Ryan Crocker to be the next U.S. ambassador in Kabul, at least one vote in favor seemed assured.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the ranking member of the committee, lavished praise on Crocker's performance as ambassador in Baghdad between 2007 and 2009.

"The truth is what Ambassador Crocker accomplished in Iraq was nothing short of a miracle," McCain said. "General Petraeus has obviously received huge praise for the role he  played in Iraq and he deserves every bit of it.  But as General Petraeus would be the first to affirm, our military strategy in Iraq would never have worked without Ryan Crocker's constant dogged and tireless leadership of our political strategy."  FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Crocker • Diplomacy • Kabul
Diplomatic "Girl Power" at the US State Department
State luncheon in honor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (photo by CNN)
June 8th, 2011
10:36 AM ET

Diplomatic "Girl Power" at the US State Department

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a love of democracy, women's rights and pantsuits.

Together, they exhibited a good deal of diplomatic "girl power" Tuesday at a state luncheon hosted by Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden in Merkel's honor.

In toasting Merkel, Clinton recalled how she met the chancellor back in the 1990s.

"She was not yet chancellor, I was not yet secretary, and we actually were on a television show, an interview show, together in Berlin," Clinton said. "And she was introduced to me as a young woman who will go far."

As Clinton said, that proved to be true.

Merkel rounded out the mutual admiration society when she presented Clinton with a framed copy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. On the front page was a photo of two pantsuit-clad women from the waist down, with the caption "Which one is Merkel and which one is Clinton?" The following page of the paper showed the full photo of both women taken during Clinton's last visit to Germany.

Everyone got a good laugh with what Merkel called her "playful gift," including the secretary of state - and Merkel's point that women are more often wearing the pants in global politics wasn't lost on Clinton or the crowd.

June 8th, 2011
10:28 AM ET

Senator wants 15,000 US troops out of Afghanistan

from CNN's Barbara Starr

As the U.S. Administration begins discussing how extensive the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan should be, it's getting plenty of advice. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested earlier this week that the reduction should be modest – but the powerful Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Commitee says he wants to see a 'significant' reduction.  

Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) said: “The president said on April 15th that he planned a significant reduction in our troop levels in Afghanistan, and I hope he sticks to that." 

Levin put a number on what he wants to see. " To be significant, I believe it should be a reduction of at least 15,000 troops by the end of the year, and it should include both combat and support troops.”

Earlier this week, on his farewell tour of U.S. bases in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued for a modest reduction, saying "nobody wants to give up the gains that have been won at such a hard cost, and nobody wants to give our allies the excuse to run for the exits." FULL POST

June 8th, 2011
09:59 AM ET

Yemen's weak ceasefire benefits al Qaeda

CNN's Nic Robertson reports al Qaeda will be the biggest winner the longer Yemeni President Saleh clings to power.

June 8th, 2011
09:57 AM ET

UN Security Council takes up Syria as refugees flee

The U.N. Security Council is planning to tackle the Syrian crisis on Wednesday, an effort to grapple with nearly three months of anti-government demonstrations and a brutal regime crackdown against the protesters.

The 15-member body will be briefed by a U.N. official on the subject and huddle over a new proposed resolution on the situation in the country.

A recent French-British resolution failed to please Russia, one of the permanent members of the council, and some other members. As a result, diplomats have tweaked the resolution language to make the measure palatable to Russia and all members.

It was not clear precisely when a vote on the resolution would happen, though Britain and France have said they would like it to take place by Friday. FULL POST

Filed under: Diplomacy • Hot Spot Dispatch • Syria
June 8th, 2011
09:40 AM ET

NATO: Time to plan for post-Gadhafi Libya

It is time to start planning for what to do in Libya after leader Moammar Gadhafi's departure "because Gadhafi's reign of terror is coming to an end," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday.

Rasmussen, talking with reporters in Brussels, insisted that NATO bombing had saved lives in Libya.

Pressed by reporters on why airstrikes will be able to dislodge Gadhafi when "the history of the last 30 years" shows that air attacks alone do not win wars, Rasmussen offered no clear answer, saying only, "We have no intentions to put troops on the ground."

He said the alliance had agreed to extend its military mission for another 90 days past the end of June and had the resources it needed to keep up the campaign for that long.
But he refused to predict how long it would take, saying: "We will keep up the pressure for as long as it takes to bring this crisis to an early conclusion." FULL POST

Filed under: Gadhafi • Libya • NATO • Rasmussen
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