Petraeus comes to Washington with troop drawdown recommendation
Credit: Getty Images
June 13th, 2011
06:26 PM ET

Petraeus comes to Washington with troop drawdown recommendation

General David Petraeus, commander of the war in Afghanistan, has arrived in Washington, D.C., for a one-two national security punch, certain to leave ripples over the next several days. Petraeus is in Washington ostensibly for final preparations in advance of his June 23 hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to be confirmed as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But before he even takes on that role, Petraeus has a piece of important business to finish: handing his personal recommendations to the Pentagon and White House about beginning a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan starting next month. FULL POST

June 13th, 2011
06:18 PM ET

Army backtracks on black berets

Ten years ago this week, under orders from Gen. Eric Shinseki, then Army Chief of Staff, the black beret became the standard gear in the U.S. Army. It was the start of a pitched battle within the Army that would soon find itself fighting two hot wars.

Now, just shy of the anniversary, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the current Army Chief of Staff, has replaced the black beret with the patrol cap as the default headgear for soldiers wearing Army combat uniforms (ACUs) or what most of us would call their camouflage fatigues.

A patrol cap is like a camouflage baseball cap with a flat top rather than a rounded crown (think Pittsburgh Pirates circa 1979.)

"It's fantastic," one soldier at the Pentagon said when CNN asked about the change.

"Awesome," wrote a soldier on the Army's official Facebook page. "Sanity has prevailed."

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Filed under: Military
June 13th, 2011
06:09 PM ET

Clinton takes on role in ending silent killer

All across the world women will cook a meal for their family today, and as a result, in certain parts of the world, one of them will die every 16 seconds.

That startling statistic is one of the reasons Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning a stop in Ethiopia on her current trip through Africa to highlight an initiative she strongly supports to bring cleaner cook stove technology to many parts of the developing world. The visit was subsequently canceled after Clinton’s trip was cut short due to a volcano in Eritrea that could have hindered air travel in the region.

“The simple act of cooking shouldn’t be one that kills you,” says Leslie Cordes, Interim Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private initiative overseen by the United Nations. Through its partnership with over 75 governments, non-governmental organizations, foundations, academic institutions, women’s self-help groups, and local communities in the developing world, the Alliance works to reduce market barriers that hinder the distribution of less toxic emitting stoves, while also raising global awareness for the many hazards posed by older stoves in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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Filed under: Clinton • Diplomacy • Secretary of State • United Nations
June 13th, 2011
03:53 PM ET

U.S. tracks North Korean ship suspected of carrying illicit cargo

The U.S. Navy tried to get permission to board a North Korean merchant vessel two weeks ago in the South China Sea that it suspected was carrying illicit weapons cargo, but when it was denied permission the U.S. shadowed the ship until it returned to North Korea, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.

The merchant ship M/V Light is registered and flagged under Belize but was believed to be manned by a North Korean crew according to Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

According to Lapan, on May 26, the merchant vessel was hailed by the USS McCampbell which requested permission to board the ship and inspect its cargo. The ship’s master denied the request, telling the Navy ship that they were a North Korean ship, according to the Pentagon.

Lapan said the vessel was in violation of international law in refusing the boarding. It was believed the ship might be heading to Myanmar. There are several UN resolutions that permit the boarding of ships suspected of carrying banned weapons cargo such as ballistic missile parts or technology.

The McCampbell maintained surveillance of the vessel for several days. On May 29 the vessel turned around and headed back to North Korean port. The U.S. maintained surveillance of the ship until it returned. Lapan would not specify how that surveillance is maintained but the Navy is known to use surveillance aircraft at sea, and U.S. intelligence satellites regularly monitor North Korean ports.

June 13th, 2011
03:18 PM ET

U.S.: Speaks to appalling situation in Syria that 'Gay Girl' blogger thought credible

The State Department says it was “skeptical from the very beginning” that the blog by a supposed young gay Syrian-American woman living through repression in Damascus was true.

Sunday, an American man revealed on the blog that he was the author, admitting that he pretended to be the woman, “Amina Adballah", and said he regretted the damage he caused. In a interview done via Skype with the British paper The Guardian, Tom MacMaster said he had created the fake online identity "because it's hard" to write from that perspective, and he considered it "a challenge."

Spokesman Mark Toner said Monday at his briefing that the State Department early on could not verify key details of the blogger’s identity, including confirming the woman’s citizenship, checking it out in the U.S. data bases. In Damascus, Syria, officials were unable to contact any of her friends or family members. “We began suspecting early on that this was not a real person,” Toner said.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA pointed to the blog as proof that the world is lying about the crackdown, stating: "MacMaster's hoax aimed at enhancing continuous fabrications and lies against Syria in term (sic) of kidnapping bloggers and activists."

Asked whether the revelation of the hoax would undermine credibility of the repression currently under way in Syria, the State Department’s Toner told reporters: “I think it speaks to the appalling civil rights situation in Syria that so many people says the story, heard about the story, took it to be credible, and called for action in support of her. No one is under any illusions that the Syrian government has been carrying out a vicious crackdown on its own civilians and I don’t believe that that is affected on whit by this story.”

June 13th, 2011
10:38 AM ET

Killing of embassy bombings mastermind deprives al Qaeda of key figure

By Tim Lister and Zain Verjee

At midnight last Tuesday, two men were traveling in a black four-wheel drive through the Somali capital, Mogadishu. One was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the most wanted terrorist in Africa. Mohammed had survived more than a decade on the run, at least one attempt on his life, and a $5 million price on his head for planning the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

But his luck was about to run out in the chaos of Mogadishu, where the frontlines in the battle between the weak transitional government and al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab shift almost weekly. His vehicle headed toward a government checkpoint, possibly after taking a wrong turn. According to several accounts it tried to speed through, setting off a firefight with police.

Mohammed was killed, but to begin with the Somali security forces had no idea who he was. Only when they discovered cell phones, a South African passport, a substantial amount of cash and a laptop did they realize this was someone of significance. So his body - which had been rapidly buried - was exhumed, according to Somali military officials. A sample of his DNA was sent to Nairobi, where U.S. officials confirmed it was Mohammed. They had taken DNA samples from his wife and children some years ago.

The other man in the vehicle may also have been a senior al-Shabaab figure by the name of Musa Dheere, according to Kenyan officials. Somali officials have not publicly announced the identity of the second man. FULL POST

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Somalia
June 13th, 2011
08:05 AM ET

Security Brief – June 13, 2011

Compiled by CNN's Tim Lister

Today's Security Brief includes:
* Syria: security forces retake town – refugees flood to Turkish border
* Syria: opposition group claims 1,300 have died in unrest
* Libya: rebels inch forward from Misrata, and reports of fighting west of capital
* Architect of US embassy bombings killed in Somalia
* Yemen: Islamic extremists tighten grip in south
* Bahrain: medical workers on trial
* Why the “Arab Spring” is bad for US intelligence
* Afghanistan: new guidance for avoiding civilian casualties; as administration looks at drawdown
* Pakistan: Panetta visit didn’t go well, say local media


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Filed under: Security Brief