The U.S. is watching closely to the see the ultimate fate of the most powerful man in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff. Pressured by the U.S. to crack down on terrorists, while at the same time he was kept in the dark about the US raid to kill Osama Bin Laden, Kayani “is facing more vocal and strident criticism than he has in the past,” a senior U.S. military official told CNN. “We really think he is coming under increased scrutiny by junior and mid-grade officers.” This is the type of scrutiny, the official said, senior Pakistani generals like Kayani are “not accustomed to facing.”
Criticism of Kayani inside Pakistan had grown in recent months as he visibly became close to the Obama administration and the Pentagon. But in the wake the U.S. military raid into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden, that criticism has increased from an officer corps furious that U.S. troops invaded Pakistan’s territory without the Pakistani military, and especially Kayan,i being consulted.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is one of Kayani’s closest professional and personal allies, having met with him many times in the last several years. “Mullen does consider him a friend,” said the Admiral’s spokesman, Capt John Kirby. “That doesn't mean there aren't still disagreements, it doesn't mean Kayani doesn't feel betrayed."
May of 2011 was the worst month in a year for suicides and potential suicides in the active duty Army, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The Army reported 21 potential suicides among active duty soldiers in May. One of them has been confirmed, the other 20 are under investigation. In the past, most of the cases investigated were later confirmed to be suicides.
May's number was the highest for one month since June, 2010 which at the time was the worst month in recent memory for Army suicides.
Robert Gates, no stranger to firing people in his tenure as secretary of defense, started his final news media briefing with a joke. "I'll begin this afternoon with a brief personnel announcement. We thought about the lectern, and I would announce that I was firing myself, but..." Laughter covered the rest of his remark.
It was obvious even before the start Thursday's briefing would be no normal news conference from Gates. His press people had told the reporters who cover the Pentagon this would be the last briefing.
Extra cameras were in place long before the scheduled 2pm start.
And even the regulars from the networks and the wire services went in an hour early to claim good seats– lest they lose out to some of the reporters who only show up for these briefings on rare occasions.
A potential hit list suggesting individuals in U.S. government, industry and the media was posted on jihadi web forums, according to an FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN.
The FBI document was dated June 8 and says "while the information posted was detailed, it appears aspirational in nature and it is unknown whether the threat will progress beyond discussion" on the Internet.
Ayman al-Zawahiri's coronation as the king of al Qaeda came with some anxiety over another major attack and a barrage of questions about the future of the terror network.
Since 1998, al-Zawahiri had been Osama bin Laden's personal physician and closest confidant, a steadfast deputy who eulogized his boss after his death last month in Pakistan. But it took this many weeks for an al Qaeda announcement on its new leader, and that suggested to some analysts that there had been head-bashing over who should take the helm.
"It doesn't suggest a vast reservoir of accumulated goodwill for him," said Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst.
When the founder and leader of any organization dies, it's a challenge to thrive. In al Qaeda's case, the road ahead is lined with major bumps, especially for its newly anointed leader. FULL POST
The State Department’s new spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, lashed out at Syrian president Bashar al-Assad Thursday, calling the Syrian government’s repression of its citizens “revolting” and charging that Assad’s “repression has only served to pour gasoline on the fire for change.”
Nuland, however, stopped short of calling on Assad to leave office. “Several weeks ago President Obama, echoed repeatedly by the Secretary, gave Assad a choice: reform or get out of the way…it increasingly looks like he has made his choice and he has made his choice is in the negative and that’s very distressing.”
The Obama administration is under increasing pressure from critics who say it is pulling its punches on Syria and Assad, failing to rally the international community to take action as it did with Libya and similar repression by Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi.
A U.S. counterterrorism official says the U.S. believes Ayman al-Zawahiri is now the leader of al Qaeda. “This is not at all surprising. He had been the number two. It was surprising it took a couple of days for al Qaeda to acknowledge bin Laden’s death and this long to say Zawahiri is the new leader,” the official said.
The official noted that al Qaeda members had pledged their loyalty to bin Laden and said the U.S. does not know if the same has been done to al-Zawahiri.
Asked if the U.S. is any closer to finding al-Zawahiri as a result of the information obtained at bin Laden’s compound or from leads resulting from the recent Zawahiri videotaped message about bin Laden’s death? The official would not comment except to say, “Obviously he has been and will continue to be of high interest.”
Asked now that al-Zawahiri is in charge will there be changes in the U.S. counterterrorism strategy, the official said probably not. He’s someone they know a lot about and have been pursuing for a long time.
As the United States devotes more attention to the threat posed by the burgeoning al Qaeda group in Yemen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added another name to the list of "designated" terrorists. He is Othman al-Ghamdi, a Saudi national who is one of the leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – and a former detainee at the US base at Guantanamo Bay.
The designation, published Thursday, says al-Ghamdi "has been involved in raising funds for the organization’s operations and activities in Yemen. He has also worked with other AQAP members to plan and stockpile weapons for future attacks." FULL POST
It's no surprise jihadist websites announced Ayman al-Zawahiri will take over leadership of al Qaeda, says CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. Al-Zawahiri has been a deputy of Osama bin Laden since al Qaeda was formed and it's a natural step for him.
What is slightly surprising is that it's taken so long to make the announcement. That may indicate divisions or dissent within al Qaeda.
What's next from al Qaeda? "We can expect a similar agenda from al Qaeda in the future but we can also expect al-Zawahiri to push to take advantage of the unrest in the Middle East that seeks to do what he's always wanted to do, which is, as he says, overthrow the dictators in the Middle East," Robertson says. "The move for democracy in the Middle East potentially undermines al Qaeda so he will want to claim some of that ground back."
Watch the full report from CNN's Nic Robertson above.
Compiled by Tim Lister
Zawahiri confirmed as new al Qaeda leader – what will change?
Pakistani army chief under pressure, as ties with US crumble
Libya: is the US at war? Or just helping?
Libya: Russian mediation ongoing; troop defections growing
Syria: military moves toward more towns in north and east
Yemen: divisions grow within opposition
Yemen: US drone ops may take months to ready
Al Qaeda in Sahara growing more active
Recent Cyber-attacks “sophisticated” – who are LulzSec? FULL POST