August 1st, 2011
06:51 PM ET

US warns Libyan rebels to get their act together

Even as it prepares to hand over the Libyan embassy to the rebel government, the State Department is warning the Transitional National Council to get its act together.

An administration official tells CNN the US has warned the TNC that this is a “do or die moment” for the organization to carry out a credible and thorough investigation of the killing of its military commander, Abdel Fatah Younis. Last week’s mysterious assassination has raised concerns that it might have been carried out by feuding groups within the rebels themselves.


August 1st, 2011
06:47 PM ET

Pakistan imposes travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats

Pakistan has restricted travel for U.S. diplomats in the country, the State Department said Monday, and the U.S. ambassador, Cameron Munter, was temporarily detained at the Islamabad airport last week as he tried to fly from Islamabad to Karachi.

State Department Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Munter was not carrying a certificate that Pakistani authorities now are requiring for American diplomats to travel within Pakistan. Ambassador Munter “returned to Islamabad without incident,” Toner said.

Toner said the Pakistani government informed the U.S. of the restrictions last week. Asked why the restrictions were put in place he said “You'll have to ask the government of Pakistan.”


August 1st, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Islamic militants launch Ramadan offensive in famine-stricken Somalia

The Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab launched a Ramadan offensive Monday amid spreading famine in Somalia, the African Union said.

Heavy fighting was reported in the Wardhiigley district in northeast Mogadishu, according to African Union officials. Mortars and gunfire could be heard near the African Union base on Monday.

Troops killed two apparent suicide bombers dressed in Somali uniforms before they were able to detonate bombs strapped to their bodies, African Union officials said. During a gunfight, two African Union soldiers were killed. FULL POST

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Filed under: African Union • Al-Shabaab • Ramadan • Somalia
Iraq again interested in buying F-16s
File photo of an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet. Iraq is sending a delegation to the US this month to negotiate buying 18 of the jets. (Air Force Photo)
August 1st, 2011
01:48 PM ET

Iraq again interested in buying F-16s

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Iraq has once again requested to buy F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the US after backing off from a similar proposal months ago.

Defense Department Spokesman Col. David Lapan confirmed Monday that Iraq has requested a total of 36 F-16s. An Iraqi delegation is expected in Washington this month to discuss moving forward on the first 18 of the jets.

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Filed under: Iraq
Working through Hellfire
August 1st, 2011
01:26 PM ET

Working through Hellfire

By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson

When a relationship is strained, often the only way to fix it, is to talk it through. That can be a little more complicated when Hellfire missiles are involved. Pakistan is hamstrung between growing political pressure at home and the increased intensity and determination of an international partner with a completely different set of priorities. There is no question that the relationship between the two allies has been deteriorating significantly since the covert action last May that killed the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. The trust had been shattered, but the truth is that the two countries still sorely need each other.

So step one is sorting the rhetoric from fact. Not so easy to do.

Case in point: A blog posting over the weekend on Pakistan’s leading newspaper quoted an anonymous diplomatic source as saying that Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. General Shuja Pasha had officially requested the U.S. halt the controversial drone raids in the country. A senior ISI official told CNN that this was a demand that he believed was conveyed during Pasha's recent visit with CIA Acting Director Michael Morell. A just as-anonymous U.S. official called the information completely false, adding that the request was never made and that it was likely the Pakistanis were posturing for an internal audience.

The U.S. source wouldn't speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the drone program, but that highlights the difficulty in getting to the bottom of the story. And it is a highly-sensitive program. Armed drones have been increasingly deployed for surveillance purposes since the late 1990's. The CIA, which does not confirm the program's existence (some officials just refer to the strikes as "unattributed explosions"), was reportedly reluctant to get involved with using the armed version that was being developed by the military. But the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed everything. Then-President George W. Bush gave the CIA the authority to do what was necessary to kill and capture al Qaeda terrorists. After Hellfire missiles were fired from drones at terrorist targets in Afghanistan in early 2002 during the joint CIA-military campaign there, the U.S. intelligence agency launched an attack on a vehicle in Yemen. The drone strike killed six suspected terrorists, including Qaed Salim Sinan al -Harithi, believed to be involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 which killed 17 American sailors. FULL POST

Filed under: Al Qaeda • Pakistan