August 19th, 2011
07:36 PM ET

Minnesota Somalis help feed famine victims

From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

It's a Monday evening in Minneapolis, and 162 volunteers are taking their seats in the hall at the office of the Christian charity Feed My Starving Children. Minnesotans in jeans and T-shirts. Somali-Americans, the women dressed in traditional brightly colored robes and head coverings.

All of them have seen the pictures on TV: emaciated refugees streaming out of the famine zone that has laid waste to much of the Horn of Africa. But for the Somalis in this hall, it's personal; most of them still have family back in Somalia. FULL POST

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Filed under: Al-Shabaab • Somalia
August 19th, 2011
05:39 PM ET

Fighter jets in Pentagon budget cut crosshairs

From Barbara Starr, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s top priority right now is to cut Pentagon spending. So more than a third of a trillion dollars in new fighter jets could be first on the list.

The $384 billion earmarked for some 3,000 F-35 stealth fighter jets is the most expensive weapons program ever, the Pentagon says. The plane is not yet in development. Testing is to resume after electrical problems forced it to be grounded recently.

Problems with its predecessor are making critics look harder at the F-35 – the fleet of nearly 200 F-22 fighters that cost $140 million each has been grounded since after oxygen to the pilot kept cutting off, killing one pilot. FULL POST

Filed under: J-20 • Military
U.S. officials: Gadhafi could be planning a 'last stand'
Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi Photo by: Getty Images
August 19th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

U.S. officials: Gadhafi could be planning a 'last stand'

By CNN Wire Staff, and CNN's Barbara Starr and Matthew Chance

Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be making preparations for what is described as a "last stand" in Tripoli as a months-long NATO air campaign continues amid reports of rebel advances, according to two U.S. officials.

"We believe he could be planning for a last stand," one U.S. official said.

A second U.S. official confirmed a similar concern and said the Gadhafi plan could involve a final military offensive against civilians, launched from his last major strongholds around the Libyan capital.

The officials, who have knowledge of the situation on the ground, did not want to be named because of the sensitive intelligence matters.


Drone collision in Afghanistan sparks debate on U.S. availability
US Army Shadow UAV at Mosul Airbase Iraq Photo by: Ralph Greenaway/AKE
August 19th, 2011
10:31 AM ET

Drone collision in Afghanistan sparks debate on U.S. availability

By CNN Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

A collision between a drone and a cargo plane in Afghanistan this week echoed all the way to Washington, revving up a debate on when the unmanned vehicles will soar over American skies.

The 450-pound remotely-piloted drone–the RQ-7 known as the Shadow– hit a C130 on Monday, destroying the drone, damaging the big jet and forcing an emergency landing.

The accident gave proponents of unmanned air systems a chance to trumpet how successful they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have more than 1.3-million flying hours on unmanned aircraft systems without something like this happening," said Tim Owings of the Army's Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

And he calls the collision, "a very, very rare event."


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Filed under: Afghanistan • drones • Homeland Security • Military
August 19th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Face-to-face with IED, and its makers

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reporter Jason Carroll recently traveled to Afghanistan as part of his ongoing American Morning  series "A Soldier's Story" which has followed the journey of a soldier from before boot camp to his current time in Afghanistan.

By CNN's Jason Carroll in Zabul, Afghanistan

Just before leaving on a mission to a remote village in southern Afghanistan I casually asked one of the soldiers what he was expecting. He laughed and said, "I expect to get blown up..."

Roadside bombs, known as IEDs, improvised explosive devices, are a persistent problem for many soldiers, especially those who patrol certain remote areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

I discovered that finding the bombs and the people who plant them is a combination of training, hard work…and a bit of luck.

I was with the 36th Engineer Brigade. The unit is comprised of combat engineers, which are soldiers who are tasked with finding roadside bombs, working closely with dedicated members of the Afghan security forces.

They headed out on a mission from Forward Operating Base Lagman in Zabul to set up a checkpoint along Highway One, the main highway that circles the country. It is a vital transportation route, which insurgents frequently take advantage of.

It didn't take long for them to spot a suspicious vehicle carrying five men.   The men told the soldiers they were farmers and builders – but they all tested positive for military grade explosives.  One man was found with two million Pakistani rupees (about 23,000 U.S. dollars). Two others were found with questionable passports. In short, their stories seem questionable to the soldiers. FULL POST

Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
Foreign policy of GOP candidates begins to take shape
GOP candidates took part in a debate sponsored by CNN in June. Photo: David S. Holloway/CNN
August 19th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Foreign policy of GOP candidates begins to take shape

By CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

With a sluggish economy and high unemployment showing little sign of relenting anytime soon, foreign policy has understandably maintained a lower profile than its domestic counterpart as the GOP candidates for president barnstorm and debate.

So, we wondered, where exactly do the candidates stand on issues that lie beyond the water's edge? The answer is not so clear at this point.

"Trying to draw definitive conclusions on the basis of what relatively little commentary by the candidates leads you to some perilous waters," said James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations.

While it may be too early to discern each candidate's vision for America's role in the world, two distinct camps are emerging among the candidates on the most pressing foreign policy issue: the war in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Foreign Policy • Libya