September 13th, 2011
03:31 PM ET

Karzai on US presence in Afghanistan after 2014

Newsroom anchor Suzanne Malveaux, on assignment in Kabul, sat down with Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai.  The president spoke with Suzanne about his vision for US presence in Afghanistan after cessation of the combat mission in 2014.

Filed under: Security Brief
September 13th, 2011
02:24 PM ET

Officials: Too soon to disregard 9/11 threat

Top U.S. officials say they are not ready to put aside threat information received last week that al Qaeda terrorists wanted to attack New York or Washington around the time of the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"We consider it an ongoing threat," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee Tuesday. "And we continue to lean forward into confirming that threat."

Pentagon: Afghan insurgency 'less effective' this year
Afghanistan's security forces fire at the building where armed attackers exchanged fire with security forces in Kabul on September 13, 2011. Photo by MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
September 13th, 2011
02:18 PM ET

Pentagon: Afghan insurgency 'less effective' this year

By CNN's Larry Shaughnessy

Explosions and gunfire in the heart of Kabul got plenty of attention Tuesday as insurgents attacked the heart of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

But in spite of the drama, the Pentagon press secretary said the insurgency's performance is "less effective" this year.

A small group of Afghan insurgents fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. Embassy and the NATO headquarters in Kabul. Insurgent attacks were reported in other parts of the city as well.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF • Kabul • Military
New al Qaeda message reinforces focus on Arab Spring
September 13th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

New al Qaeda message reinforces focus on Arab Spring

By CNN's Tim Lister

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri returns to one of his favorite themes in the video released to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11: the Arab Spring. Even if the uprisings from Yemen to Tunisia were inspired by young pro-democracy protesters, al Qaeda clearly wants to co-opt them – and sees opportunities in the instability they have caused.

The video, running just over an hour, is optimistically titled “The Dawn of Imminent Victory” and was released Monday by al Qaeda’s media arm, as-Sahab. It includes the latest in a series of lengthy diatribes from Zawahiri (eight so far this year) on the rapidly changing situation in Arab states.

Zawahiri’s segment is audio-only, showing a still picture of the new al-Qaeda leader. He says that contrary to what is claimed by the western media, al-Qaeda supports the revolutions in the Arab world and hopes they will establish true Islam and government based on Shariah, or Islamic law. He also claims the revolutions are a form of defeat for the United States, just as the 9/11 attacks and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were also defeats, according to a translation of his remarks by the SITE Institute, which monitors jihadist forums.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian who tried to overthrow Presidents Sadat and Mubarak before leaving the country in the 1980s, also returns to comments he made in his seven episodes of “A Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt.”

He argues that the Egyptian military council that has replaced Mubarak cannot be trusted. In other statements recently, he has said Egypt’s new rulers are slaves to the United States and will abide by Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. It’s a consistent theme in his messages – that Washington is trying to replace one with dictator with another. FULL POST

Filed under: Arab Spring • Clapper • Osama bin Laden • Petraeus
Richardson to leave Cuba without seeing jailed American
September 13th, 2011
01:19 PM ET

Richardson to leave Cuba without seeing jailed American

By Sr. State Dept. Producer Elise Labott

Saying he is "disappointed and perplexed," former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday he is leaving Cuba without any progress in seeking the release of jailed American Alan Gross.

Richardson, speaking to media in Havana, said he would be leaving Cuba Wednesday morning.

"I have exhausted all possibilities after one week to visit Alan Gross," Richardson said. "I tried all channels."

Richardson, who arrived in Havana September 7, was given the cold shoulder by the Cuban government. He was not able to see Gross, nor did he meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro. "My conclusions are that it is possible the Cuban government has made a decision not to improve relations with the United States," he said Tuesday.


September 13th, 2011
11:13 AM ET

Intel chiefs: Al Qaeda weaker but still a threat

Al Qaeda is weakened and might be spreading out further, but remains a significant threat to the United States, the nation's top intelligence officials told a congressional committee Tuesday.

CIA Director David Petraeus, the former military commander in Afghanistan who made his first congressional appearance as a civilian at the rare joint hearing by the intelligence committees of the House and Senate, said al Qaeda was far weaker today than it was 10 years ago at the time of the 9/11 attacks due to the killing of Osama bin Laden and other successful attacks on leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to Petraeus, the "heavy losses to al Qaeda senior leadership appear to have created an important window of vulnerability for the core al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan," and the United States will need a "sustained focused effort" to exploit the opportunity.

"Some mid-level leaders and rank-and-file al Qaeda members may increasingly seek safe haven across the border in Afghanistan or decide to leave South Asia," Petraeus said, adding that "even in decline with its core leadership having sustained significant losses, al Qaeda and its affiliates still pose a very real threat that will require" continued U.S. focus and dedication "for quite a while."

He called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate, the most dangerous of the group's various "nodes."\

At the hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said that despite U.S. successes against al Qaeda, the group remains a threat.

Filed under: 9/11 • Al Qaeda • CIA • Clapper • Living With Terror • ODNI • Petraeus • Terrorism • Yemen
September 13th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

US rushes envoys back to Middle East

By Elise Labott at the State Department and Kevin Flower in Jerusalem

The top two U.S. officials dealing with Middle East peace talks, the special envoy for Middle East peace David Hale and National Security Council’s Dennis Ross, are headed back to the region, US officials tell CNN.

The American move comes the same day a senior Palestinian official said the Palestinian Authority will seek international recognition for statehood in the United Nation’s Security Council.

“We are going to the UN and to the Security Council and we will ask for full membership for a Palestinian state in the borders of 1967," said Palestine Liberation Organization official Mohammed Shtayyeh in a briefing Tuesday with reporters.

The declarative statement from Shtayyeh comes amidst various reports that the Palestinian Authority would limit its quest for international recognition to the United Nations General Assembly where the Palestinian bid is expected to win a commanding majority of votes.

Taking the issue of UN membership to the Security Council would put the Palestinian Authority on a collision course with the Obama administration which has pledged to veto the move and warned Palestinian officials that it could lead to a reduction in American aid.

Shtayyeh said that recent discussions with the European Union and Quartet of Middle East peace makers (the UN, EU, Russia, and the United States) had yielded no serious proposal for the resumptions of talks with Israel.

Filed under: Diplomacy • Israel • Middle East • Palestine
September 13th, 2011
07:32 AM ET

Taliban launch coordinated attack in Kabul

Latest CNN reporting here

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton on the attack:

"It appears that a number of Afghan civilians have been hurt and we, of course, will do all we can to assist them.  There are no reports of casualties among embassy personnel at this time.  We are following this very closely, also the unfolding situation in the area including at NATO headquarters which, for those of you who have been in Kabul, you know is across the street from our embassy compound."

CIA Director David Petraeus just told a Congressional committee that Afghan forces are clearing the building from where the attack was launched in Kabul.  The attack appeared to involve a “handful” of individuals wearing suicide vests that moved into a building under construction near the embassy and opened fire into the area of the embassy, Petraeus said. He described the attack as involving small arms including rocket-propelled grenades.


ISAF puts out a statement:

"A small group of insurgents attacked the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy and International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan headquarters today, firing from outside the compound using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. The attack started around 1:30 p.m. (local).  Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces immediately responded to the attack, and are still on the
scene. Coalition forces are providing air support. 
There are no reports of ISAF casualties at this time.

From Barbara Starr at the Pentagon:

A senior ISAF official said militants have opened fire on the ISAF compound and the nearby US embassy using small arms and rocket propelled grenades. Its believed there are less than 10 insurgents involved in the attack which is being launched from an area outside the secure zone surrounding both areas.

ISAF personnel currently are being told to stay indoors and take cover but there are no casualties the official said. General John Allen, ISAF commander remains on the compound. Air support is being provided overhead by armed coalition helicopters.

The senior official, along with another coalition officer, both confirmed to CNN that there had been intelligence in recent days that insurgents would try to stage a high profile attack in the capital around the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Both officials pointed out that while this attack is considered to be high profile because of the US embassy and ISAF targets, it so far is not considered a ‘spectacular” attack because of the small number of gunmen and limited weapons involved.

The US embassy just posted a security message warning Americans in Kabul about the attack.


Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF