US close to adding Haqqani network to terror list
US officials said Haqqani insurgents were linked to the recent attack on the US embassy and other sites. The insurgents launched the attack from this construction site.
September 27th, 2011
09:02 PM ET

US close to adding Haqqani network to terror list

By Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott

The United States will soon designate the Haqqani network, the al Qaeda-linked group considered to be a major threat against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials tell CNN.

The anticipated move by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which would freeze assets, comes after several high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops, as well as Afghan government and civilian targets, and public warnings from U.S. military officials that the Pakistan government refuses to stop the group from operating.

One official said action will be taken "fairly soon."

Under an executive order the State Department targeted what it calls the "kingpins" of the Haqqani network, including financiers, leadership and some of its most dangerous operatives. In 2008 it targeted Siraj Haqqani, in 2011 Badruddin Haqqani and Sangeen Zadran. The Treasury Department designated Nasiruddin Haqqani in 2010, and Khalil Haqqani, Ahmed Jan Zadran and Fazl Rabi in 2011.

Members of Congress, however, have been pressing for the entire organization to be named. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he'd asked for the designation.

Senator calls for airline protection from shoulder-fired missiles
This empty shipping case found in a Libya weapons warehouse once held a Russian surface-to-air missile
September 27th, 2011
05:28 PM ET

Senator calls for airline protection from shoulder-fired missiles

Fresh concerns that thousands of highly portable anti-aircraft missiles may be missing in Libya are prompting a new call to protect American jetliners from attack.

The fears that terrorists may have access to the Libyan missiles are revving up a decades-long debate over the vulnerability of American jetliners.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, wants to outfit hundreds of wide-body airliners with technology to protect the planes from terrorist attack.  On Tuesday, she sent a letter asking the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to establish a joint program to evaluate anti-missile devices and work toward their deployment.

"The risk to commercial aircraft posed by shoulder-fired missiles has long been acknowledged by the national security community," Boxer said in her letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "Recent reporting of unaccounted for missiles in Libya is yet another reminder of this threat."  FULL POST

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Filed under: Boxer • Congress • Homeland Security • Living With Terror • Napolitano
U.S. military not ready for women in combat
September 27th, 2011
04:48 PM ET

U.S. military not ready for women in combat

By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

Pentagon officials woke up Tuesday morning to the news Australia has now decided its military women can work in any combat job, including commando units, in the Australian armed forces.

It's news that puts another ally at odds with U.S. policies, and could result in American male troops and Australian female troops fighting together in Afghanistan.

"Now all of the roles on the front line will be determined on the basis of merit, not on the basis of sex, so a very significant reform announced by the government today," Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said. The change will be fully phased in over the next five years.

At the Pentagon officials had no official reaction to the Australian decision. The U.S. military is grappling with what it considers the massive social change implemented earlier this month when gay men and lesbians were allowed to openly serve after the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

On September 20, when the repeal was legally lifted, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seemed to make a promise that more change could be coming, saying, "I am committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent Americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant. These are men and women who put their lives on the line in the defense of this country, and that's what should matter the most." FULL POST

Syrian poll finds optimism for future, but little support for Assad
Protest in Baniyas, Syria (April 2011)
September 27th, 2011
01:02 PM ET

Syrian poll finds optimism for future, but little support for Assad

By CNN Sr. State Department Producer Elise Labott

Syrians have little confidence that President Bashar al-Assad's regime can solve the country's current problems, although they are optimistic about the future, a poll conducted by Pepperdine University shows.

The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the Democracy Council of California, also found that eight out of 10 Syrians questioned want al-Assad's regime to leave power and more than seven out of 10 are more hopeful that reforms will come, in light of the uprisings in other Middle Eastern and North African countries now known as the Arab Spring.

The Democracy Council is a nonpartisan, non-profit group that promotes democracy in emerging countries. The group receives funding from the U.S. government agency USAID, although the Syria poll was not commissioned by the government. CNN obtained a copy of the survey, which will be released Wednesday.

The poll was conducted in secret due to a Syrian government ban on opinion-gathering, officials from both organizations told CNN.


Filed under: Arab Spring • Assad • Syria
September 27th, 2011
08:54 AM ET

America's Al Qaeda Obsession

By CNN's Tim Lister

Paul Pillar knows about the business of counter-terrorism. He was a deputy chief of the Counter-terrorist Center at the CIA and is now a Visiting Professor with the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.

And he believes that over the last decade we have become obsessed with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda – and failed to develop a more realistic and balanced sense of terrorist threats.

In the current edition of the CTC Sentinel, published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Pillar argues that a “highly disproportionate share of U.S. resources expended in the name of counter-terrorism have been expended against” al Qaeda. He says that the most recent “National Strategy for Counter-terrorism” published in June might better have been titled the “National Strategy for the War on al Qaeda.”

“All other terrorist acts or threats of terrorism in the world are noted and set aside in a few paragraphs,” he adds. FULL POST