By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
The Taliban is weakened but the ability of insurgents to hide across the border in Pakistan is the greatest threat to success in Afghanistan, according to the latest Pentagon evaluation of the war, released this week.
"The insurgency's safe havens in Pakistan, as well as the limited capacity of the Afghan government, remain the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable, stable Afghanistan," according to the "Report on Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan," a congressionally mandated evaluation of the war's progress that is provided twice a year.
By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy
South Korea's defense minister said Friday he expects more provocations from North Korea in 2012, during a session with his American counterpart.
"Next year, I believe that the possibility of North Korea conducting additional provocations is ... very high," Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told reporters at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
The regime is planning a nationwide, year-long celebration in 2012 to show North Korea is "strong and prosperous" and also to honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Song, the founder of the communist nation. The current regime is run by his son Kim Jong Il.
That event, along with the ongoing transition from Kim Jong Il to his son Kim Jong Un, is why the South Korean defense minister is worried about more problems from the North in the new year.
By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
With 192 Twitter feeds, and 288 Facebook accounts, Clinton and the State Department are trying to use technology to change the way America speaks to the world, and help activists keep a step ahead of dictators and despots Time Magazine reports.
Gone are the days where statecraft was conducted primarily between diplomats in world capitals, and large summit meetings between world leaders with grand signing statements. Clinton is harnessing the use of so-called "smart power" which uses public diplomacy, development aid, public-private partnerships, and most visibly – social media, as a means to advance U.S. interests in an era of increasing austerity and tighter defense budgets.
One such initiative involves a $30 million increase in the State Department's budget to pay for computer training and surveillance-evading software for dissidents operating in authoritarian countries with tight controls over the internet. The effort seeks to stay ahead of the technological curve to help those on the ground in repressive environments be as free in their expression as possible.
By CNN's Adam Levine
The U.S. Congress appropriated $54.6 billion for intelligence programs in the 2011 fiscal year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed Friday. The amount, which does not include what was spent on military intelligence, is a slight increase from the year before but could be the could be the end of the upward trend.
The Department of Defense requested $24 billion for military intelligence programs, the Pentagon announced. Altogether, the U.S. spy agencies and military requested nearly $80 billion for intelligence programs in 2011, according to the government.
No further details are given about the budget.
By law, the director of national intelligence must disclose the top-line budget figure within 30 days of the end of the fiscal year, which is September 30.
Last year was the first time it had been officially disclosed.
The intelligence community has seen a sharp rise in its budget in the 10 years since the September 11 attacks, more than doubling in that time, but that dramatic increase will be coming to a screeching halt with billions of dollars in cuts expected over the next decade, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a conference in San Antonio this month.
Clapper said the cuts will be double-digit billions over the next 10 years for the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the other groups in the 16-member intelligence community.
By CNN Political Unit
As the war in Afghanistan passes the ten-year mark, a new national survey indicates that support for the conflict has dropped to an all time low as a growing number of Americans express concern that the situation in the central Asian country has turned into another Vietnam.
According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Friday, only 34% of the public says they support the war in Afghanistan, one point less than the previous low of 35%, with 63% opposed to the conflict.
"But that opposition is not a reflection of the original decision to get involved in Afghanistan a decade ago," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "It's what Afghanistan has turned into in the subsequent decade that has soured Americans on the war effort there."
By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
The Obama administration may transfer combat helicopters from existing Marine inventory to Turkey the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Friday.
The DSCA has formally notified Congress of a possible sale of AH-1W Super Cobra Attack helicopters to Turkey. The notification was required under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.
By Barbara Starr
The bulk of American troops and military equipment will be out of Iraq by mid-December effectively ending the nine-year battle, according to a US military official familiar with the drawdown plan. The official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The U.S. has until the end of the year to withdraw its troops under the Status of Forces Agreement signed between the two countries in 2008. The U.S. had been in discussions to maintain several thousand trainers and advisors in Iraq but the two countries were not able to overcome an impasse about granting American troops immunity and last week President Barack Obama announced that no troops would be staying after 2011.
“They will be gone by the middle of December,” the official said. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to visit Iraq one more time before the US military effort concludes at the end of the year, although no date for the trip has been announced.
There are currently just under 39,000 troops still in Iraq. Most of them and billions of dollars in military equipment, will leaving by air transport, although some are expected to travel overland to Kuwait. The official emphasized not all those troops may be home in time for Christmas.
The official said a very ‘small number’ of troops will remain attached to the embassy in a security role but in the new year the thousands of contractors and diplomats who remain in Iraq will depend on 5000 private contractors for security.
By Barbara Starr
Pakistani security forces and insurgents appear to be collaborating in some cross-border attacks, the deputy U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told Pentagon reporters that in southern Afghanistan's Paktika province, "We have seen indications where fires have originated from positions that were in close proximity to some Pakistan outposts, which - as you might imagine - give us great concern. And we immediately get in contact with our Pakistan counterparts in that case. I think the collaboration is at least in some cases local collaborations with the insurgents, and we talk very bluntly with our Pakistan counterparts about this."
Scaparrotti said those blunt discussions have helped in recent weeks.
By CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the United States would be willing to negotiate with the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban if he met conditions that have been laid out.
Testifying at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton did not dismiss the prospect when asked by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, whether reconciliation talks with the Taliban and other insurgents would include talking with Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
"You don't make peace with your friends," she said, speaking just days after concluding a weeklong trip that included stops in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There first would have to be a demonstrated willingness on the Taliban's part to negotiate and to meet the conditions already laid out for joining negotiations, she said.