December 5th, 2011
07:03 PM ET

Exotic Myanmar

By Foreign Affairs Reporter Jill Dougherty

Myanmar. Burma. No matter what you call it (the United States and some other countries still refer to it as Burma), it’s one of the most exotic places I have ever traveled to.

Technologically in the dark ages–no credit cards, everything in cash, international cell phones like Blackberries don’t work, even the airport in the new capital has no lights for night landings–it once was the jewel of Asia.  On our barefoot visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon I was stunned by its blinding beauty.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip was built on a slender reed of hope that the Myanmar president and some other members of the government really do want to open up, reform the political system, end the ethnic conflicts that have scarred this country for too long.

We moved from the bizarre new capital, Nay Pyi Daw, with its massive government complexes (shades of Pyonyang, North Korea) to the home of Nobel Peace Prize-winner and democracy icon Aun San Suu Kyi in Yangon.  Slender, almost delicate, she nevertheless exudes a deep inner force. Suu Kyi believes the president is sincere about reform.

With Suu Kyi’s blessing Clinton made this trip.  Shaded from the blazing sun they embrace.  My camera captures the moment.  Is it an historic beginning?  Or a hope that that will soon be swallowed by new repression?

U.S. vacating air base in Pakistan after troop deaths
US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter
December 5th, 2011
06:04 PM ET

U.S. vacating air base in Pakistan after troop deaths

By CNN's Tom Watkins

The United States is vacating an air base in Pakistan at Islamabad's request following a NATO attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told Pakistan's Waqt TV on Monday that the United States is leaving Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan Province southwest of Quetta. U.S. drones have taken off from the base and refueled there for operations against Islamic militants, according to sources familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan.

The order to clear out of the base comes in the aftermath of a November 26 incident in which a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani troops.

According to two U.S. officials familiar with an initial assessment of the incident, U.S. commandos were working alongside Afghan troops when they came under fire. The troops did not tell Pakistani authorities about the mission ahead of time because they had thought it would take place entirely within Afghanistan, the officials said.

U.S. and Pakistani officials said Friday there were conversations between the sides before the strike, but they differed on the content of those conversations. A Pakistani military spokesman said the attack hit the wrong target.


Filed under: CIA • drones • Intelligence • Pakistan • Terrorism
Taliban could return, Karzai warns Bonn conference
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2d row L), Afghan President Hamid Karzai (1st row L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2dR) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon (R) listen to a speech during the Afghanistan Conference
December 5th, 2011
05:46 PM ET

Taliban could return, Karzai warns Bonn conference

By CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott

The Taliban could make a comeback and take over Afghanistan again, the country's President Hamid Karzai warned Monday at an international conference on Afghanistan's future.

"If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001," Karzai said.

There has been progress in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in the wake of the hijacked plane attacks on the United States, he said.

But, he warned, "Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant Afghanistan is far from being achieved."

Karzai chaired the meeting in Bonn, Germany, aimed at discussing the state of affairs in Afghanistan and pushing for international contributions and support.


Pop Security: 'Covert Affairs' shows human side of CIA
December 5th, 2011
10:08 AM ET

Pop Security: 'Covert Affairs' shows human side of CIA

Editor's note: This story is part of a new Security Clearance blog series called "Pop Security" which looks at how national security is addressed in popular culture

by Henry Hanks

When Matt Corman and Chris Ord first came up with the idea for "Covert Affairs" – USA's hit series, finishing out its second season on Tuesday night – they didn't see it as your typical action adventure spy show.

"Our first way into this was looking at the CIA as a workplace," said Corman, who noted that Washington, D.C. as a setting for a series intrigued them. "Langley is enormous – anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 people go there to a job, the same way they go to an office park. We were interested in the confluence of a job as a spy, and the life of a spy."

The series focuses on Annie Walker, a new recruit to the CIA, who struggles to balance a personal life in between missions at home and around the world. A constant source of advice for her is Auggie Anderson, a tech operative, who was stricken blind while serving in Iraq.

"Yes, [CIA officers] do an extraordinary job and they have a different job from what most people do, but at the end of the day, they’re people and want the same things other people want. I don’t think we’ve seen that in the classic spy genre," said Ord.
Of course, creating a series that tried to adhere to the reality of the CIA wasn't easy.

"It took some digging but we found a way to get into Langley and get a tour and really see it for ourselves," said Ord. "That original research trip was huge for us creatively in terms of writing the pilot and really established a great relationship with the agency."

As Corman pointed out, "So many of the little nuggets and details of the show came from real life, like the fact that there’s a Starbucks at the CIA." FULL POST