U.S. envoy: Jury still out on North Korea
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell
January 19th, 2012
08:56 PM ET

U.S. envoy: Jury still out on North Korea

By CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

The new regime in North Korea is not yet ready to come in from the cold, but the United States still stands ready to engage, a senior State Department official said Thursday.

"Right now we are in the closest possible consultation with South Korea, Japan and working with China to try and get a sense of what's taking place in terms of the succession," said Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

As to whether the United States has been able to glean any sense of policy priorities of the new leader, Kim Jong Un, Campbell said it was still too early to tell. "It is probably too early to make any clear determinations about the ultimate character of this new leadership inside North Korea," he said.

"I think we have made very clear (to North Korea) our preparation to have a different kind of relationship" if they are ready to take the necessary steps on nuclear nonproliferation and other issues required by the international community, Campbell said.


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Filed under: Asia • Kim Jong Il • North Korea • Six-Party Talks • South Korea
January 19th, 2012
08:03 PM ET

Drone kills Al Qaeda operative

By CNN Senior National Security Producer Pam Benson

A senior al Qaeda operations planner was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last week, according to a U.S. official.

Aslam Awan died January 10 when a CIA-operated missile slammed into a compound near the town of Miranshah in the province of North Waziristan.

The official described Awan as a key player with al Qaeda who was not known by the public but was being tracked by the intelligence community. The official said Awan was working on attacks against the West.

"His death reduces al Qaeda's thinning bench of another operative devoted to plotting the death of innocent civilians," said the American official.


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Filed under: Al Qaeda • drones • Pakistan
January 19th, 2012
07:53 PM ET

NATO troops killed in chopper crash

By the CNN Wire Staff

A helicopter from NATO's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan crashed late Thursday in the southern provice of Helmand, killing six members of the force, allied military spokesmen reported.

There was no enemy activity in the area when the helicopter went down in Helmand Province, said Col. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force. The crash happened around midnight Kabul time (2:30 p.m. ET), Kolb said.

The fatalities were reported in an ISAF statement, which noted that the cause of the crash was still under investigation. Another ISAF spokesman, Capt. Justin Brockhoff, said neither the number or nationalities of those on board had been confirmed.

-CNN's Barbara Starr, Mitra Mobasherat and Adam Levine contributed to this report.

Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF
Israel and U.S. keeping it casual
Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (left) shakes the hand of Israel's Chief of the General Staff Benny Gantz at a restaurant in Jaffa. Looking on are their wives, Deanie Dempsey and Revital Gantz
January 19th, 2012
03:35 PM ET

Israel and U.S. keeping it casual

By Adam Levine

A casually dressed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chats with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz after Dempsey's arrival in Israel for meetings today.

The photo, released by the Israeli military, could be an effort to show everything is just fine between the two militaries.

There has been speculation that Dempsey was carrying a message to Israel not to act rashly against Iran. Asked about that in a radio interview earlier this week, Israel's Defense Minister said the two countries are simpatico on the issue.

“The U.S. understands that we have to listen to what they say and I think they listen to us..” Barak said “I don’t think there is much difference in how we see things”

Dempsey recently told our Barbara Starr that the U.S. may very well not be told by Israel if they chose to strike at Iran's nuclear program. In this week's radio interview, Barak said any such decision to go after Iran's nuclear program is "very far off." FULL POST

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Filed under: Dempsey • Iran • Israel • Military
US back to two carriers near Iran
The USS Abraham Lincoln arrives for deployment in the Middle East
January 19th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

US back to two carriers near Iran

By Barbara Starr

The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived in the Arabian Sea on Thursday, Navy officials said, a likely prelude to testing Iran's recent warning against sending a U.S. carrier through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Lincoln joins the USS Carl Vinson, already in the region, returning the U.S. Navy its standard two-carrier presence there. The carrier USS John Stennis left in the past few days and is now traveling back through the western Pacific.

The Lincoln's arrival puts into place all the elements for a U.S. carrier to travel back into the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz for the first time since recent tensions with Iran escalated. FULL POST

January 19th, 2012
08:46 AM ET

Pakistan's "Memogate"

By CNN's Tim Lister

Pakistan once more finds itself enveloped in overlapping crises. Daggers are drawn between the civilian government and the military brass; the Supreme Court is reviving corruption allegations against President Asif Ali Zardari; the Taliban and other militant groups continue to carry out suicide bombings and assassinations at will; and the economy is in dire straits.

Added to which relations between Pakistan and its most important partner, the United States, are at their lowest ebb in years, according to long-time observers of the relationship. This week, Ambassador Marc Grossman, the State Department’s lead diplomat on Afghanistan and Pakistan, is visiting several countries in the region – but not Islamabad, at the Pakistanis’ request.

"His visit could fuel anti-American sentiments and create trouble for the government which is already surrounded by storms", a Pakistani official told CNN.

One of those storms is dubbed "memogate" and is being probed by a commission set up by the Supreme Court. At the center of the furor is Pakistani-American financier Mansoor Ijaz. He says that in the aftermath of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan last May, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, telephoned him with an urgent request. Haqqani asked him to contact the White House – to prevent a possible coup in Pakistan.

Ijaz says a memo "was crafted" and passed to the then Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, on May 10th. The intermediary was former U.S. National Security Adviser General James Jones. The memo was unsigned but Ijaz insisted it was authorized by "the highest authority" in Pakistan.

Its most explosive passage promised that "a new national security team will eliminate Section S of the ISI [military intelligence] charged with maintaining relations to the Taliban, Haqqani network etc. This will dramatically improve relations with Afghanistan." The United States has long contended that the ISI supports militant jihadist groups, but such a move would have been a direct challenge to the military’s authority.

General Jones acknowledges that he "felt obligated to forward" the memo as requested, but in an affidavit sent to the Supreme Court in Pakistan last month says: "I have no reason to believe that Ambassador Haqqani had any role in the creation of the memo, nor that he had any prior knowledge of the memo."

He adds: ‘My personal opinion was that the memo was not credible." FULL POST

Filed under: Diplomacy • Pakistan