February 7th, 2012
07:28 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: U.S. military beginning review of Syria options

By Barbara Starr

Although the U.S. focus remains on exerting diplomatic and economic pressure on Syria, the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command have begun a preliminary internal review of U.S. military capabilities, CNN has learned.

The options are being prepared in the event President Barack Obama were to call for them. Two senior administration officials who spoke about the review to CNN emphasized that U.S. policy for now remains the use of non-military options.

The focus on diplomatic options was underscored by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

"Before we start talking about military options, we very much want to ensure that we have exhausted all the political, economic and diplomatic means at our disposal," Ambassador Susan Rice said on CNN's “Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

The president has also said that the U.S. is working on non-military options first.

"I think it is very important for us to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention, and I think that's possible," Obama said in an interview with NBC News that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

But the military is beginning to look at what can be done.  One of the senior U.S. officials called the effort a “scoping exercise” to see what capabilities are available given other U.S. military commitments in the region. FULL POST

February 7th, 2012
05:39 PM ET

Exclusive: Army officer's critical Afghan war view

Speaking without the permission of the Army, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis delivers a candid and skeptical look at the progress of the war in Afghanistan, and a sobering assessment of what he sees as the current state of affairs.  CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

February 7th, 2012
04:36 PM ET

Meet the mule-bot

By Jennifer Rizzo

The military's tech incubator has revealed its latest effort to perfect a robotic beast of burden.

The LS3, which has been in development since 2010, is being built to carry heavy loads for troops in the field, and the Defense Department's research and development arm has for the first time released footage of the new mule-like robot in action.

Designed to carry 400 pounds of equipment, travel up to 20 miles at a time, and move at speeds as fast as 10 mph, the LS3 is meant to fit into a Marine or Army unit in a "natural way," the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release.

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Filed under: DARPA • Defense Spending • Military • Technology
February 7th, 2012
04:32 PM ET

Elite troops' commander told: 'Get the hell out of the media!'

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

There's a saying that old soldiers just "fade away," but retired Army Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who is known for being unconventional, sure isn't fading away.

Vaught on Tuesday scolded Adm. William McRaven - head of Special Operations Command and the officer who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - for all the attention his elite troops have been getting lately.

"One of these days if you keep publishing how you do this, the other guy's gonna be there waiting for you and you're gonna fly in and he's gonna shoot down every darn helicopter," Vaught said with passion and even a bit of shouting. "Get the hell out of the media!"

Filed under: Navy SEALs • Special Operations Forces • USSOCOM
February 7th, 2012
03:49 PM ET

Threat of proxy war times two in Syria

By Ivan Watson reporting from Istanbul, Turkey

The bloody internal struggle over the future of Syria is increasingly taking on a wider, regional dimension that could be seen as a proxy war times two.

At one level, it is a showdown of the old Cold War dimension, pitting the United States and other Western countries against Russia and China. But there is a second proxy battle going on, as throughout the Middle East battle-lines are being drawn between governments that support and those that oppose the al-Assad, regime based mostly on allegiance to Shiite and Sunni heritage.

Turkey - Syria's most powerful neighbor - accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of massacring his own citizens. The Turkish prime minister threatened new pressure tactics in an address to Parliament.

"We will start a new initiative at this point with those countries that will be on the side of the Syrian people, and not with the Syrian regime," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Parliament. FULL POST

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Filed under: Arab League • Hezbollah • Iran • Iraq • Lebanon • Libya • Middle East • Saudi Arabia • Syria • Turkey
Elite troops' Afghan role to increase but numbers may not, commander says
Adm. William McRaven speaks Tuesday at a Special Operations symposium in Washington DC. He said Afghanistan will soon become a more special operations forces focused war. Photo by Larry Shaughnessy/CNN
February 7th, 2012
01:54 PM ET

Elite troops' Afghan role to increase but numbers may not, commander says

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

America's elite Special Operation Forces will take a greater role in the fight in Afghanistan but their total numbers will not increase significantly from the current level, the head of Special Operations Command said Tuesday.

As the United States and its allies continue to draw down troops in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is considering escalating the role of Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan between now and 2014, CNN reported Monday. The plan, still in the "idea stage," would be to have those forces increase their combat role in hunting key terrorists as conventional forces wind down combat and focus more on training Afghans.

February 7th, 2012
09:48 AM ET

Egyptians cancel U.S. meetings

By the CNN Wire Staff

An Egyptian military delegation visiting Washington abruptly canceled meetings with senior American lawmakers and returned to Egypt, Sen. John McCain told CNN Tuesday.

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, did not give a reason why the Egyptians backed out.

U.S. aid to Egypt hangs in the balance amid Egypt's decision to prosecute 43 people, including 19 Americans, in a crackdown on civil society organizations.

"We have underscored how serious a problem these actions are. We have said clearly that these actions could have consequences for our relationship, including regarding our assistance programs," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated the message moments later in a separate briefing. She declined to speculate about possible consequences but said the dispute "is a very, very difficult situation in terms of the support we want to provide Egypt." FULL POST

Filed under: Diplomacy • Egypt • Foreign Policy • NGO