By Barbara Starr
As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel prepares to fly to Brussels on Monday for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, the question of how many U.S. troops might remain in Afghanistan after 2014 is still unanswered.
But indications are emerging that it may be a relatively small number of troops that stay behind.
Several military and Pentagon officials tell CNN that a central option now being considered calls for a total NATO force of between 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with 3,000 to 4,000 coming from NATO countries, and the United States making up the balance.
While the final numbers could change, one senior Defense Department official said it's not likely to change by much. If fewer than 8,000 were to stay, relatively few would be able to engage in actual missions.
Four years after a brutal battle in Afghanistan in which he was "outnumbered, outgunned, and taking casualties," former U.S. Army Captain William Swenson will become the sixth living recipient of the Medal of Honor at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the White House.
Swenson, who retired from the Army in 2011, is being awarded the medal for his actions in the 2009 Battle of Ganjgal Valley in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of five Americans. Swenson is credited with risking his life to recover the bodies of his fellow soldiers.
The road to this honor has not been easy for Swenson, whose nomination was "lost" for a time, prompting questions from lawmakers and an eventual internal Pentagon investigation.FULL STORY
Updated 8:45 a.m. ET, 10/11/2013
By Elise Labott
Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday for talks with President Hamid Karzai.
The United States hopes to make progress on a long-stalled security deal with Afghanistan that would leave some U.S. forces in the country beyond NATO's scheduled departure at the end of 2014.
U.S. officials say they hope to conclude a deal on the Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA, in the "coming weeks" and before Karzai meets with a council of tribal elders next month.
Without a deal, the United States would keep no military forces in Afghanistan once the combat mission ends.
By Jamie Crawford
Did the United States intelligence community dismiss a warning of an al Qaeda plot to hijack a commercial airliner a year before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?
That's the assertion made by Judicial Watch, a conservative, nonpartisan government watchdog group, based on a document it obtained from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) through the Freedom of Information Act and distributed to media.
In the Intelligence Information Report dated September 27, 2001, the DIA says al Qaeda planned to hijack a plane leaving Frankfurt International Airport sometime between March and August 2000. Advanced warning of that plot "was disregarded because nobody believed that (Osama) bin Laden or the Taliban could carry out such an operation," the report said.
The plot was eventually delayed after one of the participants withdrew from the plot.
By Jamie Crawford
The top U.S. commanders of a coalition base in southern Afghanistan "failed to take adequate force protection" measures prior to a September 2012 attack by the Taliban that led to the deaths of two Marines and the destruction of military aircraft, according to a report on the incident.
Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos fired the two senior commanders of the base at the time, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, essentially forcing them into retirement.
The investigation was directed by Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who leads Central Command, to determine any potential accountability for the attack.
Army Lt. Gen. William B. Garrett III was the investigating officer for the report released Wednesday and his deputy was Marine Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Murray.
By Barbara Starr
In an action unprecedented during 12 years of war in Afghanistan, the commandant of the Marine Corps is firing two top generals for failing to protect troops and their base in southern Afghanistan from a Taliban attack.
Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, has agreed to a finding that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant "did not take adequate force protection measures" at Camp Bastion last year, the service said on Monday.
On September 14-15, 2012, Taliban fighters got through an unguarded part of a fence and engaged in a long running gun battle with U.S. and coalition forces.
By Dana Ford
The Army sergeant who admitted to gunning down 16 civilians in a 2012 rampage through two villages near his outpost in southern Afghanistan is expected to take the stand at his sentencing hearing and will apologize.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty in June to more than 30 criminal charges, including 16 premeditated murder counts.
The plea spares the 39-year-old Bales the prospect of a death sentence in the killings. He now faces life in prison, but a jury of four officers and two enlisted personnel will decide whether he will have a chance at parole.
"Yes, Bob will take (the) stand ... Yes, Bob will apologize," Bales' lawyer, John Henry Browne said in an e-mail to CNN.
Bales admitted to slipping away from his outpost in southern Afghanistan and going on a house-to-house killing spree in two nearby villages in March 2012, a massacre that further strained ties between American troops and their Afghan allies.
But he has not offered an explanation for his actions.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
A senior Marine general said in an extraordinary sworn statement obtained by CNN that the head of the corps wanted several Marines kicked out of the service for their alleged roles in urinating on Taliban corpses - even before any charges were brought.
Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser told military authorities in the sworn statement on Tuesday that he had a private meeting in February 2012 with Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, who had just named him to lead the investigation and possible prosecution.
"I do not remember the exact words or sequence of what was said, but the CMC did make a comment to the effect that the Marines involved needed to be 'crushed,'" Waldhauser said, adding that the "CMC went on to say he wanted these Marines to be discharged from the Marine Corps when this was all over."
Waldhauser's statement was made as part of the record for upcoming court martial proceedings against two Marines involved in the case.
By Jamie Crawford
A U.S. government watchdog found "serious deficiencies" in how the State Department awarded a contract job in Afghanistan, according to a letter from the organization to Secretary of State John Kerry released Thursday.
In the letter dated Monday, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, raised a number of concerns on the oversight practices of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the State Department and how they awarded a contract for the training of Afghan justice workers.
Sopko said the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the nongovernmental organization awarded the contract, is "ill-prepared to manage and account for how U.S.-taxpayer funds will be spent," while also criticizing the State Department's role in awarding the contract.
By Larry Shaughnessy
Contract fraud and waste has been an ongoing problem in Afghanistan almost since the start of the war, but a new report finds one kind of contract screw-up could well have caused deaths and injuries among U.S. troops.
The problem revolves around “culvert denial systems.” Essentially they are grates made of heavy steel rods that keep the Taliban from putting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in culverts under roads traveled by U.S. military vehicles.