U.S. encouraged by Pakistan efforts to go after terrorists
December 12th, 2012
06:31 AM ET

U.S. encouraged by Pakistan efforts to go after terrorists

By Mike Mount

Pakistan is taking steps to try to limit terrorist safe havens inside the lawless western part of that country where various insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan find sanctuary, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him overseas, Panetta said recent meetings between the United States and Pakistan yielded encouraging signs that Pakistan is working on the long-standing problem.

"My sense is that they're in a better place, that they understand their responsibility," Panetta said. "General Kiyani [Pakistan's military chief], in particular, has indicated a willingness to try to put more pressure on the safe havens," Panetta said.

The United States and Pakistan have had a frosty relationship over the past few years during which time Pakistan closed border crossings or supply routes following a series of incidents.

These included U.S. troops firing into Pakistan while chasing insurgents, the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by American special forces in May 2011 in Pakistan, and NATO shelling that killed a number of Pakistani soldiers in November of that same year.


U.S.-Pakistan spy talks called productive
CIA Director David Petraeus
August 2nd, 2012
08:47 PM ET

U.S.-Pakistan spy talks called productive

By Pam Benson

The first meeting between the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and his new Pakistani counterpart was labeled "substantive, professional and productive" by a senior U.S. official.

CIA Director David Petraeus and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Zahir ul-Islam met Thursday at CIA headquarters in suburban Washington in an effort to bring the contentious relationship back on track.

The U.S. knows little about Islam, who rose through the ranks of the Pakistani military before being appointed to head the ISI in March by Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The Pakistani government has been reassessing its relationship with Washington after a number of high-profile incidents last year, particularly the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, of which the Pakistanis had no prior knowledge, and the accidental killing of Paksitani soldiers operating along the Afghanistan border by U.S. airstrikes in November.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Haqqani • ISI • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Petraeus • Terrorism
May 3rd, 2012
10:42 AM ET

The Osama bin Laden documents

Scores of pages of al Qaeda documents seized in last year's U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden were released Thursday.

They comprise 175 pages in the original Arabic of letters and drafts from bin Laden and other key al Qaeda figures, including the American Adam Gadahn and Abu Yahya al-Libi.

Throughout the day, Security Clearance will be posting new stories here

The Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, published the papers on its website.  Here are the center's brief description of the documents. You can click the links for the English translations: FULL POST

February 8th, 2012
05:54 AM ET

Drone strike in Pakistan kills 10 near Afghan border

By Reza Sayah, CNN

Ten people were killed Wednesday when a suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles at an insurgent hideout in Pakistan's northwest tribal region, three security officials said.

The early morning attack took place 10 kilometers east of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the news media on the matter.

North Waziristan is one of seven districts in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border and widely believed to be a haven for the Haqqani network and other militant groups that are fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan.

The attack Wednesday morning was the fourth suspected U.S. drone strike on Pakistani soil this year, all of them targeting locations in North Waziristan.


Filed under: Afghanistan • drones • Haqqani • Military • Pakistan • Terrorism
NATO’s perilous Kunar mission
November 28th, 2011
10:27 AM ET

NATO’s perilous Kunar mission

By Tim Lister

The mistaken NATO air attack on Pakistani military outposts at the weekend, in which 24 soldiers were killed, was an accident waiting to happen.

The border between Pakistan and the Afghan province of Kunar is probably the most volatile of the entire 1,500-mile frontier that divides the two countries. It is rugged, remote and home to a variety of insurgent groups – including the Taliban (both Afghan and Pakistani), al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and the Hezbi Islami Group run by veteran warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In the words of one Afghan analyst, Kunar represents "the perfect storm."

READ also Pakistani-U.S. relations back at the bottom

In addition to the sheer number of insurgents in Kunar, the border with Pakistan – amid peaks and ravines – is not clearly marked, and in some places disputed.

Nor was it the first such accident. On June 10th 2008, US troops and their Afghan allies engaged Taliban fighters some 200 yards inside Afghanistan – along the same stretch of border. Grainy video from a U.S. surveillance drone that day showed a half-dozen Taliban retreating into what the US military said was Pakistani territory. Several air strikes followed using precision bombs. The U.S. military insisted none hit any structure. But Pakistan maintained eleven soldiers were killed and described the attack as "completely unprovoked and cowardly."

That incident took place in daylight; the firefight at the weekend was at night. And since 2008, the border between Kunar and the Pakistani tribal agency of Mohmand has become even more violent. Attempts by U.S. forces to build combat outposts close to the border have provoked firefights lasting several hours; resupply convoys are greeted with roadside IEDs and ambushes. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Haqqani • ISAF • Kunar • Pakistan • Taliban
DEBATE PREP: Should Pakistan be engaged or contained?
November 7th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

DEBATE PREP: Should Pakistan be engaged or contained?

Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.

By AEI's Sadanand Dhume, Special to CNN

The raid in May on Osama bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad has brought intense focus on Washington's policy toward Islamabad.  Since then, the weight of informed opinion - in influential op-eds, think tank reports, and magazine articles - has coalesced around a consensus: the current policy has failed.

Ostensibly, since 2004 Pakistan has been a major non-NATO ally of the United States, a status it shares with such stalwart friends as Israel, Japan and Australia.

In 2009, the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, boosted aid to Pakistan by $1.5 billion a year through 2013.  These blandishments were meant to encourage Islamabad to co-operate with Washington in fighting terrorism.

Though Pakistani authorities have at times helped round up wanted al Qaeda leaders from their soil, their overall record has been disappointing.  Of particular concern to the US:  continued Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants who regularly use safe havens in Pakistan to attack US troops in Afghanistan. FULL POST

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Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...
November 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...

Without question, the public's attention in the race for the White House has centered on the economy and domestic issues.  It’s a sign of how things have changed since the start of these post-September 11th times.  In 2004 and 2008, a good portion of the discussion focused on keeping American safe and foreign policy. But things began to shift as the 2008 election was wrapping up and the economy was hurting.

Now there is no question the campaign talk has moved from 9/11 to 9-9-9 (and other economic plans). A fact not lost on the Republican candidates who spend little time talking about national security issues.  Debate after debate, interview after interview, domestic issues have dominated the campaign so far.  Until now.

On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics.

In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address. From Afghanistan toIraq,ChinatoSyria, cybersecurity to defense spending, the folks at Heritage Foundation and AEI will make sure you are fully prepped for the big debate.

The first in the series will publish today on Security Clearance.  For more coverage of the campaign, don't forget to read CNN's Political Ticker and our political section on CNN.com.

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“Squeeze”: the new tactic in dealing with Pakistan-based terror groups
A U.S. military helicopter flies over the Paktiya province of Afghanistan.
November 2nd, 2011
02:49 PM ET

“Squeeze”: the new tactic in dealing with Pakistan-based terror groups

By CNN's Tim Lister

The United States appears to be shifting tactics as it tries to chart a course toward a stable and secure Afghanistan, according to diplomats and analysts. It might best be described as the squeeze – a more subtle approach to counteracting the threat of groups like the Haqqani Network, while at the same time suggesting the possibility of dialogue.

The latest hint of such a shift came Wednesday, when the U.S. State Department suggested it could talk with the Haqqanis – even if the group were designated a terrorist organization.

“While we can’t comment directly on a situation that is hypothetical, in general, we would be able to talk with representatives of a Foreign Terrorist Organization, should we deem it appropriate," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed last week there had been a meeting between a U.S. diplomat and Ibrahim Haqqani (the brother of the organization’s veteran leader) in August, as well as contacts with the Afghan Taliban, to "test whether these organizations have any willingness to negotiate in good faith." FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Diplomacy • Foreign Policy • Gen. Allen • Haqqani • Hillary Clinton • ISAF • Military • Pakistan • Secretary of State • State Department • Taliban • Terrorism • Turkey
Detained in Afghanistan, targeted in U.S.
Afghan security forces fill the streets in Kabul on September 13 as Haqqani and Taliban operatives launched an assault on the U.S. embassy complex and NATO headquarters.
November 1st, 2011
03:40 PM ET

Detained in Afghanistan, targeted in U.S.

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

The Obama administration added a Haqqani network commander to the list of terrorists prohibited from engaging in the U.S. financial system Tuesday, and effectively froze any of his property that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

Mali Khan has directed hundreds of fighters to conduct terrorist attacks against Afghan civilians, police and coalition forces, the State Department said in a statement.

Khan's deputy provided support to the suicide bombers who attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul earlier this year, according to the U.S. government. Twelve people died in the attacks.

The designation was made despite Khan's current detention in Afghanistan. He was captured during a combined Afghan and coalition force security operation.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Haqqani • Kabul • Pakistan • Sanctions • Terrorism
Officials split on Haqqani connection to deadly weekend attack
Afghan security forces and NATO troops inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on Saturday.
October 31st, 2011
12:55 PM ET

Officials split on Haqqani connection to deadly weekend attack

By CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan

The investigation into the suicide bombing that killed 17 people on Saturday suggests it was the work of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, an Afghan official said Monday.

"We have some contacts and some evidence on the ground and some information about the vehicles used and the people used," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, stressing that the results of the investigation were preliminary.

"This is another sophisticated attack by the operatives of the Haqqani network, and we are also optimistic to arrest some of their operatives in Kabul in the days ahead," he said.

However, a spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan, which lost nine troops in the attack, said they have no indications yet that the Haqqani network was involved. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Haqqani • Kabul • Military • NATO • Pakistan
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