"Still a dangerous place to be"
A U.S. army soldier checks his list as he stands in front of a military vehicle ready to be shipped out of Iraq
November 17th, 2011
05:01 PM ET

"Still a dangerous place to be"

By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

The war in Iraq may be out of the headlines as U.S. forces head for the exits, but they are still in the fight and facing a deadly toll, said the commander overseeing the withdrawal.

"Unfortunately, we did lose a soldier (on Monday)," Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux said Thursday. "This is still a dangerous place to be."

The Pentagon had announced earlier that 23-year old Army Spc. David Hickman of Greensboro, North Carolina, was killed by an improvised explosive device Monday.
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Filed under: Iraq • Military • Operation New Dawn
Pentagon: Bunker buster not intended for Iran
Loading the MOP during a 2007 test in New Mexico
November 16th, 2011
06:48 PM ET

Pentagon: Bunker buster not intended for Iran

By Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

The military's newest and most powerful ground-penetrating bomb is not intended for Iran's underground nuclear and weapons facilities specifically, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

"The system's not aimed at any one country," said Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby. "It's to develop a capability we believe we need."

The new Massive Ordinance Penetrator, known as the MOP, is able to explode 200 feet underground and designed to destroy deeply buried and fortified targets such as the ones Iran is believed to have constructed to protect its nuclear research facilities.

"It gives us a far greater capability to reach and destroy an enemy's weapons of mass destructions that - weapons of mass destruction that are located in well-protected underground facilities, without getting into specifics, to - to a magnitude far greater than we have right now," Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.
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Filed under: Iran • Military • Pentagon • Technology • weapons
November 15th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

Panetta and Senators clash over Iraq

By CNN Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Deep disagreements surfaced on Capitol Hill Tuesday over whether the United States has moved too quickly to withdraw troops from Iraq.

The Obama administration will withdraw all U.S. military personnel by the end of the year, after negotiations with Iraq broke down last month over leaving behind a small force for training and security. Some 30,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq now, and only a small number of U.S. military will remain behind, attached to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
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Filed under: Congress • Foreign Policy • Iran • Iraq • McCain • Military • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
November 15th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

U.S. expanding military presence in Australia without much expansion

By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

How does a U.S. president faced with budget constraints at home travel halfway around the world and make new military promises to Australia? The answer - very carefully.

"This announcement may be less than advertized," says Patrick Cronin, of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

So get ready for some polished diplomatic language when President Barack Obama talks in Australia this week about more U.S. warships and American troops coming to Australian ports and Australian bases.

Obama may be sending in the Marines to northern Australia but there aren't going to be very many of them and they will be living in Aussie barracks.  As for American warships coming to call in Western Australia near Perth, they will be using already existing facilities.

So as Obama is careful to expand U.S.-Australian cooperation on the cheap, he will paint the picture of new military cooperation in broad strokes in case the details are classified or still being thrashed out.  Too many specifics may rile up budget-cutters back in Washington, or incite Australian critics worried that cozying up to the U.S. military will offend the number-one customer for Australian products - China. FULL POST

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Filed under: Australia • Budget • China • Congress • Defense Spending • Marines • Military • Obama • Pacific Command
Senators want brought home sailors killed more than 200 years ago
November 14th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Senators want brought home sailors killed more than 200 years ago

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Amidst the uproar over recent problems with handling the bodies of U.S. military killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. lawmakers are calling attention to U.S. war dead from more than two centuries ago.

Three U.S. senators are calling on the Defense Department to find and bring home the bodies of some 13 sailors lost in 1804 when a U.S. Navy ship, the Ketch Intrepid, blew up in Tripoli Harbor during the long campaign against pirates along the North African coast, known as the First Barbary War.

"For more than two hundred years, these sailors have laid to rest in a cemetery on foreign soil. It's past time that we give these men a proper military burial in the country they died defending," Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, said in a release. He introduced the bill with Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, and Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts.

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Filed under: Libya • Military
Fort Hood victims want millions from Army
Courtesy: Bell County Sheriff's Office
November 11th, 2011
03:53 PM ET

Fort Hood victims want millions from Army

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Victims and families of those killed in the Fort Hood massacre are asking compensation totaling $750 million from the government for failing to stop the attack.

Eighty-three administrative claims were filed last week, saying the Army, the FBI, and the Justice and Defense departments are guilty of gross and willful negligence for not recognizing that the man charged in the shootings, Maj. Nidal Hasan, was a threat.

"Although they had clear knowledge and warnings that Hasan posed a grave danger to the lives and safety of soldiers and civilians with whom he came into contact, they did nothing to eliminate the known risk posed by him," the "basis of claim" document alleges.
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Filed under: Military • Nidal Hasan • Terrorism
A US military mascot from Iraq
Homer grazing on the Pentagon lawn Photo By: CNN's Charley Keyes
November 11th, 2011
11:23 AM ET

A US military mascot from Iraq

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

It’s a long way from the battlefields of Iraq to the quiet and neatly manicured lawns of the Pentagon. But Homer the donkey, a mascot to U.S. military personnel, was taking it easy in the central courtyard of the Pentagon Thursday, calmly munching on the grass.

One of the people who remember him from Camp Tagaddum in Iraq is Marine Staff Sergeant Matthew Shelato. He explains that back in 2008 the donkey was abandoned and bleeding, after getting tangled in razor wire. The U.S. military patched him up. And it turned out that taking care of Homer was a good way for his new friends to take a break from the war. “We helped him and he helped us,” says Shelato.

Homer is now a mascot for the private organization Wounded Warriors Family Support that helps families of those wounded or killed in combat.

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Filed under: Iraq • Military • Pentagon
Panetta wants more scrutiny of Air Force mortuary problems
Dover Air Force Base
November 10th, 2011
08:15 PM ET

Panetta wants more scrutiny of Air Force mortuary problems

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta promised further investigation Thursday into how the Air Force mortuary mishandled bodies of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he seemed uncertain about when the families had been informed of problems and what the consequences should be for the people responsible.

He said that in addition to an independent review by experts outside the Pentagon, he was asking the service's top civilian to take an additional look.

"I've asked the secretary of the Air Force, Mike Donley, to ensure that the disciplinary action taken was appropriate and to provide me with the results of that review," Panetta announced a Pentagon news conference. Two civilians were transferred to other jobs, and a military officer received a career-ending letter of reprimand.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Dempsey • Iraq • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense
USS Cole bombing suspect makes no plea in hearing
The USS Cole was damaged by a terrorist bomb while re-fueling in Yemen in 2000.
November 9th, 2011
06:52 PM ET

USS Cole bombing suspect makes no plea in hearing

By CNN Sr National Security Producer Charley Keyes

The suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole - the 2000 attack that took the lives of 17 American sailors - stepped into public view Wednesday inside a military commission courtroom at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba.

Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri did not enter a plea in his arraignment after the charges were read.

No trial date has been officially set. But inside the courtroom the prosecution, after calling for a trial in early February, appeared to compromise with the defense to push it out exactly a year, to November 9, 2011.

Later, outside the courtroom, defense attorney Richard Kammen predicted it could be much later than than, pointing to the usual schedule of death penalty trials in civilian courts, with delays running two-and-a-half or three years.

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Filed under: Gitmo • Terrorism
Ship bombing suspect in a Guantanamo Bay military courtroom Wednesday
A U.S. sailor salutes the American flag at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base
November 7th, 2011
06:35 PM ET

Ship bombing suspect in a Guantanamo Bay military courtroom Wednesday

By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes

A terror suspect will emerge from the shadows after nine years of detention this week when he’s led into a military courtroom at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri’s was captured in 2002 and has remained virtually invisible since then, detained first overseas in secret facilities and then at Guantanamo.

The United States claims he is the brains behind the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which killed 17 U.S. Navy sailors, wounded dozens more and left the warship crippled in the harbor of Aden, Yemen.
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Filed under: Gitmo • Terrorism • Yemen
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