March 25th, 2010
03:22 PM ET

Official on latest purported bin Laden message: 'Height of absurdity'

WASHINGTON — For the first few years after the September 11 attacks, any audio or video-taped message from Osama bin Laden prompted an almost immediate reaction from the U.S. intelligence community, and within a day or two, verification of its authenticity.

But as time went by, intelligence and counterterrorism officials decided they were no longer going to give credibility to what they considered the al Qaeda leader's hateful messages. There would be virtually no comment, not even to verify his identity. As one official put it to me at the time, "It has never not been him." However, I would still make the perfunctory call after each new bin Laden tape, knowing full well I would get a "no comment."

But Thursday's audio message purportedly from bin Laden apparently struck a chord. In the message first aired on al-Jazeera TV, bin Laden threatens to kidnap and kill Americans if the U.S. executes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any of the other suspected al Qaeda terrorists awaiting trial in the U.S. FULL POST

March 25th, 2010
01:27 PM ET

Gates on Iran's involvement with Taliban training

Amid questions about Iran's involvement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Sec. Robert Gates addressed the issue at a Thursday briefing.

"Based on everything that I've seen, I continue to believe that the Iranians are involved," Gates said. "But it remains at a relatively low level and we certainly would hope that it stays that way."

Earlier this week, U.S. military and intelligence officials said Iran is helping train Taliban fighters within its borders. The United States has already said that the Taliban may be receiving limited training from the Iranians in Afghanistan itself, but officials told CNN that training in the use of small arms was occurring within Iran.

Filed under: Iran • Taliban
March 25th, 2010
12:02 PM ET

Prince Charles departs after surprise 2-day visit

Britain's Prince Charles left Afghanistan on Thursday after an unannounced two-day visit there, a spokesman for Clarence House said.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Prince Charles in Afghanistan"] The heir to the British throne spent a night at Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand province, before traveling to Lashkar Gah, the capital of the province. He also visited Kabul, the spokesman said.

Prince Charles also met Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan senior government ministers and tribal and religious leaders to gain their perspective about reintroducing stability to the country, the spokesman said. FULL POST

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Filed under: Daily Developments
March 25th, 2010
11:18 AM ET

U.S. bases in Afghanistan say goodbye to Whoppers, DQ

Whoppers, Dairy Queen sundaes and the latest movies will soon disappear for U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan, according to a blog posting by Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall discussing changes to morale, welfare and recreation facilities on U.S. bases there.  

In an effort to put more focus on fighting the Taliban, the military is cutting back on "non-essentials" in Afghanistan, Hall announced on the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan blog this week. Hall is the command sergeant major for ISAF. FULL POST

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Filed under: Troops
March 25th, 2010
10:08 AM ET

Purported bin Laden message hints at retaliation

An audio message purportedly from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden hints at retaliation if alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed is executed. The tape was aired Thursday by the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera.

"The White House declared that they will execute the hero Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and his comrades in arms. They think that America will be safe behind the oceans. Justice is to be treated in the same manner," the message said. FULL POST

Filed under: al Qaeda • Osama bin Laden
March 25th, 2010
09:55 AM ET

Residents stone, slash would-be suicide bomber to death

KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber wearing a vest laden with explosives was killed by locals Thursday in eastern Afghanistan before he was able to detonate, police said.  The incident occurred in the Muqur district of Afghanistan's Ghazni province, according to Kheyal Mohammad Sherzai, a police chief in the province.

The suicide attacker was from Pakistan's Warizistan area, authorities said.

The people who intervened in the incident pelted the man with stones and slashed him with knives and were able to kill the man and give the suicide vest to police.

- Journalist Matiullah Mati contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Daily Developments
March 24th, 2010
07:53 PM ET

Around the Web: Details emerge of insurgent faction's peace plan

Carlotta Gall of the New York Times has details of a peace plan presented earlier this week to Afghan President Hamid Karzai by an insurgent faction led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Gall writes:

“A spokesman for the delegation, Mohammad Daoud Abedi, said the Taliban, which makes up the bulk of the insurgency, would be willing to go along with the plan if a date was set for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. Publicly, a Taliban spokesman denied that.

The plan, titled the National Rescue Agreement, a copy of which was given to The New York Times, sets that date as July 2010, with the withdrawal to be completed within six months.”


March 24th, 2010
06:49 PM ET

Civil nuclear issue on Pakistan's agenda as talks with U.S. begin

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is promising "a new day" in U.S.-Pakistan relations and new efforts to move beyond previous mistrust and misunderstandings. And Pakistan is hoping improved relations will generate new American help with civilian nuclear power.

Clinton started two days of high-level talks with Pakistani leaders Wednesday morning at the State Department. She was joined by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and officials from both countries, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.


Filed under: Pakistan
March 24th, 2010
04:37 PM ET

'I don't want to go home'

The Qambar Square camp in Kabul’s west is now home to more than 1,200 families from across Afghanistan.

Bibi Hawa lost her husband, daughter and son to war. She now lives with her three grandchildren in a tent at a refugee camp in Kabul.

The old woman cries as she says, “I fled from Marjah in Helmand province because of the fighting. I don’t want to go home any more. I lost my family there and I don’t believe the war will end in our province.”

She is dressed in old clothes and wrapped in an old blanket. As we talk she frequently asks for money.

March 24th, 2010
03:59 PM ET

U.S. officials: Ex-Gitmo prisoner becomes Taliban commander

A man who was released from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in December has become a senior Taliban military commander in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

Abdul Qayum Zakir was named to replace Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, whom Pakistani security forces captured last month, a Taliban operative told CNN.

A former Pakistani intelligence official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the subject, also confirmed Zakir's appointment. Zakir was released from U.S. custody on December 7, U.S. officials said.

- CNN's Barbara Starr, Adam Levine and journalist Amin Khan contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Baradar • Taliban