The military says gains made in Afghanistan over the last half year has created the "necessary conditions" to begin transferring control of security to the Afghanistan government in seven areas of the country inhabited by approximately 20-25% of the population, according to a new report prepared by the Pentagon for Congress.
The latest semi-annual report concludes insurgent momentum has been halted in much of the country though the gains are "fragile and reversible." However, the report notes that efforts to fortify government and development was "slower than security gains" over the the last six months.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, have met in an effort to ease tensions after the president criticized foreign forces operations in his country, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
The two met Wednesday in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Morrell said the meeting between the two ended with "no daylight between them." But a senior coalition official told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr that Karzai still "has reservations."
An upcoming December review of Afghanistan strategy will help the president determine the "path" and "pace" of the U.S. drawdown of troops and transition of territory to the Afghan government next July, according to a senior administration official.
The approximately 70-page classified review is being prepared to assess progress one year after President Barack Obama announced he was adding 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. At the time, the president said that by July 2011 the United States will begin pulling some troops out depending on the conditions. FULL POST
The Canadian government has agreed to accept Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr after he finishes a year of incarceration in U.S. custody, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Khadr admitted to throwing a grenade during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that killed Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, a member of a U.S.Army Special Forces unit. Khadr was 15 at the time.
Khadr, a 24-year-old Canadian citizen, is the youngest detainee held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He pleaded guilty last week to murder, attempted murder, providing material support for terrorism, spying and conspiracy.
WASHINGTON — Key senators questioned on Tuesday the progress and planning for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.
Opening a hearing on Afghanistan, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, questioned the ratio of U.S. and NATO troops to Afghanstan troops, urging for a faster ramping up of Afghan security forces.
"Progress towards the goal of Afghans taking the lead in operations has been unsatisfactory. Today operations in Afghanistan are excessively dependent on coaltion forces," Levin said. FULL POST
WASHINGTON - The war in Afghanistan will get tougher before it gets easier, the general in charge of military operations in the region told a Senate committee Tuesday.
Gen. David Petraeus - the head of Central Command, which includes both Afghanistan and Iraq in its area of responsibility - told the Senate Armed Services Committee that as the United States institutes its surge of 30,000 troops and NATO increases operations, the fighting is "likely to get harder before it gets easier" because "the enemy will fight back."
Petraeus said in his opening statement to the committee that the fighting in 2010 will be difficult and will include "setbacks." But he also said the violence will not be as high as it was half a year ago, before the Obama surge strategy was instituted.
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee is asking for a Justice Department review of whether two companies misled the Defense Department to get a contract for work in Afghanistan.
The request by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, in the form of a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, comes after Levin's committee investigated a Xe Services subsidiary called Paravant. Xe is the new name for Blackwater, a war-time contractor that has been involved in high-profile incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan. FULL POST
Washington (CNN) - The military is backing off its previous position and acknowledging that some troops exposed to the burning of refuse on military bases could be susceptible to long-term health effects.
Since the issue first arose two years ago, Pentagon health officials have insisted that, based on its analysis, troops who were near burn pits at Joint Base Balad in Iraq - the largest base in that country - faced no long-term health hazards. That covered most of the troops who passed through the base.
The Department of Defense found that the burn pits, which are used instead of incinerators on some bases and outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan, could cause effects in the short term - including irritated eyes and upper respiratory system problems - that can lead to persistent coughing. But the department said "it is less clear what other longer-term health effects [there] may be."
Finding Osama bin Laden would not mean the end of al Qaeda, but it would be a key step to eventually defeating al Qaeda, the commander in charge of Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday.
“I believe he is an iconic figure at this point, whose survival emboldens al Qaeda as a franchising organization across the world," Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It would not defeat al Qaeda to have him captured or killed, but I don't think that we can finally defeat al Qaeda until he's captured or killed."
The trail of the al Qaeda mastermind behind the September 11 attacks has grown cold. The Secretary of Defense told NBC News he has not seen any credible intelligence about bin Laden since he took over at the helm of the Pentagon almost three years ago.
Bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist, is believed to be hiding in the mountains on the Pakistan side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. McChrystal said that bin Laden is not a major occupation for the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"I am responsible as commander of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] for inside Afghanistan. Were Osama bin Laden to come in there, of course, that would become a huge priority for all of our forces," McChrystal said. But he said if bin Laden is not in Afghanistan, it "is outside of my mandate right now."
Washington (CNN) – The July 2011 date was barely uttered when critics pounced, questioning whether the president was trying to make a political point at the expense of military security.
"These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011," President Obama said in his West Point address.
Just minutes after the speech was done, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who supports the increase in troops, said setting a deadline to begin a withdrawal is wrong.
"What concerns me greatly is the president's decision to set an arbitrary date to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan," McCain said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
The administration worked hard Wednesday to defend that target date, stressing that it is only the beginning of a potential transfer of security to Afghans and that it will ultimately be decided based on conditions on the ground.
So how and why did the administration come up with a target date? FULL POST