July 8th, 2010
12:29 PM ET

Deputy commander: No major changes to battle tactics in Afghanistan

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

The U.S. military does not expect any major changes for now in the way troops operate on the battlefield in Afghanistan, according to the deputy commander of U.S. troops there.

Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that the new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has not made any significant changes to rules of engagement that are designed to reduce civilian casualties, but has been making "small adjustments."

Petraeus is in the process of reviewing the battlefield rules, including ground combat tactics and guidelines on aerial bombing.

Recently replaced commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal installed the rules because the high number of civilians being killed as a result of raids and airstrikes had increasingly spurred the ire of the Afghan government and citizens.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Gen. David Petraeus • Mike Mount
February 2nd, 2010
02:21 PM ET

Gates seeks to change 'out of date' vision of military challenges

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/02/01/us.pentagon.review/story.gates.uav.gi.jpg caption="Under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Pentagon is building up its fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles." width=300 height=169]

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

Preparing the U.S. military to fight two major conventional wars is "out of date" and does not reflect the numerous challenges U.S. military forces could face in the future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.

Gates made that pronouncement as he revealed the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the military's strategic outlook. He said the military needs to start planning for multiple operations such as major disasters in the United States and various scuffles around the planet.

"We now recognize that America's ability to deal with threats for years to come will depend importantly on our success in the current conflicts," Gates said, pointing out this is the first time the anti-insurgent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been included in a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) as long-term planning priorities.

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Filed under: Mike Mount • Military • Robert Gates
December 1st, 2009
12:07 PM ET

Frequently asked questions about the mission in Afghanistan

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Mike Mount and Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Unit

President Obama is expected to announce Tuesday that he's sending more than 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and discuss the U.S. strategy there.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the U.S. involvement there:

Q: How many troops are in Afghanistan and how many more are going?

A: More than 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops are in Afghanistan, and the president is expected to announce the addition of around 34,000 more U.S. troops to support the war effort. The additional troops will bolster the already 68,000 U.S. troops positioned around the country in the east along the Pakistan border and in the south, where the fighting is the most fierce.

NATO is expected to add around 6,000 additional troops. When they all arrive, the total international force is expected to be almost 150,000, close to the number of U.S. troops in Iraq after the 2007 surge. The first wave of additional U.S. troops is expected to begin deploying to the southern part of the country in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, according to military sources.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Mike Mount • President Barack Obama
November 17th, 2009
07:59 PM ET

Army suicide numbers break another yearly record

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/US/04/30/military.mentalhealth/art.military.gi.jpg caption="An Iraq war veteran takes one of the four medications he is prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder."]

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

Suicides among soldiers this year have topped last year's record-breaking numbers, but Army officials maintain a recent trend downward could mean the service is making headway on its programs designed to reduce the problem, Army officials said Tuesday.

Since January, 140 active duty soldiers have killed themselves while another 71 Reserve and National Guard soldiers killed themselves in the same time period, totaling 211 as of Tuesday, U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday. But he said the monthly numbers are starting to slow down as the year nears its end.

"This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way," Chiarelli said.

For all of last year, the Army said 140 active duty soldiers killed themselves while 57 Guard and Reserve soldiers committed suicide, totaling 197, according to Army statistics. FULL POST

Filed under: Mike Mount • Military
November 11th, 2009
11:21 AM ET

Obama considering 4 options for Afghanistan, sources say

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/02/afghanistan.strategy/art.obama.mcchrystal.wi.jpg caption="President Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal aboard Air Force One"]

Suzanne Malveaux and Mike Mount

President Obama is considering four scenarios to move forward in Afghanistan and is expected to discuss them at his eighth meeting with his war council on Wednesday afternoon, sources told CNN.

Though the options are not being spelled out, one is fairly well-defined.

That option, a senior administration official and U.S. military official independently confirmed, calls for sending about 34,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

A military official said the plan would send three Army brigades, totaling about 15,000 troops; a Marine brigade, about 8,000 troops; a headquarters element, about 7,000 troops; and 4,000 to 5,000 support troops.

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September 11th, 2009
06:08 PM ET

Observations from the Pentagon Memorial

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/09/11/us.sept.11/art.obama.shake.911.gi.jpg caption="President Obama addresses family members and friends who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001."]
Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

The day stood in stark contrast to the sunny, brisk morning eight years ago. Chaos surrounded this patch of land at the Pentagon that day. But now a steady rain bathed it in a calm silence as the memorial service began.

Holding umbrellas, President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen stood at the entrance of the Pentagon memorial. It is marked by a stone embedded in the ground with the September 11th date and time, 9:37a.m., reminding people of the exact moment when hijacked American Airlines flight 77 was flown into the building killing 184 people.

The three stood silently listening to a military band play the National Anthem, each than spoke about the day.

President Obama was observing his first September 11th as the commander in chief.

"Eight Septembers have come and gone. Nearly 3,000 days have passed; almost one for each of those taken from us," the president said, now standing uncovered in the rain. "But no turning of the season can diminish the pain and the loss of that day, no passage of time and no dark skies can ever dull the meaning of this moment."


September 8th, 2009
05:43 PM ET

Pentagon puts a hold on media briefings

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/02/afghanistan.support/art.soldiersafghan1.gi.jpg]

Mike Mount
Senior Pentagon Producer

For at least four years now the Pentagon has been hosting satellite-linked video briefings from Iraq and Afghanistan allowing reporters that cover the building to ask questions of U.S. and coalition commanders in charge of specific regions of those countries.

There is no set schedule, generally we get an even mix of briefings from Iraq and Afghanistan during any given week.

So when we were told this week we would be having two more briefings from Iraq, it was time to ask why we had not had any briefings from commanders in Afghanistan in a number of weeks.

After all, Afghanistan is the Obama administration's military imperative. It is a key time in that country with disputed national elections, new U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal was handing over as assessment of the country to the President and Taliban influence and fighting was getting stronger by the day.

For the most part, the briefings are helpful and offer insight into parts of the country not often reported on. The briefers can range from colonels in command of a brigade and are close to the action, to generals who oversee large swaths of the country.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Mike Mount
April 10th, 2009
03:13 PM ET

More pirates – and shots fired

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/04/10/somalia.u.s.ship/art.captain.family.photo.jpg caption="Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is being held by pirates on a lifeboat off Somalia."]
Mike Mount
CNN Pentagon Producer

The U.S. military believes a number of pirates in hijacked vessels are looking to find and help the pirates holding Richard Phillips, captain of the hijacked Maersk Alabama, an official with knowledge of the situation tells CNN. The military believes their intention is to assist the pirates in the lifeboat.

The military is hearing this from audio intercepts.

Pirates fired shots when Phillips jumped in the water this morning, trying unsuccessfully to escape. And one pirate jumped into the water to get their hostage back.

Phillips was seen walking around inside the covered lifeboat after his escape attempt.

One of the pirated ships heading to the scene is the German cargo ship Hansa Stavanger, seized April 4th off the east coast of Somalia. The ship's crew of 24 includes five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians, two Filipinos and 12 from Tuvalu.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Mike Mount • Pirates
March 30th, 2009
06:55 PM ET

Missile launch would be N. Korea's big win

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/03/30/north.korea.rocket/rocket.jpg caption="The latest satellite image shows a rocket sitting on its launch pad in the north east of the country."]

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

Talk at the Pentagon about the expected missile launch by North Korea early next month is not what you might expect.

Most, if not all, officials we have spoken to are underwhelmed at the prospect that Pyongyang could fire a ballistic missile.

“Look there’s not much we can do, if they want to launch it, they’re going to launch it,” said one senior Pentagon official, echoing the thoughts of many in the building.

Don't get me wrong, there is definitely a worry about where the missile will go and what it will do, the real worry is what the missile launch means for the future of North Korea's missile program.

Pyongyang has said they will launch a communications satellite sometime in the first week of April. But the test is widely thought to be a cover for testing a ballistic missile the North Koreans would be able to use if it ever wanted to launch a nuclear weapon. Both actions are banned by a United Nations Security Council resolution.


Filed under: Mike Mount • North Korea • Pentagon
January 28th, 2009
02:00 PM ET

The U.S. Military's PR problem in Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/11/19/pentagon.budget/art.shoot.gi.jpg caption="A U.S. soldier fires at Taliban targets during a battle in eastern Afghanistan last month."]

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Producer

Civilian deaths by U.S. forces in Afghanistan is a hot-button issue for President Karzai. He is known for not holding back when railing on the U.S. after a ground or air raid on an insurgent target where women and children were also killed.

The U.S. military understands his frustration but is often put in a difficult position when insurgents use the tactic of barricading themselves in mosques or homes.


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Filed under: Afghanistan • Mike Mount • Pentagon