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January 1st, 2010
10:48 PM ET

How a spy's family grieves

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Program note: Tune in tonight at 10pm ET to hear Suzanne Simons discuss the latest in the CIA bombing case.

Suzanne Simons
CNN Executive Producer
Author, Master of War, Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War

The stunning loss of life for the CIA this week in Afghanistan has reverberated through the small, tight-knit community near Langley, Virginia as one would imagine. Current and former Agency officials are meeting the families of the fallen officers at the airport. There will be hugs, expressions of sympathy and gratitude for the sacrifice made, and offers of support in the form of grief counseling. But a loss in this world isn't quite the same as a loss in any other.

Before the bombing on Wednesday, the Agency had lost just four of its own in the past decade. Jeanine Hayden, wife of former CIA Director Michael Hayden explained it to me this way: In this community, if you pass someone on the street, you may not be able to publicly acknowledge them, even if they had experienced the same life-changing loss as you. These people have to come together quietly. It's hard. They do the bulk of their grieving behind closed doors.

Some of the seven killed on Wednesday were parents, some were contractors assigned to work closely with the CIA teams, none were new to the business. With a range of experience from 8-15 years each, they were some of the most knowledgeable professionals on the forefront of gathering intelligence to help penetrate a seemingly impenetrable enemy. It does make you wonder how something like this could have happened. The Agency won't say, which is hardly surprising, but there have been some news reports that the bomber was being recruited as an informant. It wouldn't be tough to imagine that in an area where having good intelligence from local sources who are able to blend in with the local population is critical. The bomber may not have been searched by locals in a formalized procedure, as his identity would need to be protected. Imagine the risks you'd have to take in order to recruit people amongst a population where many would rather see you dead. The exposure is enormous. The results, as in this case, can be devastating.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Suzanne Simons • Taliban • Terrorism
December 3rd, 2009
02:29 PM ET

Obama is scaling back the war goals

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/11/23/us.afghanistan/story.obama.whitehouse.jpg caption="Fareed Zakaria says that the United States may in fact be scaling down the goals of the military operation" width=300 height=169]

Fareed Zakaria | BIO
CNN Anchor

When President Obama announced plans Tuesday to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, it appeared to be a major escalation of the war in that country. But, foreign affairs analyst Fareed Zakaria says that the United States may in fact be "scaling down" the goals of the military operation.

In an interview with CNN, Zakaria gave the new plan a good chance of succeeding in achieving its more limited objectives. But he said Obama's idea of setting a target date for starting to draw down U.S. troops was a strategic mistake - though he suggested the president may have needed to do so for political reasons.

Zakaria, author and host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria: GPS," spoke to CNN Wednesday.

CNN: The president outlined an intensive but short-term boost of the military resources in Afghanistan. He didn't call it a surge but is this effectively the same as the Iraq surge?

Fareed Zakaria: Actually I think this is a different surge than the Iraq surge. And not enough people have noticed that - because the president did increase the number of troops and in fact, in many ways the number of troops that he has increased in percentage terms is much larger than the Iraq surge.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • al Qaeda • Fareed Zakaria • Military • President Barack Obama • Taliban
December 2nd, 2009
11:09 AM ET

Don't escalate a failing war

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Ann Wright and Paul Kawika Martin
Special to CNN

President Obama just announced he plans to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, where hatred of the U.S. grows every day. Next door, nuclear-armed Pakistan tilts toward disaster. It's time for Americans to insist on a nonmilitary way out of this mess.

We recently returned from a CodePink study trip to Afghanistan, and our expertise and experience points to a strategy of transitioning from military to political and economic solutions that will help Afghans while making Americans safer.

The first step in providing Afghans security and weakening the Taliban and violent extremists is to remove recruiting incentives. It's time to stop air and Predator drone strikes that tend to kill, injure and terrorize civilians. It's time to stop arbitrary detentions and harsh treatment of prisoners that would be unacceptable here.

While those in major cities live in relative security, rural Afghans fear violence from insurgents or U.S. and NATO forces. Many fear civil war or the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan requires more trusted Afghan police and security forces. These forces are paid only $110 dollars a month - not a living wage - and payments are regularly late. Little wonder these forces are corrupt, poorly motivated and have a high rate of desertion. The Taliban pays its foot soldiers far better.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • President Barack Obama • Taliban
December 1st, 2009
05:18 PM ET

Photo Gallery: On patrol with Marines in Helmand Province

Tim Hetherington
Getty Images for CNN

October was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war in 2001. Roadside bombs are now the biggest threat to U.S. forces in the region. In September, Anderson reported from the front lines of the war against the Taliban and went out on patrol with Marines in Helmand Province.

Take a look at this photo gallery.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Anderson Cooper • Military • Taliban
November 2nd, 2009
11:53 AM ET

Police: Dozens dead in Pakistan explosion

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CNN

A suicide bomber killed at least 35 people Monday by detonating explosives outside a bank where people had lined up to pick up their monthly checks, police said.

The blast, in the Cannt area of the city, also wounded more than 65 others, said Imdad Ullah Bosal, a district coordination officer. Two women were among the dead, he said.

Meanwhile, another suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a police checkpoint in Lahore hours after the Rawalpindi attack, a police official told CNN.

The bombers, believed to be wearing suicide vests, blew themselves up as police inspected their vehicle at the Babu Sabu checkpoint, according to Lahore police chief Pervez Rethore. The blast injured at least 17 police and civilians, a local rescue services spokesman said. At least three people sustained serious injuries, Rethore said.

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CNN's Ivan Watson in Rawalpindi, Samson Desta in Islamabad and journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.


Filed under: al Qaeda • Pakistan • Taliban
October 29th, 2009
10:23 AM ET

What's at stake in Afghanistan, Pakistan?

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Christiane Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent

October has been the deadliest month for the US and NATO militaries fighting in Afghanistan as well as UN workers trying to organize an election runoff. Surely the surge in deaths serves to underscore why Afghanistan matters.

For all the debate happening away from the battlefield, here are a couple of important bottom-line questions:

Is the world prepared to see the Taliban and their opportunistic allies al Qaeda return to power in Afghanistan? Are people prepared for the terrorists' dream- photo-op of Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden sitting smiling together in Kabul?

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Taliban
October 28th, 2009
12:42 PM ET

Clinton arrives in Pakistan to write new chapter in relations

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Jill Dougherty
CNN

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived Wednesday in nuclear-armed Pakistan, a country hit hard by terrorism, economic crisis and rising sentiment that it is paying too high a price for its partnership with the United States in fighting extremists.

Clinton is expected to meet with top Pakistani officials, including president Asif Ali Zardari, but a major challenge during this visit is to convince Pakistanis that the U.S. wants a partnership that goes beyond fighting al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

Talking with reporters en route to Pakistan, Clinton said she wants to "turn the page" on what has been, in the past few years, "primarily a security-anti-terrorist agenda."

"We hold that to be extremely important, and it remains a very high priority," she said. "But we also recognize that it is imperative that we broaden our engagement with Pakistan."

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Filed under: al Qaeda • Hillary Clinton • Jill Dougherty • Pakistan • Taliban
October 28th, 2009
11:59 AM ET

Don’t build up

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Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times

It is crunch time on Afghanistan, so here’s my vote: We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan.

I base this conclusion on three principles. First, when I think back on all the moments of progress in that part of the world — all the times when a key player in the Middle East actually did something that put a smile on my face — all of them have one thing in common: America had nothing to do with it.

America helped build out what they started, but the breakthrough didn’t start with us. We can fan the flames, but the parties themselves have to light the fires of moderation. And whenever we try to do it for them, whenever we want it more than they do, we fail and they languish.

The Camp David peace treaty was not initiated by Jimmy Carter. Rather, the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, went to Jerusalem in 1977 after Israel’s Moshe Dayan held secret talks in Morocco with Sadat aide Hassan Tuhami. Both countries decided that they wanted a separate peace — outside of the Geneva comprehensive framework pushed by Mr. Carter.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • al Qaeda • Iraq • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Taliban
October 28th, 2009
11:50 AM ET
October 22nd, 2009
04:51 PM ET

Latest Pakistan attack has new twist: Women jihadists

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Omar Waraich
Time

"They were dressed in black, all black," says Inam Mansoor, 33, an ambulance driver who entered a military compound in the Pakistani city of Lahore to recover people wounded in a new wave of militant attacks that killed 37 people on Thursday. "They were carrying guns and backpacks. They had commando-style scarves wrapped around their heads." But if such attacks have lately become an almost daily occurrence as Pakistan's army prepares a new offensive against the Taliban in Waziristan, what was remarkable in Lahore was that three of the attackers apparently were women. Police commandos who spoke to TIME at the scene made the claim, which was later confirmed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The extremist organizations behind the violence are hardly champions of women's equality, but there have been reports in recent months of groups of young women — some of them survivors of 2007's showdown between the army and militant supporters at Islamabad's Red Mosque — traveling to Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab to cement ties with jihadist groups there. The involvement of women fighters may be peculiar to Punjab-based militant groups. The Taliban forces in the northwest don't tolerate women walking out their homes unaccompanied by male relatives or being educated, much less trained as fighters. But the Red Mosque siege in Islamabad saw women publicly assert their support for the militants.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Pakistan • Taliban
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