Mullen: "I was nearly sick" – Trying to draw a line in the sand after the McChrystal debacle, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Pentagon news conference that the strategy in Afghanistan would not miss a beat with the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus as commander of the International Security Assistance Force.
Sitting alongside Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen acknowledged that it was a “difficult” time in the war against the Taliban, but he insisted progress was being made.
Perhaps the most revealing moment of the news conference came when both were asked for their reaction when they read the Rolling Stone article.
Mullen responded: “Honestly, when I first read it, I was nearly sick. It made me - I - literally, physically, I couldn't believe it. So I was stunned.”
Clashing strategies – The counterinsurgency strategy that’s become known as COIN is designed to win the "hearts and minds" of the population with rules of engagement that protect civilian populations and minimize casualties.
Gen. David Petraeus is the concept’s founding father, but as CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott explains, COIN is not always easy to implement.
Militaries operate largely with the dual goals of stabilizing an area force protection, something inherently in tension with protecting civilian centers. As one senior civilian official put it, "We are expecting a 19-year-old soldier to interpret events at a flash. We are asking them to be diplomats, and they are not always trained to do that. They are trained to shoot first and ask questions later. That could be a good military response, but that could also have implications which affect the strategy."
U.S. aid for Yemen – Afghanistan may be the United States’ greatest security challenge, but it’s not the only one. The White House announced Thursday more than a doubling of humanitarian aid for Yemen to $42.5 million in the current year. The announcement comes as the truce between the government and Houthi rebels in northern Yemen shows signs of fraying and as a secessionist revolt in the south becomes more violent. In addition, al Qaeda has established a significant presence in more remote parts of Yemen, and the unrest in Somalia is a short distance across the Gulf of Aden
President Obama said of the Houthi revolt: “We are deeply troubled by reports of fresh outbreaks of fighting in Sa’ada, and urge full compliance with the cease-fire agreement announced in February and an end to the violence.”
The United States has also called for a comprehensive dialogue between all opposition groups and the ruling party. “Such a dialogue needs to be undertaken in good faith and with haste by all parties,” the White House said.
Why Blackwater won't die – Xe, the private contractor formerly known as Blackwater, is getting a new contract worth around $120 million to protect CIA facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere. While the contract may be new, the relationship isn't. But it’s often been a rocky one. Last December, Xe lost a significant contract with the Agency after the company's owner, Erik Prince, pulled a “General McChrystal” in an interview with Vanity Fair. Prince boasted of his company's relationship with the Agency that had some at Langley so unsettled that they not only canceled the contract, they also made it clear that they thought Prince was living in a dream world.