President Barack Obama has nominated Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove to be the next commander of NATO and commander of the U.S. armed forces in Europe, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Thursday.
Breedlove has been the commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa. He has been in the Air Force since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1977.
The current NATO commander, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, is scheduled to retire this summer.
Five coalition service members died after a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Monday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said.
The chopper went down in the Daman district of southern Kandahar during a rain storm, said Jawid Faisal, a government spokesman for the province.
There was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the incident, ISAF said. It has not released the nationalities of the service members.FULL STORY
The Marines general who was in line to become NATO's supreme allied commander is retiring instead.
President Barack Obama announced the retirement of U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the former leader of coalition forces in Afghanistan, on Tuesday.
"I met with General John Allen and accepted his request to retire from the military so that he can address health issues within his family," Obama said in a statement.
Allen was caught up in a scandal over embarrassing e-mails with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley that came to the public's attention during the same investigation into an extra-marital affair that brought down former CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen was cleared of wrongdoing, and the White House initially indicated that Obama would proceed with the nomination for the supreme commander spot.FULL STORY
Gen. John Allen is considering whether to retire rather than move forward with the nomination to become the supreme allied commander of NATO, a staff member said.
In a written statement, a member of his staff said, "After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, Gen. Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment."FULL STORY
President Barack Obama called Monday for NATO countries to sign off on his exit strategy from Afghanistan that calls for an end to combat operations next year and the withdrawal of the U.S.-led international military force by the end of 2014.
Against a backdrop of demonstrations that saw violent clashes between protesters and police, NATO and world leaders opened the second day of their Chicago summit with a focus on the unpopular war and how to pay for shoring up Afghanistan's security forces.
Obama told the dozens of heads of state in attendance, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, that NATO can agree on both the timetable for withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan and a long-term plan for the strategic alliance to support the central Asian country's security forces.
The goal is to "responsibly bring this war to an end" in the next 19 months, Obama said in welcoming remarks Monday. He cited a recent strategic partnership agreement he signed with Karzai as a step toward ensuring that "as Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone."FULL STORY
Up to 20 high-level insurgent prisoners have been released from NATO custody in Afghanistan over the past two years in an effort to boost peace negotiations with the Taliban in various regions of the country, according to U.S. officials.
The insurgents, held at the jointly-run NATO-Afghan detention facility of Parwan, are considered "bad guys," said one U.S. official who did not want to be identified discussing a sensitive issue. Their release was undertaken, the official said, often at the request of the Afghan government. In all cases, they were assessed as unlikely to rejoin the insurgency.
The official added that the Taliban detainees had been in the maximum security Parwan detention center “for a reason” – but that NATO "does not release anyone when there is a high likelihood they will rejoin the insurgency." The official said he was aware of only two releases in the last nine months.
Some previously released Afghan detainees, especially from the U.S.-run detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have allegedly rejoined the insurgency, suggesting such programs are not without risk.
The U.S. official said the releases occur “when officials determine that the benefits significantly outweigh the risks.”READ FULL SECURITY CLEARANCE POST
The Afghan government will investigate reports of civilian casualties in a recent NATO bombing, the office of President Hamid Karzai said Thursday.
Karzai has appointed a delegation to investigate the bombing in Kunar province.
According to reports, four children, a woman and a man were killed in the incident, the president's office said.FULL STORY
A U.S. investigation into a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops points to "inadequate coordination" possibly exacerbated by Pakistani distrust of the Americans as one of the reasons behind the incident, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The findings are likely to further erode the already fragile relations between the United States and Pakistan, as sources within Pakistan disputed the U.S. findings.
The investigation found that the U.S. forces acted in self-defense, though poor coordination between the two militaries resulted in the incident.
An American team heading toward an Afghan town near the Pakistani border came under attack from machine gun fire, to which they responded by firing back and displaying a "show of force," with a U.S. aircraft that made its presence known and dropped flares illuminating the area, said Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark, who led the investigation.
What followed over the next hours were three engagements between the two sides as higher-ups tried to ascertain - unsuccessfully - if Pakistani forces were in the area.
The narrative of the timeline is complicated, Clark said, adding that "this is a fairly comprehensive report."FULL STORY
Russia may deploy missiles that it says could destroy NATO’s planned missile defense system in Europe – and withdraw from an arms control treaty with the United States – if Russia’s concerns about the shield aren’t addressed, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday.
Medvedev also announced that Russia will take a series of immediate steps that includes equipping new ballistic missiles “with advanced missile defense penetration systems” and drawing up plans to disable missile shield guidance systems.
“If (those immediate steps) prove insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy modern offensive weapon systems in the west and south of the country, ensuring our ability to take out any part of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe,” Medvedev said in a live address on Russian television. “One step in this process will be to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad region.”
Russia also could pull out of the New START arms control agreement with the United States that Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama signed a year and a half ago.
“Conditions for our withdrawal from the New START Treaty could also arise, and this option is enshrined in the treaty,” Medvedev said.
Although NATO has said that the shield will protect Europe from attacks from areas such as the Middle East and not from Russia, the Russian government is concerned that the shield is meant to undermine its nuclear deterrent.
Between 60 and 70 insurgents were killed after launching an attack on an Afghan National Security Forces base and meeting with resistance, according to a spokesman for the governor of southeastern Paktika province.
The insurgents were carrying light and heavy weapons Tuesday night when they attacked the base in the Barmal district of Paktika province, which shares a border with Pakistan's South Waziristan, said spokesman Mokhlis Afghan.
They met with resistance from Afghan National Security Forces and NATO air support, the spokesman said.FULL STORY
Insurgents launched attacks Thursday on a Provincial Reconstruction Team base and a military outpost in Afghanistan, Afghan and NATO officials said.
Three insurgents took positions in a house near a PRT base in Kandahar, said the region's police chief, Salim Ahsas.
Officials killed two of the attackers, but one was "still resisting in the building," Ahsas said.
There were no casualties among PRT or military personnel, Ahsas said.
Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the fighting in Kandahar was one of two incidents Thursday.
The second involved a suicide car bomb that exploded outside an ISAF base in the Panjwai region. "There are no ISAF casualties and the base's perimeter was not penetrated," he said.FULL STORY
As rebels spread triumphantly through the streets of Tripoli and word of a siege on Moammar Gadhafi's compound is met with jubilation, one glaring question surfaces: Where is Libya's leader of more than four decades?
Some rebel officials say a key to true victory - which is already being declared by many rebels and their sympathizers - is the 69-year-old leader's capture. Observers say his future holds only three possible scenarios: capture, death or exile.
Despite regular promises to fight to the death in the early days of the rebellion, Gadhafi hasn't been seen publicly since June 12, just two weeks before the International Criminal Court issued arrests warrants for him, one of his sons and a brother-in-law, alleging "crimes against humanity." Officials at the ICC have made clear they want the Gadhafis to stand trial in The Hague, Netherlands, if possible.
Gadhafi's June 12 appearance aired on Libyan state television and showed Gadhafi, apparently unfazed by the warfare raging in his homeland, playing chess with World Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
At the time, Ilyumzhinov quoted Gadhafi as saying he had no intention of leaving Libya. The tune hadn't changed Tuesday when Russia's Interfax news agency caught up with Ilyumzhinov, reporting the chess federation chief had spoken with Gadhafi and his son, Mohammed, by phone and was told the Libyan leader is "alive and well in Tripoli and not going to leave Libya."
Six months after a ragtag group of poorly trained rebels set out to topple the Libyan regime, the fighters appeared Monday to be on the brink of ending Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule.
With three of the Libyan leader's sons in their custody, rebel forces were battling Gadhafi forces on his home turf, Tripoli.
"A great majority of the capital of Tripoli is under freedom fighters' control," said Guma El-Gamaty, the Britain-based coordinator for the rebels' National Transitional Council.
"The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured," NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil said a news conference in Benghazi, long a rebel stronghold in the conflict.
But Gadhafi's whereabouts were unknown.FULL STORY
A leading human rights organization is calling on NATO to investigate allegations that it killed 85 civilians during airstrikes on forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
The demand by Amnesty International Wednesday followed government accusations days earlier that NATO killed civilians in the western part of the country to help clear the way for rebels advancing on the Gadhafi-controlled city of Zlitan.
"NATO continues to stress its commitment to protect civilians. To that effect, it should thoroughly investigate this and all other recent incidents in which civilians were reportedly killed in western Libya as a result of airstrikes," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of Amnesty International said in a statement.
Eighty-five civilians, including 33 children, were killed in airstrikes Monday near the village of Majer, Gadhafi's government said.
NATO says its warplanes Monday struck two farms used as a staging point for Gadhafi's forces.
"This is a legitimate target. And by striking it, NATO has reduced pro-Gadhafi forces capabilities to threaten and attack civilians," said Col. Roland Lavoie, a spokesman for the NATO operation.
"We do not have evidence of civilian casualties at this stage, although casualties among military personnel, including mercenaries, are very likely due to the nature of the target."FULL STORY
The deaths Saturday of 30 U.S. troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan make it the deadliest single-day incident for coalition service members in the Afghan war, according to a CNN count.
Since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, several other large-scale incidents have claimed the lives of 10 or more personnel.
April 6, 2005: Fifteen U.S. soldiers and three civilian contractors were killed when a coalition helicopter traveling in severe weather crashed near Ghazni.
June 27, 2005: Sixteen Americans - eight soldiers and eight sailors - were killed when their MH-47 helicopter was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade near Kunar province.
May 6, 2006: A U.S. helicopter crashed near Asadabad in Kunar province, killing all 10 U.S. soldiers aboard.
October 26, 2009: Three Drug Enforcement Administration special agents and seven U.S. troops were killed in western Afghanistan as they returned from a raid on a compound believed to be harboring insurgents tied to drug trafficking.
September 2, 2006: Fourteen British troops died when a NATO International Security Assistance Force plane crashed west of Kandahar. The crash is believed to be caused by a technical problem and was not the result of enemy action.
August 18, 2008: Ten French soldiers were killed and 21 injured when about 100 insurgents attacked a patrol in Kabul province.
August 16, 2005: Seventeen Spanish troops died in a helicopter crash. Spain's defense minister at the time said an accident was the most likely cause of the incident but investigators hadn't ruled out an attack.
The front lines of Libya's grinding war weave through the western mountains and around Zlitan, the last city east of Tripoli still under the grip of strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
In many places that Gadhafi's forces have fled, they've left behind deadly fields of mines - tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of them, say the rebels.
Not only do they pose a danger for civilians but they also have slowed the advance of the rebels in their march toward Tripoli.
Here in Qawalish, a town 60 miles southwest of Tripoli where fierce fighting has taken place in recent weeks, the war looks like this: Men in no protective gear sift through a public park to fight an enemy that can kill instantly and indiscriminately. Here, the enemy is Gadhafi's landmines.
Milad al Saidy and his fellow "sappers," as those who work with mines are known, are armed only with simple metal probes and a couple of metal detectors. A burned-out shell of a car sits as evidence of what the mines can do.
So far, they say, about 2,500 mines have been discovered, all left by fleeing pro-Gadhafi forces.
Al Saidy has been doing this work for 16 years but many others are green - fresh recruits who volunteered for a potentially deadly job. Some learn on the job. Amazingly, al Saidy said, no one has been killed or hurt.
"It's very, very dangerous but people are insisting they want to work with us to secure the lives of the innocent, the children, so families can come without the fear of landmines," he said.FULL STORY
This week's deadly suicide attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that is popular with Westerners has been linked to a terrorist group called Haqqani.
Based in Pakistan's tribal region, Haqqani (which the U.S. government has dubbed the Haqqani network) is a militant group closely allied with the Taliban and linked to al Qaeda. For several years, it has reportedly targeted American and international forces across the Afghanistan border and the region. American officials say they consider the network one of the greatest threats in Afghanistan.
Members of Haqqani are bound together by tribal or clan relationships, according to the military blog the Long War Journal, which has a long explanation of the roots of the group and the Haqqani family, which is believed to be at the helm of the group.
Jane's Defense and Security Analysis says that in 2008, Siraj Haqqani was believed to be the leader of the network. At that time, he phoned The News, a Pakistani newspaper, and claimed he had masterminded a suicide bombing in the District Centre of Sabari, in southeast Afghanistan's Khost province, with an IED in March. Two U.S. soldiers in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were killed in the attack, according to U.S. sources, Jane's says. Siraj Haqqani told the paper that a gunman had fired on guards manning the entrance to the base, allowing a suicide bomber to drive his car inside.
Also in 2008, Afghan officials blamed the Haqqani network for a January assault on Kabul's Serena Hotel. In that attack, three gunmen with explosives "bluffed, shot and blasted their way through the hotel's security measures, terrifying Afghanistan's small international community in the process," according to Jane's.
This week, terrorists entered the Hotel Inter-Continental in Kabul by avoiding the main entrance, instead attacking a smaller entrance on another side of the building. The attackers killed two Afghan police officers manning the entrance, according to Falak Merzahi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. The terrorists then stormed the hotel, and six of them detonated explosives. Three of the attackers were shot and killed on the roof of the hotel, Afghan officials told CNN. Although a NATO helicopter carrying International Security Assistance Force snipers flew to the scene and fired at the attackers, Merzahi said it was Afghan army soldiers who killed the three gunmen on the roof.
The attack at the Inter-Continental has led many to question whether Afghan security forces can take control in the country.
In February 2010, the son of a Haqqani leader was killed in a suspected American drone strike in Pakistan, Pakistani intelligence sources said. Muhammad Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of the four people killed in a militant compound in the country's tribal region in North Waziristan. A Taliban source also confirmed the death.