Results tagged “United States”
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CIA Director John Brennan said al Qaeda has "metastasized over the years" and is found throughout Africa and Southeast Asia. He also said that concerns over the growing presence of al Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria have been the focus of many of his efforts with his foreign counterparts over the past year. The Air Force plans to eliminate nearly 500 planes due to budget cuts.
A US defense official said a small contingent of US special forces was recently sent to Jordan to train their Iraqi and Jordanian counterparts. US officials confirmed that the Navy had been told to be prepared to act to prevent a shipment of Iranian weapons from being smuggled into Gaza; the shipment was monitored by both US and Israeli officials and was intercepted by Israeli forces near Sudan on March 5.
The State Department issued an order restricting the movements of Syria's UN representative, Bashar Ja'afari, to a 25-mile radius of New York City; similar restrictions are in place for Iranian and North Korean envoys. US officials pushed for vigilance over Syria's compliance on the eradication of its chemical weapons. The US military warned Americans of an increased danger of bomb attacks in Bahrain.
US officials say al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, Farouq al-Qahtani al-Qatari, has several hundred fighters and could plan attacks on the US; officials are concerned that the "zero option" will remove US capability to launch strikes against al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. The US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, retired after three years in the post. Defense lawyers for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 48, a Kuwaiti son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and and suspected terrorist, asked for clarification that charges against him are not confused with those against Guantánamo detainee Abd al-Rahman Abdu Abu al-Ghayth Sulayman, a Yemeni in his 30s.
Defense Secretary Hagel urged Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty. Secretary of State Kerry said yesterday that the US has an obligation to pursue diplomatic and other options to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. Following the Obama administration's announcement that it has ordered the Pentagon to begin planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year in the absence of a bilateral security agreement, NATO said it is making similar plans. Former defense secretary Leon Panetta warned of the increasing danger of cyberattacks.
Secretary of State Kerry issued a statement yesterday denouncing Boko Haram's attacks in Nigeria and expressing US support for Nigerian authorities in their battle against the group; the US is providing counterterrorism assistance, he noted. Secretary of Defense Hagel is announcing proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget that will involve reducing the army to some 440,000 or 450,000 from a wartime high of 570,000, and scrapping Air Force A-10 attack jets, among other programs.
The Homeland Security Department has issued a warning, based on "very recent intelligence," about shoe bomb terror plots targeting US-bound passenger flights. Ahmed Muhammed Haza al Darbi, a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo, pled guilty to helping with an al Qaeda plot to attack oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz between 2000 and 2002. Jose Pimentel, a Muslim convert and US citizen accused of plotting pipe bomb attacks in New York City to avenge the killing of al Qaeda ideologue Anwar al Awlaki, pled guilty to a reduced charge, avoiding the possibility of life in prison.
The Obama administration is reconsidering military and diplomatic options on the Syrian conflict, including the creation of a Special Forces-led mission to train and equip rebel fighters and the establishment of a limited no-fly zone. A senior official said the administration is opposed to the provision of MANPADs to the Syrian rebels. US officials are seeking to swap five Taliban commanders currently held at Guantanamo for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who is thought to be a captive of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan.
US officials said that Thirwat Shehata, 53, an Egyptian who is a senior al Qaeda figure and former deputy to Ayman al Zawahiri, has left Iran and was in Libya in 2013. A number of top al Qaeda operatives have left Iran in recent years, and the US has placed Iran-based operatives on its terrorist sanctions list. Guantanamo prosecutors added a charge of conspiracy against detainee Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, who served Osama bin Laden as a senior deputy in Iraq.
In Congressional testimony yesterday, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieut. Gen. Michael Flynn denied that al Qaeda is on the run and on a path to defeat. He also said there is a "very real" risk that al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria could gain control of Syria's chemical or biological weapons. President Obama has acknowledged that Syria is one of the US' highest security priorities, and that rising extremism in Syria could threaten the US. A State Department report warned of the difficulty of planning for a US civilian diplomatic presence in Afghanistan in the absence of a security agreement.
The US Embassy in Uganda issued a warning of possible terror attacks in the capital city of Kampala in February or March. The first of four Navy missile-destroyer ships arrived at the US base in Rota, Spain as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach missile shield; three more ships will arrive by 2015 as part of the NATO plan.
The CIA is said to be considering a drone strike on an American member of al Qaeda in an unnamed foreign country who is plotting attacks against US citizens overseas. President Obama and President Hollande of France jointly announced new strategic cooperation between their countries on combating terrorism as well as other endeavors. The Pentagon announced that the MV Cape Ray, the ship specially outfitted to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, will remain indefinitely in Rota, Spain until the Assad regime completes the handover of its chemical weapons.
New Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson said the war in Syria has become a matter of homeland security due to the risks posed by US jihadists. US officials said at least 50 Americans have traveled to Syria to fight. Last week National Intelligence Director James Clapper said parts of northern Syria were becoming like Pakistan's tribal areas, where al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremists have found safe havens since 2001. According to Senator Lindsey Graham, Secretary of State Kerry recently said al Qaeda is posing a real and direct threat.
Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Brett McGurk said suicide bombings in Iraq have tripled over the past year, and that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham is using a "global network" of jihadists to supply the bombers, who are often foreigners; he also accused Iraq of not doing enough to stop Iran from sending military equipment to the Assad regime in Syria. McGurk said US advisers have been assisting the Iraqi army in the fight against ISIS in Fallujah. Secretary of State Kerry cautioned that French business executives visiting Tehran risk possible Iran sanctions. The Homeland Security Department warned that toothpaste tubes filled with explosives could be smuggled into Russia on direct flights and used to assemble a bomb either aboard the airplane or at the Sochi Olympics.
US officials said US drone strikes in Pakistan are being curtailed in deference to Pakistan's wishes and in view of logistical constraints as the US winds down its combat role in Afghanistan; the officials denied recent reports that the change was to allow Pakistan to negotiate with the Taliban. Officials said the CIA plans to focus on high-value targets such as al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and his top lieutenants, but also admitted that top al Qaeda operatives have become increasingly elusive. Robert Ford, the US envoy to the Syrian opposition, is retiring; his replacement has not been named.
US officials said they have sharply curtailed drone strikes in Pakistan at the request of the Pakistani government, which asked for a pause while it tries to negotiate with the Taliban. The Chair of the House Intelligence Committee charged that the Obama administration's revisions to the drone targeting criteria, which permit strikes only against al Qaeda operatives who pose a continuing and imminent threat to US persons and when there is a "near certainty" of no civilian casualties, "are an utter and complete failure" and leave American lives at risk. The head of the CIA warned that al Qaeda is using camps inside Syria and Iraq to develop capabilities for external as well as local attacks. The White House urged Egypt to release journalists and academics who have been arrested in a recent crackdown. The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center said the US and Russia are tracking "a number of specific threats" to the Olympic Games in Sochi.
At the Munich Security Conference, Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel called on European allies to step up their participation with the US in facing joint political and security challenges. Hagel indicated that the Obama administration is seeking to place more emphasis on traditional diplomacy and less on the exercise of military power. Kerry rejected charges that the US is disengaging from a leadership role. US officials are cautioning international business executives that the current relaxation of sanctions on Iran is temporary.
Federal prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty for suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Uzbek terror suspect Jamshid Muhtorov, a Colorado resident, filed a court challenge to the use of NSA information in the prosecution of his case. The US blamed Syria for delays in the removal of its chemical weapons arsenal. The Pentagon announced that Vice Admiral Mike Rogers, who heads the Navy's Cyber Command and is a former intelligence director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is being nominated to lead both the NSA and US Cyber Command.
National Intelligence Director James Clapper warned in the agency's 2014 threat assessment that "Syria has become a significant location for independent or al Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit, train, and equip a growing number of extremists, some of whom might conduct external attacks," and said elements of Syria's biological warfare program might be capable of production though not yet weaponized. Clapper said some Syrian rebel groups, including the Al Nusrah Front, have aspirations to attack the US itself. He also warned that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula poses a significant threat to US interests at home and abroad, and Hezbollah has increased its terrorist activity to a level not seen since the 1990s. In addition, Clapper said North Korea has restarted its nuclear reactor. A top US intelligence official reported an uptick in terrorist threats to the Sochi Olympics. The Chair of the House Armed Services Committee questioned the 'pivot to Asia.'
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that while "core al Qaeda" is "on a path to defeat," threats are posed by al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, and elsewhere. He vowed that in Syria, his administration will "support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks." He threatened to veto any new Iran sanctions while negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program are underway. With regard to Afghanistan, he said that if the bilateral security agreement is signed, a small US force "could remain" in the country after 2014, with NATO allies, to focus on training and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterroism operations against "any remnants of al Qaeda."