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Jul 21, 2013

Islamist rebels would gain sway in long Syrian war: U.S. official

By Phil Stewart

ASPEN, Colo. (Reuters) – - Radical Islamist rebels will gain sway over the many disparate factions opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unless they are checked, and the country’s civil war could last years, a top Pentagon intelligence official said on Saturday.

David Shedd, the deputy director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, did not advocate any form of intervention by the United States or its allies, saying that was up to policymakers.

Jul 20, 2013

Saudi suspect in underwear bomb plots trained others, U.S. says

By Phil Stewart

ASPEN, Colo. (Reuters) – The United States believes the Saudi man suspected of designing underwear bombs for al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has trained a small number of people on his advanced bomb-making techniques, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

The remarks by John Pistole, who heads the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, were some of the most detailed public comments to date about Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri and the thwarted May 2012 plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, to blow up a plane with an underwear bomb.

Jul 19, 2013

U.S. overhauling intelligence access to try to prevent another Snowden

By Phil Stewart

ASPEN, Colo. (Reuters) – The United States is overhauling procedures to tighten access to top-secret intelligence in a bid to prevent another mega-leak like the one carried out by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, senior U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The National Security Agency, which Snowden worked for as a Hawaii-based contractor, said it would lead the effort to isolate intelligence and implement a “two-man rule” for downloading – similar to procedures used to safeguard nuclear weapons.

Jul 18, 2013

U.S. overhauling intel access in bid to prevent another Snowden

ASPEN, Colorado (Reuters) – The United States is overhauling procedures to tighten access to top secret intelligence in a bid to prevent another mega-leak like the one carried out by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, a top Pentagon official said on Thursday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a security forum that the government was already moving to better isolate intelligence so that all of it isn’t accessible in one place, and to implement a “two-man rule” – similar to procedures used to safeguard nuclear weapons.

Jul 11, 2013

U.S. says ‘zero option’ on Afghanistan unlikely

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is unlikely to be forced into a “zero option” of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan after 2014, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai must understand that a bilateral security pact is necessary for them to stay, U.S. officials said.

The comments come days after the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama is seriously weighing the “zero option” that would end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan amid tensions with Karzai.

Jul 11, 2013

U.S. still plans to send F-16s to Egypt in coming weeks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States still plans to go through with the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, U.S. defense officials told Reuters on Wednesday, even after the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Mursi.

The disclosure came as Washington treads a careful line, neither welcoming Mursi’s removal nor denouncing it as a “coup,” saying it needs time to weigh the situation.

Jul 10, 2013

Pentagon chief says draconian steps would be needed to meet cuts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned on Wednesday the Pentagon would have to take draconian steps next fiscal year, including funding cuts for hundreds of weapons programs and possible layoffs of civilian workers, unless Congress acts to stop $52 billion in spending cuts.

“I strongly oppose cuts of that magnitude because, if they remain in place for FY 2014 and beyond, the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced,” Hagel wrote in a letter to the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee released on Wednesday.

Jul 10, 2013

Exclusive: U.S. still plans to send F-16s to Egypt in coming weeks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will go through with the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday as Washington deliberated whether to call the ouster of Egypt’s elected leader a military coup.

A decision to call last week’s overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi a coup would, by law, require the Obama administration to halt aid to the Egyptian army.

Jul 9, 2013

Afghan officials skeptical as U.S. mulls complete withdrawal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is considering pulling out all its troops from Afghanistan next year but is far from making a decision, White House and Pentagon officials said on Tuesday, but Afghan officials expressed skepticism that President Barack Obama would back a complete withdrawal.

Amid tensions between Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the path forward, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that a “zero option” of leaving no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is among the policy possibilities under consideration.

Jul 8, 2013

Exclusive: Congress delaying U.S. aid to Syrian rebels – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional committees are holding up a plan to send U.S. weapons to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because of fears that such arms deliveries will not be decisive and might end up in the hands of Islamist militants, five U.S. national security sources said.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees have expressed reservations behind closed doors at the effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to support the insurgents by sending them military hardware.

    • About Phil

      "Phil Stewart has worked for Reuters since 1998 and reported from more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. Before becoming a Washington D.C.-based military affairs and intelligence reporter, Phil covered terrorism, foreign affairs and the Vatican from Rome from 2004 until mid-2009. He has also previously been based in Colombia and Brazil as a foreign correspondent. Before joining Reuters, Phil covered U.S. politics out of Washington D.C. for States News Service. He earned his BS in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. ..."
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