National Security Brief: October 18, 2011

— In an editorial today, the New York Times rips the GOP presidential candidates on foreign policy for offering “largely bad analysis and worse solutions, nothing that suggests real understanding or new ideas.” “[W]e were concerned that the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were not saying much about national security,” the Times writes, “Now that a few have started, maybe they were better off before.”

— After reports last week that the U.S. had abandoned plans to keep troops in Iraq and push back from the administration that negotiations were ongoing, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta yesterday said he remained hopeful that a deal could be struck to keep U.S. trainers in Iraq beyond the end of this year.

— Iran’s nuclear program has undergone a series of setbacks since the Stuxnet cyberattack last year according to reports from Western diplomats and nuclear experts.

— The second-ranked U.S. diplomat in Uganda told reporters that most of the 100 U.S. troops sent there to support the battle against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) will not have a combat role and remain in Uganda, not venturing into South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Congo, where the LRA is based and mostly operates.

— U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Syria’s leaders must stop “continuing to kill their own people” and said the regime must reform “before it is too late.”

— The Turkish foreign minister met members of the Syrian National Council on Monday, Turkey’s first formal contact with the opposition group.

— U.S. and Italian defense chiefs say they examined options for ending the air campaign over Libya but alliance commanders are reportedly pushing for a continuation of bombing raids as Moammar Qaddafi’s remaining loyalists continue to put up resistance in Sirte.

— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Libya with promises of millions of dollars in new aid to help treat soldiers wounded in the country’s recent civil war and secure the stockpiles of weapons, amassed by the fallen Qaddafi regime, that have become a major international concern.