National Security Brief: August 17, 2011

— The U.S. hasn’t called for the ouster of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad because such calls would be futile without international support, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday in a joint appearance with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

— Clinton also told an audience at the National Defense University that the U.S. debt ceiling political crisis “cast a pall over our ability to project the kind of security interests that are in America’s interests.”

— The U.S. military estimates $360 million in U.S. tax dollars have wound up in the hands of the Taliban, criminals and power-brokers, highlighting the problems faced by the Obama administration’s strategy of awarding U.S. financed contracts to Afghan businesses and the rampant corruption in Afghanistan.

— A new Rand Corporation report explores the possibility of a negotiated end to the 10-year-old Afghanistan war and finds that there are enough overlapping interests among the parties to offer some hope of success but compares the process of negotiations to herding cats.


— Libyan rebles have made “significant advances” in northwest Libya and in the regions of Misrata and al-Brega over the past few days according to a NATO military spokesperson who observed, “Anti-Qaddafi forces are now assuming control of the key approaches to Tripoli.”

— The rebels said their campaign against Muammar Qaddafi’s government has entered a “decisive phase” and that they expect victory by the end of August.

— Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he will “continue to cooperate with the Americans” if the United States vetoes Palestinian statehood at the U.N. next month.

— U.N. officials report that as many as 10,000 Palestinian refugees have fled the Syrian port city of Latakia during the Syrian military’s four-day assault which has included shelling from navy ships.