Nancy Pelosi’s Afghanistan Warning

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is issuing a blunt warning to President Obama regarding his future course in Afghanistan, saying that the troop withdrawal he’s set to begin needs to be more substantial than the few thousand level that’s been discussed publicly.

“No, I don't think that is enough,” Pelosi told ABC News. “I think the transition from military to civilian is going to be in the interest of our security, that it reduces the number of military who have to be there at risk, it reduces the amount of money by like 10-fold -- if you spent $10 billion on civilian effort, you probably will get more security than $120 billion a year, which is what we are spending on the military effort. It doesn't mean you completely eliminate the military effort.”

Asked how much of a troop withdrawal should commence in July, she said, “We will see what the president proposes. But it will have to be something more substantial than we have heard so far, which is a few thousand troops.”

Add to those comments several uncomfortably close House votes on both Afghanistan and Libya, and it’s clear that leading Democrats are sending a message to the Obama White House over foreign policy and national security.

“We just had a vote last week in Congress which was very interesting,” Pelosi said. “We came six votes short of saying let's sit down and work together to plan the withdrawal of these troops [from Afghanistan].”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner: Obama Needs to Explain Missions in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq

ABC/Martin H. Simon(WASHINGTON) -- While the focus of the 112th Congress so far has predominantly been job creation, deficit reduction and the looming debt crisis, one aspect of that debate that's gaining momentum recently is the cost of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death in Abbottabad, Pakistan last month, many members have questioned the need for a military presence in Afghanistan -- particularly since the al Qaeda leader was not even in Afghanistan and the Pentagon says less than 100 al Qaeda fighters remain there.

Speaker of the House John Boehner called on the president Thursday to "step up and help the American understand why these missions are vital to the national security interests of our country."

Boehner said that having recently visited Afghanistan he has "a pretty good feel" for the national security interests there, but called on the president to clearly define the missions in all three current theatres of war.

"The president has a role to play here," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I really do believe that the president needs to speak out, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Libya, and the doubts that our members have frankly reflected they’re reflecting what they’re hearing from their constituents."

Last week, the House voted 215-204 to defeat an effort to require the administration to create a timetable to speed up the transfer of military operations in Afghanistan to local authorities. Twenty-six Republicans joined 178 Democrats in supporting the McGovern amendment. Eight Democrats opposed the measure -- enough to defeat the amendment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


E. coli Outbreak Ravaging Europe is New Strain of Bacteria

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- The lethal E. coli bacteria that has left 18 dead and more than 1,500 sick in Europe is a new strain that experts have never seen before, the World Health Organization announced Thursday.

Early investigations suggest that the strain is an altered type of two E. coli bacteria with deadly genes that, experts said, could explain the widespread and dangerous nature of the illness.

The source of the bacteria remains unknown, continuing to baffle experts.

The strain has hit eight countries in Europe, but has been concentrated in Germany.

Two cases have surfaced in U.S. hospitals, said Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Russell did not disclose the names or locations of those who had fallen ill, but she did say their illnesses were associated with recent travel to Germany. Both are expected to survive.

Most E. Coli strains are harmless, but those that do cause sickness usually trigger bouts of bloody diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. In the bacteria's most serious and severe form, the infection causes hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a condition that attacks the kidneys and can cause stroke, seizure, coma and death. In a typical outbreak, only about 1 to 2 percent of those affected experience HUS.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japanese Prime Minister Signals Resignation

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, facing a no-confidence vote in Parliament, signaled Thursday that he would step down once disaster reconstruction efforts take hold.

While the leader gave no timeline for his resignation, he called on members of his ruling Democratic Party of Japan to keep him in office so he can take "responsibility for the situation."

"Once I've fulfilled my role, I would like to pass on the responsibility to a younger generation," Kan said in a nationally televised meeting of DPJ lawmakers.  "Until we can reach that point, I ask that you allow me to fulfill my responsibility."

Kan's plea comes amid mounting criticism over his handling of Japan's worst-ever natural disaster.  Nearly three months after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear crises at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, reactors continue to spew radiation and leak contaminated water.

More than 20,000 people are either dead or missing along the northeastern coast in the Tohoku region, while 80,000 people have been evacuated from their homes because of radiation concerns.  Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kan's government has been criticized for what many consider a slow response to the disasters.

On Wednesday, the main opposition Liberal Democratic party, the New Komeito party, and the Sunrise Party of Japan submitted a motion to the Lower House, calling for a no-confidence vote against Kan.  The Prime Minister is expected to survive that vote, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but the debate over his leadership threatens to strain the ruling party further at a time when the country faces its largest rebuilding effort since World War II.

The no-confidence comes exactly one year after previous Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stepped down over his handling of a U.S. military base in Okinawa.  Japan has gone through four prime ministers in the last four years.  None have lasted more than 12 months on the job.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Baby Rats Found Aboard Qantas Plane in Sydney

Pascal Parrot/Getty Images (file photo)(SYDNEY) -- The flight crew of a Qantas jet could've used some snakes on their plane this week.

According to The Wall Street Journal, five baby rats were found Tuesday in a storage compartment on board a Qantas jet at Sydney airport.  A spokesperson for the Australian airline said the rats were discovered before passengers boarded the Boeing 767 for a flight to Brisbane.

The jet was taken out of service, inspected and later declared to be free of rats.  The plane is scheduled to be put back into service Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Courier Who Led CIA to Osama Bin Laden Identified

CNN via Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- The man who inadvertently tipped off the CIA to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts has been identified.

Pakistani officials said that Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, a courier for the late al Qaeda leader, was the accidental hero, at least in U.S. eyes.

His cell phone call last year outside of bin Laden's compound was intercepted by the CIA and ultimately led them to Abbottabad, about an hour's drive from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.  Bin Laden was killed during a U.S. Special Forces raid of the compound on May 1.

U.S. intelligence first learned about Ahmed, a protégé of admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, through an al Qaeda operative.  He originally came from the Swat Valley, a Taliban stronghold where bin Laden lived for years before moving to Abbottabad.

Ahmed and his brother were also shot dead by Navy SEALs during the raid on bin Laden's compound.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amanda Knox Family Sees Hopeful Signs in Italian Murder Appeal

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(ROME) -- The family of Amanda Knox, sentenced to 26 years in an Italian prison, sees glimmers of hope as small victories in her appeal seem to cast doubt on the guilty verdict against her.

Three birthdays, four Christmases and one college graduation have passed with Knox, now 23, living in a grim Italian prison cell. Her family now is cautiously optimistic that the appeal of her murder conviction will go her way.

Knox, who was a 20-year-old student from Seattle, and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of the brutal November 2007 murder of Knox's roommate Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years and Sollecito was given 25 years following their conviction in 2009.

In recent weeks, the Knox defense team has notched some small victories. It was delighted when the appeals panel cast doubt on the testimony of Antonio Curatolo, a 53-year-old drug addict who lived in a park near the murder scene. During the trial he testified that he saw Knox and Sollecito together on the night of the murder near the cottage where Kercher was killed.

But when he spoke with the appeals panel, Curatolo said he was sure of the moment because he remembered also seeing the buses that were used to take Halloween partiers to area bars that night. The murder, however, happened the night after Halloween and no party buses were runnng on the night of the murder.

The Knox team was also encouraged last week when 11 Italian legislators signed a petition calling for a review into whether the Knox criminal investigation was conducted properly.

The defense is most hopeful over signs that the appeals panel -- two judges and six jurors -- may be casting doubt on the crucial DNA evidence that was used to convict Knox and played an even more significant role in the conviction of Sollecito.

During the trial, Knox suffered a blow when her defense team's request for an independent review of the DNA evidence was denied. But when Knox's appeal began late last year, a new judge granted the request and assigned two renowned Italian independent experts to review the forensics.

For Knox and her family, there was finally a small win after years of legal setbacks.

Amanda's father, Curt Knox, told ABC News, "It really appears [the judge] wants to get to the truth. And the truth is really going to set her free."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: Rahm Emanuel Says President Obama Is 'Consistent' on Israel

YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- President Obama’s former chief of staff and the current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, defended his old boss and said he didn’t see a problem with the proposal for Israel’s borders.

“I looked at the whole speech. I looked at everything he said in support of Israel, with its security and safety.  And I saw the president that I worked for,” Emanuel said in an exclusive interview with ABC News. “And he’s been consistent about Israel security and safety, as his number-one concern.”

Obama called out Emanuel during his AIPAC speech where he tried to clarify his vision for the Middle East. The president told the crowd he doesn’t need his former chief of staff to tell him the best way to get re-elected is to avoid controversy -- controversy that the 1967 border suggestion stirred.

ABC News asked Emanuel if any pro-Israel Democrats have a right be bothered by the suggestion that future peace agreements should look to the 1967 border map.

“If they can look at the speech they may see a different speech…I read the speech, and I saw the same president who pulled out of the Durban Conference. The president’s been clear about not using the United Nations for independent action.  It has to be done in negotiations,” he said. “And I think the president, as I worked with, is consistent about Israeli’s military strategic edge.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Trial Date Set for Former Egyptian President Mubarak

AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will reportedly go on trial with his sons Aug. 3.

Mubarak, who for 30 years served as Egypt's leader, will be tried on charges of corruption and intentionally killing protesters, according to the country's state news agency.

Hundreds were reported killed in the uprising that eventually led to Mubarak's departure earlier this year.

Asked whether Mubarak's trial is a good or bad step for Egypt's path to democracy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it's "a decision for the Egyptians to make."

"Obviously, we want to see the rule of law," Clinton said. "We want to see appropriate due process and procedures followed in anyone's trial, and particularly in such a highly charged trial as that will certainly be.

"We are...keeping very close watch on events in Egypt. We're...disturbed by the reports of efforts to crack down on journalists and bloggers and judges and others," Clinton said, "which we don't think is in keeping with the direction that the Egyptian people were heading when they started out in Tahrir Square."

For the past two months, the 83-year-old has been in custody at a hospital where he's being treated for a heart condition.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton: Yemen Conflict Won't End Until Saleh Steps Down

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amid reports of dozens killed in clashes in Yemen over the last day or so, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the violence will only end when President Ali Abdullah Saleh leaves the country.

"We cannot expect this conflict to end unless President Saleh and his government move out of the way to permit the opposition and civil society to begin a transition to political and economic reform," she told reporters in Washington.

The United States had backed a deal brokered by Yemen's neighbors that would usher President Saleh out of power and pave the way for a democratic process that involved the long-suppressed opposition. Saleh had suggested he would agree to the deal, but ultimately would not sign it, touching off renewed clashes in the impoverished Arab country.

"President Saleh was given a very good offer, that we strongly backed, by the Gulf countries," Clinton said.

"We continue to watch the situation, and we are where we've been for weeks in doing everything we can, along with the international community, to convince President Saleh to step down from power.  If it wasn't obvious before, it certainly should be now that his presence remains a source of great conflict, and unfortunately, as we have watched over the last several days, even, you know, military action and violence," she added.

Forces loyal to the president are now locked in a violent struggle against tribal groups and opposition figures vying for power. The clashes have overtaken a peaceful popular uprising that threatened to unseat Saleh through youth-led protests in the street. As the situation has deteriorated, last week the United States withdrew some non-essential personnel and all family members from its embassy due to security concerns.

President Saleh has been in power for nearly 33 years and was considered a key U.S. ally in a strategic country that is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the dangerous terror group that has tried to carry out several attacks in the United States in recent years. Saleh has warned that without him in power al Qaeda will be a greater threat.

U.S. military trainers have worked to improve Yemen’s security forces in a battle against terror groups and the United States has been allowed to conduct limited strikes against terror targets inside Yemen.

The Obama administration had been reluctant to withdraw its support for Saleh, fearing the political chaos that might ensue could provide an opening for al Qaeda to regroup, but shifted its position after the president started backing out of the deal with the opposition and as Saleh's crackdown on demonstrators increased.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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