Putin: NATO should stay in Afghanistan

Some unsolicited advice from Russia's president:

NATO forces should stay in Afghanistan until their job is done, Russia President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday, suggesting they should stay beyond a planned withdrawal of most combat troops in 2014.

"It is regrettable that many participants in this operation are thinking about how to pull out of there," Putin said at a meeting with paratroopers in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk. "They took up this burden and should carry it to the end."

Perhaps the position of America's "number one geopolitical foe" can help Mitt Romney's campaign better articulate a position on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It's not quite clear from the Reuters story why exactly Putin wants NATO to remain in Afghanistan, though from a strategic perspective, the allies' reliance on the Northern Distribution Network for supplies certainly gives Moscow some international leverage. Russian officials have also repeatedly urged the U.S. to pursue a poppy eradication strategy to wipe out Afghan heroin, which has helped fuel a growing drug epidemic in Russia.



Panetta warns Iran U.S. military 'prepared' to prevent nukes

ASHKELON, Israel — In some of his most hawkish language to date, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Iran not to seek nuclear weapons and indicated that the U.S. was prepared to use a military attack to stop Tehran.

"They have a choice to make," Panetta said. "If they make the decision to proceed with a nuclear weapon ... we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen."

Panetta repeatedly referenced U.S. "options" for Iran, including military ones, during a press conference in the middle of a plowed field about five miles from Gaza. He insisted economic sanctions, like the additional ones President Obama authorized on Monday, were pressuring Iran, but showed a tougher sounding tone than the more patient remarks that have preceded his Israel visit.

Behind the secretary and Israeli Defense Minister Barak stood an Iron Dome missile defense battery, which five weeks ago shot down rockets launched from within Gaza into Israel. President Obama on Monday released $70 million in additional funds for the system, a move Panetta claimed demonstrates the U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger than ever.

Countering Mitt Romney's recent assertions here that the U.S. Is not doing enough -- including militarily -- to support Israel or pressure Iran, Barak said the "special relationship" with the U.S. military was stronger than its ever been.

"This is the strongest alliance that we have," Panetta added, before leaving for additional meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.