Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - For the first time, Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is committed to allowing two key government anti-corruption units to operate without political interference.
The announcement came after a series of meetings Thursday night and Friday in Kabul with U.S. Sen. John Kerry and other senior U.S. and Afghan officials - talks that both Kerry and Karzai described as a "candid and productive" conversation.
In separate statements after the meeting, both said that Kerry and Karzai agreed on the importance of strengthening the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigative Unit.
Both units have been criticized by the Afghan president for allegedly abusing the rights of a top government official arrested on corruption charges. In a visit to Kabul Wednesday, Kerry told Karzai that the issue of corruption is undermining U.S. support for the war.
"The president and I agree that the work of these entities must be allowed to continue free from outside interference or political influence, including with respect to ongoing cases," Kerry said.
In an exclusive interview with CNN after the meetings, Kerry said, "For the first time, the president has publicly committed to proceeding forward with the Major Crimes unit investigations and done so with a guarantee that it will be free from political influence. I think that's important."
Washington (CNN) - Vowing to continue to "underwrite global security" - but not alone - the Obama administration Thursday released its first National Security Strategy, a 52-page outline of the president's strategic approach and priorities.
The NSS, required by Congress of every administration to be prepared every four years, for the first time combines homeland security and national security, focusing not only on threats internationally but on the threat of home-grown radicals inspired and recruited by al Qaeda.
"We view this as an important and emerging challenge," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, told reporters. Al Qaeda, he said, is less capable of using safe havens for training abroad and is now "trying to inspire Americans to carry out attacks on the U.S."
Those Americans, he said, may have less direct contact with the terrorist organization but they carry American passports and know the strengths and weaknesses of the United States.
"Several recent incidents of violent extremists in the United States who are committed to fighting here and abroad have underscored the threat to the United States and our interests posed by individuals radicalized at home," the NSS states. "Our best defenses against this threat are well informed and equipped families, local communities and institutions."
Washington (CNN) – At a Rose Garden ceremony swearing in 24 immigrant members of the U.S. military as citizens, President Obama made his first direct comments on Arizona's controversial immigration bill.
Obama said, "Our failure to act responsible at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermined basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."
The bill would make it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and allow police to stop anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally to demand they produce an alien registration document, a driver's license or other documents proving their legal status.
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration plans to change the so-called Title IX policy which governs gender equality in sports, eliminating what some women's rights supporters claim is a Bush-administration loophole in compliance, according to a senior White House official.
Vice President Joe Biden is expected to announce the change Tuesday, said the official, who is not authorized to speak on the record.
The 1972 Title IX education amendment required gender equity in sports programs at educational institutions receiving federal funds.
Universities initially faced three requirements to prove they were complying with the law: that the proportion of male and female students participating in sports at the university was proportional to the number of male and female students enrolled in the university; that the university was expanding opportunities for women students in athletics; and that the university was meeting the athletic abilities and interests of women students.
Washington (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday dismissed the view that relations between the United States and Israel is in crisis after a row between the two countries over settlements.
"Oh I don't buy that," Clinton told reporters at the State Department. "We have an absolute commitment to Israel's security. We have a close, unshakable bond between the United States and Israel and between the American and Israeli people."
An Israeli official earlier confirmed to CNN that Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, had told his fellow Israeli diplomats that relations between the two countries were "in a crisis."
Clinton said the U.S. had expressed its "dismay and disappointment" after Israel's announcement that it was allowing construction of 1,600 settler housing units in East Jerusalem.
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marked International Women's Day Monday with a video message repeating her words from the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: "Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights."
Recalling one of the key speeches of her long career, Clinton said, in the past 15 years, women have made great progress "but there is a long way to go."
"Women are still the majority of the world's poor, unhealthy, underfed, and uneducated," Clinton said. "They rarely cause violent conflicts but too often bear their consequences. Women are absent from negotiations about peace and security to end those conflicts. Their voices simply are not being heard."
Clinton has incorporated women's rights as a key part of her international agenda.
"We think it's the right thing to do, but we also believe it's the smart thing to do as well," Clinton said in the video message posted on the State Department Web site.
Washington (CNN) – With his "change" agenda bogged down at home, what hope is there for President Obama's international agenda?
Over the past several months, the Obama administration has faced a number of issues: costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; an economy still reeling; health care reform negotiations stalled; and a Republican political upset in Massachusetts that torpedoed the Senate Democratic supermajority.
"When American presidents get weak at home, it really does affect their ability to act abroad," said Doug Paal with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In his first year, Obama visited 21 countries. His mantra: Engagement - even with your enemies.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she sees "a lot of positive trends."
"It's almost hard to remember how poorly much of the world viewed the United States when President Obama came into office," she added.
But the scorecard so far is mixed.
.Hundreds of people, some with U.S. passports, lined up outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince last week.(Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
Washington (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the Obama administration is "looking at" the idea of allowing more legal immigration to the U.S. from Haiti.
Speaking to reporters at the State Department before departing to Montreal, Quebec, for a conference on international relief efforts for Haiti, Clinton said, "We are looking at every option that can provide a better future for the Haitian people."
Asked about the secretary's comments, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters, "There is a cap, you know, levied on the number that can travel to the United States from Haiti. And that is something that we'll be ... working with a variety of interest groups on as we go forth."
Some Haiti experts and non-governmental organizations say that allowing more legal immigration from Haiti would relieve some of the burden of providing earthquake relief efforts on the island.
The Obama administration, after the earthquake, allowed Haitians currently in the United States illegally to apply for temporary protected status for 18 months. That would allow them to work and send cash remittances back to help their families in Haiti.
Clinton, along with foreign ministers, major donors and regional and multilateral partners, was going to Montreal for a Monday's one-day Ministerial Preparatory Conference of the Group of Friends of Haiti.
Updated: 3:42 p.m.
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she is "of course" not satisfied with the pace at which relief supplies and personnel are getting into Haiti, but added she is "aware of the difficulties" involved.
"There were so many challenges that had to be addressed all at once" after the earthquake that it is "really remarkable how much we've gotten done," she said as she answered reporters' questions at the State Department.
Washington (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Friday that violence is rising in Sudan, where human suffering in Darfur continues "on a mass scale."
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Clinton said Sudan is "at a critical juncture." While the ceasefire between the Sudanese government and the main rebel group has mostly held, "threats to progress are real," she said.
"The parties in Sudan have a choice," Clinton said. "They can revert back to a dark era of conflict or they can move forward together toward a lasting peace."
In April, Sudan will hold its first national elections in 24 years. Less than a year later the people of southern Sudan will vote on whether to break off and form an independent country.
Clinton called on all parties to work to ensure that those elections take place "on time with their outcomes respected." She said Norway and Britain have pledged to cooperate with the United States in achieving the goal.