Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is trying to send a message during a weeklong trip to the Asia-Pacific region: The U.S. is back.
Panetta continues Monday to Vietnam, where he's hoping to build stronger defense ties. The trip began Sunday with a historic return to a key crossroads of the Vietnam War: Cam Ranh Bay.
Panetta boarded a little ferry boat Sunday in the beautiful natural harbor north of Ho Chi Minh City. On board, he asked about his destination: the USNS Richard E. Byrd, a big supply ship docked on the other side of the bay.
U.S. and Afghan forces are fighting to gain control of a major crossroads in a part of Afghanistan that has seen so few NATO troops that one village elder mistook the Americans for Russians — from the long-ago Soviet war.
"It's an absolutely crucial area," says NPR photographer David Gilkey, who has been embedded with U.S. troops involved in the offensive in eastern Afghanistan's Ghazni province.
(NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan this month. On Morning Edition, he reported from the eastern province of Ghazni about what's being called "the last major combat offensive of the Afghan War." Now, he tells us about his interview with the No. 2 U.S. officer in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.)
Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley says that he has reviewed his presentation at a Special Forces Industry Conference and has come to the conclusion that he was "accurately quoted" by a reporter from the The Diplomat.