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July 3rd, 2011
04:56 AM ET

State of the Union Early Bird for July 3, 2011

(CNN)-It's early, and State of the Union is bringing you the best of the morning headlines to go with your cup of coffee.

On our radar this morning:  The rising fatalities in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Check out what we're reading, and be sure to watch the show today at 9am/12pm ET with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).  And on this 4th of July weekend, stay tuned for a special edition of the show, "Making it in America," a look at the American Dream.


U.S. turns to other routes to supply Afghan war as relations with Pakistan fray

The U.S. military is rapidly expanding its aerial and Central Asian supply routes to the war in Afghanistan, fearing that Pakistan could cut off the main means of providing American and NATO forces with fuel, food and equipment.

As recently as 2009, the U.S. military moved 90 percent of its surface cargo through Pakistan, arriving by ship at the port in Karachi and then snaking through mountain passes, deserts and remote tribal areas before crossing the border into Afghanistan. The Pakistan supply lines are served entirely by contractors instead of U.S. military convoys and are vulnerable to bandits, insurgents and natural disasters.

Today, almost 40 percent of surface cargo arrives in Afghanistan from the north, along a patchwork of Central Asian rail and road routes that the Pentagon calls the Northern Distribution Network. Military planners said they are pushing to raise the northern network’s share to as much as 75 percent by the end of this year.

Britain to pull 800 troops from Afghanistan: report

Britain will announce this week that it is to withdraw up to 800 troops by the end of next year, according to a report in the Sunday Times newspaper.

Buried bombs take increasingly deadly toll on Afghan civilians

Civilians have been dying in record numbers as violence intensifies across Afghanistan. The United Nations said that May was the deadliest month for noncombatants since it began keeping track five years ago, with 368 civilians killed in war-related violence. That month coincided with the start of the Taliban spring offensive.

Military fatalities, too, have been edging higher. Western troop deaths reached their highest levels of the year last month. Sixty-five were killed in June, according to the independent website, which tracks combat fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq. Forty-six of those were Americans.


U.S. envoy: Troop extension in Iraq is possible

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey told reporters at a roundtable in the capital that the Obama administration would consider a request to keep some of the roughly 46,000 U.S. troops here, but added, “We do need the Iraqi forces to help us secure our troops and, frankly, to secure themselves.”

Most U.S. forces are scheduled to leave by year’s end as part of a three-year security agreement, while about 17,000 U.S. diplomats and private contractors stay on.
Taking Lead, Iraqis Hope U.S. Special Operations Commandos Stay

Americans say the Iraqi special operations force, which was deliberately balanced with the country’s main sects and ethnicities, is more capable than the Iraqi Army and may be critical in preventing a resilient insurgency from exploding into a sectarian civil war. Even as few Iraqi politicians are willing to admit publicly that they need American help, Iraqi soldiers say that American troops must stay longer to continue training and advising.

“The Americans need to stay because we don’t have control over our borders,” said Maj. Gen. Fadhel al-Barwari, commander of the Iraq Special Operations Force.


Libyan Rebels Reverse Position on Peace Plan

Libya’s opposition leaders appeared to reverse position on a plan for peace talks after African Union countries said they wouldn’t honor an international warrant for the arrest of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

In an interview on Al Jazeera television, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the Libyan National Transition Council, said the council has decided to reject the plan.

“It doesn’t include the departure of Qaddafi from power,” Ghoga said in the interview, which was broadcast on the network early today. Ghoga denied reports that the plan had earlier been welcomed by the council.

Libyan rebels, Gadhafi forces exchange fire; 11 rebels wounded

Libyan rebels and troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi shelled each other for hours on Saturday in clashes at the highly contested frontline of Dafniya, an embattled town just west of the besieged port city of Misrata.

At least 11 rebels were wounded in the exchange of fire and treated at one of the two field hospitals in what has been the most active day in Dafniya this week, according to a CNN team.


Clinton Calls on Obama Not to 'Blink' on Debt-Ceiling Deal

Former President Bill Clinton Saturday night urged President Obama not to "blink" at Republican demands to exclude revenue increases from any agreement to extend the government's debt ceiling.

If Republicans maintain their opposition to revenue increases, Clinton said, Obama should pursue a short-term deal to extend the debt ceiling based on spending cuts both sides have already accepted in the negotiations between the administration and Congressional leaders from both parties.

"I hope they will make a mini-deal," Clinton said in an interview conducted with him at the Aspen Ideas Festival here.

Mitch McConnell has a Tea Party problem of his own in the Senate

Tea Party-backed lawmakers are pushing McConnell to insist on passage of a balanced budget amendment in exchange for allowing an increase in the debt limit.

McConnell has resisted, however. He argues that a balanced budget amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers, simply doesn’t have enough votes to pass the upper chamber. But this has put him out of step with some of the hard-charging conservative freshmen in the upper chamber.

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