WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) – The U.S. and South Korean
defense chiefs agreed on Thursday that for the foreseeable
future the United States will take overall command of their
combined forces in case of a war, reversing an earlier plan to
shift the responsibility to Seoul next year.
The new arrangement, requested by South Korea, delayed
transition to South Korean command leadership until Seoul has
better military capabilities to counter the kinds of nuclear
weapons and missile threats posed by North Korea.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iraq’s new defense minister affirmed his commitment to military reform and said going on the offensive against Islamic State fighters is a priority, the Pentagon said on Thursday after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to his counterpart by phone.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Hagel and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi spoke for about 20 minutes on Thursday morning in their first phone call since al-Obeidi was approved as the Iraq’s defense chief.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Tuesday the vast majority of military supplies air dropped near the Syrian city of Kobani had reached the Kurdish fighters they were intended to help, despite an online video showing Islamic State militants with a bundle.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said experts were analyzing the video and trying to determine if the bundle was the one the department reported earlier had fallen into the hands of Islamic State or if it was a second bundle in the group’s possession.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013 despite years of counter-narcotics efforts that have cost the United States $7.6 billion, the U.S. government watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction spending said on Tuesday.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghan farmers grew an “unprecedented” 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday the U.S. Army has improved its combat readiness this year but is still short of what is needed to defend the nation with minimum risk after being hit with deep across-the-board budget cuts last year.
Hagel said a congressional budget deal late last year had helped to stabilize defense spending and enabled the Army to devote more resources to maintenance and training. But he warned that the gains could be reversed unless lawmakers act to avert a return to the deep spending cuts in October of next year.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S.-led air strikes have killed several hundred Islamic State fighters around the Syrian town of Kobani, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, but it cautioned that the town near Turkey’s border could still fall to the Sunni militant group.
The U.S.-led coalition has launched about 40 air strikes on the mainly Kurdish town of Kobani in the past 48 hours, the largest number since the strikes inside Syria began on Sept. 22 and illustrating the difficulty of staunching a nearly month-long Islamic State offensive on the town.
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan and the United States agreed on Wednesday to map out how they will work together if Tokyo needs to use force to help protect a friendly country under attack, as they update defense cooperation guidelines for the first time in nearly two decades.
The development follows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic step away from Japan’s post-war pacifism in July, when the Japanese government reinterpreted pacifist Article 9 of the constitution to end a ban that has kept its military from fighting abroad.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – About two dozen U.S. military specialists deploying to Liberia will test laboratory samples for Ebola, but most of the nearly 4,000 troops due to go there are not expected to be in direct contact with the virus, defense officials said Tuesday.
General David Rodriguez, head of U.S. forces in Africa, said three mobile labs had deployed to Liberia and four more were being sought to run tests that would distinguish between people infected with Ebola and those who have diseases with similar symptoms, such as malaria.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military is flying Apache helicopters against Islamic State rebels in Iraq for the first time, exposing U.S. troops to greater risk from ground fire as they help Iraqi forces battle the Islamist group that has overrun parts of the country.
U.S. troops flew helicopters against Islamic State fighters on Sunday and again on Monday as they struck at mortar teams and other units near Fallujah, said a spokesman for Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. forces in the Middle East.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghan military casualties have spiked in recent weeks amid an increase in Taliban attacks, but the top U.S. commander in the country said on Thursday that rebel gains were fleeting and he was confident Afghan forces could stop them from holding ground.
“The last couple of weeks, there has been an uptick (in casualties), with the Taliban trying to make a statement as they close out the fighting season,” U.S. Army General John Campbell, the commander of international forces, told a Pentagon briefing.