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Oct 21, 2014

Despite costly U.S. effort, Afghan poppy cultivation hits new high

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.

Oct 15, 2014

U.S. Army readiness up after budget cuts but improvement needed: Hagel

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.

Oct 15, 2014

Hundreds of Islamic State militants killed in Kobani strikes – U.S.

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.

Oct 8, 2014

U.S., Japan eye closer security ties in Japan defense pact update

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.

Oct 8, 2014

U.S. military specialists in Liberia to conduct Ebola testing: general

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.

Oct 6, 2014

U.S. uses helicopters for first time to hit Islamic State rebels

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.

Oct 2, 2014

U.S. commander in Afghanistan says recent Taliban gains fleeting

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.

Oct 1, 2014

Hagel orders steps to improve U.S. military healthcare system

WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
took steps on Wednesday to improve the U.S. military healthcare
system after a review concluded that some patients had to wait
too long to see a doctor and others received care that was below
standard.

The Pentagon chief gave Defense Department hospitals and
clinics with underperforming units 30 days to develop plans to
reduce wait times and deal with other access issues. He told
facilities with quality problems to submit improvement plans in
45 days.

Sep 29, 2014

Islamic State fight seen costing U.S. $2.4 billion or more annually

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. military efforts against Islamic State have cost nearly $1 billion so far and are likely to run between $2.4 billion and $3.8 billion per year if air and ground operations continue at the current pace, according to a think tank analysis.

But a ramp-up, including more air strikes and a significant boost in ground forces, could send costs soaring to between $13 billion and $22 billion annually, said the analysis released on Monday by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Sep 23, 2014

U.S. says will abide by Mine Ban Treaty except on Korean Peninsula

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States edged closer on Tuesday to compliance with the international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines, saying it would abide by key requirements of the 1999 accord everywhere except on the Korean Peninsula.

Advocates of the landmine ban welcomed the administration’s efforts to adhere to provisions of the treaty, but said there was no justification for its continued insistence on the right to use them on the Korean Peninsula.

    • About David

      "David has been a journalist for 30 years, based in Washington, London, New Delhi, Jerusalem and Philadelphia. He covered the first Gulf war, the Palestinian intifada and the conflict in Kashmir. Since 1998 he has been an editor and reporter in Washington, covering politics, the White House and other stories."
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