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Jan 5, 2015

U.S. troops training Iraqi military at bases in Anbar, Taji

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. troops have started training Iraqi military forces at two bases in Iraq as they work to build a force that can take the offensive against Islamic State militants who overran part of the country last year, the Pentagon said on Monday.

About 320 U.S. Marines are training members of the Iraqi 7th Division at Ain al-Asad air base in western al Anbar province, which is taking regular harassing mortar fire from Islamic State militants, said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. The training began on Dec. 20.

Dec 31, 2014

U.S. confirms drone strike killed al Shabaab leader in Somalia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An unmanned U.S. aircraft that unleashed Hellfire missiles at a vehicle in Somalia earlier this week killed a leader of the al Shabaab militant group, dealing a setback to its ability to carry out anti-government attacks, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a note on Twitter the department could now “confirm that Tahliil Abdishakur, chief of al Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, was killed in a U.S. air strike in Somalia on 29 December.”

Dec 16, 2014

Pentagon weighs U.S. funding bill impact on terrorism fight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon is scrambling to assess the impact of Congress’ decision last week to approve only a third of the requested funding on the U.S. counterterrorism fight in Syria and Africa, the department’s budget chief said on Monday.

An appropriations bill approved on Saturday contained $1.3 billion of the $4 billion President Barack Obama sought for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund to counter al Qaeda affiliates in Africa and train Syrian moderates to fight Islamic State rebels.

Dec 12, 2014

Congress authorizes $577 billion in U.S. defense spending

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress approved an annual defense policy bill on Friday that authorizes American training for Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting Islamic State rebels and sets overall defense spending at $577 billion, including $64 billion for wars abroad.

The Senate passed the legislation and sent it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The House of Representatives last week endorsed the measure, which sets defense policy and authorizes spending levels for the 2015 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, but does not actually appropriate funding.

Dec 11, 2014

U.S. Navy laser weapon performing beyond expectations: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A laser weapon deployed aboard the USS Ponce in the Gulf has performed beyond expectations in four months of operational testing, the chief of Navy research said on Wednesday, lifting hopes for a new U.S. defense against cheap anti-ship arms.

Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, head of the Office of Naval Research, said the $40 million laser weapon was fully integrated into systems aboard the USS Ponce at the end of the summer for a year of testing.

Dec 10, 2014

U.S. lawmakers skeptical of Obama strategy against Islamic State

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers voiced deep skepticism on Wednesday about President Barack Obama’s handling of the war against Islamic State rebels in Iraq and Syria, charging that his response had been slow and “dithering” and warning the strategy did not match the threat.

Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy presidential envoy for countering Islamic State, told lawmakers the administration was making progress in the effort to destroy Islamic State, defeat al Qaeda and encourage the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Dec 4, 2014

Hagel dismisses reports he resigned over differences with Obama

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday his resignation last week was not prompted by “major differences” with President Barack Obama, pushing back against statements that he had been fired or quit due to White House micromanagement.

Hagel, speaking publicly for the first time about his Nov. 24 resignation, said he decided to step down after several conversations with the president led him to conclude that now was the best timing for a Pentagon leadership change.

Dec 4, 2014

Hagel unveils new efforts to fight sex assault in U.S. military

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled four new initiatives to combat sexual assault in the U.S. military on Thursday as the Pentagon released a preliminary report for 2014 showing signs of improvement after a three-year crackdown on the crime.

The report found a drop in overall cases of sexual assault and a greater willingness by troops to report assaults to authorities. But it also voiced concern that more than 60 percent of sexual assault victims believe they have been subjected to retaliation for reporting the crime.

Dec 4, 2014

U.S. military sex assault reports up 8 percent: officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sexual assaults reported by U.S. military troops rose 8 percent in 2014 amid signs that victims are increasingly confident about reporting the attacks, defense officials said on Wednesday ahead of the formal release of the annual figures.

Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said military personnel reported 5,983 sexual assaults in the 2014 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared with 5,518 the previous year.

Dec 3, 2014

Landmine casualties fell by 25 percent over last year to 15-year low

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fewer people were killed or wounded by landmines over the past year than at any time since record-keeping began in 1999, and production of the weapons has almost stopped, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said in a new report on Wednesday.

The drop in casualties caused by landmines, victim-activated explosive devices and unexploded weapons left behind after war came despite the spread of conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe over the past year.

    • 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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