WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration was criticized by lawmakers on Wednesday over U.S. Army plans to cut nearly 60,000 soldiers and civilian personnel, warning the reductions were risky for U.S. forces at a time of conflict in the Middle East and rising tensions with Russia.
Senator John McCain, the Republican head of the Armed Services Committee, called the plan to cut 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilian personnel “another dangerous consequence of budget-driven strategy” pursued by President Barack Obama.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States was only training about 60 Syrian opposition fighters to battle Islamic State as of July 3, far below expectations, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Tuesday, citing rigorous U.S. vetting of recruits.
The program, which launched in May in Jordan and Turkey, was designed to train as many as 5,400 fighters a year and seen as a test of President Barack Obama’s strategy of engaging local partners to combat extremists.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday a flurry of U.S. air strikes around Raqqa, Syria, over the weekend were aimed at disrupting the ability of Islamic State rebels to respond to ground advances by Syrian Kurdish forces north of the city.
The U.S.-led coalition, in an apparent shift in targeting, hit the capital of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate with 18 air strikes on Saturday, destroying 16 bridges as well as tactical units and vehicles.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A year after Islamic State declared a caliphate on territory seized in Iraq and Syria, the al Qaeda splinter group faces military pressure from a U.S.-led coalition but remains a potent force holding key cities, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said the militant group has lost a quarter of the land it controlled at the height of its expansion and has broken and run on several occasions in northern Syria in the face of an offensive by Kurdish-led forces.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia is “playing with fire” with its nuclear saber-rattling and the United States is determined to prevent it from gaining a significant military advantage through violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the deputy U.S. defense chief said on Thursday.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, speaking to lawmakers in the House of Representatives, also said modernizing and maintaining U.S. nuclear forces in the coming years would consume up to 7 percent of the defense budget, up from the current 3 to 4 percent, and could squeeze other programs unless additional funding was approved.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear force, from bombs to ballistic missile submarines, is affordable despite estimates the cost could be as high as $1 trillion over 30 years, according to a new study by a Washington think-tank.
But paying for the nuclear modernization could mean trade-offs elsewhere, “thus, the issue is not affordability – rather, it is a matter of prioritization,” the authors of the study said in preliminary findings released late on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Tuesday touted Kurdish-led advances against Islamic State in Syria as a model for the U.S.-backed effort to retake territory from the jihadist group, but U.S. officials cautioned that the insurgents remained resilient and could strike back.
By highlighting battlefield gains in northern Syria by a reliable partner on the ground, the White House sought to further justify President Barack Obama’s policy of limiting U.S. military involvement in the fight to reverse Islamic State’s conquests there and in neighboring Iraq.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China is mounting a serious effort to challenge U.S. military superiority in air and space, forcing the Pentagon to seek new technologies and systems to stay ahead of its rapidly developing rival, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said on Monday.
The Pentagon’s chief operating officer, speaking to a group of military and civilian aerospace experts, said China was “quickly closing the technological gaps,” developing radar-evading aircraft, advanced reconnaissance planes, sophisticated missiles and top-notch electronic warfare equipment.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Syrian rebels receiving U.S. military training to battle Islamic State militants are being paid $250 to $400 per month, depending on their skills, performance and leadership position, the Pentagon said on Monday.
It was not immediately clear how many Syrian rebels were currently being paid. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said last week that up to 200 Syrian fighters were undergoing training. A further 1,500 have completed the necessary screening.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. effort to build a moderate Syrian opposition force that can stand up to Islamic State rebels is moving more slowly than expected due to complications vetting volunteers and bringing them out of Syria for training, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said between 100 and 200 Syrian fighters were undergoing training in the region, while hundreds more were still being screened or waiting to be brought out of the country.