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Feb 22, 2015

New Defense Secretary hosts U.S. gathering on Islamic State strategy

KUWAIT CITY (Reuters) – New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is gathering top U.S. military commanders and diplomats for talks in Kuwait on Monday about the battle against Islamic State, as America’s military effort approaches major hurdles in both Iraq and Syria.

Carter says he hopes the roughly six hours of largely unscripted discussions will help assess the war that he is inheriting after swearing-in on Tuesday as President Barack Obama’s fourth defense secretary.

Feb 21, 2015

New U.S. defence chief: withdrawal from Afghanistan under review

KABUL (Reuters) – Washington is reviewing a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2016 to ensure that “progress sticks” after more than a decade of war, new U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters in Kabul on Saturday.

Under the current plan, the United States will halve the number of troops in Afghanistan to 5,000 this year, gradually winding down to a “normal” U.S. embassy presence by 2016.

Feb 21, 2015

New U.S. defense chief silent on date of Mosul offensive

KABUL (Reuters) – New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday he would not telegraph the precise timing of an upcoming Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, after a U.S. military briefing caused an uproar.

Two influential Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, sent a scathing letter to the White House on Friday complaining about a Thursday briefing that predicted a Mosul offensive likely to start in April or May, involving 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Feb 21, 2015

New U.S. defense chief in Afghanistan seeking ‘lasting’ success

KABUL (Reuters) – New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday on his first trip since taking over the job this week, saying he wanted to talk to Afghan and American officials to ensure a “lasting” success as U.S. troops withdraw.

Carter, who was sworn in on Tuesday, has suggested he would be open to slowing U.S. withdrawal plans, if necessary. But he did not signal whether he was leaning in that direction in comments to reporters shortly before landing in Kabul.

Feb 19, 2015

U.S. sees Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul in April-May time frame

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An Iraqi and Kurdish military force of some 20,000 to 25,000 troops is being prepared to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters, probably in the April-May time frame, an official at the U.S. Central Command said on Thursday.

The official said Mosul was currently being held by 1,000 to 2,000 Islamic State fighters. No decision has been made on whether small numbers of U.S. military advisers might need to be on the ground close to Mosul to direct close air support, the official told a group of reporters on condition of anonymity.

Feb 13, 2015

U.S. moving to resupply Jordan’s military with munitions: officials

WASHINGTON/AMMAN (Reuters) – The United States is readying plans to resupply Jordan with munitions in the coming weeks, possibly including precision-guided arms, expediting support for the kingdom as it expands its role in airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS), officials say.

The State Department and Pentagon declined comment on any future moves to assist Jordan with requests for weapons. But several U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that planning was well underway to help replenish Jordan’s supplies of ordnance.

Feb 10, 2015

American hostage Mueller’s death confirmed by Obama, family

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday confirmed the death of Kayla Mueller, a U.S. aid worker who had been held hostage by Islamic State militants, saying the United States would “find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible.”

Mueller’s family also said in a statement that they were “heartbroken” to learn of her death and released a copy of a letter she had written in 2014 while in captivity.

Feb 4, 2015

Obama Pentagon nominee Carter leans toward arming Ukraine

WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s pick
to become U.S. defense secretary told Congress on Wednesday he
was leaning in favor of providing arms to Ukraine, in what would
be a departure from U.S. policy that opponents say could fan the
flames of war.

Ashton Carter, a former Pentagon No. 2, said he would “very
much incline” in supplying defensive arms to Ukraine, adding the
United States needed to support the country’s efforts to defend
itself against Russian-backed separatists. U.S. officials have
acknowledged taking a fresh look at the issue.

Feb 3, 2015

U.S. hopes pilot’s murder will toughen Jordan’s resolve

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Islamic State’s burning to death of a captured Jordanian air force pilot is likely to harden Jordan’s position as a member of the U.S.-led coalition striking the militant group in Syria, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Jordan has not retrenched from the air campaign against Islamic State since the group captured pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December.

Jan 24, 2015

Exclusive: Some counter-terrorism efforts in Yemen frozen for now – U.S. officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has halted some counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda militants in Yemen following a takeover of the country by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, U.S. officials said on Friday.

The collapse of the U.S.-backed government of Yemen on Thursday has left America’s counter-terrorism campaign “paralyzed”, two U.S. security officials said, dealing a major setback to Washington’s fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a potent wing of the militant network.

    • About Phil

      "Phil Stewart has worked for Reuters since 1998 and reported from more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. Before becoming a Washington D.C.-based military affairs and intelligence reporter, Phil covered terrorism, foreign affairs and the Vatican from Rome from 2004 until mid-2009. He has also previously been based in Colombia and Brazil as a foreign correspondent. Before joining Reuters, Phil covered U.S. politics out of Washington D.C. for States News Service. He earned his BS in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. ..."
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