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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.

Jan 23, 2015

First U.S. troops head to Middle East to train Syrian opposition

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the first group of about 100 U.S. troops to head to the Middle East in the next few days to establish training sites for Syrian opposition fighters battling Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the troops, mostly special operations forces, were authorized last week and would begin arriving in countries outside Syria in the coming days, with a subsequent wave of several hundred military trainers following in the weeks thereafter.

Jan 14, 2015

In Twitter hack, Pentagon learns perils of social media exposure

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – If so-called “cyber jihadists” want to launch another social media attack on America’s military, they will have plenty of targets: the U.S. Army alone lists more than 2,000 links to feeds on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other accounts.

In the wake of Monday’s breach of U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube feeds by apparent sympathizers of the Islamic State militant group, U.S. officials updated passwords and some distributed tip-sheets to help bolster online security.

Dec 24, 2014

As U.S. troops return to Iraq, more private contractors follow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government is preparing to boost the number of private contractors in Iraq as part of President Barack Obama’s growing effort to beat back Islamic State militants threatening the Baghdad government, a senior U.S. official said.

How many contractors will deploy to Iraq – beyond the roughly 1,800 now working there for the U.S. State Department – will depend in part, the official said, on how widely dispersed U.S. troops advising Iraqi security forces are, and how far they are from U.S. diplomatic facilities.

Dec 22, 2014

U.S. Army refers Bergdahl case to commander, punishment possible

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. general will decide whether to pursue disciplinary action against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl over his 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan, after the Army said on Monday it forwarded the findings of its investigation to him.

General Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, would determine “appropriate action – which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial,” the Army said in a brief statement.

Dec 20, 2014

Cuban relatives of U.S. spy in dark after news of release

WASHINGTON/MIAMI (Reuters) – His release from a Cuban prison has been as cloak-and-dagger as his spying career ever was.

Not even the family of Rolando Sarraff Trujillo appears to know what has happened to the Cuban man believed by some to be the U.S. informant secretly freed in a prisoner swap between Cuba and the United States that was announced on Wednesday.

Dec 18, 2014

Spy freed from Cuban prison hailed as secret U.S. hero

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama hailed him as one of the best spies America has ever had in Cuba, but precious little is known about the Cuban man freed in a prisoner swap on Wednesday after two decades of incarceration on the Communist island.

The U.S. government did not identify the man but credited him for providing information that helped authorities root out a network of spies working for Cuba in the United States, including two senior U.S. government officials.

Dec 17, 2014

Exclusive: As easy targets thin, Syria air strikes by U.S. allies plunge

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) – As U.S. fighter jets pound Islamic State targets in Syria, Washington’s coalition allies appear increasingly absent from the air war.

Although President Barack Obama’s administration announced the Syrian air strikes three months ago as a joint campaign by Washington and its Arab allies, nearly 97 percent of the strikes in December have been carried out by the United States alone, according to U.S. military data provided to Reuters.

Dec 9, 2014

Iraq presses Hagel for more U.S. air strikes, weapons

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pressed outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday for more air strikes and weaponry to accelerate what he called the “descent” of Islamic State.

The plea underscored tension in the U.S.-Iraqi relationship, with Baghdad pushing for more aggressive assistance than Washington has provided so far, four months after President Barack Obama launched air strikes against IS in Iraq.

Dec 9, 2014

Hagel in Baghdad as U.S. sees momentum against Islamic State

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday as the United States expands its presence and touts progress against Islamic State militants four months after starting a campaign of air strikes in Iraq.

Hagel is the first U.S. secretary of defense to visit Iraq since President Barack Obama ordered American troops out of the country in 2011. Obama started ordering troops back to Iraq this summer, to help counter the advance of Islamic State.

    • 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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