KABUL (Reuters) – Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on Friday for his first trip abroad as defense secretary, seeking to make his own assessment of America’s longest war as it enters its final stretch.
Hagel said he would meet U.S. commanders and troops, and hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose recent orders to curtail U.S. military activity underscore an often tense relationship with the 66,000 American forces there.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command is seeking to ease restrictions preventing elite American forces from training foreign units linked to human rights violations, saying limiting such help can sometimes be counter-productive.
At question are restrictions under a law written by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont that prohibits funding for training foreign military units if there is credible evidence linking them to gross human rights violations.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. general said on Tuesday that American efforts aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon were not working, even as he voiced support for crippling sanctions and diplomatic efforts aimed at isolating the Islamic state.
“I still support the direction we’re taking. I’m just paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly,” General James Mattis, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, told a Senate hearing.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. military commander said on Tuesday he has recommended keeping 13,600 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, when the NATO combat mission ends and most Western troops withdraw.
General James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee he believed that properly designing the residual force would be “critical” for a good outcome to America’s longest war.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday he believed U.S. policy of giving only “non-lethal support” to Syria’s opposition was the correct one.
Hagel’s comments, at his first news briefing since taking over the Pentagon on Wednesday, came a day after the United States said it would for the first time give non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels and more than double its aid to Syria’s civilian opposition.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday that budget uncertainty, including $46 billion in new defense cuts, jeopardizes the Pentagon’s ability to effectively fulfill all its missions.
Hagel, appearing at his first Pentagon news conference since he was sworn in on Wednesday, said the cuts mean the U.S. Navy would gradually stand down four air wings, the Air Force would immediately cut flying hours and the Army would reduce training.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Decorated Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel was sworn in as U.S. defense secretary on Wednesday after a bruising Senate confirmation battle, and promised to renew old U.S. alliances and forge new ones without attempting to “dictate” to the world.
Addressing Pentagon employees shortly after a small, closed-door swearing-in ceremony, Hagel spoke optimistically, if vaguely, about global challenges ahead and the importance of American leadership abroad.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The NATO-led force in Afghanistan said on Tuesday it had incorrectly reported a 7 percent drop in the number of attacks by Taliban insurgents last year, acknowledging that in fact there had been no decline in the closely watched statistic.
The disclosure raises questions about recent U.S. claims of progress in the costly, unpopular war. It also serves as a reminder of Taliban resiliency as withdrawing U.S. and NATO forces prepare to declare the combat mission over at the end of next year.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO Allies are discussing keeping a training force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after most foreign soldiers leave in 2014, the United States said on Friday.
NATO-led forces are gradually handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts as the bulk of foreign combat forces prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO officials are strongly considering a proposal to keep Afghan forces at their peak strength of 352,000 until at least 2018, as opposed to current plans to cut the force by a third after 2015, alliance officials said on Thursday.
Backers say the proposal, disclosed to a small group of reporters during NATO talks in Brussels, would send a crucial signal of enduring support for Afghanistan and bolster Afghan confidence after the United States and its allies declare their long, unpopular war in the country over at the end of 2014.