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Dec 9, 2014

Hagel arrives in Baghdad as U.S. touts momentum against Islamic State

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday as the United States expands its presence in the fight 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. With the advance of Islamic State militants, Obama started ordering troops back to Iraq this summer.

Dec 8, 2014

U.S. allies to send about 1,500 troops to Iraq: commander

KUWAIT CITY (Reuters) – U.S. allies have committed to send about 1,500 forces to Iraq to help train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers battling the Islamic State, which increasingly appears on the defensive, the top U.S. commander guiding the coalition effort said on Monday.

Lieutenant General James Terry, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve targeting the militants in Iraq and Syria, said the forces would come on top of the up to 3,100 troops U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized to deploy to Iraq.

Dec 7, 2014

Despite failures, U.S. likely to continue raids to free hostages

WASHINGTON/KUWAIT CITY (Reuters) – Despite three failed raids to free U.S. hostages held by militants, the United States will continue to conduct such operations, officials indicated on Sunday, as President Barack Obama grapples with a spate of kidnappings and killings of American citizens.

The latest setback came in a remote area of Yemen early on Saturday, when al Qaeda militants shot American photo journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie during a rescue attempt led by U.S. Special Forces.

Dec 6, 2014

U.S. to keep more troops in Afghanistan as violence spikes

KABUL (Reuters) – The United States will keep up to 1,000 more soldiers than previously planned in Afghanistan into next year, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Saturday, in a recognition of the still formidable challenge from Taliban insurgents.

Hagel, officially confirming a change in the U.S. drawdown schedule first reported by Reuters, said the additional troops were a temporary measure and did not change the long term timeline for withdrawing troops.

Dec 6, 2014

Hagel, in Kabul, says Afghans to battle back Taliban threat

KABUL (Reuters) – Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed confidence in the ability of Afghan forces to defend Kabul following a spike in Taliban strikes as he arrived in the Afghan capital on Saturday for his final trip to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief.

Hagel’s unannounced visit came near the end of the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since the war against Taliban militants began in 2001, and after a particularly violent wave of attacks in the capital.

Dec 4, 2014

Warily, U.S. learns to live with more muscular Iran role in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Iran, which dueled viciously over Iraq during the years of U.S. occupation, suddenly seem to be working in tandem as they confront what both see as a common, even mortal enemy: Islamic State.

Air strikes by Iran inside Iraq in recent days are only the latest manifestation of an increasingly muscular role by Tehran in Baghdad’s war against Sunni militants. During the administration of George W. Bush, such actions would be denounced as meddling.

Dec 3, 2014

U.S. believes Iran launched air raids on Islamic State in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has indications that Iran has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq in recent days, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

A senior Iranian official denied that Iran had launched any such air strikes.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had indications that Iran had used F-4 Phantoms to launch the raids in the last several days.

Dec 3, 2014

Obama settles on Ashton Carter as Pentagon chief, sources say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Can a career Washington technocrat break into U.S. President Barack Obama’s tight-knit inner circle and oversee the world’s most powerful military?

It looks like former Pentagon official Ashton Carter is about to find out.

Administration sources said on Tuesday that Obama has settled on the 60-year-old Carter as his fourth defense secretary, with an announcement expected in coming days once he is thoroughly vetted.

Dec 2, 2014

U.S. expects some familiar faces among Syria rebel recruits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is creating a vigorous vetting process to weed out undesirables among the Syrian rebels it will train to fight Islamic State, but some of the new recruits will be familiar faces requiring far more limited screening.

The program is expected to include a number of fighters already known to the U.S. government who could take as little as a day to initially vet, U.S. officials said.

Dec 2, 2014

Obama expected to nominate Ashton Carter to lead Pentagon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Pentagon official Ashton Carter emerged on Tuesday as the expected nominee to replace Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary, sources familiar with the situation said.

Carter, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Defense, would have the task of breaking into the tight-knit White House inner circle that President Barack Obama has leaned on to run national security policy.

    • 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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