By Phil Stewart
CAMP DAVID, Md. (Reuters) – The United States assured Afghanistan’s leaders on Monday it would keep funding Afghan security forces at a targeted peak level of 352,000 personnel at least into 2017 to provide stability as foreign troops withdraw from the country.
The announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter came ahead of talks at the White House on Tuesday at which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to press his case for a slowing of the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani praised U.S. troops who have fought and died during more than 13 years of war in his country as he kicked off a visit to Washington on Monday to drive home the case for slowing the withdrawal of America forces.
In an address to U.S. soldiers and military families at the Pentagon, Ghani sought to reassure Americans of the value of their sacrifice in lives lost and money spent in the battle against al Qaeda and other extremists.
WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) – The United States lost one of its Predator drone aircraft over northwest Syria on Tuesday, U.S. officials said, as Syrian state media reported its air defenses brought down the spy plane in the government-controlled Latakia province.
If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces took down the U.S. aircraft – something U.S. officials said was not immediately certain – it would raise the stakes in the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants that began in Syria in late September.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States does not appear to have clear-cut legal authority to protect Syrian rebels it trains from attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, even under new war powers, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.
Still, Carter told Congress, a final determination had not yet been made.
The remarks underscore the deep uncertainty surrounding a fledgling U.S. military-led training program expected to get under way in the coming weeks, first in Jordan, then at training sites in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and, later, Qatar, with the goal of training upwards of 5,000 fighters a year.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer on Wednesday predicted certain victory by Iraqi forces and Shi’ite militia battling to retake the city of Tikrit but voiced concern about how Sunni Muslims would be treated once Islamic State militants were driven away.
The remarks to Congress by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came as Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed militia advanced from the north and south to fight their way into Tikrit, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s home city.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The murder of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov has dampened any hope for a peaceful political transition in Russia away from President Vladimir Putin’s government, Garry Kasparov, a prominent opposition voice, said in an interview on Sunday.
Kasparov, a former world chess champion who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, offered a gloomy outlook for Russia’s political opposition after Nemtsov was shot dead meters from the Kremlin late on Friday.
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Reuters) – New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday America had the right “ingredients” of a strategy to combat Islamic State, emerging from talks with top U.S. military and diplomatic leaders without hinting at any fundamental shift in the campaign.
After a day of meetings in Kuwait, Carter acknowledged some room for improvement, broadly suggesting some allies could contribute more to the fight and saying the United States needed to be more aggressive on social media combating Islamic State.
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Reuters) – Iraqi forces appear set to drive Islamic State militants out of the town of al-Baghdadi, securing an area near a key air base where U.S. Marines are training local forces, a top U.S. commander said on Monday.
Lieutenant General James Terry, the senior U.S. commander of U.S.-led coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria, played down the militants’ seizure of large parts of the town earlier this month, saying that the area had long been contested.
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – A once bustling military hub at the heart of America’s war in southern Afghanistan, Kandahar Air Field seemed destined to quietly shut down this year as part of a U.S. withdrawal that had already thinned its numbers.
But, now, there appears to be growing signs that fate might be postponed, if only for a bit, as the United States weighs slowing the pace of the drawdown from Afghanistan.
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.