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Mar 1, 2013

U.S. aid to Syria should be “non-lethal,” new Pentagon chief says

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.

Mar 1, 2013

Hagel says budget cuts put all Pentagon missions at risk

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.

Feb 27, 2013

America must not “dictate” to world, new defense chief says

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.

Feb 26, 2013

Afghan insurgent attacks misreported, did not fall in 2012: NATO

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.

Feb 22, 2013

NATO considers post-2014 Afghan force of 8,000-12,000

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.

Feb 21, 2013

NATO may keep Afghan forces at peak strength longer

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.

Feb 21, 2013

NATO urges allies to reverse defense spending cuts

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged allies on Thursday to reverse damaging defense-spending cuts once their economies improve as U.S. officials warned of the impact that across-the-board U.S. budget reductions could have on the alliance.

“If defense cuts continue, it will have a negative impact on our ability to provide effective defense and protection of our populations,” Rasmussen told reporters at the start of a NATO defense ministers’ meeting.

Feb 19, 2013

General John Allen to retire, won’t take NATO nomination

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Marine General John Allen, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan and was caught up but later cleared in the scandal that forced CIA chief David Petraeus to resign, said Tuesday he will retire and forgo his nomination to become NATO’s supreme allied commander because of his wife’s health.

The decision ends the career of one of the U.S. military’s most well-known leaders, who until February 10 spent 19 months in Afghanistan trying to help wind down America’s longest war and strengthen Afghanistan’s military to fight insurgency.

Feb 14, 2013

Key U.S. general backs keeping Afghan forces at peak strength

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. general nominated to oversee a vast region that includes Afghanistan on Thursday backed keeping Afghan forces at a peak strength of 352,000, contrary to current plans to shrink them after NATO declares the war over next year.

General Lloyd Austin, nominated to lead the U.S. military’s Central Command, said at his Senate confirmation hearing that a more robust Afghan force, while more costly, would “hedge against any Taliban mischief” following America’s longest war.

Feb 13, 2013

U.S. withdrawing 34,000 troops from Afghanistan within a year

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that 34,000 troops – about half the U.S. force in Afghanistan – will withdraw by early 2014, bringing the United States one step closer to wrapping up the costly, unpopular war.

Obama announced the withdrawal in his annual State of the Union address, as he renewed his pledge to a war-weary American public that the 66,000 remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan would move into a support role this spring.

    • 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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