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Feb 11, 2013

U.S. military extends many benefits to same-sex partners

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon announced on Monday it would extend more of the benefits offered to spouses of heterosexual troops to those of gay personnel but acknowledged some key benefits, like housing, would still be off-limits, at least for now.

The step came 17 months after the Pentagon scrapped its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on openly serving homosexuals in the U.S. military and will affect the day-to-day lives of their spouses in ways big and small – from allowing them to finally get military I.D. cards to granting hospital visitation rights.

Feb 9, 2013

Obama says farewell to defense chief as successor awaits vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama bade a fond farewell to retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a ceremony on Friday and voiced strong support for his nominated successor, Chuck Hagel, who was attacked by Republicans at a contentious Senate confirmation hearing last week.

Panetta, in his 19 months as Pentagon chief, ended the ban on women serving in front-line combat roles and oversaw the integration of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. The Iraq war ended and the last Afghanistan “surge” troops came home on his watch.

Feb 8, 2013

Pentagon backed plan for U.S. to arm Syrian rebels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pentagon leaders told Congress on Thursday that they had supported a recommendation to arm Syrian rebels promoted by the State Department and CIA but which President Barack Obama ultimately decided against.

Obama’s government has limited its support to non-lethal aid for the rebels who, despite receiving weapons from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are poorly armed compared to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and loyalist militias.

Feb 7, 2013

Pentagon backed recommendation for U.S. to arm Syrian rebels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pentagon leaders told Congress on Thursday that they had supported a recommendation to arm Syrian rebels promoted by the State Department and CIA but which President Barack Obama ultimately decided against.

Obama’s government has limited its support to non-lethal aid for the rebels who, despite receiving weapons from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are poorly armed compared to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and loyalist militias.

Feb 1, 2013

Republicans assail Pentagon nominee Hagel at confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers attacked Chuck Hagel on Thursday at a contentious hearing over his nomination to become the next U.S. defense secretary, questioning his judgment on war strategy and putting him broadly on the defensive.

In one of the most heated exchanges, Senator John McCain aggressively questioned Hagel, interrupting him and talking over him at times. He voiced frustration at the former Republican senator’s failure to say plainly whether he was right or wrong to oppose the 2007 “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Jan 31, 2013

U.S. Senate panel grills Obama’s choice for defense chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chuck Hagel, named to be President Barack Obama’s defense chief, on Thursday told a skeptical Senate panel considering his nomination that he backs U.S. policy of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and supports a strong Israeli military.

Critics in Congress have sought to portray Hagel, a former Republican senator and decorated Vietnam war veteran, as a soft on Iran and anti-Israel, pointing to past comments that Hagel’s supporters say were taken out of context or distorted.

Jan 31, 2013

Hagel to face grilling by Senate panel on Mideast, budget

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chuck Hagel will face tough questions on Pentagon spending cuts and U.S. relations with Israel and Iran on Thursday as he faces a deeply skeptical Senate panel considering his nomination to be President Barack Obama’s next secretary of defense.

Another member of Obama’s second-term national security team, Senator John Kerry, sailed through his confirmation before being receiving the Senate’s overwhelming support on Tuesday.

Jan 30, 2013

Hagel tells Congress he’s ready to act on Iran, if needed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chuck Hagel has told Congress that if confirmed as the next defense secretary he would ensure America’s military is prepared to strike Iran if necessary but stressed the need to be “cautious and certain” when contemplating the use of force.

Hagel’s views were detailed in 112 pages of written responses to wide-ranging questions by lawmakers submitted ahead of his confirmation hearing on Thursday. In them, he also voiced support for a steady U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan.

Jan 29, 2013

Large arms shipment intercepted off Yemen, Iran eyed as source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Yemeni forces intercepted a ship on January 23 carrying a large cache of weapons – including surface-to-air missiles – that U.S. officials suspect were being smuggled from Iran and destined for Yemeni insurgents, officials said on Monday.

Yemen’s government said the arms intercepted aboard the ship off the country’s coast also included military grade explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and bomb-making equipment, according to a statement by its embassy in Washington.

Jan 25, 2013

Afghan bombing helped shape Panetta’s views on women in war

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three years before he lifted the U.S. military’s ban on females in front-line combat, Leon Panetta grew acutely aware that women in senior positions were already risking – and losing – their lives when a would-be informant blew himself up at a CIA base in Afghanistan.

Panetta was CIA director at the time of the December 2009 attack in Khost, Afghanistan, and two women — including one who headed the CIA base — were among the seven Americans killed.

    • 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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