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Nov 8, 2013

Afghan troop deaths climb but U.S. says transition on track

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghanistan troop casualties climbed 79 percent during key fighting months this year as the still-resistant Taliban kept up the pace of its attacks and NATO forces moved into a support role in preparation to end their combat mission, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The data came in a Defense Department report to Congress that also showed NATO casualties falling 59 percent during the April-September period under review. The Pentagon did not provide the number of casualties for either year.

Nov 8, 2013

U.S. veterans agency slashes claims backlog by a third since March

WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) – After growing steadily for
years, the backlog of U.S. military veterans’ disability claims
is falling sharply – dropping by more than a third since March,
the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Thursday.

Eric Shinseki said the progress kept him on track to
eliminate the claims backlog by sometime in 2015. It would also
allow him to briefly halt mandatory overtime for claims
processors, one of the reasons the backlog has fallen.

Oct 23, 2013

NATO, Russia could play role in eliminating Syrian chemical arms

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO and Russia could play a role in eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles if they were asked to do so by the United Nations, said U.S., NATO and Russian officials on Wednesday.

The destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons was discussed at a meeting of NATO and Russian defense ministers in Brussels, the first such meeting in two years.

Oct 22, 2013

U.S., NATO officials expect approval for Afghan troop deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Senior U.S. and NATO officials said on Tuesday they were confident Afghanistan’s elders and parliament would back a deal allowing American troops to stay there after 2014, playing down lingering concerns over the accord.

The Afghan president’s spokesman Aimal Faizi had told Reuters on Sunday Kabul and Washington had not yet agreed on several issues in a bilateral security pact, raising the prospect that the U.S. might still have to pull all its troops from the war-ravaged nation by the deadline.

Oct 11, 2013

U.S. Air Force fires general overseeing nuclear missiles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The two-star general overseeing the U.S. arsenal of intercontinental missiles was fired on Friday for personal misbehavior, the Air Force said, adding the matter was not tied to the readiness or security of America’s nuclear missiles.

The removal of Major General Michael Carey from his job as commander of the 20th Air Force was the latest in a string of recent high-profile firings of top U.S. generals.

Oct 10, 2013

Pentagon No. 2 to step down after four years in top defense jobs

WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) – Deputy Defense Secretary
Ashton Carter, known for his deep knowledge of U.S. defense
spending and the defense industry, said on Thursday he was
stepping down in December after four years in top Pentagon jobs.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he “reluctantly accepted”
Carter’s decision to leave the post.

Oct 9, 2013

During shutdown, U.S. charity to ensure fallen troops’ death benefits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A private U.S. charity struck a deal with the Pentagon on Wednesday to advance a “death gratuity” to families of American troops who die during the government shutdown, after the Defense Department determined it was legally unable to make the $100,000 payment.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the agreement after returning from Dover Air Force Base, where he attended a ceremony marking the return of the bodies of four U.S. soldiers killed by insurgents in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Oct 8, 2013

No time constraints for U.S. in holding Libyan on ship: experts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A terrorism suspect grabbed in Libya by U.S. special forces will likely be held on a Navy ship until interrogators decide he has provided as much information as he is going to, and there are no legal constraints on how long that may be, experts said Tuesday.

But while the U.S. government is not running against a legal clock to hold al Qaeda suspect Nazih al-Ragye, it will not want to keep him too long on board the USS San Antonio at sea, which could prompt accusations of flouting Geneva Conventions, U.S. experts say.

Oct 8, 2013

Shutdown slows aid to families of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For the families of four U.S. soldiers killed by insurgents in Afghanistan on Sunday, the partial U.S. government shutdown will take a particularly personal toll.

The Pentagon says it is not allowed to pay these families a “death gratuity,” as long as the shutdown continues. The same goes for the family of a Marine who died in Afghanistan on Saturday and any others who die during the budget impasse.

Oct 7, 2013

Elite U.S. team questions seized al Qaeda leader on Navy ship

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An elite American interrogation team is questioning the senior al Qaeda figure who was seized by special operations forces in Libya and then whisked onto a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. officials said on Monday.

Nazih al-Ragye, better known by the cover name Abu Anas al-Liby, is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock ship, the officials said.

    • 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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