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Mar 18, 2015

U.S. loses drone over Syria, which claims to have brought it down

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.

Mar 11, 2015

U.S. may be unable to defend its Syria recruits against Assad

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.

Mar 11, 2015

Worry over what follows swift Iraq win in Tikrit: top U.S. general

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.

Mar 2, 2015

Hopes for peaceful Russian transition fade with Nemtsov: Kasparov

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.

Feb 23, 2015

New U.S. defense chief hints little change in Islamic State strategy

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.

Feb 23, 2015

Iraq moving to retake town from Islamic State: U.S. officer

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.

Feb 22, 2015

Tough choice for U.S. in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province

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.

Feb 22, 2015

New Defense Secretary hosts U.S. gathering on Islamic State strategy

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.

Feb 21, 2015

New U.S. defence chief: withdrawal from Afghanistan under review

KABUL (Reuters) – Washington is reviewing a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2016 to ensure that “progress sticks” after more than a decade of war, new U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters in Kabul on Saturday.

Under the current plan, the United States will halve the number of troops in Afghanistan to 5,000 this year, gradually winding down to a “normal” U.S. embassy presence by 2016.

Feb 21, 2015

New U.S. defense chief silent on date of Mosul offensive

KABUL (Reuters) – New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday he would not telegraph the precise timing of an upcoming Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, after a U.S. military briefing caused an uproar.

Two influential Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, sent a scathing letter to the White House on Friday complaining about a Thursday briefing that predicted a Mosul offensive likely to start in April or May, involving 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

    • 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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