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Jun 6, 2014

Americans split on prisoner swap of Taliban for U.S. soldier: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans are deeply divided over whether the Obama administration did the right thing by swapping five Taliban leaders to win the freedom of Afghanistan prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, according to Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Friday.

Americans strongly agree the United States should make every effort to free prisoners of war like Bergdahl, an Army Sergeant who was captured in eastern Afghanistan in 2009. But they also think the prisoner swap deal set a dangerous precedent.

Jun 6, 2014

Chinese military spending exceeds $145 bln, drones advanced -U.S.

WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) – China’s military spending
exceeded $145 billion last year as it advanced a program
modernizing an arsenal of drones, warships, jets, missiles and
cyber weapons, the Pentagon said on Thursday, offering a far
higher figure than Beijing’s official tally.

The Pentagon’s estimate, using 2013 prices and exchange
rates, was 21 percent above the $119.5 billion figure announced
by China. It was detailed in an annual report to Congress that
cited steady progress in Chinese defense capabilities.

Jun 5, 2014

Chinese military spending exceeds $145 billion, drones advanced: U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Chinese military spending exceeded $145 billion last year as it advanced a program modernizing an arsenal of drones, warships, jets, missiles and cyber weapons, the Pentagon said on Thursday, offering a far higher figure than Beijing’s official tally.

The Pentagon’s estimate, using 2013 prices and exchange rates, was 21 percent above the $119.5 billion figure announced by China. It was detailed in an annual report to Congress that cited steady progress in Chinese defense capabilities.

Jun 5, 2014

Bergdahl had left his unit before, but returned: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. military investigation of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban found he had slipped away from his unit before but had always returned, raising questions about whether or not he was deserting when he disappeared in 2009, people familiar with the findings said on Thursday.

Bergdahl, 28, was freed after five years as an Afghanistan war prisoner on Saturday when the Obama administration agreed to release five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo prison in exchange, a deal that touched off a firestorm of criticism.

Jun 5, 2014

Freed soldier’s hometown cancels rally amid anger over swap

KABUL (Reuters) – The political uproar over the prisoner swap that won the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity intensified on Wednesday when his hometown canceled plans for a rally celebrating his return amid allegations that he deserted.

The Taliban released video of their handover of Bergdahl to U.S. special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border on Saturday, showing the U.S. soldier seemingly dazed and anxious about the unfolding events.

May 27, 2014

2016 U.S. pullout gives time to build Afghan force: U.S. general

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States believes Afghanistan has time to develop a reliable counterterrorism force before the end of 2016, when U.S. troops are due to withdraw under plans unveiled on Tuesday, the top U.S. military officer told Reuters.

President Barack Obama announced plans to leave 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan at the start of next year, down from some 32,000 now. By the end of 2015, that U.S. presence would be reduced by about half.

May 20, 2014

Amid Egypt rights abuses, U.S. stalls over more military aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Despite resuming some military aid, the United States appears unlikely to quickly restore the close ties with Egypt that framed U.S. Middle East policy for decades, as concerns persist over the authoritarian crackdown since last year’s military takeover.

Even as Egypt prepares for elections this month that could give new legitimacy to the country’s military-backed leaders, many Obama administration officials question the need to restore Egypt to its place as the premier U.S. partner in the Arab world.

May 16, 2014

Top U.S. veterans’ healthcare official resigns amid scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned on Friday amid a scandal over allegations of deadly healthcare delays, but critics dismissed the gesture as “damage control” because he planned to retire this year anyway.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement he accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, VA undersecretary for health, and acknowledged the need to ensure more timely treatment of America’s military veterans. The White House said President Barack Obama supported Shinseki’s decision.

May 15, 2014

China blames Vietnam, says will not cede inch of disputed territory

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top Chinese general on Thursday defended the deployment of an oil rig that has inflamed tensions in the disputed South China Sea and triggered deadly protests in Vietnam, blaming Hanoi and saying China cannot afford to “lose an inch” of territory.

General Fang Fenghui also pointed blame at U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia as Vietnam and China grapple with one of the worst breakdowns in relations since the neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979.

May 14, 2014

U.S. positions forces in Sicily over Libya security fears

WASHINGTON, May 14 (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on
Wednesday it has temporarily moved nearly 200 Marines to Sicily
from their base in Spain as a precaution due to concerns about
unrest in North Africa, bolstering the U.S. ability to respond
to any crisis.

The Pentagon declined to single out any countries but two
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
American concerns were centered squarely on Libya, where armed
groups and Islamists refused to disarm after the 2011 ouster of
Muammar Gaddafi.

    • 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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