11:41 pm, November 20, 2014

Pentagon & Beyond

National Security Correspondent J.J. Green has traveled three continents covering intelligence, terrorism, and security issues. From Afghanistan to Africa, Iraq to Ireland, there isn't anywhere J.J. won't go, nor anyone he won't talk with, to get the stories affecting the defense and national security communities.

U.S. may get involved in Syria

The Associated Press is reporting, the top U.S. military commander in Europe says NATO is making contingency plans for possible military involvement in Syria. And he says American forces would be prepared if called upon by the United Nations and member countries. Adm. James commander of U.S. European Command, told a Senate panel that the United States is "looking at a variety of operations."

Pentagon may pivot again

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed senior Pentagon officials to re-examine the U.S. military strategy approved last year to see how priorities may need to be adjusted due to budget cuts that took effect on March 1, U.S. officials said. According to the Associated Press, "the decision, made on Friday, comes as the Pentagon is struggling to cut $46 billion from this year's defense budget and faces the prospect of an additional $50 billion per year in reductions to projected spending for the next nine years."

Pentagon to deploy more missile interceptors

The Pentagon announced Friday it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles. In announcing the decision, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is determined to ensure protection of the U.S. homeland and stay ahead of the North Korean missile threat. He acknowledged that the interceptors already in place to defend against potential North Korean missile launches have had poor test performances.

Medal draws fire

Veterans groups are asking President Barack Obama to step into a dispute over a new medal for remote warfare troops that was ranked higher than traditional combat medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups sent a letter to Obama on Thursday asking him to keep the medal ranked below the Purple Heart. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has already ordered a review of the new medal, which is for drone operators and cyber warfighters.

Taliban hit by uprising

The awakening arrives in Afghanistan. Villagers in southern Afghanistan -the birthplace of the Taliban 20 years ago have staged what's being called a first-of-its-kind uprising. Army Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams says it's a promising development in Kandahar province and it could spread to other districts. This comes while U.S. and allied forces are taking a back-seat role in fighting the insurgency.

U.S. military preparing for cyber attack

The director of National Intelligence says a cyber-storm is growing. The Defense Department is establishing a series of cyber teams charged with carrying out offensive operations to combat the threat of an electronic assault on the United States that could cause major damage and disruption to the country's vital infrastructure, a senior military official said Tuesday.

Karzai's allegation not new

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's surprising allegation that the U.S. and Taliban are conspiring together to keep the war going caught some off guard. But during his eight years as president, Karzai has frequently antagonized the U.S. government by claiming the U.S. motives for being in Afghanistan were selfish. At one point he accused the U.S. of using Afghan soil for its own goals and purposes. More than 2,000 American have been killed and more than 18,000 have been wounded.

Hagel visits Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel went to Afghanistan late last week for his first visit as Pentagon chief. He said there are many challenges ahead as NATO continues to hand over the country's security to the Afghans. "We are still at war," Hagel said, warning the U.S. and its allies to remain focused on the mission while noting that the U.S. never intended to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Malian conflict continues

France's defense minister made a surprise visit to Mali on Thursday to see French troops fighting extremists there. The Associated Press is reporting "military officials said at least 100 al-Qaida-linked fighters died in a two-week campaign to oust them from a rocky desert valley that had been their key base. French forces are in their most bloody and close-range fighting since they deployed eight weeks ago to Mali to help the West African country's embattled government rid its vast north of militants imposing harsh Islamic rule."

Syrian rebels reject U.S. aid

Syria's rebels have rejected the food and medical supplies the United States wants to give them. Gen. Salim Idris, told The Associated Press, those supplies, "won't bring them any closer to defeating President Bashar Assad's forces in the country's civil war. We don't want food and drink, and we don't want bandages. When we're wounded, we want to die. The only thing we want is weapons," he said.

Manning pleads guilty

Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, offered to plead guilty. The "Associated Press" says he made the plea to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years. He said he exposed the secrets to reveal the American military's "bloodlust" in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first time Manning directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it.

Cyber medal draws controversy

Veterans groups and lawmakers are saying the military's new medal for cyber warriors should get a demotion so it doesn't outrank such revered honors as the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. The Distinguished Warfare Medal was announced two weeks ago. It's a sign of the changing nature of war, and the increasingly important role played by attacks conducted remotely.

Panetta exits Pentagon

There's going to be a new Secretary of Defense today. And the outgoing SECDEF Leon Panetta said in a farewell message, "It's been the privilege of my life to serve with and lead the men and women of this Department." And in his final act he expressed deep gratitude to those who are fighting and working every day in national defense. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Chuck Hagel on Tuesday as President Barack Obama's new secretary of defense.

Commission investigates abuse allegations

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has ordered all U.S. special forces out of Wardak province. "We're working with the government of Afghanistan to define precisely what their concerns were," said spokesman George Little. "Obviously we take all of their concerns very seriously." The concern came up after civilians living in Wardak complained of killings, beatings and other abuse at the hands of Afghan troops working with US forces.

The F-35 grounded

The Pentagon on Friday grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets after discovering a cracked engine blade in one plane. The problem was discovered during what the Pentagon called a routine inspection at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., of an F-35A, the Air Force version of the sleek new plane. The Navy and the Marine Corps are buying other versions of the F-35, which is intended to replace older fighters like the Air Force F-16 and the Navy F/A-18.

Gen. Sinclair concerned about legal team

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, charged with sexual misconduct, wants to add civilian lawyers to his legal team. He says his military lawyers are concerned their careers would be harmed by defending him. In court Thursday at Fort Bragg for a hearing on pre- trial motions, Sinclair faces court martial in June on charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. He has thus far deferred entering a plea.

Pentagon investigating another member of Seal Team Six

The Pentagon is reviewing an Esquire magazine article on a Navy SEAL's account of his role in the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. They're looking to determine whether the account disclosed any classified information. Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Steve Warren, says officials are trying to determine whether the SEAL, whose identity is not revealed in the piece, broke any secrecy rules. The article was published online Feb. 11.

Allen retires

Marine Gen. John Allen will not become commander of NATO forces in Europe. President Barack Obama has accepted Allen's request to retire. Allen this month completed a 19-month stint as the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. Allen told the Washington Post, he wanted to focus on helping his wife cope with chronic health issues that include an autoimmune disorder.

Women go into battle in Afghanistan

The Afghan army is breaking new ground. It's training female special forces to take part in night raids against insurgents. Night raids have long been a divisive issue between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who doesn't want foreign troops entering Afghan homes, and the U.S.-led coalition that says the raids are essential to capturing Taliban commanders.

Hagel Moves On

Former Senator Chuck Hagel has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee to be the nation's defense secretary. His nomination has been sent to the full Senate where the Democrats, hold a 55-45 edge. More than a dozen Republicans oppose the nomination, and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, is insisting that any confirmation be based on 60 votes rather than a majority of the Senate.

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