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9:19 pm, September 1, 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.

Hezbollah may face retaliation

Now what? Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged yesterday sending a drone into Israel, which was shot down last weekend after flying some 25 miles (55 km) into Israeli territory. Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the drone was Iranian-made. Israeli warplanes shot down the unmanned plane, but the infiltration marked a rare breach of Israel's tightly guarded airspace. Already under pressure in Lebanon, Hezbollah is under pressure from rivals who accuse it of putting Lebanon at risk of getting sucked into regional turmoil.

Al-Qaida is rebuilding in Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi officials say the extremist group has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation's western deserts, seizing on regional instability and government security failures. Iraq has seen a jump in al-Qaida attacks over the last 10 weeks, and officials believe most of the fighters are former prisoners who have either escaped from jail or were released by Iraqi authorities for lack of evidence after the U.S. military withdrawal last December. Many are said to be Saudi or from Sunni-dominated Gulf states.

Ward's pension hangs in the balance

What will happen to General William "Kip" Ward, the former head of the U.S. Africa Command. A DoD Inspector General's report concluded that he spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish travel and other expenses. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is among those who believe that War should be allowed to retire at his full four-star general rank. Retiring as a three star would mean about $208,000, a four star general officer make more than $236,000.

Syria backing down

Turkey stepped up strikes on a Syrian border town on Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers, while its parliament approved further military action in the event of another spillover of the Syrian conflict. Reuters says they're "seeking to unwind the most serious cross-border escalation in its 18-month-old crackdown on dissent, Damascus apologized through the United Nations for shelling which killed five civilians in southeast Turkey on Wednesday and said it would not happen again, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said."

Turkey attacks Syria

Turkey's military struck targets inside Syria yesterday after a bomb went off killing five civilians in a residential area in Turkey close to the border. The Pentagon responded strongly to the activity. Spokesman George Little said in a statement, "This is yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime, and why it must go. We regret the loss of life in Turkey, a strong ally, and continue to monitor the situation closely."

US was worried about a possible attack in Libya

"Small teams of special operations forces arrived at American embassies throughout North Africa in the months before militants launched the fiery attack that killed the U.S. ambassador in Libya." The Associated Press reports, "the soldiers' mission: Set up a network that could quickly strike a terrorist target or rescue a hostage. The White House signed off a year ago on the plan to build the new military counterterror task force in the region, and the advance teams have been there for six months."

The US pressuring Iran

Reuters is reporting, the United States and its Gulf partners are looking to deepen cooperation on missile defense as tensions rise with Iran, and announcements could come soon on new purchases. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials in New York as Washington seeks to boost regional defenses against perceived Iranian threats. "Our aim is to help our Gulf partners with their defense needs ... there is a missile threat that they face, we want to help them face that threat as best they can," one senior U.S. official said.

Consulate attacked by terrorists

The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says it is clear that terrorists were behind the deadly attack, but he said at a Pentagon news conference, it is not yet clear what specific group was involved. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that prior to the attack there was some intelligence about security threats in Libya, but it was not specific to the U.S. Consulate.

Soldiers focus on suicide prevention

Soldiers are spending today on suicide prevention training. This military "stand down" comes as the Pentagon struggles with a spike in the number of self-inflicted deaths this year. The Army's top enlisted soldier, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler, says the day will focus on making sure that troops and their families know what programs are available to them and helping them get over the embarrassment that keeps many from seeking help.

Sex Assault Training to be Improved

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force to improve the quality of sexual assault prevention training for their prospective commanders and senior enlisted leaders. DoD press secretary George Little said the goal is to make training better and more uniform among the services. The services also will review policies on all military training of enlisted personnel and commissioned officers.

Army-Pacific expecting more engagement

The Associated Press is reporting, the "leader of U.S. Army forces in Asia and the Pacific says his soldiers will be able to conduct more exercises with other nations in the region, as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and the military refocuses its attention." Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, the commander of U.S. Army Pacific, wants U.S. soldiers to undertake more exercises with Indonesia, Malaysia and India. The Army will also be able to have more active duty soldiers, instead of reserves, participate in exercises with allies such as Japan.

Iran strikes back

Reuters is reporting, "Iranian hackers have repeatedly attacked Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc over the past year, as part of a broad cyber campaign targeting the United States." The attacks, started in late 2011 and escalated this year. The attacks disrupted the banks' websites and corporate networks by launching denial of service attacks. Iran's nuclear program has been attacked repeated by viruses that U.S. is believed to have authored.

New counter terrorism talks planned

High level three-way talks between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan could be coming. The goal is to fix counterterrorism problems. Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Foreign Minister told several media yesterday senior officials from the three countries have been instructed to come up with a strategy for repairing cooperation that has suffered since U.S.-Pakistani relations collapsed a year and half ago.

Attacks on American computer infrastructure

Reuters is reporting, "privately-owned U.S. computer networks remain vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and many U.S. companies are not doing enough to protect them, Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday. "I hope this isn't one of those situations where we won't do what we need to do until we get slammed," Carter told the annual Air Force Association conference. Attacks on American computer infrastructure by other countries and criminal gangs have soared in recent years, according to U.S. government officials. Efforts to pass legislation to strengthen U.S. cyber security have met obstacles such as privacy issues."

Panetta pushes for improved relations with China

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is advising China to expand military relations with the United States to shrink the risk of a conflict. This as the two powers wrestle with a volatile territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo. Panetta, on his first trip to China as defense secretary, recognized differences between the two countries over maritime security in East Asia, but says better ties would help.

Boko Haram dealt a blow

Nigerian troops have killed Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa, the public messenger of an Islamic sect that has become the biggest threat to Nigeria's security. It happened in a gun battle in the northern city of Kano. Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people since 2009 in attacks on security forces, government offices and churches. The organization has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, which means it's subject to sanctions and possible military strikes.

F-22 still under the microscope

As an investigation continues into oxygen-deprivation issues involving the F-22 Raptor fighter, Air Force officials say they're optimistic about the program's future and the jet's ability to perform. Several F-22 pilots have complained about blackouts in the cockpit. Maj. Gen. Charles W. Lyon said previously unexplained F-22 physiological incidents, were a result of a combination of factors related to oxygen delivery system components," He says corrective action is under way."

Panetta Headed for Far East

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will soon be traveling to China and Japan, amid escalating tensions in the region including tussles over several disputed islands in the East China Sea. This will be Panetta's third trip to Asia in 11 months, reflecting the Pentagon's ongoing shift to putting more military focus on the Pacific region. The trip will also include a stop in New Zealand.
Panetta's stop in Japan is also likely to include discussions about the deployment of V-22 Ospreys there.

FAST Marine deployed to Libya

Marines have been sent to Libya to beef up security. Who are they? The Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) is capable of rapidly deploying to immediately improve security at United States Government installations worldwide. FAST Marines are deployed at the discretion of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps when the primary and auxiliary security forces of the Marines are unable to adequately respond to a security crisis.

Al Qaida leader eulogized

It's a long-time coming, but Al Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri has finally acknowledged the death of his deputy, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in a drone strike in Pakistan's northwest territories in June 2012. He did it in In a video recording posted on Tuesday to jihadist websites. He managed to escape from US custody in Afghanistan in 2005 and was appointed Al-Zawahiri's deputy in 2011.

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