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11:38 am, October 21, 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.

Security officials prepare for 9/11 anniversary

As the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, there are no specific threats against Washington or New York, but authorities are concerned about the rising power of militant groups around the world, which presents a complex terrorism picture. New York and Washington are still the top terrorist targets but U.S. intelligence officials recognize that the rest of the country is just a vulnerable.

Top Senator calls for review of military equipment use by civilian police

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to review a program that provides high-powered rifles and other surplus military equipment to civilian police departments across the country. The Senate's second ranking Democrat on Friday said he has long been concerned about their use of military equipment and military-style tactics by local police departments. He said the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer gives "new urgency" to a review of the Pentagon program.

Hagel meets with Ukraine counterpart

Secretary Hagel met Thursday with Ukraine Minister of Defense Colonel General Valeriy Heletey to discuss the ongoing security situation in Ukraine. The two leaders spoke on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Wales. Hagel praised the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces in their current engagements in Eastern Ukraine and pledged continued U.S. support for their efforts. Minister Heletey thanked Secretary Hagel for that support, which includes millions of dollars of non-lethal material and assistance.

NATO faces a critical test

Standing in Estonia on Russia's doorstep, President Barack Obama says, "this is a moment of testing" for the Western alliance to stand up to the Kremlin. This came as the Pentagon announced that 200 U.S. soldiers would participate in an exercise in western Ukraine starting next week. It's symbolic, but the message is strong. It's the first time American ground troops have been in Ukraine since the crisis began.

NATO troop buildup expected

Western allies have approved plans to position at least 4,000 troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe, increasing NATO's security commitments to jittery member states near the Russian border. This come just as an important NATO summit that begins Thursday. President Barack Obama will be there and will visit Estonia for meetings with Baltic leaders.

Russia accused of misusing gas

Russia is ready for talks on resuming gas supplies to Ukraine, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday, warning of disruption to flows to Europe this winter if a row over pricing and debts was not resolved. The EU says gas must not be used as a diplomatic weapon. Novak said Moscow was ready to reduce its prices in an effort to secure a deal, but the proposed sum remained well above what Kiev has said it is willing to pay.

Russia accused of invading Ukraine

Several European Union foreign ministers have accused Russia of invading eastern Ukraine and said Moscow should be punished with more sanctions. The meeting of the 28-nation bloc's top diplomats in Milan came one day after NATO said Moscow has slipped at least 1,000 Russian soldiers and much heavy weaponry into Ukraine.

Military fight against ISIL may require more money

The Pentagon may need to ask Congress for more money if the Obama administration steps up attacks against ISIL. DoD has not yet stated publicly how much it has spent so far in the fight against ISIL. The U.S. operation in Iraq so far has included relief drops of 636 bundles of food, water and medical supplies, at least 100 air strikes and about 60 reconnaissance aircraft missions a day.

Two-star general stripped of star and retired

A two-star Army general blamed for failing to properly investigate sexual assault and other allegations against a colonel on his staff will be retired with one star the Army announced Wednesday. The Associated Press's Robert Burns writes, "The decision by Army Secretary John M. McHugh comes more than a year after Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison was suspended from his duties as commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan. His case has been cited as evidence of why sex-crime victims say they don't trust the military to protect them, despite efforts by senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, to make commanders accountable."

Airstrikes in Libya

Despite U.S. warnings, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya. This comes three years after the killing of Libyan dictator Muamar Ghadafi and U.S. efforts to try to stabilize the country. "Outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya's democratic transition," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said to reporters.

Troops need four months to leave Afghanistan

The Pentagon has worked up plans that would allow American forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year if the contested presidential election drags on and a security agreement isn't signed soon. The Associate Press is reporting that shortly before landing in Kabul for a visit, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, told reporters accompanying him on the trip that under optimal circumstances the U.S. would need about 120 days to pull all troops and equipment out of the country if there is no agreement allowing them to stay into 2015.

US protests Chinese military action

The Obama administration on Friday accused a Chinese fighter jet of conducting a "dangerous intercept" of a U.S. Navy surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace. The Associated Press reports it's the fourth such incident since March. Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary, said Washington protested to the Chinese military through diplomatic channels, calling the fighter pilot's actions "unsafe and unprofessional." Furthermore, U.S. officials said this is at least the second formal complaint American diplomats have filed with the Chinese over these military actions in recent months.

How great of a threat does ISIL pose to the US?

"The immediacy is in the number of Europeans and other nationalities who have come to the region to be a part of that ideology," said Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. He made the comments while discussing the strength of ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The immediate problem for the U.S. he says is that some of those foreign fighters which came from the U.S. may have already gone home.

Guatemalan military leader dies in crash

The head of the Guatemalan military's Joint Chiefs of Staff died in a helicopter crash Wednesday near the border with Mexico. The Associated Press reports that Interior Secretary Mauricio Lopez said Gen. Rudy Ortiz was killed along with four other military officers when the helicopter went down in a mountainous area of the western province of Huehuetenango. Lopez also said Gen. Braulio Mayen, commander of the Army's 5th Brigade, was among the victims.

Military sales under review

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked for a review of the program under which surplus military equipment is made available to local police departments. The program has come under scrutiny after scenes of heavy military equipment being used to break up protests in Ferguson were broadcast around the world.

Hagel congratulates MV Cape Ray

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called the crew aboard the U.S. ship MV Cape Ray Monday to congratulate the ship's crew on finishing their unprecedented work of neutralizing the most dangerous chemicals in Syria's declared stockpile at sea. The secretary said that by ridding the world of these materials, they - as part of an ongoing international effort to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal - have helped make an important and enduring contribution to global security.

Attorney for 9/11 mastermind may quit

The number one attorney for the man who calls himself mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks said Thursday he might drop the case unless the judge orders the government to divulge details about FBI investigations of defense team members. The Associated Press reports that civilian defense attorney David Nevin said during a pretrial hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that the possibility that defense team members are working with the FBI has strained his relationship with client Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of Kuwait.

Asia-Pacific is on the Pentagon's Agenda

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work will travel to the Asia-Pacific region Aug. 17-23 to strengthen multilateral security cooperation in the region, build more robust partnerships, and discuss ongoing efforts and regional security matters. During the week-long trip, the Pentagon says Work will visit Guam, Hawaii, Japan and Republic of Korea. At each location, he will visit U.S. military bases and installations, speak with service members and civilian employees, and meet with allies and partners.

The UK is helping out in Iraq

Britain's Royal Air Force has sent Tornado aircraft from RAF Marham to support humanitarian operations in Iraq. In a statement, the government says a small number of planes equipped with Litening III reconnaissance pods are being deployed. Litening III is an infrared targeting, navigation and reconnaissance pod. The system can capture advanced still images as well as video. The planes will be based in Cyprus and will be used notice to provide vital intelligence to assist the delivery of the U.K. aid.

ISIL down, but not out

The US has been pounding ISIL in Iraq with 500 lb. bombs and drone strikes. "What I expect ISIL to do is look for other things to do, to pick up and move elsewhere," says Lt. Gen. William Mayville, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, he told reporters at the Pentagon that ISIL is still a problem. "I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or are somehow breaking the momentum of ISIL," said Mayville.

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