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4:46 am, September 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.

Russia hit by new U.S. sanctions

The United States has imposed new sanctions on lucrative Russian energy and defense entities, as well as major banks. The Obama administration is trying disable an insurgency in eastern Ukraine widely believed to be backed by Moscow. Prior U.S. sanctions hit Russian individuals and companies. The new sanctions stop short of fully cutting off key Russian economic sectors.

The F-35 gets good and bad news

The F-35 is back in business, at least on a limited basis. The military is allowing some flying capabilities. It was grounded back in June when part of the engine of a U.S. Air Force F-35 A-model broke apart and ripped through the top of a jet as it prepared for take-off. As a result, the plane will not fly in the Farnborough International Airshow in England.

What's next for Bergdahl?

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has a desk job. This ends the formal phase of his transition from Taliban prisoner back to active duty soldier. This opens the door to an Army investigation into his disappearance and his 5 years in captivity. It's not clear when Bergdahl will face Army investigators, whose finding will determine whether he has to face charges or any other disciplinary action.

Could some of the Benghazi victims have been saved?

The Associated Press is reporting that senior military leaders told Congress in a closed door session that two of the four U.S. deaths in Benghazi might have been prevented. Military leaders say if commanders had known more about the intensity of the gunfire directed at the CIA facility where Americans had taken refuge, they could have taken action. AP reports they thought the fighting had subsided and the Americans who had fled to the CIA base about a mile away were safe.

Convicted spy dies in prison

Pete Earley, author of Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring, reports Walker's brother Arthur Walker, 79, has died. Earley says he died July 4th at the Butner Prison in Butner, North Carolina of acute kidney failure, about one month shy of a parole hearing. In his blog, Earley explains Arthur was the older brother of John Anthony Walker Jr., "who remains in poor health, at the same Butner prison. John, who is 76, is scheduled for parole on May 20, 2015, but is in the later stages of throat cancer, according to a family friend."

Olsen leaving NCTC

National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen is leaving his position later this year. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Olsen has led the office for three years, integrating the counterterrorism community by seeking to strengthen key partnerships in the intelligence community. The NCTC is a key tool in the U.S. intelligence arsenal and is designed to warn against terrorist attacks. Its function is also to provide U.S. decision makers the intelligence they needed to counter terror threats.

Chemical weapons destruction underway

The Pentagon says the transfer of Syrian chemicals from the Danish container ship Ark Futura to the Motor Vessel Cape Ray is complete. Cape Ray departed the Italian port of Gioia Tauro on Monday for international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, where neutralization operations will soon begin. The neutralization process should take several weeks to complete. Secretary Hagel expressed his thanks to Danish and Italian authorities for their support in this process and said in a statement he "is enormously proud of everyone who helped make possible this safe and incident-free transfer."

Obama discusses Iraq with Abdullah

President Obama spoke recently with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia to convey his best wishes as Ramadan begins. The two leaders discussed the current situation in Iraq, and the threat that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses to the stability of Iraq and to the entire region. They reaffirmed the need for Iraq's leaders to move expeditiously to form a new government capable of uniting all of Iraq's diverse communities. The President thanked the King for Saudi Arabia's pledge of $500 million to help alleviate the suffering of all Iraqis who have been displaced by the violence. The two leaders agreed to continue to consult closely on regional developments.

Hagel expresses condolences

Defense Secretary Hagel called his Israeli counterpart this week to express his condolences to both the families of the Israeli teenagers who were found dead in the West Bank and to the people of Israel. The Pentagon says Hagel pledged his continued support for finding the perpetrators and urged all parties to refrain from steps that could be further destabilizing. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon thanked Secretary Hagel for his call and updated him on events unfolding in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Female reaches top Navy ranking

The Navy has its first female four-star admiral, Michelle Janine Howard. She was promoted on Tuesday to the service's highest rank. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and in 1999 became the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship. She was a key figure is the real-life rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somalia pirate. The story later became a block-buster movie.

Pacific military talks take place

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, hosted his counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japan on Tuesday in Hawaii to exchange views on regional security issues. They discussed the evolving security environment, in particular the enduring North Korea nuclear and missile threat, as well as ways to promote peace and stability in the region.

Ceasefire expires

What's next in Ukraine? A 10-day ceasefire in eastern Ukraine expired Monday night, with no immediate word from the country's president on whether he would extend it, and no sign that the pro-Moscow separatists had met his demands to ease the violence. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed the situation in a phone call with leaders of Russia, Germany and France. He repeatedly said the rebels had not fulfilled the conditions of the ceasefire.

How many US advisors are in Iraq?

Of the 300 troops authorized by President Barack Obama, 180 have arrived in Baghdad. Half are advisors and the remaining 90 are setting up an operations and intelligence analysis unit. The Pentagon confirms that Predator drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, are now also being used over the capitol for force protection.

Overseas funding request submitted

The White House has submitted an updated Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request to Congress. DoD OCO funding allotted is $58.6 billion and it includes $1.4 billion for State Department programming. President Barack Obama says the request is consistent with the plan he laid out at West Point. The plan called for bringing the U.S. war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, while ensuring our Armed Forces have the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve.

Another attack happens during World Cup

Nigerian police shot and killed a suspect yesterday after an attack on a busy shopping plaza approximately four miles from the US Embassy in Abuja. One witness told the Associated Press a bomb was dropped at the entrance to the mall by a motorcyclist. The attack happened during the Nigeria/Argentina World Cup match. This is the second time in a week that an attack thought the be launched by the terror group Boko Haram has taken place during a World Cup match.

US military advisors arriving in Baghdad

Ninety of the 300 U.S. military advisers and special operations forces going to Iraq are in Baghdad. The Pentagon says they will begin to do three things: assess the strength of Iraqi forces, gauge the skill of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and determine if it's viable to send more US advisory teams to Iraq.

US military advisors granted legal protection in Iraq

The Pentagon says Iraq has agreed to grant legal protection for the U.S. military advisors headed there to assess the state of Iraq's military and the threat from ISIL. That means they will be granted immunity from prosecution for any crimes they commit or legal trouble they might find themselves in during their deployment. Now that the agreement has been made, the first advisory teams will be established.

Marines to conduct scheduled sustainment training in Kuwait

U.S. Marines from the USS Gunston Hall will conduct previously scheduled sustainment training in Kuwait in the coming days. The Marine Corps has conducted sustainment training in Kuwait on a regular basis for two decades. The region is of specific concern because of the terror group ISIL's march toward Baghdad. The Gunston Hall is part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. It departed Norfolk, Va. in February and is operating in the 5th fleet area of responsibility on a routine deployment to support maritime security operations. The deployment of U.S. Navy assets are regularly scheduled and are in accordance with our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region.

Who are the Green Berets?

The Green Berets are an Army Special Operations Force tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. Key components of their training are language and cultural skills to work with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, and peacekeeping to name a few

Missing service members located

The Department of Defense announced today 17 service members have been recovered from a C-124 Globemaster aircraft that was lost on Nov. 22, 1952. On Nov. 22, 1952, a C-124 Globemaster aircraft crashed while en route to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from McChord Air Force Base, Washington. There were 11 crewmen and 41 passengers on board. Adverse weather conditions precluded immediate recovery attempts. Attempts to locate the other crew and passengers continue.

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