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US, Kyrgyz reach deal on using air base

Associated Press
June 24, 2009
By Leila Saralayeva

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — A parliamentary committee on Tuesday backed a deal that allows the United States to ship non-lethal military supplies through a Kyrgyz air base to Afghanistan — four months after the Central Asian nation ordered the eviction of U.S. troops from the base.

The accord to use Manas airport as “center of transit shipments” falls short of U.S. hopes of maintaining the facility as a full-fledged military air base. But it would provide a much-needed logistical support base as the U.S.-led coalition ramps up operations against the increasingly bold Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.

The deal was backed by the Kyrgyz parliament’s defense committee and now goes to the full parliament for a vote — expected later this week.

Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev told the committee that under the new agreement, rent for the base will increase to $60 million per year from the current $17 million.

U.S. officials at the embassy in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said they were unable to provide immediate comment on the deal. …


Russia wants US assurances on missile defense

Associated Press
June 21, 2009
By Arthur Max

Russia is ready for deep cuts of strategic nuclear weapons in a new deal with the United States if the U.S. eases Moscow’s concerns about plans for a missile defense system, President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday.

Medvedev lifted hopes for progress when President Barack Obama visits Moscow July 6-9 for talks focusing on replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December. …

“We cannot agree with U.S. plans to create a global missile defense system,” he said in a statement released by the Kremlin. “I would like to emphasize that the proposed cuts are only possible if the U.S. relieves Russian concerns. In any case, the link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons must be clearly fixed in the treaty.”

Medvedev, however, stopped short of saying the U.S. must dump missile defense plans, and the wording of his statement indicated that Russia was ready for a compromise. …


Iraq, Afghanistan wars coordinated from afar

June 19, 2009
By Michel Moutot

TAMPA, Florida (AFP) — The target may be in Iraq or Afghanistan, but if a US air attack risks killing civilians the decision to strike is taken by leaders at this military base in sunny Tampa, Florida.

In a windowless room at the sprawling MacDill Air Force Base, home to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), several dozen officers monitor developments across the Middle East, the Gulf and Central Asia 24 hours a day.

They also watch events in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia’s shores. …

A huge flat screen monitor on the left broadcasts live images caught by cameras aboard unmanned aerial vehicles, both spy planes and drones. Reconnaissance video streams and attacks are also tracked in real time. …

In the center of the room, another monitor continuously shows updated summaries of key data and information. Digital clocks on the wall gives the time in Tampa, Qatar, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and “Zulu” (GMT). …

Among the computer screens sit two powerful Sun workstations.

“Their job is to use picture and imagery to calculate what weapon to use,” said Schappler, adding that the calculations at CENTCOM are completed simultaneously with others in the field.

“They discuss it and find a common ground. But if they still disagree, it goes to the higher level. So, the decision is taken here. But often, in the meantime, the target is gone.”

Despite all the high-level coordination, there are sometimes mistakes — mistakes that often prove costly in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the US air strikes are deeply unpopular.

US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have their own command posts and operations centers, but personnel at Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas, in the western US state of Nevada, maneuver the pilotless Predator and Reaper drones that fly over Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. …


Major Missile-Defense Project Officially Scrapped

NTI: Global Security Newswire
June 12, 2009

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Kinetic Energy Interceptor project is officially dead, Reuters reported yesterday (GSN, June 11).

The U.S. missile-defense project had undergone $1.2 billion of work, but fell victim to the Obama administration’s plans to cut funding for missile defense activities in the fiscal 2010 budget. The Defense Department delivered a stop work order in May and formally terminated the program Wednesday.

The Kinetic Energy Interceptor was designed to destroy enemy missiles during the early stages of flight. A major test of the technology was scheduled for September, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that the system’s cost and limited capabilities made it expendable.

The project was cut “for the convenience of the government” rather than any problem with the defense contractor, according to the termination message (Jim Wolf, Reuters, June 11).


Russia hopes "down-to-earth" Obama drops Star Wars

June 17, 2009
By Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia hopes U.S. President Barack Obama will not pursue his predecessor’s plan to deploy weapons in space but Moscow is ready to respond appropriately to any such moves, a senior Russian general said on Wednesday.

Russia, negotiating with the United States a new treaty to curb nuclear arms to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) expiring in December, has argued against the “weaponization of space.”

President Dmitry Medvedev, due to receive Obama next month on his first visit to Moscow, has said Russia’s conditions for new nuclear arms accords include banning arms in space. …

“As far as I know, today’s U.S. administration has somewhat different plans — they have become more down-to-earth and more realistic,” one of Russia’s deputy defense ministers Vladimir Popovkin, in charge of weapons, told a news conference.

He said Russia could find a cheap way of dealing with any potential U.S. space defense system. …


MPs Criticise U.S. Missile Shield Plan

The Epoch Times – New York
Jun 14, 2009

LONDON—A planned U.S. missile shield may not strengthen Europe’s security and could hurt NATO’s interests if deployed in the face of Russian opposition, members of parliament said on Sunday.

The United States says the anti-missile system is designed to prevent potential attacks from countries such as Iran, but the plan has outraged Moscow which sees it as a threat.

Russia has urged Washington to drop its plan to put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. Both former Soviet satellites are now NATO members.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, made up of legislators from the main political parties, voiced reservations about the U.S. plan in a report on weapons proliferation.

“We are not convinced that, as they are currently envisaged and under current circumstances, the United States’ planned ballistic missile defence (BMD) deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland represent a net gain for European security,” it said.

“We conclude that if the deployments are carried out in the face of opposition from Russia, this could be highly detrimental to NATO’s overall security interests,” the report said.


Turf Battles on Intelligence Pose Test for Spy Chiefs

By Mark Mazzetti
New York Times
June 8, 2009

On May 19, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, sent a classified memorandum announcing that his office would use its authority to select the top American spy in each country overseas.

One day later, Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent a dispatch of his own. Ignore Mr. Blair’s message, Mr. Panetta wrote to agency employees; the C.I.A. was still in charge overseas, a role that C.I.A. station chiefs had jealously guarded for decades.

The dispute has posed an early test for both spymasters, with Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, now trying to negotiate a truce. The behind-the-scenes battle shows the intensity of struggles continuing between intelligence agencies whose roles were left ill defined after a structural overhaul in 2004 that was intended to harness greater cooperation and put an end to internecine fights. …


U.S. Preps for Possible Showdown with Pyongyang

By Nathan Hodge
June 8, 2009
Wired News – USA

The U.S. military is stepping up training and reviewing target sets in case the North Koreans decide to go to war …

As we learned last week, North Korea looks to be prepping for another long-range missile test, and South Korea has reportedly outlined plans to strike back if North Korea targets its warships. The U.S. military is also preparing for the worst; Aviation Week ace reporters Amy Butler and Dave Fulghum have an excellent rundown of stepped-up military preparations in the event North Korea follows through on its belligerent rhetoric.

Fulghum, reporting from Osan Air Base, South Korea, notes that the U.S. Air Force is identifying critical training fixes for close air support and air-to-air combat — two missions that would be critical in the first 72 hours of the fight. He also takes a close look at a first-day-of-the-war mission for joint tactical air controllers: XATK (pronounced “ex-attack”), the mission to destroy long-range, North Korean artillery.

… the U.S. Missile Defense Agency is boosting its sensor capabilities so U.S. decisionmakers will have more reaction time in the event of a missile launch or an actual attack. The U.S. military made a deliberate decision not to try to intercept a North Korean Taepodong-2 in April; it will be interesting to see if this time around … commanders deploy more missile defense assets or step up their alert.


Gates meets Soldiers on front lines of US missile defense

By American Forces Press Service
June 4, 2009

FORT GREELY, Alaska: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stepped down inside a missile silo here yesterday …

Fort Greely, about 100 miles into the Alaskan interior from Fairbanks, is home to one of two ground-based, mid-course defense units housing missile interceptors on the West Coast. The other is at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. …

“We have a good capability here,” Gates said after a tour of the site. “I think knowing that we have this and that it becomes more effective in each passing day should be a source of comfort to the American people in an uncertain world.”

Sixteen interceptors are in the ground here, with plans to add two more. Combined with those at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the United States will have 30 such interceptor systems. More could be added if needed, Gates said.

In a brief meeting with reporters, Gates said he has planned nearly $1 billion in the 2010 budget for the development of ground-based interceptors. The budget also allows for developing other missile technologies that protect troops in the field, ships at sea and provide theater defense, he added. …


U.S. combat troops to leave all Iraqi cities

By Tim Cocks
Washington Post – Reuters
June 2, 2009

U.S. combat forces will vacate all Iraqi cities on schedule by the end of this month, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Tuesday, including the still violent insurgent holdout of Mosul.

U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq’s towns and cities by June 30 and redeploy to bases outside, according to a security pact that took effect in January.

Some U.S. and Iraqi officials had suggested this might have to be delayed in the case of Mosul, where al Qaeda and other insurgent groups still carry out frequent attacks. …


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