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Iraqi security forces facing serious problems, U.S. oversight official says

Washington Post
By Walter Pincus
January 30, 2011

Iraq’s security forces are confronting significant problems as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw from that country by the end of this year, according to a new report by a top oversight official.

Though advances continue to be made, corruption, lack of capacity to handle logistics and an absence of realistic planning threaten to undermine the security infrastructure and equipment introduced into Iraq by U.S.-led forces, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., says in the office’s latest quarterly report, released Sunday.

Since 2003, the United States has provided $58 billion for reconstruction in Iraq, the report says. Of that, almost $20 billion went to supporting Iraq’s security forces, in which nearly 800,000 personnel now serve in the military and police units.

Iraqi military forces are considered capable of counterinsurgency, and checkpoints in Baghdad are being dismantled amid a recent decline in violent incidents. Nonetheless, “insurgents continued to wage a campaign of intimidation and assassination against certain GOI [government of Iraq] military and civilian personnel this quarter, killing or attempting to kill several dozen officials,” the report says. …

Read on: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/29/AR2011012904353.html

Russia to Advance National Missile Defense Plans

NTI: Global Security Newswire
January 26, 2011

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov today said the nation would move ahead with preparations to build its own antimissile defenses, RIA Novosti reported …

“As far as our missile defense system is concerned, we have been developing it and will be further developing it,” the defense chief told the upper house of the Russian parliament, which today voted to approve the New START nuclear arms pact with the United States …

Previous reports said Moscow was aiming for an “impenetrable” missile defense system by 2020.

The Kremlin is in discussions with NATO on potential collaboration for a missile defense shield intended to safeguard the European continent from potential short- and medium range missile strikes from the Middle East. Russia has warned it would withdraw from the negotiations if it feels it is not being treated as an equal partner …


Millions in Afghan base construction funding at risk

Washington Post
By Walter Pincus
January 24, 2011

More than $11 billion in U.S. funding to construct and maintain bases for rapidly expanding Afghan security forces is at “risk of being wasted” because the military has no comprehensive plan for the program, according to government investigators.

Only about one-quarter of the nearly 900 construction projects scheduled for completion by the end of fiscal 2012 has even been started, Arnold Field, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR, said in testimony Monday.

The Obama administration’s strategy for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2014 depends on the development of Afghanistan’s own security forces. End-strength goals for the army and police have tripled from 132,000 in 2006 to a projected 400,000 over the next few years.

About $8 billion remains of the total $11.4 billion requested for the construction program. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of four Defense Department agencies who manage reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, has requested expedited funding for the security force projects.

The construction of bases, training camps and headquarters for the Afghan forces is a little-discussed part of the coalition’s plans to secure the country. …


Philippines: Catholic bishop opposes return of US military bases

Spero News
January 17, 2011

The United States is working on re-establishing its military bases in the Philippines, a Filipino bishop said today.

“I have an apprehension that the United States military bases will return,” said Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the diocese of Marbel in southern Philippines.

“You know why? Everything is there in General Santos City. They have a nice airport – 3.2 km entry point and 400 hectares of land area – it would take in the biggest plane,” the bishop told Church-run Radio Veritas 846 in an interview. …”

The Philippine Senate voted in 1991 to kick out the US military bases in the country. The US was ready to contest the decision but the eruption of Mount Pinatubo which devastated the US military base in Zambales province forced them to decide to quickly move out.

However, the US maintains its military presence in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement signed during the administration of Joseph Estrada. Under the agreement, US and local soldiers conduct regular war games in many parts of the country.

Read more: www.speroforum.com

U.S. Will Defer To Japan On Moving Okinawa Base

New York Times
By Martin Fackler and Elisabeth Bumiller
January 13, 2011

TOKYO — Striking a conciliatory tone on an issue that has divided Japan and the United States, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that the Obama administration would follow Tokyo’s lead in working to relocate an American air base on Okinawa.

During talks with Japanese leaders in Tokyo, Mr. Gates said he also discussed a sophisticated new antimissile system that the United States is jointly developing with the Japanese, and the two nations’ response to North Korea’s recent military provocations against the South.

But a top item on the agenda was the relocation of the United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, an emotional issue here that drove an uncharacteristic wedge between the allies last year when the prime minister at the time, Yukio Hatoyama, wavered on whether to keep the base on Okinawa.

While the two nations finally agreed in May to relocate the noisy helicopter base to a less populated part of Okinawa by 2014, local resistance has made that time frame look increasingly unrealistic. …

On Thursday, Mr. Gates said the administration did not want the Futenma issue to overshadow the countries’ overall security alliance, which last year reached its 50th anniversary. He signaled that the United States was willing to be flexible in allowing Tokyo to resolve the domestic political resistance to the relocation plan. …

Read on: www.nytimes.com/2011/01/14/world/asia/14military.html

Contours of a large and lasting American presence in Iraq starting to take shape

Washington Post
By Aaron C. Davis
January 12, 2011

BAGHDAD – Despite Iraqi leaders’ insistence that the United States meet its end-of-2011 deadline for withdrawing all troops, the contours of a large and lasting American presence here are starting to take shape.

Although a troop extension could still be negotiated, the politics of Iraq’s new government make that increasingly unlikely, and the Obama administration has shown little interest in pushing the point.

Instead, planning is underway to turn over to the State Department some of the most prominent symbols of the U.S. role in the war – including several major bases and a significant portion of the Green Zone.

The department would use the bases to house a force of private security contractors and support staff that it expects to triple in size, to between 7,000 and 8,000, U.S. officials said.

Ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iraq will determine the number of contractors and bases, as well as the number of uniformed military personnel the United States hopes to keep here to continue training Iraqi security forces, the officials said. …

Read on: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/12/AR2011011204225.html

Sen. Jeff Sessions asks Defense Secretary Robert Gates not to cut missile defense

al.com (Blog)
By Shelly Haskins, The Huntsville Times
January 6, 2011

Ahead of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ announcement of up to $178 billion in cuts in military spending, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions joined a democrat and an independent senator today in asking Gates not to cut missile defense.

Gates briefed key lawmakers and reporters this afternoon on his plans for defense spending cuts, which add $78 billion to the already anticipated $100 billion in cuts. …

“We write to urge you as you work toward improving efficiencies within the Department to take no action that would impair the development of the missile defense architecture as outlined by the Missile Defense Agency in the FY11-15 Future Years Defense Plan,” the senators wrote. “Such reductions would be inconsistent with the President’s support for missile defense as outlined in his December 18, 2010, letter to Senators (Harry) Reid and (Mitch) McConnell during debate on the new START treaty …”


In 2010, Number Of Suicides Doubled At Largest U.S. Military Base

NPR (Blog)
Eyder Peralta

USA Today reports today that even though the Army has boosted its psychiatric staff and services at the largest military base in the United States, it still hasn’t been able to curb the number of suicides:

The Army says 22 soldiers have either killed themselves or are suspected of doing so last year at its post at Fort Hood in Texas, twice the number from 2009.

That is a rate of 47 deaths per 100,000, compared with a 20-per-100,000 rate among civilians in the same age group and a 22-per-100,000 rate Army-wide.

“We are at a loss to explain the high numbers,” says Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, acting commander. “It’s personally frustrating.”

Last September, alone, four soldiers at Ft. Hood committed suicide in the course of one week. But suicide is, of course, not just a Ft. Hood problem. NPR’s Jamie Tarabay has been following the issue off an on over the past year. In June of 2010, she reported, the number of suicides in the military rivaled that of deaths on the battlefield.

USA Today reports that even though numbers have yet to be finalized, 2010 is bound to be a “record year for Army suicides.”


North Korea tests limits of South Korea, Japan cooperation

Christian Science Monitor
By Donald Kirk
January 5, 2011

US envoy Stephen Bosworth arrives in Tokyo Thursday after visiting Seoul and Beijing. Implicit in his talks is a push for Japan and South Korea to cooperate for mutual defense against North Korea.

US envoy Stephen Bosworth is carrying a message to Asian capitals this week that looks far beyond the obvious desire to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Implicit in his talks in Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo is a push for Japan and South Korea to get over the legacy of 35 years of Japanese colonial rule and decades of animosity and suspicion – and cooperate for mutual defense against the North Korea threat and concerns about China as the rising regional power.

Japanese and Korean officials deny any consideration of an alliance, citing it as politically impossible. But Mr. Bosworth, who arrives in Tokyo from Beijing and Seoul on Thursday, faces mounting questions about cooperation engineered by the United States. Washington has longstanding but separate alliances with both countries, although US officials for years have stressed the need for “trilateral cooperation” that conjures the image of a three-sided alliance in case of hostilities.

Bosworth has been saying that North Korea to go beyond its stated desire to return to six-party talks and begin to live up to agreements reached in 2007 to forgo its nuclear weapons program in return for massive aid for its dilapidated economy. As a South Korean official put it Wednesday after Bosworth’s meetings in Seoul, “The South and the US shared an understanding that future six-party talks should not be talks for talks’ sake” – a view that Bosworth has frequently expressed.

While attempting to judge North Korea’s seriousness about wanting to return to the table and “end confrontation” with the South, as North Korea’s media stated in a New Year’s editorial, Japanese officials are spreading the word about Japan-Korea cooperation.

How could Japan and South Korea cooperate?

Japan will outline terms of an agreement with South Korea for exchanging equipment, information, fuel, medicine, even food and water, if a war were to break out, according to official briefings given to the Japanese media. Japan’s defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, will be discussing the deal with Korea’s defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, next week.

Japan’s biggest selling newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, followed up that revelation with a report Wednesday that Japan and South Korea may sign an agreement in several months calling for military cooperation in peacetime despite “lingering disputes concerning Japan’s colonial rule.”

The newspaper cited “growing uncertainty in East Asia,” notably “increased aggression by China and North Korea,” as behind the view that “enhanced bilateral defense ties are indispensable.”

US officials, in view of the sensitivities, are reluctant to comment on the chances of greater Japan-Korea military cooperation, much less an alliance.


Kabul opposes US permanent bases

Press TV
January 3, 2011

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government has strongly rejected the notion of establishing permanent US military bases in Afghanistan.

Chief presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said during a press conference in Kabul on Monday that the issue has never been discussed in meetings between officials of the two countries.

“We have announced earlier that we are in touch with United States on the issue of long-term strategic partnership but not on the possible establishment of a permanent US base in Afghanistan,” he said.

The remarks come after a senior congressman called for permanent US military bases in the war-ravaged country.

Senator Lindsay Graham said on Sunday that American air bases in the war-torn country would benefit the US and its Western allies, if maintained by the US military.

“We have had air bases all over the world and a couple of air bases in Afghanistan would allow the Afghan security forces an edge against the Taliban in perpetuity,” Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

“It would be a signal to Pakistan that the Taliban are never going to come back. In Afghanistan they could change their behavior. It would be a signal to the whole region that Afghanistan is going to be a different place.”

About 150,000 NATO troops are currently fighting in Afghanistan with plans to stay in the country beyond 2014.

This is while US President Barack Obama had pledged a major drawdown from Afghanistan by July 2011. Experts have described the new transition dates as a devastating truth for Americans. …