AFP - Beijing on Saturday announced it was setting up an “air defence identification zone” over an area that includes islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China, in a move that could inflame the bitter territorial row.
Along with the creation of the zone in the East China Sea, the defence ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that must be followed by all planes entering the area, under penalty of intervention by the military.
“China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions,” according to the ministry.
While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces.
The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
The document outlines what appears to be the start of a new, open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan in the name of training and continuing to fight al-Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be ending, but renewed under new, scaled-down U.S.-Afghan terms.
“The Parties acknowledge that continued U.S. military operations to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate and agree to continue their close cooperation and coordination toward that end,” the draft states.
The 25-page “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” is a sweeping document, vague in places, highly specific in others, defining everything from the types of future missions U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct in Afghanistan, to the use of radios and the taxation of American soldiers and contractors.
The bilateral security agreement will be debated this week in Kabul by around 2,500 village elders, academics and officials in a traditional Loya Jirga. While the Loya Jirga is strictly consultative, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he won’t sign it without the Jirga’s approval.
The copy of the draft — the full text is available here — is dated July 25, 2013. As a working draft, it is particularly revealing because it shows the back and forth negotiations, as U.S. and Afghan officials added words and struck out paragraphs. The changes are marked by annotations still revealed in the text. The document is a work in progress. US officials say there have been more changes since July. The draft, however, does indicate the scope of this possible agreement with major implications for Washington, Kabul, U.S. troops and the continuation of America’s longest war.
Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan’s large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and “shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.” It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice.
The document doesn’t specifically say how many U.S. and NATO troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan officials tell NBC News they hope it will be 10 to 15 thousand. U.S. officials tell NBC News the number is closer to seven to eight thousand, with an additional contribution from NATO. Factoring in troop rotations, home leave, and breaks between deployments, the service of tens of thousands of American troops would be required to maintain a force of seven to eight thousand for a decade or longer. The anticipated costs would likely run into the billions quickly.
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council did not comment on the draft version of the agreement, but said that “the President is still reviewing options from his national security team and has not made a decision about a possible U.S. presence after 2014.”
The agreement circulating this week is unlikely to be the last. It first must pass through the Loya Jirga, then go onto parliament for final approval. “We’re looking at 60-days or more” before the US and Afghanistan sign any agreement, defense officials said.
The National Guard’s top officer said Tuesday that the number of states refusing to provide equal benefits to same-sex couples in guard units has dropped in recent weeks, but he promised to keep pushing until all states comply with Defense Department policies.
“We are adamant that same sex benefits will be equally extended,” just as they are to heterosexual couples in the guard, Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, who represents the guard on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington.
The issue came to a head recently in Texas, where a group that represents gay military spouses says the Texas National Guard is refusing to process a military housing allowance application for a same-sex couple, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Following a Supreme Court ruling that the federal government was required to recognize same-sex marriage, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in August ordered the U.S. military to extend equal benefits to all married couples. Nine states, however, refused to issue ID cards to same-sex spouses.
Grass said he has been working the phones with National Guard commanders nationwide, and the issue now persists only in five states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia.
In places where state constitutions bar recognition of same-sex marriage, officials have found workarounds, such as establishing federal processing centers where all guard members apply for benefits.
“We’re going to find a solution, we’re going to make this fair,” Grass promised
This year, for the first time in the history of the Marine Corps, the graduation class at its infantry training course will include women.
Fifteen women voluntarily began the training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on September 24. On Thursday, three of them will graduate from the course, a milestone for women seeking equality in the Armed Forces, according to Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman.
A fourth woman finished the course, but was injured and couldn’t pass the required combat fitness test. She will be allowed to graduate once she heals and passes that test.
The women went through the same physically grueling exercises as the male Marines, including carry 90 pounds of combat gear on a 12.5-mile march, Krebs said.
They also had to perform three pull ups, just as the men did. For ordinary Marine Corps physical fitness tests, women can choose either the pull up or something called a “flew arm hang.”
This is part of Marine Corps research regarding the capability of women to serve in infantry units. Since last year, 10 women officers have entered Marine infantry officer training at Marine Base Quantico, Virginia. So far none of the officers have completed that course.
However, the women who passed the enlisted course will not join infantry units. They instead will be sent to non-combat jobs throughout the Corps.
¶ In recent months, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department from allowing Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to build about half a dozen of these structures, known as monitor stations, on United States soil, several American officials said.
¶ They fear that these structures could help Russia spy on the United States and improve the precision of Russian weaponry, the officials said. These monitor stations, the Russians contend, would significantly improve the accuracy and reliability of Moscow’s version of the Global Positioning System, the American satellite network that steers guided missiles to their targets and thirsty smartphone users to the nearest Starbucks.
¶ “They don’t want to be reliant on the American system and believe that their systems, like GPS, will spawn other industries and applications,” said a former senior official in the State Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology. “They feel as though they are losing a technological edge to us in an important market. Look at everything GPS has done on things like your phone and the movement of planes and ships.”
The four Marines killed Wednesday while clearing unexploded ordnance at California’s Camp Pendleton were bomb removal technicians. It is one of the few positions in which the Marine Corps allows team members to quit at any time. That’s because their mental focus could mean the difference between life or death, either for themselves or their fellow troops.
Few quit, despite the inherent risks that come with finding and getting rid of unexploded munitions — whether on the battlefield or on a U.S. base, according to former bomb technicians.
The four were killed around 11 a.m. during a routine sweep to make a range safer for future training exercises at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, said a Marine official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. There was no live firing on the range at the time.
Base officials said they would not release details until an investigation into the cause of the accident is concluded. They released the names of the dead Thursday night.
They were Staff Sgt. Mathew R. Marsh, 28, of Long Beach, Calif., Sgt. Miguel Ortiz, 27, of Vista, Calif., Gunnery Sgt. J. Mullins, 31, of Bayou L’Ourse, La., and Staff Sgt. Eric W. Summers, 32, of Poplar Bluff, Mo.
From Associated Press:
Across the nation Americans will honor the sacrifices and service of armed forces veterans with parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, monument dedications and other events. Here are some of the activities scheduled for Monday:
President Barack Obama planned to attend a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Obama said in his Veterans Day proclamation that the country’s obligations to those who have served “endure long after the battle ends.” He said their courage, self-sacrifice and devotion represent the American character at its best and he encouraged everyone to honor every service member who has ever worn the country’s uniforms.
The District of Columbia will honor two of the original Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal for Veterans Day.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will lay a wreath at the African American Civil War Memorial. A commemoration will follow for two Tuskegee Airmen who are D.C. residents at the African American Civil War Museum.
And a big THANK YOU to all who have served!
This Sunday Marines in remote parts of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, aboard ships and elsewhere in the world will pause to celebrate the 238th birthday of the corps. The tradition has the youngest and oldest Marine cut a cake, preferably with a mameluke sword. But a k-bar knife will do as well.
The Marines take their birthdays - and other traditions - seriously. From their earliest days in boot camp, young Marines are told about Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima and the Chosin Reservoir. Over the course of their career they learn to revere Chesty Puller, Dan Daly and others in the pantheon of Marine legends.
Other services are defined by their missions and their equipment. The Marines too have a unique mission - it’s an expeditionary force able to respond quickly. But what really sets it apart is something that is harder to describe but no less potent. It’s sometimes described as an esprit de corps, but ultimately it’s hard to define.
It’s an ancient code that holds that discipline, will and spirit can overcome numerical and technical advantages of an enemy. It is what got Marines to stand up on the beach at Iwo Jima and assault heavy Japanese fortifications.
Anachronistic? Perhaps, but the Marine Corps believes it is this spirit as much as anything else that gives it an edge over its enemies.
U.S. Army veteran Jim Wolf hasn’t had an ideal life since returning home. He has struggled with poverty, homelessness, and alcoholism for decades, but two months ago he volunteered to undergo a physical transformation for Degage Ministries, a charity that aims to help veterans who have fallen on hard times and transform their lives.
In a time-lapse inspired by Dove’s viral “Evolution” ad campaign, Bliss captured Wolf’s transformation as he received a new haircut, a beard trim, and some new clothes. He’s almost unrecognizable by the end, and his gratitude shines through once he sees himself.
A third Navy officer was charged in a complaint unsealed Wednesday with trading classified information for prostitutes, $100,000 cash and luxury vacations from a foreign defense contractor.
Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested Wednesday in Tampa, and taken to a federal court hearing there.
Also charged in the complaint unsealed Wednesday was Leonard Glenn Francis, 49, of Malaysia, the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), who was arrested Sept. 16 in San Diego.
Two other Navy officers have been charged separately in the scheme - Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 46, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau II, 44.
More: Courthouse News Service