Prayer zone for a better, empowering, inspiring, promoting, prospering, progressing and more successful life through Christ Jesus

Posts tagged ‘Chuck Hagel’

Pentagon Spends Thousands to Study Putin’s Body Language.


The Pentagon has been shelling out $300,000 a year to study the body language of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders, reports said.

The Pentagon said Friday,  confirming a report first published by USA Today, none of the studies played a role in U.S. decisions regarding Russia, The Hill reported.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel “has not read these reports,” Rear Adm. John Kirby said, The Hill reported. “I can tell you for sure that they have not informed any policy decisions by the Department of Defense.”

“The reports are given right to the Office of Net Assessment. As I understand it, that is where they stayed.”

The Hill reported the Office of Net Assessment is a think tank within the Pentagon that’s been run by Andrew Marshall for four decades. It used to report directly to the Defense secretary.

Kirby said Hagel “was interested” in initial press reports of the body language study, and “asked some questions about it this morning, and I suspect he’ll be asking more questions about it,” The Hill reported.

The Pentagon spokesman said the body language program dates back to the State Department in the mid-1990s, and was taken over by the Pentagon around 2003.
He said there’s no plans to make the studies public.

Related Stories:

 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

McCain Blasts Hagel for ‘Massive Failure’ of Intel on Ukraine.


Image: McCain Blasts Hagel for 'Massive Failure' of Intel on UkraineSen. John McCain is flanked by Sen. James Inhofe while questioning Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 5.

By Cathy Burke

Sen. John McCain tore into Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday for a “massive failure” of U.S. military intelligence in the days before Russian troops marched into Crimea, reports said.

Defense News reported that in a testy, nearly five-minute exchange during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain and Hagel bickered over whether the Obama administration and European allies were aware that Russian President Vladimir Putin was about to invade the Crimean Peninsula.

The Obama administration had a “total misreading of the intentions of Vladimir Putin,”NBC News reports McCain said.

But Hagel shot back: “I don’t get into the specifics in an open hearing.”

Still, he insisted, “early last week we were well aware of the threats” posed by Russian troops to Ukraine — and that he’d met with NATO officials and Ukrainian defense officials last week to talk about it, NBC News reported.

“This wasn’t sudden or new,” Hagel said.

GOP senators also hammered Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey for a spending plan they charged would hamper the military.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, noted that the $496 billion defense budget represents a funding level equal to that of 2013 and 2014 — and more than $30 billion below the Pentagon’s funding in 2012, Defense News reported.

McCain sarcastically told Hagel “your timing is exquisite” in submitting the bare-bones budget plan “at a time when the world is probably more unsettled than it has been since the end of World War II,” noting tensions in Crimea, the collapse of Syrian peace talks, “China more and more aggressive,” North Korea test-firing missiles, “and the list goes on,” Defense News reported.

McCain also noted that China has just announced a 12.2 percent increase in its military budget, NBC News reported.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe also criticized President Barack Obama for spending $125 billion on his “energy and environment agenda” — money, Inhofe said, that could have been used to buy more than 1,000 F-35s, Defense News reported.

Hagel told the committee he had worked within the limits Congress set in its 2011 Budget Control Act and this year’s bipartisan budget accord.

Related Stories:

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Hagel Calls for Urgent Crackdown on Military Scandals.


Concerned that ethical problems inside the military might run deeper than he realized, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered service leaders Wednesday to add urgency to their drive to ensure “moral character and moral courage” in a force emerging from more than a decade of war.

Almost a year into his tenure as Pentagon chief, Hagel had been worried by a string of ethics scandals that produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel decided to push for a fuller accounting.

Last month the Air Force revealed it was investigating widespread cheating on proficiency tests among nuclear missile launch officers in Montana, and numerous senior officers in all branches of the armed forces have been caught in embarrassing episodes of personal misbehavior, inside and outside the nuclear force. The Air Force also is pursuing a drug use investigation.

At the same time, hundreds of soldiers and others are under criminal investigation in what the Army describes as a widespread scheme to take fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.

The steady drumbeat of one military ethics scandal after another has caused many to conclude that the misbehavior reflects more than routine lapses.

“He definitely sees this as a growing problem,” Hagel’s chief spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday after Hagel met privately with the top uniformed and civilian officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

“And he’s concerned about the depth of it,” Kirby said. “I don’t think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn’t have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it.”

Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, had launched an effort to crack down on ethics failures more than a year ago, and the matter has been a top priority for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, for even longer.

Kirby said Hagel has come to realize that he needs to investigate as well.

“We don’t fully know right now what we’re grappling with here and how deep and serious it is,” Kirby said. “And I think, you know, for a leader at his level with the responsibilities that he carries every day, not knowing something like that is something to be concerned about. And he wants to know more.”

Hagel believes that the vast majority of military members are “brave, upright and honest,” and he is encouraged by efforts already under way to curb misconduct, including sexual assaults, Kirby said.

But Hagel told the service leaders Wednesday that he “also believes there must be more urgency behind these efforts” and that all Pentagon leaders must “put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force.”

Kirby was asked whether Hagel believes ethics lapses are a symptom of over-use of the military for the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He believes that that is a factor that should be looked at,” the spokesman said.

A significant portion of the concern about military misbehavior is aimed at two segments of the nuclear force: the Air Force’s land-based nuclear missile corps, and the Navy’s training program for operators of nuclear reactors used as propulsion systems for submarines and aircraft carriers. Neither of those fields was directly involved in significant ways in either of the wars since 2001.

The Navy announced on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into cheating allegations against about 30 senior sailors representing about one-fifth of its instructors at a Charleston, S.C.,-based school for naval nuclear power reactor operators.

Unlike an Air Force cheating probe that has implicated nearly 100 officers responsible for land-based nuclear missiles that stand ready for short-notice launch, those implicated in the Navy investigation have no responsibility for nuclear weapons.

The Navy said its implicated sailors are accused of having cheated on written tests they must pass to be certified as instructors at the nuclear propulsion school. A number of them are alleged to have transmitted test information to other instructors from their home computers, which if verified would be a violation of restrictions on the use and transmission of classified information.

The matter is being probed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Separately, Kirby announced that the Pentagon has picked two retired officers to lead an independent review of personnel problems inside the Air Force and Navy nuclear forces. They are Larry Welsh, a former Air Force chief of staff, and John Harvey, a retired Navy admiral and nuclear-trained surface warfare officer.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Hagel Voices Frustration with Afghan Foot-Dragging.


Expressing growing impatience, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday he doesn’t know what to believe about new assurances from Afghanistan that President Hamid Karzai is moving closer to signing a pact to keep American troops in his country next year as advisers.

“What is coming out of the presidential palace today, or what President Karzai says today, I don’t know,” Hagel told a news conference in Warsaw. “It changes constantly.”

Hagel pointedly noted that Karzai had “agreed — personally agreed — to the bilateral security agreement” negotiated between the two nations last year, yet continues to balk at signing it.

The deal would allow some U.S. service members to remain and keep training Afghan soldiers after most of the 39,000 troops now there withdraw. The 12-year-old U.S. combat mission is set to end in December.

The Obama administration has indicated it might be willing to keep as many as 10,000 military trainers in Afghanistan to advise forces fighting the Taliban insurgency.

Earlier, on his overnight flight from Washington to Warsaw, Hagel told reporters that Karzai’s foot-dragging puts at risk the planning necessary for a post-combat mission.

“You can’t just keep deferring and deferring,” he said, “because at some point, the realities of planning and budgeting — it collides.”

Since the new year, the Obama administration has repeatedly said it needs an agreement signed in weeks, not months, if it is to keep any troops in Afghanistan in 2015.

In Kabul on Thursday, Karzai’s national security adviser voiced optimism about the pact.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta said he has grown more hopeful that the Afghan leader will sign the agreement before leaving office this year. Karzai has repeatedly said he wants to wait to sign the document until after the country chooses his successor in April 5 elections.

At a news conference, Spanta said intense talks in the last few days have made him “more optimistic” that the stalemate can be broken.

“We are working very intensively together with the United States authorities to reach and sign this agreement soon,” Spanta said. “I cannot go today into detail, but I don’t know — since two, three, four days, I am more optimistic compared to last week. Let us wait a few days more.”

If the deal falls apart, Afghanistan could lose up to $15 billion a year in aid, effectively collapsing its fragile economy and making it unable to pay its 350,000-strong army and police.

Hagel, who was visiting Polish leaders to consult on Afghanistan and other security issues, sounded skeptical at his news conference in Warsaw when asked about Spanta’s remarks.

Saying that the Afghan president’s position keeps changing, Hagel noted that U.S. officials, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, have pressed Karzai and “talk with him constantly.” But they have limited ability to influence his decision, Hagel said.

He added that U.S. allies who are willing to help train and advise Afghan forces beyond 2014 also are eager to know if there will be a U.S.-Afghan security agreement soon.

Insurgents in Afghanistan have intensified attacks recently in a campaign to regain territory as foreign forces prepare to leave the country.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com.

Outrage Among Veterans Grows over Obama Military Pension Cuts.


Image: Outrage Among Veterans Grows over Obama Military Pension Cuts

The Pentagon‘s top civilian says it’s time to tame burgeoning military personnel costs, but he’s facing a test of wills with the nation’s powerful veterans groups, which want no cut in their benefits.

Veterans groups are fighting curbs in annual pension increases for military retirees under age 62 that are part of the new budget deal passed by Congress last week and awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. After a barrage of protests from the military community, lawmakers said they’ll review the cut next year and possibly reverse it. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that reform of military compensation can’t be avoided.

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans 
“We all know that we need to slow cost growth in military compensation,” Hagel told a Pentagon press conference. “We know that many proposals will be controversial and unpopular. … Tough decisions will have to be made.”

Retirees want the belt-tightening done elsewhere.

Here’s a look at what members of the U.S. armed forces get now and the debate:

Due to pay and benefit boosts in recent war years, officials and military analysts say compensation is competitive with the civilian sector — and well above it when comparing people with similar education and experience.

For example, an Army private with fewer than two years of service and no dependents earns on average about $40,400 annually, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesman. About two-thirds of that is base pay and the rest a housing allowance and a food allowance, with no taxes paid on the two allowances. An Army captain with six years of service and no dependents averages $93,800 annually.

Active duty military members also get all of their health care for free. Their spouses and children get free care at military treatment facilities. If dependents use a private doctor, dentist or pharmacy, they get the care through the department’s TRICARE system, paying no premiums and no co-pays, said Austin Camacho, a system spokesman.

The force also gets what the Pentagon calls “quality of life” benefits, like help paying for continuing education, separate schools in some places for their children, commissaries where they buy food at an estimated 30 percent below retail prices and exchanges where they buy other deeply discounted goods like clothing and household items. Greatly discounted day care is available through the department’s child development system, which officials say has grown to serve the largest number of kids daily among the nation’s employers — now that more than half of the 1.4 million-member force is married and they have 1.2 million children.

While serving, some are and some aren’t able to build much of a retirement nest egg on their own. There’s a savings plan, though there are no employer matching funds, and moving every two or three years due to reassignment can affect the service members’ ability to build equity in their homes and the spouse’s ability to build a career that brings in a good second income.

The military retirement system is unfair and costly. Only 17 percent of service members — those who serve 20 years — get pensions, the Pentagon says. Most people don’t stay that long, meaning 83 percent who serve less than two decades get no retirement pay.

But someone who enters the military at age 18 and stays 20 years starts drawing pension checks worth half their base salary immediately at age 38 — rather than having to wait until their 60s — and gets the payments for life. It’s a practice without parallel in the private sector, though some government agencies such as city police departments do it.

Critics say 40 years of pension for 20 years of work is overly generous, but retirees say they deserve it for doing risky jobs that are tough on them and their families and that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t volunteer for.

A Navy Chief Petty Officer who earned $80,000 a year, is married and served for 20 years can immediately get a pension of about $2,200 monthly that would grow with cost-of-living increases. He or she can get free health care at military facilities on a space-available basis and can continue using commissaries — the latter two benefits being a reason some retirees like to live near military installations, officials say. Those who enroll in TRICARE insurance for private sector care can pick between two plans, paying only $274 annually for an individual or $548 for the family for the standard plan, far below civilian insurance costs.

There are nearly 2 million retirees currently getting military pensions at an annual cost to the Defense Department of $4.5 billion. Of those, 840,000 are under 62 — and more than 80 percent of those were enlisted, as opposed to higher-paid officers.

The retirement system hasn’t been changed materially in more than 100 years and was designed when people didn’t live as long, second careers were rare and military pay was low. Many people now have second careers after retiring, collecting the pension as well as income from their new jobs — and in their 60s are also getting Social Security payments, to which they contributed while in the military.

Editor’s Note: Seniors Scoop Up Unclaimed $20,500 Checks? (See if You qualify) 

BREAKING FAITH?The change provoking outrage among military and veteran groups this week would reduce retirement benefits for working-age retirees. Starting Dec. 1, 2015, cost-of-living adjustments for pensions of people under 62 would be modified to equal inflation minus 1 percent; then at 62, retirees would receive a “catch-up” increase that would restore their pensions to reflect levels as if the cost-of-living adjustment had been the full consumer price index in all previous years.

But they wouldn’t get back what was lost, meaning a reduction of nearly $72,000 in benefits over a lifetime for a sergeant first class who retires at age 42, by one group’s estimate. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said a veteran of identical rank who retired at 38 would still wind up with $1.62 million in retirement pay over a lifetime.

But officials have said repeatedly in recent years that changes in the system would not affect current military members or retirees. Rather, they would be applied to future recruits.

“Keep your promise” was the theme of a lobbying effort by the Military Officers Association of America.

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said the group was “horrified” that the Senate could pass a bill “so unfair to those Americans who have served honorably in uniform.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars predicted the change would prompt an exodus of those at midcareer once the U.S. economy rebounds, and that it will hurt efforts to recruit new people into the all-volunteer force.

CHANGE IS COMING, BUT WHAT CHANGE?

By passing the pension cut now, lawmakers jumped the gun on a review panel broadly studying modernization.

The nine-member Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was mandated in the last budget year to study the full breadth of issues including regular military pay, health care, the promotion system, retirement pay and family support programs. “Everything is on the table,” Christensen said.

In an era of tight budgets, personnel costs now make up nearly half of the Pentagon’s funding, and officials fear continued growth will force disproportionate cuts in other areas, such as training and equipment. Health costs alone have skyrocketed nearly 200 percent since the year 2000 and will balloon further in coming years without changes, officials say.

“Modernization is a certainty,” said James Hosek, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation and expert on defense manpower.

Retirees argue that cutting troop benefits is the last thing that should be done — and some suggest efforts to curb personnel costs should first target what they see as bloated civilian staffs as well as redundant uniformed bureaucracy in which each service branch has its own medical command, cyberassets, intelligence assets and uniforms — just to mention a few complaints.

Ideas already floated for compensation changes include earlier vesting in pensions; giving troops a lump sum on departure rather than long-term pensions; slightly increasing health care premiums; and replacing pensions with a 401(k)-type saving plan, which would be offered, not forced on current members and retirees. Some analysts say modernization will inevitably mean less generous benefits for military members, but others hope that may not be the case if creative efficiencies can be found.

Editor’s Note: Obama’s Budget Takes Aim at Retired Americans 
The challenge for the commission is to reform programs so they’re more affordable and sustainable and yet offer benefits attractive enough to keep drawing people to volunteer for the nation’s armed forces.

The panel is scheduled to make recommendations to Congress and the president in May.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Special Council Would Oversee Nuclear Command System.


Lawmakers want the Pentagon to create a special council to oversee government leaders‘ communications in the event of a nuclear crisis.

The council to oversee the Pentagon’s existing NC3 system, which controls nuclear weapons command and communications processes, would be included in Congress’ compromise on an annual military authorization bill, reports DefenseOne.com. The council would also be responsible for identifying and mitigating any NC3 technology vulnerabilities.

It would also oversee system-performance assessments, develop system architectures, and ensure the program continues to have the resources it needs to operate, including support for ongoing projects like the Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals, which would give senior government and military officials the ability to communicate securely over satellites.

The 2014 defense authorization measure has already been approved in the House, with the Senate expected to begin its own discussions on it Wednesday, reports Politico.

The technology for ongoing projects is expected to take years of continued development, a Senate staffer told DefenseOne, so House and Senate Armed Service Committee members believe the whole process of acquisition and policy should be institutionalized, including establishing a council to manage it all.

Acquisition planning for NC3 advancements now happens on an “ad hoc” basis that changes depending who is in charge, the unnamed aide said.

If the provision is added to the authorization bill, it would elevate the NC3 network inside the Pentagon. The council would be co-chaired by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.

The council would also include the undersecretary of Defense for policy; the head of Strategic Command; the director of the National Security Agency; and the Pentagon’s chief information officer.

Related stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Poll: Americans Disapprove of Iran Nuclear Deal.


 

By Elliot Jager

 
Americans disapprove of the November deal signed in Geneva between Iran and the United States in which Tehran agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for $7 billion in sanctions relief, The Pew Research Center reported.
 
The survey did not ask if respondents believed Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
 
Some 32 percent of those surveyed supported the deal, while 25 percent had no opinion. Of those who heard about the deal, 62 percent did not trust Iran’s intentions while 29 percent said its leaders were sincere.
Conservative Republicans were far more distrusting of Iranian intentions than liberal Democrats by a 64 to 13 percent margin. Overall, 50 percent of Democrats versus 14 percent of Republicans backed the deal.
There was no majority support for the agreement among any demographic group though the more formal education a respondent had the more likely they were to think it was a good outcome.
Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal international affairs columnist Bret Stephens writes that Obama administration policy is containment not prevention of a nuclear-armed Iran.
During his January confirmation hearing as secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel let slip that the Obama administration’s policy on Iran is containment.
Hagel then corrected himself. “I’ve just been handed a note that misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, it — meant to say that I obviously — his position on containment — we don’t have a position on containment, so — I recognize I’ve had more attention paid to my words the last eight weeks than I ever thought possible.”
Stephen concludes, “The media played it as a stumble by an intellectually overmatched nominee. But it wasn’t a stumble. It was a gaffe —an accidental, embarrassing act of Washington truth telling — by a guy who doesn’t do insincerity nearly as well as his boss.”
 
Related Stories:
 

 

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hagel Warns Pakistan Leaders Over Thwarting Military Shipments.


Image: Hagel Warns Pakistan Leaders Over Thwarting Military Shipments

ISLAMABAD — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Pakistani leaders Monday that if they don’t resolve protests stalling some military shipments across the border with Afghanistan, it could be difficult to maintain political support in Washington for an aid program that has sent billions of dollars to Islamabad, defense officials said.

In response, the officials said, Hagel received assurances from the Pakistanis that they would take “immediate action” to resolve the shipment problem. The officials did not provide details on how that might be done.

Just last week, anti-American protests along one of the primary border crossing routes in Pakistan prompted the U.S. to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week, due to worries about the safety of the truckers. The protests center on the CIA’s drone program that has targeted and killed many terrorists, but has caused civilian casualties.

The defense officials said Hagel described a political reality on Capitol Hill that could complicate support for the billions of dollars of aid Pakistan now receives.

It was Hagel’s intent to try and pre-empt any problems with the aid, said the officials who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private meetings publicly on the record.

Hagel had back-to-back meetings Monday with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the new army chief, Gen. Tahaeel Sharif, in a move to further repair what has been a strained and sputtering relationship between Washington and Islamabad. Defense officials said Hagel is first high ranking U.S. official to meet with the Army chief, who took over at the end of last month.

During the meetings some of the more contentious issues also were raised, including Pakistan’s opposition to ongoing CIA drone strikes and Washington’s frustration with Pakistan’s reluctance to go after the Haqqani terrorist network, which operates along the border and conducts attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The officials acknowledged that little progress was made other than to agree to continue talking.

Sharif’s office said in a statement the prime minister and Hagel had “in-depth exchanges on a whole range of issues of mutual interest” including bilateral defense, security cooperation and Afghanistan.

Sharif’s office also said the prime minister conveyed Pakistan’s deep concern over continuing U.S. drone strikes, “stressing that drone strikes were counter-productive to our efforts to combat terrorism and extremism on an enduring basis,” the statement said.

Shireen Mazari, the information secretary for the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said in a statement Monday it’s time for the government to speak forcefully to the U.S. to demand an end to the drone attacks. The party is leading the protests.

Pakistan has called the drone strikes a violation of the country’s sovereignty, but the issue is muddied by the fact that Islamabad and the military have supported at least some of the strikes in the past.

Following their meeting in Rawalpindi, Hagel and Sharif echoed each other’s desire to work to strengthen the countries’ ties. The top military men discussed the defense relationship between the two countries and regional stability, according to the Pakistani army chief’s office.

Hagel’s warning to the Pakistanis about the supply route reflects what has been a growing frustration among U.S. lawmakers with Pakistan in recent years.

The Pakistani government blocked the supply crossings for seven months following U.S. airstrikes that accidentally killed two dozen soldiers on the Afghan border in November 2011. Pakistan finally reopened the routes after the U.S. apologized.

The rift largely led the U.S. to sever most aid to Pakistan for some time, but relations were restored in July 2012. Since then the U.S. has delivered over $1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan. Some of the items include advanced communications equipment, roadside bomb jammers, night vision goggles and surveillance aircraft.

Since July 2012, relations between Washington and Islamabad have been improving. Sharif met with President Barack Obama and Hagel in late October in Washington.

The last Pentagon chief to visit Pakistan was Robert Gates in January 2010.

Hagel flew to Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he visited U.S. troops but declined to meet with President Hamid Karzai, who has rankled the U.S. by refusing to sign a security agreement before year’s end.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Money Has Run Out for Afghan ‘Pentagon’.


The United States has spent about $107 million so far on a still unfinished Kabul building that is supposed to serve as Afghanistan’sPentagon, but construction has now been suspended because the U.S. government has run out of money, The Washington Post reports. 

It’s now up to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to decide whether to authorize an additional $24 million to complete the building.

U.S. taxpayers, meanwhile, have provided about $53 billion since 2005 to train, equip, house and feed Afghanistan’s security services personnel, the Post reported Sunday.

The unfinished ‘Pentagon’ is part of a $9.3 billion construction splurge financed by Washington to build bases, outposts and hospitals for the Afghan military

The cost-overruns have been blamed on the unique security, logistics, and weather difficulties of building inside Kabul’s heavily fortified “green zone.” The building is also designed to withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake, adding to the costs, and neighboring Pakistan sometimes holds up supply convoys at its border with Afghanistan, causing construction delays. 

The New York Times also reports problems with corrupt Afghan contractors. Some are known to have ties with the Taliban insurgency, the newspaper reported last month.

But according to the Post, there is no proof the ‘Pentagon’ project ran out of money just because of corruption that is endemic to Afghanistan. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan, for example, said poor planning, lax recordkeeping, shoddy oversight, and security problems all contributed to exhausting the construction budget. 

He told the Post the project is typical of the “rush to spend” U.S. tax dollars on the Afghan military, he said, adding that American commanders come and go while local contractors press for additional funds even if the work they did was not evaluated or their bills vetted.

“That is a recipe for disaster,” Sopko said. 

An unnamed U.S. official also told the Post, “Nobody was watching it like they should, and it’s just been an open checkbook. We failed, big time.”

There are dozens of ongoing projects worth over a $1 billion whose completion will be jeopardized if Kabul and Washington cannot agree on regulating the U.S. presence in the country after 2014, the Post also reported. 

Related Stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Elliot Jager

 
 

Hagel Backs NATO Force in Afghanistan Post-2014.


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told American troops on Sunday that he backed a NATO force playing a role in Afghanistan after 2014, as Washington and President Hamid Karzai wrangle over a stalled security pact.

Hagel travelled to the southern province of Helmand to meet troops a day after further tensions over the security pact that would allow NATO forces to stay in the country after next year.

“I believe there is a role for our coalition partners and the United States, but that depends on the Afghan people,” Hagel told US soldiers in a question-and-answer session.

“If the people of Afghanistan want to continue that relationship, then we will.”

US commanders were looking at “a new phase for our mission to train, assist, advise and counter-terrorism,” he said.

Meetings with Karzai have been customary over the years for Pentagon chiefs, but Hagel said Saturday after his arrival that he had no plans to meet the Afghan president during his weekend visit.

As President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser, Susan Rice, and top diplomat, John Kerry, had already had frank discussions with Karzai urging him to sign the security agreement, Hagel said there was no point in him repeating the US position.

“There’s not much I can add in a meeting with President Karzai to what’s already been said,” he said on Saturday.

Hagel did meet the Afghan defence minister, who assured him the security agreement would be signed in “a timely manner”.

Karzai, who visited Iran on Sunday, initially endorsed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), but has since refused to sign and issued fresh demands.

The agreement sets the legal conditions to permit US and other forces to operate in the country beyond 2014.

But without a signed deal, countries ready to send troops to a post-2014 training mission cannot make budget plans or secure political approval, Hagel said.

Karzai has said the signature could take place after elections in April, but Hagel said that would push the timeline into mid-2014 as the polls are expected to result in a run-off vote.

Eventually there will be “a cut-off point” to cancel a post-2014 mission, he said Saturday, adding that he was “not prepared to give a date on that”.

He said a meeting of NATO defence ministers in February would be crucial for military planners and governments “and some answers are going to be required at that NATO ministerial”.

There are currently 46,000 American troops and 27,000 soldiers from other coalition countries in Afghanistan, and almost the entire NATO-led force is scheduled to pull out by the end of next year.

With the long war in Afghanistan often overlooked in the US and Europe, he told the group of Marines and US Army troops on Sunday that they were not forgotten.

“I know more than occasionally you wonder if anybody is paying attention, whether anybody cares,” he said. “But we do. Our country cares, we do know what you’re doing.

“And we appreciate it, very much.”

Under a proposed post-2014 mission, roughly 12,000 troops — mostly American — would remain in the country to train Afghans and counter Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In 2011, the US withdrew from Iraq when it failed to secure a similar troop status accord.

 

© AFP 2013
Source: Newsmax.com

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,683 other followers