Entries in Troops (22)


Veterans, Servicemembers Worried About Potential Default

US [dot] Army [dot] mil(WASHINGTON) -- As Congress and President Obama debate over the best solution to solve the debt crisis, servicemembers and veterans are worried about the economic impact they will face personally if the nation defaults.

“Right now, our nation teeters on the edge of default and servicemembers and veterans are left concerned and a bit scared,” Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said.  “They don't know what's going to happen Aug. 1.  They don't know what's going to happen Sept. 1.  They don't know if disability checks are coming.   They don't know if paychecks are coming.  They don't know if GI checks are coming and they're extremely concerned.  They're scared.”

“They understand generally where the debate is.  They don't understand the specifics of how it will impact them.  No one’s been able to project with any kind of certainty how they should plan for their next 60 days,” Rieckhoff continued.

Rieckhoff, who served as a platoon leader in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said members from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America met with officials at the White House on Tuesday but did not receive guidance on how veterans and service members would be directly affected, and Rieckhoff called on Congress to look for ways to prevent a default from occurring.

“Incredible frustration, just devastating disappointment, and it's become demoralizing, not even from folks just here stateside, but overseas.  There's a guy at a checkpoint in Afghanistan right now who doesn't know for certain what's going to happen to him and his family in thirty days.  That is ridiculous, and it is outrageous, and our members are beyond upset.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America was founded in 2004 to aid the veterans who return from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Over 2.2 million troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of the wars.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said veterans benefits should be “non-negotiable” in the budget negotiations.

“There is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation's debt and deficit, but no matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, no matter how heated the rhetoric in Washington, D.C. gets, we must remember that we cannot balance our budget at the expense of the healthcare and benefits our veterans have earned.  Their sacrifices have been too great.  They have done everything that has been asked of them.  They have been separated from their families through repeat deployments.  They have sacrificed life and limb in combat and they have done all of this selflessly and with honor to our country and the commitment we have to them is non-negotiable,” Murray said.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said Congress should reassess the funding allotted to veterans to ensure it is being used most effectively.

“We must provide the funding needed to support this generation of wounded warriors and continue caring for those who have previously borne the visible and hidden scars of war,” Brown said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Tells Troops 'Our Job Is Not Finished'

ABC News Radio(FORT DRUM, N.Y.) -- The day after announcing his strategy to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan, President Obama visited troops at Fort Drum on Thursday, telling soldiers who have fought in the war-torn country that we have turned a corner but “our job is not finished.”

In an informal gathering Obama told members of the 10th Mountain Division that the drawdown will not be precipitous.  “We’re going to do it in a steady way to make sure that the gains that all of you helped to bring about are going to be sustained,” he said.

On Wednesday night, the president announced that he is bringing 10,000 U.S. troops home from Afghanistan by the end of this year and another 23,000 by the end of next summer. On Thursday, however, he warned that “there’s still some fighting to be done.”

“We’re still going to have 68,000 [troops in Afghanistan].  And, frankly, the 10th Mountain Division is still going to be represented there until we have fully transferred to the Afghan military and security forces,” he said.

The president recognized the 270 soldiers that the division has lost since the attacks on 9/11. “We will never forget their sacrifice.  And the reason that I know many of you continue to do the outstanding work that you do is not only love of country but it’s also love for each other, and your commitment to making sure that those sacrifices were not in vain,” he said.  

“So, for all the sacrifices that you’ve made, I want to say thank you.  For all the sacrifices that your families have made, I want to say thank you,” he said. “And to all of you who are potentially going to be redeployed, just know that your Commander-in-Chief has your back.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Announce Plans for Afghanistan Troop Reduction

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In an address to the nation Wednesday night, President Obama is expected to announce a slow drain on American troop strength in Afghanistan.

The president will order a drawdown of 10,000 U.S. troops before the end of 2011, ABC News has learned, with the first troops returning next month. By next summer, in 2012, all of the remaining forces in the 33,000 troop surge would be withdrawn.

The president's address is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Lay Out Plan for Afghan Drawdown in Primetime Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama intends to begin a withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, and to underscore the serious of the development, the administration has announced he will make a primtime address to the nation from the White House Wednesday night.

White House press secretary Jay Carney says it will be a plan to drawdown the number of forces in Afghanistan. It's expected to be a slow process, taking a year or more.

Here is the official statement from Carney:

At 8pm EDT on Wednesday, June 22nd, the President will address the nation from the White House to lay out his plan for implementing his strategy -- first unveiled in December 2009 -- to draw down American troops from Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tensions Flare as Afghanistan Drawdown Nears

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The debate over the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, set to begin next month, is unearthing old tensions between the Pentagon and the White House that could present new political and logistical challenges for President Obama.

Soon-to-be-retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on his final tour of the country this week, warned that it would be "premature" to make any significant changes to the military campaign in Afghanistan before the end of the year or until the United States can say that "we've turned the corner here in Afghanistan."

The White House, on the other hand, continues to argue that the cuts in the numbers of troops will be "real."

Even if the Pentagon and White House agree on the number, Gates' public dissent makes it difficult for the president to sell that number to his supporters, who are getting increasingly agitated over the growing cost of the war.

The White House says the president has yet to make a final decision on the numbers, but several reports have suggested that 5,000 combat troops may be brought home in July, with roughly an additional 5,000 by the end of the year.

There are currently about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, so the withdrawal could be less than 10 percent, a number that is already riling up Obama's liberal base.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he wants to see 15,000 U.S. troops out by December.

This is not the first time in recent years the White House is finding itself at odds with the Pentagon over the number of troops in Afghanistan. In 2009, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for a troop surge received a cool reception in Washington, even though the president eventually approved it, at a cost of $36 billion.

What's different now is the lack of public support for the longest war in U.S. history. A record two-thirds -- or 64 percent -- of Americans say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, a steep rise from 44 percent in late 2009, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll published in March.

Nearly 80 percent of independents said Obama should withdraw a "substantial number" of troops from Afghanistan this summer and barely more than a quarter felt the war is worth its costs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Commanders Want More Troops as Afghan Withdrawal Date Nears

U.S. Department of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- Field commanders in Afghanistan are asking for more troops, ABC News has learned. Some are openly challenging the wisdom of withdrawing any U.S. forces by the July 11 date set by the administration. A senior official tells ABC that a substantial reduction is now "unlikely."

President Obama agreed to send an additional 30,000 troops in December 2009. The number was widely seen as a "cap," but since that time another 1,400 Marines have been sent to the war zone and 700 or so support troops have added to the total number.

It's possible, says one source, that after the July withdrawal date there will still be more troops in Afghanistan than the president authorized in 2009.

The Obama administration and the Department of Defense have repeatedly said that although the withdrawal of U.S. troops will start in July the numbers will be determined by the "situation on the ground."

Unless there is what our sources call a "game changer," the situation on the ground won't permit "a significant loss of combat power."

U.S. and NATO sources tell us that although there have been positive gains in the south, in Helmand and Kandahar, the progress is considered "fragile" and the July time frame is right in the middle of the fighting season when the conditions will be at their worst.

Coalition forces have been targeting insurgent leaders all winter, taking territory and destroying weapons. But they expect hard fighting when the weather improves and the vegetation in key river valleys gives cover to enemy fighters.

Regional Command East has revised what is now considered standard counter-insurgency tactics. They've withdrawn from strategic combat posts in the mountain valleys to concentrate on larger population centers or "key terrain districts."

Says one source, "COIN (counter insurgency) isn't working up there. The locals don't want us. They don't want anyone there. They want to be left alone."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: 'No Idea' on Size of US Troop Drawdown in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Gates called it a “fairly dramatic reduction in the overseas contingency operations budget," as war funding drops to $117.8 billion in 2012 from $160 billion this year.  But it’s all because of the U.S. drawdown in Iraq that will be completed by January 1, 2012 which makes next year’s war funding all about Afghanistan.  

The drawdown of the 98,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan is slated to begin in July of this year, but Gates admitted Monday “we have no idea what the size of the drawdowns will be" because the pace of troop reductions will all depend on security conditions on the ground.
As such, Gates said it make more sense to continue to conservatively budget the war next year at the 98,000 U.S. troop level and see what happens as the drawdown progresses.
According to Gates, “It makes more budget sense to do this conservatively and budget on a straight line basis from FY 2011 and depending on the size of the drawdown, that maybe money we just won’t spend. “
However, Gates made it clear that while it made good budget sense to plan for maintaining a 98,000 troop level, that’s “not to say we will have 98,000 at the end of FY 2012, in fact that’s a lead pipe cinch we won’t.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


US Soldiers Owed Thousands in Back Pay

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – Military officials are searching for 35,000 soldiers who are owed an average of $3,800 in bonus pay for time served beyond their original tours.

The Pentagon came under fire for its Stop Loss program, which some said amounted to a back door draft. In response, the military set aside special pay for them -- money they must apply for by March 4th.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama, First Lady Greet Troops on Christmas

Photo Courtesy - SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii) -- The Obamas spent part of their Christmas Day at their beachfront rental home in Kailua, Hawaii, enjoying “their traditional Christmas Day activities and taking in a little NBA basketball,” said Bill Burton, a deputy White House press secretary.

The president and first lady in the afternoon visited the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii to visit with troops, in what has turned into an annual tradition for the couple, this being their third visit on Christmas Day in as many years. A few hundred Marines and their families were having a traditional Christmas dinner in the hall, when the first couple walked in. Mr. and Mrs. Obama posed for group pictures and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

President Obama asked a young girl if she got everything she wanted for Christmas. The girl said that she did and showed the president a new bracelet on her wrist. The president then pointed to his wife’s wrist, indicating that she, too, had a new bracelet on.

The first couple then returned to their rental home where they enjoyed their own Christmas dinner – with steak, roasted potatoes, green beans, and pie on the menu.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Troops Discharged Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Eye Return to Ranks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With President Obama poised to sign into law a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on Wednesday, ending the ban on openly gay troops, dozens of service members under investigation or with discharges pending could soon be in the clear and free to resume the careers they love.

Officials say the 17-year-old policy will remain in effect in the near term, however, until the president, defense secretary and Congress certify the military is ready to implement a repeal.  Then, a 60-day waiting period begins before the ban is officially removed from the books.

In the weeks ahead, the Pentagon is expected to revise policies and regulations to reflect the repeal, and train leaders on how to enforce the rules.  More than two million service members across the military are also expected to be briefed on what is expected of them and what is not.

Among the expected changes is non-discrimination against a military applicant who may volunteer that he or she is gay, opening the door to the return of thousands of service members whose careers were cut short after they were outed on the job.

Nobody knows for sure how many of the estimated 14,000 gays and lesbians discharged because of their sexual orientation will want to re-enlist or still meet the requirements for active duty, including age and fitness levels.

But some advocates estimate up to a quarter of those discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" could return to the force.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio