Entries in Pentagon (24)


Pentagon Press Secretary: US Not Invading Egypt

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon was forced to issue an astounding denial after reports in the Egyptian media said that a U.S. task force in the Red Sea was about to "invade Egypt".

Earlier this week three U.S. ships led by the USS San Antonio - a transport platform - carrying the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit moved into the northern Red Sea. The 2,200-strong force with its own aircraft and logistics had been part of Operation Lion, training with Jordanian Forces last month. The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship, and the USS Carter Hall, a landing ship, are also a part of the group.

On Saturday afternoon, Pentagon press secretary George Little took to Twitter to say "Some Egyptian press reports suggest US Navy ships are near Arabian Peninsula/Suez Canal to invade Egypt. Those reports are absolutely wrong."

At the same time, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo posted a similar statement, reading: “We deny false claims in Egyptian press that U.S. naval ships are in the vicinity of the Arabian Peninsula and the Suez Canal to militarily invade Egypt. The United States has forces regularly deployed in the vicinity of the Arabian Peninsula, and U.S. vessels regularly pass through the Suez Canal en route to the Indian Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea.”

The three-ship amphibious readiness group has been in the region since May, patrolling the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

Egypt has been in turmoil since the Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi from office earlier this month. Some of Morsi’s backers have accused the U.S. of secretly backing the military push.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Report on Afghanistan Not Particularly Encouraging

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released(WASHINGTON) -- The latest Pentagon report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan shows mixed results after more than 11 years of war.

According to the latest assessment made from April through September of 2012, there was a slight uptick in attacks by the Taliban but overall violence has dropped significantly since President Obama ordered a U.S. troop surge in early 2010.

Yet, the Pentagon acknowledged that the Taliban, which was driven from power in Afghanistan during the fall of 2001, remains "resilient and determined" and "will likely attempt to regain lost ground and influence" through assassinations and guerilla warfare.

Another troubling finding from the report is that Pakistan keeps offering safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters despite repeated warnings from Washington to Islamabad about stepping up its counterterrorism efforts.

The Pentagon also looked at so-called "insider attacks," when Afghan soldiers turn their weapons on U.S. and NATO soldiers.

According to the report, "The rise in insider attacks has the potential to adversely affect the coalition's political landscape."  The problem has subsided somewhat in late 2012 with fewer Americans embedded with their Afghan counterparts.

One positive development has been the growth of Afghan National Security Forces as they prepare to assume security responsibilities in 2014. The Pentagon says the ASNF "has dramatically increased its capabilities."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon on Benghazi Troop Movements: ‘Swift Action’ on Night of Attack

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A day after the release of a new timeline of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Pentagon has released new details about  the military forces moved that night in case they were needed in the region.

The timeline released Thursday by a senior U.S. intelligence official revealed the major role that CIA security forces in Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya, played in responding to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman George Little provided new details of U.S. military movements made the night of the attack in case they were needed.

Little said that within a few hours of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered U.S. military forces to move to Sicily in preparation for an uncertain situation in Libya.

“This department took swift action,” said Little. “It did respond, the secretary ordered forces to move."

“We were prepared for a range of contingencies in the course of this very tragic incident,” said Little. “We were ready for the need to augment security measures at our facilities in Libya, if called upon.  We were prepared for the possibility, for instance, of a hostage situation, as well.  These were all the things that we were looking at for an event we did not know was going to happen in Benghazi that night. ”

According to Little, Panetta ordered forces to move towards the naval air station in Sigonella, Italy, after conferring with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command who was in Washington for regularly scheduled meetings.

Among the units ordered by Panetta on the night of the attack to Sicily, which is less than 500 miles from Libya, were two special operations teams that were moved to  Sigonella.

As previously reported, one of the units came from a U.S. military base in “Central Europe.” And Little disclosed that Panetta also ordered another team from the United States to head to Sigonella.  Little refused to describe what kind of unit was sent from the U.S., though it was presumably a special operations team trained for hostage rescues.

Little said both the units “did not arrive until after the entire sequence of events was complete. … They were in Sigonella many hours after the attacks.”

The Pentagon spokesman said that it can take hours for troops to be organized and transported to where they might be used.  He added that at the time they were ordered to move, policy makers "did not know when the attacks would end.”  Little said that, in theory, a hostage situation in Benghazi could have lasted for days.

“We didn’t have forewarning of this tragic event in Benghazi,” Little said. “The entire U.S. government was starting from a cold start.”

Another new detail disclosed Friday was that Panetta ordered the deployment of not one, but two platoons of specially trained Marines to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.

Based in Rota, Spain, the platoons headed to Sigonella for possible deployment to Libya.  One platoon was dispatched on Sept. 12 to protect the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.  The other platoon was to have gone to Benghazi to secure the consulate compound, but was never sent after it was determined that all U.S. personnel had been evacuated from Benghazi.

Little reaffirmed that no other American aircraft were involved over Libya the night of the attack beyond the unarmed surveillance drone that arrived 90 minutes into the attack.  As for reports that an AC-130 gunship could have been dispatched over Libya at the time of the attack,  Little was clear that “there was no AC-130 within a continent’s range of Benghazi” that night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Music at Gitmo Not for Torture, Pentagon Claims

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Music is being used at the Guantanamo Bay military detention facility, but it's not considered torture as some reports have stated, according to the Pentagon.

Capt. John Kirby told reporters, "Music is used both in a positive way and as a disincentive.  We don’t torture."

There had been stories of Gitmo detainees having to listen to kids' songs from Sesame Street, but Kirby wouldn't verify it.

The Pentagon spokesman said, "I don’t know what the playlist is.  It’s done in a measured way, in keeping with our obligation and commitment to treating detainees humanely."

Still, an Al Jazeera-produced documentary called Songs of War alleges that detainees must regularly listen to songs through headphones over long periods of time.

Christopher Cerf, who writes songs for Sesame Street, was outraged that his music was on the playlist, telling Al Jazeera: "The idea that my music had a role in that is kind of outrageous. This is fascinating to me…because of the horror of music being perverted to serve evil purposes."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New China Stealth Fighter: Rival to Troubled US F-22 Raptor?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Just as America’s latest breed of super jet fighters are being reigned in due to a mystery safety problem, a new Pentagon report released Friday notes that China’s own version of a next-generation fighter appears to be designed to have similar capabilities.

“The January 2011 flight test of China’s next-generation fighter prototype, the J-20, highlights China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and super-cruise engines,” said the Pentagon’s 2012 annual assessment of the Chinese military.

The report comes a month after a second prototype of the J-20 was reportedly spotted rolling around a Chinese airfield, more than a year and a half since China’s only other known prototype made its first public flight.

The three attributes described by the Pentagon are among the advanced capabilities of the F-22 Raptor, the stealth fighter jet billed by the U.S. Air Force and its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, as the most sophisticated fighter on the planet. But currently the entire fleet of F-22s, which cost the U.S. government an estimated $79 billion, has been slapped with strict flight restrictions due to safety concerns for pilots.

The restrictions, which keep the planes in close proximity to potential landing strips in case of a mid-air emergency, were announced two weeks after an ABC News Nightline investigation found that the advanced $420 million-a-pop fighter jets have been plagued by a rare, but potentially deadly oxygen problem for years. Despite multiple investigations -- including a four-month full-fleet grounding last year -- the Air Force has been unable to pinpoint the cause.

The concept of the F-22 itself has also been long debated. Officials at the Air Force and Lockheed Martin have said the jets are essential to the future of American war power. However, funding for new super jets was cut by Congress in 2009 after powerful critics from across the political spectrum, from Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) to then Defense Secretary Robert Gates to President Barack Obama, all called on lawmakers to halt F-22 orders at 187 planes, saying that the plane was designed to fight fleets of other, rival next-generation fighters — an enemy that does not exist.

Despite going combat operational in late 2005, the jets have yet to go into combat, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the “no-fly zone” over Libya last March. In all cases, the Air Force said the sophisticated fighters simply weren’t needed.

Just before funding for the F-22 was cut in 2009, President Obama received a letter from more than a dozen Congressmen and local lawmakers in support of the F-22. In the letter, the supporters claimed the full force of a 600-plus F-22 fleet would be needed to counter future rivals like Russia and China.

Since, both Russia and China appear to have developed prototypes for their own next generation fighters. The Russian variant, the Sukhoi T-50, was shown off to the public during an air show last August. Russian news reports compared the jet’s capabilities directly with those of the F-22. Though China is not believed to have more than a couple J-20s, a U.S. government report on Chinese weapons systems released last month said U.S. intelligence estimated that at least some J-20s could go combat operational as soon as 2018.

That document, from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, revealed that some U.S. analysts doubt the Chinese are very far along in developing the “key components for designing a fifth-generation fighter” such as effective stealth technology and high-performance engines.

“We’ve got to continue to watch as it develops. It’s still in the prototype phase,” David Helvey, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Asia Pacific Security, told reporters Friday. “We’d like to be able to continue to monitor developments on that to understand exactly what China may intend to use it for and I wouldn’t want to speculate at this point for what those specific missions might be.”

In a speech in 2009, Gates noted that other nations were developing next-generation fighters, but said America is already way ahead in the numbers game and that gap “only widens” as the Air Force begins receiving hundreds of the F-22-s companion fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - a plane that has had its share of cost overruns and delays in development.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Reviewing Options in Syria

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Aside from talking tough, the Obama administration hasn't done much in the way of stopping the government crackdown in Syria that has cost over 6,000 lives during the past 11 months.

The rest of the international community has also been reluctant to get involved in Syria's internal affairs despite evidence that President Bashar al-Assad is using whatever means possible to crush a rebellion that threatens his 11-year autocratic rule.

However, there are reports that the Pentagon, while obviously not preparing for any direct military action, is reviewing the capabilities it has in the region so that President Obama has options at his disposal should he decide to use them.

The White House is attempting to give diplomacy a chance to work but up to now, the United Nations has been fairly impotent in its actions to bring about a peaceful end to the crisis.

There has been some talk among Republican lawmakers, particularly from Sens. John McCain, (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), about possibly arming al-Assad's opponents but that proposal has received little enthusiasm from the White House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Dismisses Latest Iranian Threat to Stop Naval Carrier

U.S. Navy/Photographer's Mate Airman Tina Lamb(WASHINGTON) -- Iran's latest volley in its ongoing dispute with the West won't prevent the USS John C. Stennis from reentering the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Stung by additional economic and political sanctions because of its illicit nuclear program, Iran has threatened to close down the Strait of Hormuz so that international oil shipments can't get through.

Washington has said that any attempt to affect the transportation of oil will be met with swiftly.

Meanwhile, Iranian Army Chief Ataollah Salehi reportedly said that the USS John C. Stennis, which is now in the Northern Arabian Sea to help with the war effort in Afghanistan, won't be allowed back into the Persian Gulf.

But Pentagon Press Secretary George Little responded that, "the deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades."

The Pentagon says that Iran keeps making idle threats because of the damage being done to its economy through the latest round of tough sanctions brought on by its ongoing nuclear ambitions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Takes Some Blame in Deadly Pakistan Friendly Fire Incident

Photos [dot] com/George Doyle/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- A United States military investigation has accepted some blame for the deadliest friendly-fire incident of the Afghan war, but ultimately concluded the airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last month were justified -- findings expected to infuriate an already angry Pakistani public and military.

The highly anticipated results released Thursday admit the U.S. provided "incorrect mapping information" that led to a, "misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units."  But a senior U.S. official says there will be no apology for an attack that sparked massive protests across Pakistan and led Pakistan's government to cut off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military declined to comment until it has the time to review the official report.  But in interviews with Pakistani military and government officials before the release, they made clear that the anger in Pakistan with the U.S. over the incident was so high, that anything short of a formal apology could permanently imperil the NATO supply line, bilateral cooperation on intelligence and the future of Afghanistan.

The U.S. investigation found that in the early hours of Nov. 26, an American special operation forces team and their Afghan counterparts were fired upon from inside Pakistan, according to defense officials.  They believed that militants had targeted them, and called in air support.

"U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon,” according to a Pentagon statement.

Pakistan never told NATO that it had set up the two small outposts that were attacked, according to the U.S. account, and therefore the air support felt free to shoot.

"There were mistakes made by both sides," a defense official told ABC News, adding that no decisions had been made about whether to hold any service member accountable.

"We have accepted responsibility for our mistakes," Department of Defense spokesman Capt. John Kirby told ABC News. "We have expressed condolences and regrets.”

But the U.S. narrative differs fundamentally to that provided by Pakistani military officers in both Washington and Islamabad.

Before the attack began, according to the Pakistani military accounts, a U.S. soldier at a Border Coordination Center handed over coordinates to his Pakistani colleagues from which he said the U.S./Afghan team was taking fire.  Those coordinates were 10 miles north of base Volcano, according to the Pakistani military.  Just as the Pakistani officers were reviewing the coordinates, the attack began.

Moments later, a NATO officer, "apologized for sending incorrect coordinates and confirmed that NATO helicopters had actually attacked" Volcano, according to a written account provided to Congress by Pakistan's lobbying firm in Washington, Locke Lord Strategies.

During the attack, according to the Pakistani account, soldiers from nearby base Boulder fired illuminating rounds as a way to signal to the NATO helicopters -- not the mortar and artillery the U.S. claims. The NATO helicopters then begun to attack Boulder.

"Any allegation that the NATO troops thought that they were firing on insurgents when they attacked the Volcano and Boulder observation posts is baseless," reads the Pakistani document.  "NATO was aware that the bases were there when they fired on them. NATO troops are also well aware that terrorists seeking refuge in mountainous areas install themselves in ravines and deep valleys which provide cover from aerial attacks -- not in plain sight on the top of a mountain."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Arrives in Libya for Meetings with Transitional Govt.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta became the first Pentagon chief ever to set foot on Libyan soil on Saturday.

Upon arrival at Tripoli's International Airport , near to the scene of gun battles just a week ago, Panetta was whisked away for meetings with Libya's transitional government.  

His visit comes a day after the U.N. , the U.S. and the U.K. announced the lifting of sanctions and the unblocking of billions of dollars of assets frozen earlier this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bachmann: ‘Pentagon Should Prepare a War Plan’ for Iran

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The “Pentagon should prepare a war plan” to handle an ascendant Iran in possession of a nuclear weapon, GOP contender Michele Bachmann said Sunday, at a dinner hosted by a pro-Israel group in New York City.

Bachmann stopped short of advocating for a pre-emptive strike on Iran by Israel or the United States, saying “only a fool wishes for war,” but advocated for a naval blockade of Iranian ports, increased intelligence operations against Iran and “crushing economic sanctions.”

“The Pentagon should prepare a war plan, as a last resort, should all else fail in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” she said.

Speaking before the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States, Bachmann said her first foreign policy directive on day one of her presidency would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Bachmann said Israel should not cede any land -- “not one acre, not one square foot, not one inch” -- to the Palestinians in order to make peace.

An Iran in possession of a nuclear weapon, she said, posed an existential threat not only to Israel but to the United States.

Bachmann chastised President Obama for failing to stand with Israel.

“President Obama stands with Occupy Wall Street, but he doesn’t stand with Israel.  When Israel looks at President Obama, they don’t see a friend,” she said.

The United States “must sell Israel the additional fighter jets, bunker buster bombs, refueling tankers, and other materials they need to defend themselves,” she said.  She also said the United States should continue its “comprehensive missile system” in the Middle East.

The Palestinians, Bachmann said, “must recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence” if they expect to become a serious partner for peace.

Often during her address, she compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler, calling him a “mad man.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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