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The Pentagon would not confirm that the balloon in the photo was the surveillance balloon. The U.S. military has been monitoring a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been hovering over the northern U.S. for the past few days, and military and defense leaders have discussed shooting it out of the sky, according to two U.S. officials and a senior defense official. "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now," Pentagon spokesperson Brig. A senior defense official said the balloon is still over the U.S. but declined to say where it is now. Pentagon leaders presented the options to President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
A four-star Air Force general sent a memo on Friday to the officers he commands that predicts the U.S. will be at war with China in two years and tells them to get ready to prep by firing "a clip" at a target, and "aim for the head." In the memo sent Friday and obtained by NBC News, Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, said, “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me will fight in 2025.”Air Mobility Command has nearly 50,000 service members and nearly 500 planes and is responsible for transport and refueling. His order builds on last year’s foundational efforts by Air Mobility Command to ready the Mobility Air Forces for future conflict, should deterrence fail.”In March 2021, Adm. Philip Davidson, then commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that “Taiwan is clearly one of [China’s] ambitions. “I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years,” said Davidson.
A U.S. military operation in northern Somalia killed a senior leader of the Islamic State terrorist group and 10 other ISIS fighters on Wednesday night, according to two senior administration officials. Bilal al Sudani, who the officials described as a key operative and facilitator of the terror group’s global network, was the target of the raid. The only injury the officials reported was a U.S. service member who was bitten by one of the American military service dogs. The operation took place in a mountainous area in northern Somalia and followed months of planning, the officials said. “Our intelligence community expects to glean valuable information from this operation as well, demonstrating our continued emphasis on maximizing intelligence collection,” one official said.
WASHINGTON — President Biden is considering a trip to Europe next month to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to three administration officials and a person familiar with the discussions. The White House is exploring ways Biden might mark the one-year milestone in the Ukraine war, the sources said. Biden administration officials have also discussed announcing another major military aid package for Ukraine to coincide with the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, according to three U.S. officials. On Wednesday Biden reversed his administration’s position on sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, though the tanks are not expected to arrive for months if not a year. Last March when Biden traveled to Europe, he delivered a speech in Poland where he said — controversially — that Putin “cannot remain in power.”
When he announced his decision to provide Abrams tanks to Ukraine, President Joe Biden made a point to say Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had recommended the move. Biden wasn’t initially sold on sending the tanks, despite pressure to do so to give cover to Germany to send Ukraine some Leopard 2 tanks, the officials said. But because Germany had said it would send Leopards to Ukraine if the U.S. agreed to commit tanks, too, the U.S. promise of a future delivery opened the door for Germany to send tanks to Ukraine now. In the case of the tanks, U.S. military leaders argued the Leopards and the U.K.’s Challengers were much better options. Military leaders, namely Milley, also have been more publicly vocal about the importance of potential talks to end the war.
After weeks of discussion, the Biden administration is preparing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, according to three senior U.S. officials. The current plan includes a couple dozen Abrams tanks, but the officials stressed that the decision is not yet final and could change. The decision to move forward with providing the tanks would be a reversal for the Biden administration, which had been resisting pressure from Germany to send them to Ukraine. It was not immediately clear what may have led the Biden administration to apparently shift its stance on sending the tanks. Earlier Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration is “leaning toward sending” Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
The United States and Israel began a massive joint military exercise in Israel on Monday to show adversaries like Iran that Washington is not too distracted by the war in Ukraine and the threat from China to mobilize a large military force, a senior defense official said. Approximately 6,400 U.S. personnel have joined 1,100 Israeli personnel for the exercise, which will employ 142 total aircraft. “The scale of the exercise is relevant to a whole range of scenarios, and Iran may draw certain inferences from that,” the official said. “My guess is the next time they do a military exercise, they’ll say, even if it was planned for months, they’ll say it was reaction to this. The senior defense official said this drill is a signal to other nations that argument is not true.
Despite German efforts to pressure the U.S. into providing Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the Pentagon’s top leaders are against sending them, three U.S. officials said. At the same time, the officials said President Joe Biden would not pressure Germany to send the Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Asked Friday about sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine, Biden was noncommittal. They also have argued they are not the right vehicles for the fight in Ukraine right now, according to the officials. Artur Widak / AP fileU.S. officials said opposition within the Biden administration to sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine is not due to concerns Russia would see the move as escalatory.
Beginning Tuesday, U.S. military veterans who find themselves in suicidal crisis will be eligible for free emergency medical care at any Department of Veterans Affairs facility or any private facility. Unlike for most other medical benefits, veterans do not have to be enrolled in the VA system to be eligible. The VA already provides emergency suicide care, but with the new benefit, veterans will not have to pay any copays or fees for their care. If the veterans receive care at a private facility rather than at a VA facility, the government will cover the costs. “Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve — no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement.
The U.S. is planning to begin training Ukrainian troops on the Patriot air defense system at Fort Sill, Okla., later this month, according to three defense officials. The first group will consist of just under 100 Ukrainian service members with some experience in air defense systems. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Patriot systems, which use surface-to-air missiles to destroy cruise missiles and other fast-moving airborne targets, are outdated. Biden said, “We’re working on it.”Earlier this month, Germany said it would provide a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine. Russian and Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to requests to comment on the news.
The U.S. Navy seized more than 2,000 assault rifles from a fishing boat on Friday that were likely bound for Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. “This shipment is part of a continued pattern of destabilizing activity from Iran,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. A month earlier, the Navy and Coast Guard intercepted an enormous Iranian shipment of explosive materials headed to Yemen, according to U.S. Central Command. Iran has long supported the mostly Shiite Houthi rebels, who control much of northern Yemen and are engaged in an ongoing conflict with Saudi Arabia.
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be part of the new package. The announcement was made in conjunction with Germany, which plans to send Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles. The president held a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz early Thursday afternoon, according to a White House statement. A U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The president said Wednesday he was considering sending the powerful Bradley Armored Vehicles to Ukraine, something Kyiv has been asking the U.S. to do.
North Korea has delivered rockets and missiles to the Russian private military company known as the Wagner Group for use in Ukraine, according to White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby. “Today we can confirm that North Korea has completed an initial arms delivery to Wagner, which paid for that equipment. Last month, North Korea delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by Wagner,” he said Thursday. There are likely to be more actions, like sanctions, taken against the Wagner Group in the coming days, Kirby said. After the White House said North Korea had supplied arms to the Wagner Group, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, “The U.K. supports the U.S. assessment that North Korea has completed an arms delivery to Russia for use by the Wagner Group, which paid for this equipment and has thousands of troops in Ukraine.
Tens of thousands of workers from Nepal, the Philippines and other developing countries took jobs at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. Called third-country nationals, or TCNs, because they were not from the U.S. or Afghanistan, they worked as cafeteria workers, janitors and often armed guards for the bases. When a car bomb or other Taliban attack occurred, Afghans and TCN contractors “were far more likely to be killed or injured,” said the report. During the interviews, Coburn and Gill found 12 different contract workers injured or killed who did not appear to have received proper compensation. When contractors are found to have violated insurance requirements, there is little punishment, according to the report.
The late November Ukraine briefing to some members of Congress included discussion of the reasons Ukraine will continue to need U.S. weapons and equipment for the foreseeable future. Administration officials say they believe three recent deadly drone strikes against Russian military bases were carried out by Ukrainians, although they say it’s still not clear whether the Zelenskyy government ordered them directly. Senior U.S. military officers and Western governments say Ukraine has shown ingenuity and grit in fighting a larger, better-armed military and quickly incorporated new weapons systems provided by NATO members. If Ukraine made more advances against Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine, it could be better placed to eventually strike at Crimea, experts and a U.S. official said. In October, Ukraine indirectly claimed credit for damaging the Kerch Bridge in eastern Crimea, which connects it to mainland Russia.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is poised to approve sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, three U.S. defense officials said Tuesday, finally agreeing to an urgent request from Ukrainian leaders desperate for more robust weapons to shoot down incoming Russian missiles. Two defense officials said the missile battery will come from Defense Department stocks and be moved from another country overseas. According to officials, the U.S. plan would be to send one Patriot battery. A truck-mounter Patriot battery includes up to eight launchers, each of which can hold four missiles. The administration’s potential approval of a Patriot battery was first reported by CNN.
The Pentagon is working to shore up efforts to track weapons provided to Ukraine, according to three senior U.S. officials, including discussing whether to send a small number of additional U.S. troops to Ukraine. The Pentagon has a couple dozen U.S. troops in Ukraine at present, including a very small number already assigned to making sure weapons reach their intended recipients. While the U.S. troops do not travel to the front lines, they would travel outside Kyiv to scan barcodes on weapons and equipment to track supplies. The State Department also imposes caps on how many U.S. government officials — civilian and military — can live and work in other countries and that limit is low in Ukraine, officials say. “That’s ridiculous,” a U.S. defense official said, explaining that this is an “extremely limited” additional presence with a “very specific” mission.
Russia is now providing an "unprecedented level" of military and technical support to Iran in exchange for Tehran supplying weapons for the war in Ukraine, senior Biden administration officials say. As part of the enhanced partnership, Russia may be providing Iran with advanced military equipment and components, including helicopters and air defense systems. Russia is looking to collaborate with Iran on weapons development, including possibly establishing a joint production line for drones in Russia, according to the officials. The U.S. believes Iran is considering the sale of hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, the senior administration officials said. And they expect Iranian support for the Russian military to continue to grow in the coming months.
Service members who were kicked out of the U.S. military for refusing the Covid vaccine could be allowed back in uniform if the vaccine mandate is lifted, according to two U.S. military and two senior defense officials. Pentagon leaders are now discussing whether service members who were separated can rejoin if the NDAA is signed into law, the four officials said. After Austin issued his mandate, thousands of active-duty service members were separated for refusing the Covid vaccine. If they left for failing to obey a lawful order, even if it is no longer a lawful order, they may not be allowed to reinstate their commissions. Service members often live and work in close quarters like ships and barracks, making infectious diseases more worrisome.
Nearly two months after President Joe Biden vowed "there will be consequences" for Saudi Arabia’s actions to cut oil production, the U.S. is not actively considering any significant retaliatory actions against the kingdom, according to two U.S. officials. U.S. and Saudi relations hit a low point after Saudi Arabia pushed OPEC members to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day at their Oct. 6 meeting. Officials, however, also anticipate calls for imposing a cost on Saudi Arabia to ramp back up if OPEC again cuts oil production. The Biden administration's about-face on the oil issue is not the first time it has failed to follow through on a threat to Saudi Arabia. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, Biden vowed to treat Saudi Arabia as a "pariah" state in response to the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
If security forces abandon the prisons and refugee camps, thousands of ISIS fighters could be released into Syria and threaten the region and the West, say U.S. military officials. Syrian Kurdish Asayish security forces inspect tents at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp on Aug. 28, during a security campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS "sleeper cells" in the camp. Three U.S. military officials say, however, that patrols with the SDF continued at a reduced rate and without aggressive counter-ISIS missions. So far, the Syrian rebels and the U.S. military say they have not seen signs of de-escalation from the Turks. But if Turkish military operations escalate, say U.S. officials, more SDF fighters will move toward the border, leaving detention facilities and refugee camps with inadequate security, say U.S. officials.
Members of the Syrian Kurdish Asayish security forces inspect tents at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, on Aug. 28, 2022, during a security campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces against IS "sleeper cells" in the camp. While most ISIS fighters were killed or captured, their families were bused to the refugee camp as a temporary holding place, but with no long-term alternatives. In September, the SDF conducted an operation to root out ISIS fighters inside the camp. Over 24 days, they rounded up about 300 ISIS fighters, killed several more, and confiscated weapons and explosives. U.S. military officials warn that ISIS has divisions of troops waiting to fight inside Hasakah and the other prisons.
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard intercepted an enormous Iranian shipment of explosive materials headed to Yemen last week, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. The USS The Sullivans transferred the four Yemeni crew to the Yemeni Coast Guard in the Gulf of Aden so they could be handed over to Yemeni civil authorities. The U.S. seized a ship with 180 tons of Iranian explosive material and spent days unloading the vessel before sinking it. The dhow also had more than 100 tons of urea fertilizer, which can be used as an explosive precursor. “This was a massive amount of explosive material, enough to fuel more than a dozen medium-range ballistic missiles, depending on the size,” according to Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S.
Some U.S. and Western officials increasingly believe that neither side can achieve all of their goals in the Ukraine war and are eyeing the expected winter slowdown in fighting as an opportunity for diplomacy to begin between Russia and Ukraine, say officials familiar with the matter. “In the winter everything slows down,” said a Western official with direct knowledge of military operations. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan made a surprise visit to Kyiv last week, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and top Ukrainian officials. Kherson is the last major front line that could shift before winter, officials said, after which neither side is likely to make large advances. If Ukraine wins in Kherson it could put the Zelenskyy government in a better position to negotiate, U.S. and Western officials said.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian control of the key southern Ukrainian city of Kherson appeared increasingly in doubt Thursday after officials suggested that the Kremlin's troops would withdraw from the west bank of the Dnieper River. Civilians remaining in Kherson city should leave immediately as they are putting their lives in danger, he added. The dam holds back an enormous reservoir and controls the water supply to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Ukrainian forces have targeted the main river crossings for months, making it difficult for Russia to supply its huge force on the river’s west bank. Yurii Sobolevskyi, the deputy head of Ukraine’s Kherson regional council, remained cautious about the Russian forces’ intentions.
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