FROM Julian Barnes
Brussels on Lockdown All of Europe is on high alert in the aftermath of this morning‘s deadly explosions in Brussels — two at the airport and one at a train station downtown. Belgium’s prime minister says it was feared this might happen as retaliation for last week’s high-profile arrest of a prime suspect in November’s attacks in Paris. ISIS is claiming responsibility, and there’s more doubt than ever about the effectiveness of counter-terrorism. We hear details and update the mood in Brussels, headquarters of the European Union.
In Eastern Europe, Shades of the Cold War At the end of the Cold War, NATO and Russia agreed not to station forces along their shared borders. But times have changed. Vladimir Putin's actions in Crimea and Ukraine have the Pentagon calling Russia the primary threat to American interests. Now, US funding for NATO will be quadrupled to provide what's called "a rotational force" to patrol Eastern Europe, including the Baltic States and Poland. NATO calls it " deterrence ." Russia calls it "aggression."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Steps Down Today at the White House, President Obama announced he’s accepted the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel . But, despite words of mutual respect and admiration, it appears that policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon forced Hagel to step down. Those spoken of as most likely to replace Hagel are former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy ; former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ; and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed . Julian Barnes covers the Pentagon for the Wall Street Journal .
What's Next for the US Army? After 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, plans call for reducing the size of the US Army. But, even though the days of soldiers massed on sprawling battlefields are long over, retiring Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno, says he’s worried about the future.
President Obama Speaks on Iraq President Obama today said American combat forces will not return to Iraq, but 300 US military advisors will be sent there. Julian Barnes reports from the Pentagon for the Wall Street Journal .
Hagel Proposes Cuts to Defense Budget Pentagon spending on personnel has skyrocketed since September 11. Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, calls the inability to reduce it one of his "biggest failures." Now, the current Secretary, former Senator Chuck Hagel, says the time has come . Julian Barnes covers the Pentagon for the Wall Street Journal .
There's Trouble in the Skies over Asia Vice President Biden has arrived in Japan today in the midst of that country's dispute over China's declaration of an expanded air defense identification zone. China's sudden declaration of an “ADIZ” over uninhabited islands has Japan and the US also flying military aircraft in disputed air space. With pilots potentially facing each other at high speeds, there's risk of a collision or a misunderstanding that could lead to unintended consequences. It's all about history and unfinished business from World War II, brought up to date by nationalism, economic competition and power politics. Is it really just between Japan and China? Has the US lost an opportunity to help forge a compromise by weighing in on the side of Japan?
Another Gender Barrier Is about to Come Down Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a historic announcement today when he lifted the ban on women in combat , at the request of a unanimous Joint Chiefs of Staff. In fact, the nature of modern warfare already puts women in combat, where they've earned purple hearts and medals of honor, been wounded and died. But opponents are adamant, based on physical strength, sexual distraction and traditions of male camaraderie as old as the practice of warfare itself. We hear the arguments of both sides as the Pentagon prepares to implement a historic change. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hands Army Lt. Col. Tamatha Patterson his signed document lifting the Defense Department's ban on women in direct ground combat roles. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
What's the Plan for Afghanistan? America's war in Afghanistan has been in the news this week with reports about the pace of withdrawal and the number of US troops who will stay in that country after 2014. The Pentagon and the Obama White House agree in some ways, but not in others. What are America's goals -- beyond troop withdrawal by 2014? What's the future of a country embroiled in violence for the past 30 years?
What's the Plan for Afghanistan? America's longest war is winding down, but it's not over yet, and there are as many unresolved issues as there are parties involved. The White House and the Pentagon haven't agreed on the pace of troop withdrawal or how many US soldiers should stay after 2014. Talks with the Karzai regime and the Taliban raise more questions than answers about security and corruption. Will a wildly inflated economy collapse when foreign troops and contractors are gone? Will democracy, free expression and human rights have a future?
US and Afghanistan Reach Prison Handover Agreement The planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 may ultimately depend on negotiations with the Taliban. For the moment, the US forces and the Karzai government are focused on negotiations with one another. One sticking point was American control of Parwan Prison, near the Bagram military base north of Kabul. President Karzai set deadline of today to resolve it and, at the last minute, the deadline was met. We get an update from Heidi Vogt, who's in Kabul for the Associated Press , and from Julian Barnes, Pentagon reporter for the Wall Street Journal .
Video Shows US Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban Fighters A video that appears to show four US Marines urinating on the bodies of dead militants in Afghanistan has gone viral, condemned by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Will it turn the Afghan public against the war effort? Julian Barnes reports from the Pentagon for the Wall Street Journal .
Future of the US Presence in the Gulf after the Iraq War? In Baghdad today, the US flag was lowered as America's military headquarters was finally closed down. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presided . Acknowledging the high cost paid by both Americans and Iraqis, he affirmed that their lives were not lost in vain. "They gave birth to an independent free and secure Iraq, and because of the sacrifices made these years of war have now yielded to a new era of opportunity." Julian Barnes is traveling with Panetta for the Wall Street Journal .
US Plans to Withdraw Some Troops from Afghanistan President Obama has said his July draw-down of troops from Afghanistan will be "significant," but US military staff in Afghanistan are proposing a modest 5000 to go home in July and another 5000 before the end of the year. There are 100,000 troops there now. That's according to today's Wall Street Journal in a story co-authored by Julian Barnes.
The US gets deeper into Middle East wars. What's the endgame? President Trump welcomed Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to the White House today… just one of the changes in America's approach to the Middle East since Barack Obama left office. We hear about that and the escalation of warfare as well as civilian casualties.
Mixed Messages from US diplomats on the new hard line on Syria Since President Trump's surprise retaliation against Syria's use of chemical weapons, Bashar al-Assad has used the same airport to launch conventional attacks on his own people. It's not clear what the US, its allies — or Vladimir Putin's Russia -- plan to do now.