Army using drug waivers, bonuses to fill ranks
The U.S. Army is issuing more waivers for past drug use or bad conduct by recruits, and pouring an extra $200 million into bonuses this year to attract and retain soldiers.
Data obtained by The Associated Press shows that nearly one-third of all the waivers granted by the Army in the first six months of this fiscal year were for conduct and drug problems, mainly involving marijuana use. That number is significantly higher than the other three military services, and represents a steady increase over the past three years.
The Army also has increased bonuses by more than 30 percent this year, with enlistment money going to recruits for high-tech jobs.
Army leaders say there has been no move to reduce enlistment standards in order to meet recruitment goals. AP
Judge tosses suit over U.S. base relocation in Okinawa, Japan
A U.S. judge has thrown out a lawsuit that challenged plans to relocate a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan, over concerns about an endangered marine mammal.
Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco ruled late Aug. 1 that the U.S. Department of Defense adequately considered the base’s effects on the Okinawa dugong — a manatee-like animal associated with traditional creation myths in Japan.
The years-long legal fight concerns plans to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less dense part of Okinawa.
Environmentalists say the construction of two aircraft runways as part of the construction plan will destroy critical feeding grounds and habitat for the dugong.
Peter Galvin with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs, said the ruling was wrong and would be overturned by an appeals court. AP
China, ASEAN navies stage first emergency drills amid feud
Chinese and Southeast Asian naval forces have staged their first computer-simulated drills so they can jointly respond to emergencies and build trust amid the long-seething disputes in the South China Sea.
The two-day exercises that ended Aug. 3 involved more than 40 sailors from China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They worked on search and rescue scenarios following a mock ship collision.
Singapore’s navy hosted the drills at a training center at Changi naval base.
It’s a prelude to actual sea drills planned for October in China.
Capt. Liang Zhijia from the People’s Liberation Army Navy says, “The exercise is beneficial to promote military exchanges and cooperation between China and ASEAN member states, to advance our mutual trust.” AP
British warship docks in Tokyo as UK expands Asia presence
A British warship has docked in Tokyo as Britain seeks to expand its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The HMS Albion arrived Aug. 3 in the middle of a heat wave to start a five-day visit. The amphibious assault ship has been conducting maritime security and surveillance operations in Asia in recent weeks.
It is the second of three British warships due to be deployed to Asia this year, the first such deployments in several years.
Britain and Japan agreed last year to step up defense cooperation in the face of a growing threat from North Korea and China’s expanding presence in the South China Sea. The waters are a major shipping lane for global trade including Britain’s. AP
Suicide bomber kills 3 NATO personnel in eastern Afghanistan
The U.S. military says a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan has killed three NATO forces.
The three were service members from the Czech Republic.
A U.S. soldier and two Afghan troops were wounded in the Aug. 5 blast, which targeted a foot patrol.
The Taliban claimed the attack.
The attack took place at about 3:50 a.m., near the Bagram military base in the provice of Parwan.
Wahida Shahkar, the spokeswoman for the provincial governor, said the attack took place near the provincial capital, Charakar.
NATO formally concluded its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, but thousands of forces are still providing support and training to Afghan troops, and carrying out counterterrorism missions.
The Czechs recently have approved a plan to deploy 390 soldiers in Afghanistan through 2020, up from the current 230, as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. AP
Iran receives more airplanes ahead of renewed U.S. sanctions
Iran has acquired five new airplanes a day before the U.S. begins restoring sanctions suspended under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Aug. 5 that the five ATR72-600 airplanes, which are twin-engine turboprops, had arrived at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport.
Their arrival means Iran Air has received 13 of the 20 it ordered from the French-Italian manufacturer in April 2017. The deal had a list value of $536 million, though buyers and manufacturers typically negotiate lower prices.
The nuclear deal with world powers would have allowed Iran to replace its aging commercial fleet. But President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the accord halted billion-dollar deals Iran struck with Airbus and Boeing.
Iran’s economy has rapidly deteriorated in recent months, fueling protests. AP