Pakistan military plans to open new front
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pakistani military has indicated that it plans to begin combat operations soon in a tribal area near the Afghan border that is a haven for al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani militants.
Speaking to The Associated Press in his Pentagon office Aug. 13, Panetta said Pakistan’s military chief gave word of the planned operation in recent conversations with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.
Panetta said he did not know when the Pakistani operation would start, but he said he understands it will be in the “near future,” and that the main target will be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network.
Haqqani leaders fled to Pakistan’s North Waziristan region from their homeland in eastern Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. AP
Senators sound defense budget alarm in Nevada
Three Republican senators sounding the alarm about looming military budget cuts told an audience in North Las Vegas, Nev., there won’t be Social Security without national security.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte continued a multi-state tour discussing sequestration Monday at the College of Southern Nevada.
Sequestration is a slate of automatic cuts that will take effect if Congress doesn’t reach a budget solution in the next few months. About $110 billion in cuts are set to kick in Jan. 2, and half would come from defense.
The trio called for a four-month delay in sequestration, saying the U.S. needs to maintain a military people are afraid to fight.
Graham said he’s open to raising revenue, but stopped short of supporting higher taxes. AP
GOP lawmaker questions spending at VA conferences
A Republican lawmaker is raising questions about spending at training conferences held in Florida last year by the Veterans Affairs Department that have prompted an internal investigation at the agency.
Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the VA authorized $9 million for a series of conferences and said a preliminary investigation has found that planning trips for the conferences cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. He says VA employees reportedly received gifts including alcohol, concert tickets and spa treatments. Miller, who is from Florida, says VA officials had assured his committee earlier that oversight of spending was adequate.
The VA said in a statement that the conferences were for legitimate training purposes, but the VA’s inspector general is looking into allegations of misconduct. VA spokesman Joshua Taylor said Aug. 13 the two conferences in question cost about $5 million.
While the IG investigates, the VA said it has taken action to remove purchasing authority of any employees in the work unit under investigation. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki also has directed an outside independent review of all training policies and procedures. The department also has directed ethics training for all VA personnel involved with the planning and execution of training conferences and recertification of contract specialists. AP