Hagel: troop withdrawal could prose problems
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says withdrawing all U.S. military advisers from Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in December would risk an ìerosion of confidence among Afghan security forces.
Hagel made the comment at a news conference in Brussels after a NATO defense ministers meeting at which the Afghan war was a central topic.
Hagel said the future reliability of Afghan security forces is at the core of U.S. desires to keep forces there to continue advising and mentoring. But he said that follow-up mission cannot be performed unless Afghan authorities agree to it.
The U.S. has about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan. All are scheduled to leave by years end unless a follow-up mission with about 10,000 non-combat troops is approved by the Afghan government. AP
Odd couple at center of Russian helicopter inquiry
The ties between a former Army colonel and a Russian entrepreneur are at the heart of a criminal probe into a program that supplies American allies with Russian helicopters
Federal agents are examining why an obscure Defense Department acquisition office in Alabama that was run by Col. Bert Vergez repeatedly championed Yuri Borisovs companies despite their dismal record on a prior contract to refurbish Mi-17 choppers, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
When Borisov insistged on being paid milliosn of dollars extra for overhaul work his companies were late on, Vergez supported him.
When Borisov sought a new multimillion helicopter overhaul contract, it was Vergezs office that approved the deal.
And even when auditors from the Pentagon inspector generals office were uncovering signs of illegal activity, it was Vergez who pitched a plan to install new engines on Mi-17s bound for Afghanistan ñ an arrangement that promised millions of dollars in revenue for Borisov.
The FBI and Defense Criminal Investigative Service are leading the inquiry. Representatives for both agencies declined to comment. AP
Putin orders military tests amid Ukraine tensions
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered massive exercises Feb. 26 involving most of its military units in western Russia amid tensions in Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a televised statement made at a meeting of top military brass in Moscow that the exercise is intended to ìcheck the troops readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nations military security.
Shoigu said Putin ordered the exercise the afternoon of Feb. 26. During the first two days, the military will be put on high alert and some weill deploy to shooting ranges.
The actual maneuvers will start Feb. 28 and will last four days, he said. The exercise will involve ships of the Baltic and the Northern Fleets and the air force. AP
Air Guardsmen to pay back money in fraud case
A prosecutor says numerous former and current members of the Arizona National Guard will likely pay back thousands of dollars and avoid trial over a scam to obtain expense pay.
Arizona Assistant Attorney General Michael Jette says he expects the majority of accused members of the Tucson-based unit to take the ìdiversion agreement, which would allow for the charges to be dropped.
Jette says the Guard encouraged the deal to avoid a prosecution process that could have taken up to four years.
Retired Col. Gregg Davis, a former commander, has already agreed to the same deal.
An indictment last year accused 21 defendants of fraudulently collection $1.4 million in addition living-expense pay from the federal government between November 2007 and September 2010. AP