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September 2, 2014

News Briefs September 2, 2014

Pentagon: Iraq operations cost $560 million so far

U.S. military operations in Iraq, including airstrikes and surveillance flights, have cost about $560 million since mid-June, the Pentagon said Aug. 29.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the average daily cost has been $7.5 million. He said it began at a much lower rate in June and escalated after the airstrikes in northern Iraq began this month.

After he spoke, the U.S. Central Command announced four additional airstrikes, bringing the total since they began on Aug. 8 to 110. Central Command said Friday’s missions by U.S. fighter and attack aircraft destroyed four armed vehicles and three support vehicles in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam. One armed vehicle was damaged, it said without providing more details.

Asked why U.S. warplanes are still pounding the Mosul Dam area, long after U.S. officials said local Kurdish and Iraqi forces had regained control from the Islamic State forces, Kirby said, ìBecause ISIL keeps wanting to take it back,î using an acronym for the group. AP

Obama to raise federal, military pay by 1 percent

President Barack Obama is offering civilian federal workers and members of the military a 1 percent pay increase in 2015, the same raise he offered last year citing efforts to keep government costs down during the economic recovery.

The new pay raises reflect what Obama proposed in his 2015 budget earlier this year.

Obama sent a letter Aug. 29 describing the raises to the House and Senate. The figure is lower than private sector pay increase and lower than what a government formula for raises would have provided. Obama can bypass that formula by informing Congress of his alternative plan by the end of August.

Federal employees operated under a pay freeze until January of this year when the current 1 percent pay increase took effect. AP

Too soon evaluate Pakistan offensive

U.S. military leaders say it’s too soon to tell if Pakistan’s offensive against militants in North Waziristan has been effective or simply symbolic.

But they say the operations have temporarily disrupted the enemy and sent insurgents fleeing into Afghanistan.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford stepped down Aug. 26 as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He says there’s no doubt that some fighters escaped across the border, along with displaced civilians trying to get away from the violence.

Frustrated U.S. officials have long pressed Pakistan to move into North Waziristan, which has been a safe haven for militants including the al Qaeda linked Haqqani network. The Haqqanis used the region as a base to launch attacks against U.S., Afghan and coalition troops across the border in Afghanistan. AP

Ex-U.S. sailor who spied for Soviets dies in prison

A former American sailor convicted during the Cold War of leading a family spy ring for the Soviet Union has died in a prison hospital in North Carolina, officials said Aug. 29.

Retired Navy Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr. died Aug. 28 at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said. The cause of death was not immediately released. He was 77.

Walker was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty in 1985 to passing secrets to the Soviets while he was a shipboard communications officer.

The security breach was then considered among the largest and most devastating leaks of military secrets in the nation’s history.

A cryptologist, Walker used his high-level security clearance to provide Navy codes, ship locations, and other sensitive data in exchange for cash. After his 1976 retirement, Walker recruited his son, his brother and a friend to keep providing the Soviets fresh information. All were convicted.

In 1985, Walker agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors to obtain a lighter sentence for his son.

Former Navy Seaman Michael L. Walker served 15 years in prison and was released in 2000.
The brother, retired Navy lieutenant commander Arthur Walker, died at the Butner hospital in July.

The fourth member of the spy ring, Ex- Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerry A. Whitworth was convicted in 1986 and later sentenced to a total of 365 years. AP

U.S. delivers military aid to Lebanon

The United States has delivered the first shipment of weapons to Lebanon to help bolster its military as it faces a growing threat from Islamic militants amid the fallout from neighboring Syria’s civil war.

The weapons were displayed at the Beirut military air base Aug. 29 after arriving earlier this week. The shipment included anti-tank artillery, mortars and rifles. A sample of the weapons was placed on a white satin-covered table with camouflage netting.

Earlier this month U.S. Ambassador David Hale announced the deliveries and said they were in response to a request from the Lebanese armed forces for emergency assistance after Islamic militants overran a Lebanese town near the Syrian border, killing and kidnapping soldiers.

Since 2006, the U.S has given Lebanon more than $1 billion in military assistance. AP

Eying China, Japan seeks record defense budget

Defense Ministry is requesting its biggest ever budget to bolster its military ability to defend remote southern islands amid China’s growing activity in the area.

The ministry Aug. 29 requested a 5 trillion yen ($48 billion) budget for the year beginning April 2015, a 3.5 percent increase from the current year.

The rise largely comes from purchases of new equipment, including P-1 surveillance aircraft, F-35 fighter jets and unmanned drones, as well as the cost of newly establishing amphibious units to boost island defense.

The request is based on Japan’s new defense guidelines released in December allowing its military to play a greater role amid heightened tension with China over a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries. AP

China military shows off newest choppers, tanks

China is showing off the growing sophistication of its defense industries by featuring its newest attack helicopters and main battle tanks at a multinational live-firing military exercise in the country’s north.

State media said the new hardware performed to expectations in the Aug. 29 ìPeace Mission-2014î drill featuring more than 7,000 personnel from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The exercise is the culmination of a week of joint training under the auspices of a regional grouping known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The website of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper said the latest version of the Type 99 main battle tank and the Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters were taking part for the first time in multinational exercises, in which actual ammunition was being used. AP




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