NATO allies are conducting a massive drill in southeastern Europe meant to test the alliance’s ability to move large quantities of troops and equipment into the region.
Troops and vehicles from bases in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Norway, and Albania are to roll through or fly over Europe to the final rallying ground in Cincu, Romania, where the active phase of Operation Noble Jump 17 is to start on June 8. Some parts of the training will take part in Bulgaria and Greece as well, the Sofia Globe reported.
Of the some 4,000 allied troops taking part in the war games, 1,900 are part of the so-called Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). Around 500 military vehicles are taking part in the drill as well.
“The exercise demonstrates results, capability and readiness all of which are critical for defense and deterrents,” said British Major General Ian Cave, the director of the NATO operation.
“It also shows NATO as a responsive and capable alliance, which reassures all of our allies, all of our populations and all of our partners,” he added.
The architect of controversial Pentagon personnel policies, including the proposed acceptance of transgender troops, will leave his post in April, the Pentagon announced late Monday.
Brad Carson, the Pentagon’s top civilian for personnel policies, had pushed forward a string of initiatives that include opening combat jobs to women and expanded maternity leave.
“Brad Carson has developed some of the most important and groundbreaking work in years to modernize our personnel policies,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement. “At my direction, he charted a path forward for the Department and our people that will leave a lasting legacy, and will improve the mission effectiveness, readiness and the quality of life for our civilian workforce, uniformed service members and families.
Carson had a rocky confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He had been named to fill the spot as undersecretary for personnel on an acting basis. But a federal court determined that in performing the job before confirmation, he had violated federal law, namely the Vacancies Act.
In a statement, Carson said the Senate’s concerns about the Vacancies Act and the implementation of several key policies prompted his decision to step down. He plans to leave office in April.
The object of today is to satisfy ourselves that the balance of the campaign is right…and that we can now capitalize on the setbacks Daesh has suffered in Iraq and move on to tighten the noose around the head of the snake in Syria in Raqqa,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters.
The coalition’s major goal right now is to target and destroy IS headquarters in Iraq and Syria while also combating their supporters worldwide, “everywhere its metastasis have spread around the world,” the Pentagon stressed.
“We’re doing this by providing a plan, clear leadership and the power of a global coalition wielding a suite of capabilities [that include] airstrikes, special forces, cyber tools, intelligence, equipment, mobility and logistics, and training, advice and assistance,” Carter said.
While the Afghan government sees the alleged Islamic State affiliate as a top priority, the US is downplaying its relative threat as compared to the official terrorist organization.
“We currently characterize [ISIS] as operationally emergent,” Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, told The Times.
“I’ll define that as not having the ability to orchestrate or control operations in more than one part of the country at a time. We’re not seeing [ISIS] elements in Iraq or Syria orchestrating events here in Afghanistan,” Shoffner said.
“They’ve [ISIL-K] largely been pushed back to the southern parts of Nangarhar province. That area is very, very rugged, it’s very mountainous. It’s on the border with Pakistan,” Shoffner said.
An Iraqi military base north of Baghdad was targeted by multiple suicide bombers, who killed at least 15 security troops and injured at least 22 others. The terrorist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Two bombers detonated their explosive-rigged vehicles at the western gate of Camp Speicher, a former US base outside the Sunni-majority city of Tikrit, Reuters reported, citing security sources. Three others made it to the part of the base used for training Iraqi police.
IS said the attack targeted Shiite troops stationed at the base.
A group of US special operations troops who had traveled to Libya to “foster relationships” was kicked out of the conflict-torn country soon after they arrived, the Pentagon said Thursday.
A Facebook page belonging to the Libyan air force posted photographs of the men, who were dressed in rugged civilian clothing, including plaid shirts, and were carrying assault rifles.
A US defense official confirmed that the men in the photo were indeed US troops in Libya on Monday.