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May 27th, 2009

Army Chief: U.S. Ready to be in Iraq 10 Years

Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where many of the fallen service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried, Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2009. (Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

May 26, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.

Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars. “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” Casey said. “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”

He spoke at an invitation-only briefing to a dozen journalists and policy analysts from Washington-based think-tanks. He said his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.

Casey’s calculations about force levels are related to his attempt to ease the brutal deployment calendar that he said would “bring the Army to its knees.”

Casey would not specify how many combat units would be split between Iraq and Afghanistan. He said U.S. ground commander Gen. Ray Odierno is leading a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective. …

The United States currently has about 139,000 troops in Iraq and 52,000 in Afghanistan.

[Barack] Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war as quickly as possible and refocusing U.S. resources on what he called the more important fight in Afghanistan. …

[President] Obama has agreed to send about 21,000 combat forces and trainers to Afghanistan this year. Combined with additional forces approved before former President George W. Bush left office, the United States is expected to have about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year.

That’s about double the total at the end of 2008, but Obama’s top military and civilian advisers have indicated the number is unlikely to grow much beyond that.

Military preparing for long deployments

Casey said several times that he wasn’t the person making policy, but the military was preparing to have a fighting force deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come. Casey said his planning envisions 10 combat brigades plus command and support forces committed to the two wars.

When asked whether the Army had any measurement for knowing how big it should be, Casey responded, “How about the reality scenario?” This scenario, he said, must take into account that “we’re going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.” …



North Korea Tests Short-Range Missiles

Launches follow nuclear detonation

North Korea fires more missiles (NBC News, May 26, 2009) – Just one day after conducting a nuclear test, North Korea reportedly fires short-range missiles overnight. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports. (02:49)

May 26, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has fired one more short-range missile from an east coast launch pad, a South Korean news agency said Wednesday.

Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed South Korean government official as saying the short-range, ground-to-ship missile was fired into waters off its east coast Tuesday night.

Two missiles — one ground-to-air, the other ground-to-ship — with a range of about 80 miles were test-fired from an east coast launch pad earlier Tuesday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The missile launches came as leaders around the world condemned North Korea for its underground nuclear test on Monday. …

North Korea is “trying to test whether they can intimidate the international community” with its nuclear and missile activity, said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“But we are united, North Korea is isolated, and pressure on North Korea will increase,” Rice said. On Monday, President Barack Obama assailed Pyongyang, accusing it of engaging in “reckless” actions that have endangered the region, and the North accused Washington of hostility.

Analysis (NBC, May 26, 2009) – U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice talks with NBC Today’s Matt Lauer about ways President Obama may choose to deal with North Korea. (04:05)

North Korea appeared to be displaying its might following its underground atomic test that the U.N. Security Council condemned as a “clear violation” of a 2006 resolution banning the regime from developing its nuclear program.

France called for new sanctions, while the U.S. and Japan pushed for strong action against North Korea for testing a bomb that Russian officials said was comparable in power to those dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

China said it “resolutely opposed” North Korea’s test and urged Pyongyang to return to talks on ending its atomic programs.

Russia, once a key backer of North Korea, condemned the test. Moscow’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current Security Council president, said the 15-member council would begin work “quickly” on a new resolution.

Fears it will aid other nations, terrorists

North Korea’s nuclear test raises worries that it could act as a facilitator of the atomic ambitions of other nations and potentially even terrorists.

Its test of a long-range missile in July 2006 and its first nuclear test in October 2006 drew stiff sanctions from the Security Council and orders to refrain from engaging in ballistic missile-related activity and to stop developing its nuclear program. …

North Korea had threatened in recent weeks to carry out a nuclear test and fire long-range missiles unless the Security Council apologized for condemning Pyongyang’s April 5 launch of a rocket the U.S., Japan and other nations called a test of its long-range missile technology. The North has said it put a satellite into orbit as part of its peaceful space development program. …

Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to defend both South Korea and Japan, U.S. and South Korean officials said.

North Korea responded by accusing the U.S. of hostility, and said its army and people were ready to defeat any American invasion.

“The current U.S. administration is following in the footsteps of the previous Bush administration’s reckless policy of militarily stifling North Korea,” the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in commentary carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency. …


Latest News

North Korea Warns of Possible Military Action

Image: North Korean celebration
North Korean military officers celebrate the second successful nuclear test at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, on Tuesday, May 26, 2009. (Photo credit: KNS / AFP — Getty Images)

May 27, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a tirade Wednesday against world powers threatening to punish it for conducting its second nuclear test, saying it is not afraid of sanctions and calling South Korea’s decision to join an operation to prevent the spread of weapons a declaration of war.

The North also has reportedly restarted its weapons-grade nuclear plant. It staged a rally in its capital, Pyongyang, on Tuesday to celebrate the test.

The isolated communist regime said through its official news agency that it would respond with military action if South Korea tries to stop or search any of its ships as part of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative.

‘Merciless punishment’

“Those who provoke (North Korea) once will not be able to escape its unimaginable and merciless punishment,” the North’s official news agency said. …

Meanwhile, South Korea’s mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Wednesday that U.S. spy satellites detected signs of steam at the North’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, an indication that it may have started reprocessing nuclear fuel. …

The move would be a major setback for efforts aimed at getting North Korea to disarm. …

Further ratcheting up tensions, North Korea has test-fired five short-range missiles over the past two days, South Korean officials confirmed. …

Choe Thae Bok, a high-ranking party official, was quoted by North Korea’s official news agency as saying that the nuclear test “was a grand undertaking” to protect the country against “the U.S. imperialists’ unabated threat to mount a pre-emptive nuclear attack and (put) sanctions and pressure upon it.” …


Related report

North Korea: No Longer Bound by 1953 Truce

An image from North Korean television on April 9 shows leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.
An image from North Korean television on April 9, 2009 shows leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.

CNN logo
May 27, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea threatened military action Wednesday after South Korea joined a U.S.-led effort to limit the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, the official Korean Central News Agency said. …

Pyongyang also announced it was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

“The Korean Peninsula is bound to immediately return to a state of war from a legal point of view, and so our revolutionary armed forces will go over to corresponding military actions,” North Korea said through its news agency. …

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