Pentagon: U.S., Taliban reach short-term ‘reduction in violence’ deal

Photo via Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper Twitter.

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 12:25 PM PT — Thursday, February 13, 2020

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced a seven-day agreement with the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan. While speaking at a NATO meeting in Brussels, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had productive bilateral meetings with its allies on the new deal.

He said the best, if not only, solution in the war-torn country is a political agreement.

However, the secretary also stressed that the approach to the peace process would be conditions-based and continually reevaluated.

“The United States and the Taliban have negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence. I am here today consulting with allies about this proposal, and we have had a series of productive bilateral and collective meetings about the path forward. We have said all along that the best, if not only, solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement. Progress has been made on that front and we will have more to report on that soon, I hope.” – Mark Esper, United States Secretary of Defense

The Taliban reportedly supported the move because they do not want to commit to a formal ceasefire until other components of a final deal are in place.

MORE NEWS: President Trump Sees ‘Good Chance’ For Accord With Taliban By End Of Month

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Pentagon approves military facilities to quarantine citizens possibly exposed to coronavirus

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, with French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:28 AM PT — Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has approved the use of four military bases to quarantine up to 1,000 people posing coronavirus health risks. The request by the Department of Health and Human Services was approved over the weekend.

This comes after Chinese health officials reported more than 420 deaths and over 20,000 confirmed cases of the virus, constituting an increase of nearly 3,000 cases within a 24-hour period.

Each military base will reportedly provide housing for at least 250 people through the end of February.

“The DOD will only provide housing support, while HHS will remain responsible for all care, transportation and security of these individuals,” explained Jonathan Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Pentagon. “DOD personnel will not be in direct contact with these individuals, nor will these individuals have access to the base facilities beyond the housing.”

Carrying some 240 American diplomats and citizens, a Boeing 747 aircraft sits on the tarmac of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Chartered by the U.S. government, the plane flew from Wuhan, China, the source of the recent coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)

In the meantime, a presidential order has temporarily barred some foreigners from the visiting the U.S. Additionally, Americans who visited China within the last two weeks will be screened at select ports of entry.

Safety measures can also include 14 days of quarantine to ensure individuals do not pose a public health risk.

RELATED: Goldman Sachs estimates modest hit to 2020 global growth from coronavirus

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Pentagon requests Iraqi government to ramp up air defense at U.S. facilities to deter future attacks

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, with French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly, (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:57 AM PT — Friday, January 31, 2020

U.S. military officials are planning to ramp-up air defense infrastructure at American facilities in Iraq to contain Iran’s Ayatollah regime.

While speaking at the Pentagon Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. could move additional Patriot missiles to Iraq in an effort to repel possible Iranian attacks in the future. Esper pointed out that the U.S. would require permission from the Iraqi government to do that.

This comes after at least 50 American troops were wounded when 11 Iranian missiles hit the Ain al-Asad air base earlier this month. That facility did not have adequate air defenses at the time of the attack.

“We’re working with the Iraqi government in order to do exactly what you just suggested,” stated Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. ” In terms of if there was a Patriot battalion at al-Asad or Irbil or whatever, could they have shot down these TBMs? That’s what they’re designed to do.”

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2020 file photo, Iranian bombing caused a crater at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq. Ain al-Asad air base was struck by a barrage of Iranian missiles, in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed atop Iranian commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)

U.S. troops wounded in the Iranian attack suffered a mild form of traumatic brain injury. The Pentagon has already made the request to Baghdad to bring more missiles into Iraq.

RELATED: Baghdad Embassy attack evidence Of Iran’s power In Iraq

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Pentagon requests Iraqi government ramp up air defenses at U.S. facilities to deter future Iranian attacks

Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a joint news conference with Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono at the Pentagon in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:35 PM PT — Thursday, January 30, 2020

U.S. military officials are planning to ramp up air defense infrastructure at American facilities in Iraq to better contain Iran’s Ayatollah regime. While speaking at the Pentagon on Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. could move additional Patriot missiles to Iraq to repel possible Iranian attacks in the future.

Esper pointed out the U.S. would require permission from the Iraqi government to do that.

At least 50 American troops were wounded when 11 Iranian missiles hit the al-Assad Air Base earlier this month. That facility did not have adequate air defenses at the time of Iranian attack.

“We’re working with the Iraqi government in order to do exactly what you just suggested,” stated General Mark Milley. “There’s mechanical pieces, the science of war so to speak, of actually moving and bringing in Patriot battalions.”

This aerial photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

U.S. troops wounded in the Iranian attack suffered a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Esper pushed back on critics’ claim that the president was not concerned about the troops’ health in the Middle East. He said President Trump was very concerned about the welfare of all of American service members, particularly those involved in the operations in Iraq.

The secretary added officials are still learning about those affected and that the injury total could still rise further.

“There’s a lot more to be learned about these injuries, we’re putting a lot of money into research,” he said. “It affects us not just on the battlefield, but our service members get hurt during training as well.”

Esper added all service members who were treated had mild cases of traumatic brain injury. He also said the week delay in reporting was due to the nature of the wounds.

“As we predicted, when the first reports came in several days later, there would likely be more and more,” he said. “I think the TBI manifests itself over time.”

Original Article

Pentagon considers reducing U.S. troops in Africa

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, with French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 3:05 PM PT — Thursday, January 30, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is contemplating withdrawing thousands of troops from West Africa. During a press conference with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, Esper clarified this claim by saying the move would not be restricted to a reduction in personnel.

“(We are) adjusting numbers and how we allocate the personnel more toward global great power competition,” he said.

The decision would be part of Esper’s worldwide review as he tries to refocus military priorities on Russia and China. He said his goal is to free up time and money around the world while pinpointing where the U.S. needs to redirect attention.

“I want to make sure that we compete, first and foremost, when it comes to the (National Defense Strategy) NDS in the respective theaters, but it’s also a global competition with Russia and China,” stated Esper. “We need to make sure that we’re well postured to deal with them as appropriate, wherever we may find that presence.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper shake hands with French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly, at news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The defense secretary also met with French Minister of the Armies Florence Parly this week to discuss a possible reduction in U.S. troops who are currently assisting in French military operations. However, Esper emphasized the U.S. does not intend to leave France on its own.

“I think it’s time for other European allies to assist as well in the region,” he said. “That could offset whatever changes we make as we consider next steps in Africa.”

As of now, there are up to 7,000 troops in Africa. The proposed cut would most likely focus on the several hundred troops stationed in Niger, Chad and Mali.

It is unclear the effect a reduction would have on the recently built, multimillion-dollar drone base in Niger. Esper reiterated no decisions have been made.

“This is a process,” he said. “I had Africom in last week, and what they presented with me raised many other questions that have been tasked out.”

The defense secretary is expected to hold another meeting with the U.S. Africa Command soon to talk about potential adjustments.

FILE – In this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. (AP Photo/Carley Petesch, File)

Original Article

Pentagon: 34 U.S. service members diagnosed with brain injures from Iran missile strike

FILE – In this Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 file photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 2:45 PM PT — Friday, January 24, 2020

According to the Pentagon, 34 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile strike in Iraq. During Friday’s press briefing, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman confirmed the injuries from the strike, which targeted U.S. forces at the Ain al-Assad Air Base.

He said eight of the injures are considered “serious.” While some U.S. troops are still being treated, other service members have already returned to active duty.

“The total number is 34 that have been diagnosed by a medical professional over the course of the last couple weeks. What we saw was a number of people who were initially screened for concussion-like symptoms (and)…saw their conditions improve rapidly. Some got worse, some had severe enough symptoms that they were transported on for further treatment.”

– Jonathan Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

Initial reports claimed no Americans were injured during the attack.

The strike was in retaliation for the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. President Trump has said the general was plotting an “imminent” attack on U.S. forces before he was killed.

RELATED: Iraq Happy With U.S. Troops, Trump Says At Talks Over Mission’s Future

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2011 file photo, Spc. Angel Batista, 26, left to right, of Bloomingdale, N.J., Spc. Jacob Greene, 22, of Shreveport, La., and Sgt. Joe Altmann, 26, of Marshfield, Wisc., with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment based in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, sit beneath a new American flag just raised to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks Sept. 11, 2011 at Forward Operating Base Bostick in Kunar province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Original Article

Pentagon budget would hit Syria, Iran, Russia with tough sanctions

closeImages show Iran building tunnel in Syria to store missilesVideo

Images show Iran building tunnel in Syria to store missiles

New images show Iran has nearly completed a tunnel in Syria to store missiles and weapons; Trey Yingst has the details.

The $738 billion Pentagon budget passed by Senate lawmakers Tuesday includes tough new sanctions on Syria, Iran and Russia for their alleged war crimes committed during Syria’s nearly decadelong civil war.

The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019, passed by the GOP-majority Senate with an 86-6 vote, authorizes sanctions within six months on the Syrian government and anyone else who is “responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses committed against citizens of Syria or their family members.”

FILE: The Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. 

FILE: The Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. (AP)

The bill applies sanctions to supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military efforts in the country’s civil war, which includes Russia and Iran.

Muna Jondy, a Syrian-American immigration lawyer, told NPR she hopes the sanctions will help curb airstrikes on hospitals and civilian targets.

“Fifty hospitals have been bombed since April 2019,” she said. “There will be financial consequences.”

The bill is named after the code name of a Syrian police officer who documented torture victims in Syria from the outbreak of the war in early 2011 to his defection from the country in 2013.

SENATE PASSES RESOLUTION FORMALLY RECOGNIZING ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

The bill was immediately proposed after the officer’s testimony before Congress but failed to gather momentum in several previous attempts led, in part, by Rep. Eliot Engel of New York.

“We’ve never had something this strongly passed into law by the Congress,” said Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., one of the original co-sponsors of the Caesar Bill who met with the Syrian defector earlier this year. “[T]here’s no doubt that can have an impact.”

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The bill now goes to President Trump for final authorization.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Pentagon to evaluate legality of putting troops at US-Mexico border

closeBorder apprehensions drop for 6th consecutive monthVideo

Border apprehensions drop for 6th consecutive month

November marks sixth consecutive month of reduced border apprehensions.

The Pentagon's independent investigations office announced Tuesday that it will evaluate the legality of the Trump administration’s use of the military at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general (IG) of the Defense Department who had served as the Justice Department IG for 11 years, said his probe will assess several aspects of the military’s border mission, which some in Congress call a misuse of the military.

Under federal law, the military may not be used for domestic law enforcement purposes. The Trump administration’s view is that the troops are in a national security role at the southern border.

Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general, announced Tuesday that his probe will assess several aspects of the military’s border mission, which some in Congress call a misuse of the military. Fine said he will look at what the troops are doing at the border, what training they received for the mission, and whether their use at the border is legal. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general, announced Tuesday that his probe will assess several aspects of the military’s border mission, which some in Congress call a misuse of the military. Fine said he will look at what the troops are doing at the border, what training they received for the mission, and whether their use at the border is legal. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

AFRICAN MIGRANTS HEADING TO US-MEXICO BORDER IN RECORD NUMBERS IN 2019

In a letter to Fine in September, 33 House members urged an investigation into what they called the “misuse and politicization” of the military at the border.

Fine said he will look at what the troops are doing at the border, what training they received for the mission, and whether their use at the border is legal.

For more than a year, several thousand active-duty troops have been stationed along the border to perform various missions.

The troops have erected wire barriers, assisted with border surveillance and performed other functions in support of the Department of Homeland Security.

Border apprehensions dropped in November for sixth straight monthVideo

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Also Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Trump administration from using $3.6 billion earmarked for the military to fund border wall construction.

The Trump administration is expected to appeal Tuesday's decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article