military affairs
January 24, 2021

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised several senators in his confirmation hearing that he would prioritize sexual assault prevention within the military in his new role, and it appears he's attempting to follow through quickly.

Per The Associated Press, Austin issued his first directive as Pentagon chief Saturday night, giving his senior leaders two weeks to gather reports on sexual assault prevention programs in the military and send him assessments of what has worked and what hasn't. "This is a leadership issue," he reportedly wrote in a two-page memo. "We will lead."

The move comes a day after he was confirmed by the Senate. The retired four-star Army general acknowledged in his Senate hearing and in the memo that the military must do a better job of handling a problem that has long existed within its ranks, and he told officials not to be "afraid to get creative" in finding ways to approach the issue.

Reports of sexual assault in the military have steadily increased since 2006, AP notes, including a 13 percent jump in 2018 and a 3 percent jump in 2019 (the data for 2020 is not yet available.) Experts believe sexual assaults remain underreported, though there's some hope that victims have grown more confident in the justice system. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

July 9, 2020

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday told the House Armed Services Committee that Russia and other U.S. adversaries have been supplying "training, money, weapons, propaganda ... and a lot of other things" to the Taliban for years, and the Trump administration was "perhaps" not doing "as much as we could or should" to stop this.

The military has delivered a ground response, he said, but "the issue is higher than that. The issue is at the strategic level. What should or could we be doing at the strategic level?" Options include making diplomatic protests and imposing sanctions, and Milley said "some of that is done. Are we doing as much as we could or should? Perhaps not. Not only to the Russians, but to others. But a lot of it is being done. Some of it's quiet. Some of it's not so quiet."

In late June, The New York Times reported, and other news outlets confirmed, there's significant U.S. intelligence indicating Russia paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. When asked, Milley said the military is "going to dig into this. We're going to get to the bottom of it, this bounty thing. If in fact there's bounties directed by the government of Russia or any of their institutions to kill American soldiers, that's a big deal. We don't have that level of fidelity yet." Catherine Garcia

January 22, 2020

An attack on a U.S. military base in Kenya by al-Shabab fighters that killed three Americans earlier this month mostly flew under the radar amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. But it's now raising questions about the effectiveness of the U.S. military's presence on the African continent, The New York Times reports.

There's still a lot that's unclear about al-Shabab's breach of the base, and the military's Africa Command has remained tight-lipped in the aftermath. Nobody is sure why the base — which is home to valuable surveillance aircraft — wasn't better protected, and there's also been some criticism of the Kenyan security forces who are being trained by the deployed U.S. troops.

At the Manda Bay base, the Kenyan forces are relied upon heavily to protect the airfield since there aren't enough American forces to stand perimeter security, a Defense Department official told the Times. But their performance during the skirmish with al-Shabab reportedly frustrated American officials. For example, the Kenyan forces announced they captured six of the attackers, all of whom were released after it turned out they were bystanders.

Some have taken their speculation a bit further. One person briefed on an inquiry into the attack told the Times that investigators are looking into the possibility that the al-Shabab fighters received aid from Kenyan staff on the base, although one American official said the attackers likely made their move after patiently observing the routines of American soldiers. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

August 1, 2019

In the wake of several reports of alleged misbehavior, Rear Adm. Collin Green, the top Navy SEAL, sent a letter last week ordering commanders to let him know problems they see in the force and how they can be fixed, CNN reports.

"We have a problem," he wrote in a letter obtained by CNN. "I don't know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately." Green gave them until August 7 to share their concerns.

His letter did not go into detail on any specific incidents, but in recent months it's been reported that a SEAL team was sent home from Iraq after allegations of sexual assault and an internal investigation found that some members of SEAL Team 10 allegedly abused illegal drugs while stationed in Virginia in 2018.

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Richard Clarke, head of special operations forces, met to discuss ethics violations in the military and the best way to handle them. "They discussed some of the recent cases that have emerged in the special operations community," Esper's spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, told CNN. "They share the concerns." Catherine Garcia

July 5, 2018

Dozens of immigrants in the U.S. Army who enlisted after being promised a path to citizenship have been discharged without warning, The Associated Press reports.

Lawyers told AP they know of at least 40 reservists and recruits who have been discharged or whose status is now in question. Some of the immigrants said they were not told why they were being discharged, while others said the Army told them they were deemed security risks because they have family members outside the U.S. or the Defense Department had not yet finished their background checks.

More than 10,000 immigrants are currently serving under the special recruitment program, enacted in order to grow the ranks of medical specialists and service members fluent in 44 different languages, AP reports. To participate in the program, recruits must have legal status in the U.S., and in order to be naturalized, they need to be honorably discharged. Pentagon and Army spokespeople told AP they could not discuss the discharges because of pending litigation. Catherine Garcia

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