February 26th, 2009
05:26 PM ET

Pentagon allows coverage of war coffins

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/26/pentagon.media.war.dead/art.coffins.transport.gi.jpg] CNN The Pentagon will lift its ban on media coverage of the flag-draped coffins of war victims arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday. Military vehicles carry coffins containing U.S. troops in this photo the Pentagon released in 2005. 1 of 2 But the families of the victims will have the final say on whether to allow the coverage, he said. President Obama asked Gates to review the policy, and Gates said he decided after consulting with the armed services and groups representing military families to apply the same policy that is used at Arlington National Cemetery. "I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected - the families," he said at a news conference. Watch Gates announce reversal » Not long after Gates' announcement, the political action committee VoteVets.org issued a written statement saying it is "fully supportive" of the decision. Advocates of opening the base to coverage point out that the unmarked coffins make it impossible to identify specific remains. Not everyone had a positive reaction. "Military Families United is disappointed in the president's decision to overturn the ban that has been in place for over 18 years," the group said in a release.   Read More...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Pentagon • Raw Politics
February 26th, 2009
05:21 PM ET

The dirtiest word in the budget

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/02/20/afghan.detainees/art.afghanistan.afp.gi.jpg]

Adam Levine
CNN Supervising Producer

If ever a phrase has given "earmark" a run for most scorned fiscal term in Washington, "war supplemental" could well be that contender.

President Barack Obama has made a big deal of saying that he wants to stop what had been a contentious Bush administration habit of using the war supplemental, requests for funding that occur outside of the regular budget process, to get the billions of dollars needed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"No longer will we hide its price," Obama declared Tuesday in his speech to the joint session of Congress. War supplemental, you've been warned.

His spokesman Robert Gibbs called it "Enron accounting." BAM. POW. Take that war supplemental.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Pentagon • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
February 20th, 2009
04:12 PM ET

Getting the Afghanistan message right

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/02/Obama.afghan/art.afghan.jpg caption="President Obama wants to add troops and increase aid to Afghanistan. "]

Adam Levine
CNN Supervising Producer

A funny thing happened as the White House tried a relatively low-key approach to announcing that it was adding 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. The military didn’t seem to be on board with the message.

The announcement by the Obama administration contrasted with how the Bush administration announced both its increase of troops in Iraq, the “surge,” and even a later addition of troops to Afghanistan last year. Both of those announcements were made in a speech from then president George Bush.

But the new administration was stuck – it knew it needed to get troops to Afghanistan to satisfy the immediate need to stabilize things, but it also knew it was not ready to announce what its strategy for Afghanistan was. You see, the administration has a review underway for a new, comprehensive strategy that looks at both the military and diplomatic needs for the war.


Filed under: Adam Levine • Afghanistan • Pentagon • President Barack Obama
February 5th, 2009
04:37 PM ET

Making the Afghanistan fight even harder

Editor's Note: The State Department confirmed that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns arrived in Moscow on Wednesday and will discuss the use of the Manas military base in Central Asia with Russian officials.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/02/03/kyrgyz.base/art.manas.base.afp.gi.jpg caption="AA U.S. troop guards the main access checkpoint to the Manas Air Base on December 18, 2008."]

Alexandra Poolos
AC360° Editorial Producer

You might never have heard of it, but there's a tiny, impoverished Muslim country that's been playing a crucial role in America's "war on terror." And now it says it doesn't want to do that any more.

Kyrgyzstan, lodged between China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, says it will close a key U.S. airbase that supports operations in Afghanistan. The country’s president says the U.S. base will have to find a home elsewhere.

After the so-called 2005 Tulip Revolution, Kyrgyzstan became known as an islet of democracy in a region that is home to some of the world’s most entrenched dictatorships. The largely peaceful protests swept to power a new president who promised to liberalize the press, fight corruption and bring more democracy to Kyrgyzstan.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Pentagon • War on Terror
January 30th, 2009
10:43 AM ET

Military investigates West Point suicides

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/01/29/army.suicides/art.army.gi.jpg caption="The Army is expected to announce a new effort to study soldier suicides and links to post-combat stress."]

Ann Scott Tyson
The Washington Post

Two West Point cadets have committed suicide since December and two others attempted suicide in the past two weeks, prompting the military academy's leaders to summon an Army surgeon general's suicide team to the campus today to investigate the causes.

The suicides are the first since at least 2005. The academy is passing out prevention cards, putting up posters and reviewing its procedures, and it has ordered fresh suicide-prevention training to be completed by today, said Col. Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Military • Pentagon
January 28th, 2009
02:00 PM ET

The U.S. Military's PR problem in Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/11/19/pentagon.budget/art.shoot.gi.jpg caption="A U.S. soldier fires at Taliban targets during a battle in eastern Afghanistan last month."]

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Producer

Civilian deaths by U.S. forces in Afghanistan is a hot-button issue for President Karzai. He is known for not holding back when railing on the U.S. after a ground or air raid on an insurgent target where women and children were also killed.

The U.S. military understands his frustration but is often put in a difficult position when insurgents use the tactic of barricading themselves in mosques or homes.


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Filed under: Afghanistan • Mike Mount • Pentagon
January 27th, 2009
05:01 PM ET

The downside of procrastinating

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/27/gates.pakistan.afghanistan/art.gates2.afp.gi.jpg caption="Robert Gates testifies Tuesday before a Senate panel. He was wearing bandages from surgery he had on his arm."]

Adam Levine
CNN Supervising Producer

Amusing moment in today’s Senate Armed Services committee, Gates admitted that his procrastination on key decisions came back to bite him when he ended up staying on.

“As I focused on the wars these past two years, I ended up punting a number of procurement decisions that I believed would be more appropriately handled by my successor and a new administration. Well, as luck would have it, I am now the receiver of those punts – and in this game there are no fair catches,” Gates noted.

Filed under: Adam Levine • Pentagon • Robert Gates
January 26th, 2009
05:24 PM ET

Can I get classified military information in my MP3 player too?

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Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

Did you hear the one about the guy from New Zealand who bought a used MP-3 player with a bunch of U.S. military files left on it?

According to a television station in that country, a man bought the used digital music player from a thrift store while visiting Oklahoma, only to find dozens of files with personal information on US troops including social security numbers and cell phone numbers.

Some of the files reportedly also included a mission plan and military equipment deployed on certain U.S. bases in Afghanistan.


Filed under: Pentagon • Technology
January 19th, 2009
01:58 PM ET

Obama visits Ward 57..a place of pain…and hope

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/19/obama.inauguration.eve/art.paint.pool.jpg caption="President-elect Obama visited injured soldiers and helped volunteers on Monday."]

Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

A US military official confirms to CNN that President elect Barack Obama visited Ward 57 when he went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier today.

Ward 57 is the area of the hospital where mainly those who have undergone amputation or massive other surgeries for their wounds are treated once they are out of ICU. The Ward encompasses an entire floor with a nurses station in the middle and from each side two rows of rooms stretching down the hallway.

When you visit there are often little kids and other family members on the ward visiting their wounded family member. Depending on the case, some wounded are at the point where they can get themselves in and out of wheelchairs, so they might be out in the halls, but some are just out of surgery and in very tough shape—if he visited those he would have been escorted into the room most likely by himself, as the rooms are small.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Barbara Starr • Pentagon
January 6th, 2009
04:54 PM ET

Troops suffering from PTSD won't get Purple Heart

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/06/ptsd.purple.heart/art.purple.heart.gi.jpg caption="Soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will not receive the Purple Heart, the Pentagon says."]

Mike Mount
CNN Senior Pentagon Producer

The Purple Heart medal, awarded to service members who have been physically wounded in combat, will not be given to troops diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a Pentagon statement said.

The decision, which was made in early November but just made public this week, came about after months of deliberations sparked by a question on the topic posed to Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a Pentagon briefing in May.

"(It's) clearly something that needs to be looked at," Gates said, responding to the query. His answer prompted a review by the Defense Department's Awards Advisory Group, made up of "award experts" in the Pentagon.


Filed under: Pentagon • PTSD
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