Obama: No hot pursuit of terrorists

President Barack Obama ruled out sending US troops on a hot pursuit of extremists across the Afghan border into Pakistan — but demanded Islamabad hold up its end of the anti-terror struggle.

Referring to US missile strikes on militants, Obama said in a television interview: "If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we’re going after them."

But asked on CBS program "Face the Nation" if he would order US troops on the ground into militant safe havens inside Pakistan, Obama stressed: "No.

Gates did the right thing on military coffin photos

Without fanfare, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has reversed policy regarding photographing coffins bearing bodies of military personnel killed overseas. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration banned such photography at military bases. The new policy permits photography as long as the immediate family agrees. Gates stated Pentagon opinion was divided but he found the Army’s argument for change persuasive.

Multiple wars, tours strain military readiness

The strain of fighting wars on multiple fronts is hurting America’s military readiness, a report on the state of our armed forces shows.

With our soldiers serving multiple tours on an ever-increasing number of conflicts, the risk level remains at "significant" for the third straight year.

And the problem shows no signs of easing as President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw troops from Iraq will take longer than originally hoped and an additional 17,000 troops are headed for the war in Afghanistan.

More troops, more combat in Afghanistan

Close to 3,000 American soldiers who recently arrived in Afghanistan to secure two violent provinces near Kabul have begun operations in the field and already are seeing combat, the unit’s spokesman said Monday.

The new troops are the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements this year. The process began to take shape under President George Bush but has been given impetus by President Barack Obama’s call for an increased focus on Afghanistan.

Wars full of waste and fraud

A new commission examining waste and corruption in wartime contracts is getting a grim report from government watchdogs who say poor planning, weak oversight and greed combined to soak U.S. taxpayers and undermine American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marines found more than a few good men

Buoyed by more recruiters, bigger bonuses and an elite reputation, the Marine Corps has grown by nearly 27,000 members in a little more than two years — half the time that military officials believed it would take.

While the rapid expansion has stretched the Marine budget and put some recruits in temporary or quickly refurbished barracks, it is also easing the strain on Marine forces tapped for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In early 2007, the Marine Corps launched a program to expand its ranks — planning to add about 5,000 Marines a year for five years, and reaching a total of 202,000 by 2012. But this month the Marines already hit 200,000, and Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, said they will meet their 202,000 goal in early 2009.

Gaza crisis could hurt Obama’s peace efforts

Israel’s military onslaught against the militant Hamas movement will probably make it harder for President-elect Barack Obama to fulfill a campaign pledge of early and vigorous Mideast peacemaking, and the pre-inauguration timing may frustrate any effort he plans to establish new footing among Arab partners.

A road out of Iraq

The U.S.-Iraq pact passed a key, and perhaps final, hurdle when Iraq’s three-member presidential council — a Kurd, a Sunni and a Shiite — signed the security agreement.

The parliament had approved it earlier. The agreement, at Sunni insistence, may have to be put to a referendum in late July. But U.S. forces will have withdrawn from Iraq’s cities a month earlier, so the American presence should be less onerous.

The pact calls for American troops — except for those the Iraqi government specifically asks to stay — to be out entirely by Jan. 1, 2012.

Closing Gitmo

It appears that Barack Obama will make closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay an early order of business for his administration. The prison has been so tainted in U.S. and world opinion and so damaging to the United States’ reputation that it is simply not worth keeping.

The problem is what to do with the 250 or so prisoners who remain there. Those who are cleared for release should be repatriated — if we can find a country willing to take them.

Honoring our Veterans

Veterans Day properly and appropriately honors our veterans, but it also honors an ideal that now seems naive but still survives as a matter of international law. Veterans Day originally honored the truce that ended the fighting in World War I and was called Armistice Day after that agreement.

In the stunned aftermath of that conflict, the combatant nations believed that they had fought the war to end all wars. Indeed, the United States and France collaborated on a treaty that its signers hoped would effectively outlaw war among civilized nations.

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