Desertion charge renews debate over Bergdahl

Charges that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserted and endangered his post in Afghanistan intensify the debate over his politically wrought release: Should he spend years in prison as punishment for endangering soldiers who risked their lives to find him? Or was five years as a Taliban captive, where he was so isolated officials suggested it had affected his ability to speak English upon his return to the U.S., punishment enough? Bergdahl, 28, won’t face a death sentence, although the punishment is an option for prosecutors to pursue against deserters in wartime. But his case does raise the question of whether
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America may delay military exit from Afghanistan

  The United States is considering slowing its military exit from Afghanistan by keeping a larger-than-planned troop presence this year and next because the new Afghan government is proving to be a more reliable partner, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday. Carter, on his first overseas trip since starting the Pentagon job Tuesday, also said the Obama administration is “rethinking” the counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, although he did not elaborate. No decisions have been made, but President Barack Obama will discuss a range of options for slowing the U.S. military withdrawal when Afghan president Ashraf Ghani visits the White
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Obama salutes end of American role in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama marked the end of more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan by paying tribute to America’s military, telling troops on Christmas Day that their sacrifices have allowed for a more peaceful, prosperous world to emerge out of the ashes of 9/11. At an oceanfront Marine Corps base in Hawaii, Obama told troops that while tough challenges remain for the U.S. military in hotspots like Iraq and West Africa, the world as a whole is better off because American troops put country first and served with distinction. He said Americans and their president could not be more
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More American troops than planned in Afghanistan

The United States will keep about 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than planned early next year to fill a temporary NATO troop gap in the new mission to train and advise Afghan security forces, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday on his final visit to this war-weary country as Pentagon chief. At a news conference with President Ashraf Ghani, Hagel said the original plan to cut U.S. troop levels to 9,800 by the end of 2014 had been abandoned, but not because of a recent surge in Taliban attacks. Hagel said the U.S. will keep up to 10,800 troops
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Governors get briefings on Aghan war

Four U.S. governors made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Saturday as part of a delegation to receive counterterrorism briefings and greet troops stationed there. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Jay Nixon of Missouri, traveled with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense, which sponsored the trip, Cuomo’s office said. They were invited by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, his office said. “During a period of heightened security concerns, we are working closely with our federal partners to increase preparedness at home in New York and protect our citizens from
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Deadly mistake by U.S. forces killed Americans

Avoidable miscommunication between U.S. air and ground forces led to a “friendly fire” incident in Afghanistan that killed five U.S. soldiers and one Afghan in June, according to a military investigation report. The incident was one of the deadliest friendly fire episodes of the war, which began 13 years ago next month. The report released Thursday by U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan, cited a collective failure by soldiers, commanders and air crew members to execute the fundamentals of the mission. As a result, the five Americans and one Afghan were mistaken for the enemy and were attacked
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Not much ‘coalition’ left in Afghanistan

Alongside the exodus of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, soldiers who hail from countries like Singapore and Slovenia, Mongolia and Malaysia have been packing up too, leaving behind an ever-shrinking NATO coalition. The coalition has been fighting the war for more than a decade, but that combat mission ends in 17 weeks. On the agenda at this week’s NATO meeting in Wales is nailing down which countries will contribute how many troops to the post-2014 mission to continue training the Afghan forces and who will pay the salaries of the Afghan policemen and soldiers going forward. “There already has been so
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Will Afghanistan really get a new president?

Afghanistan’s feuding presidential candidates agreed Friday to resolve their election dispute and said they would set an inauguration date before the end of August. The breakthrough came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened a second day of talks in Afghanistan aimed at preventing the fragile country from collapsing into political chaos after disputed elections. Kerry paid a courtesy call on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and met later with the two men, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. They’ve been locked in a bitter dispute over who will succeed Karzai. Abdullah called the
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Congressional angst grows over Obama’s Afghan plan

Afghanistan’s disputed election and Iraq’s unraveling are giving members of Congress and U.S. allies in the region reason to think President Barack Obama should rethink his decision to withdraw virtually all Americans troops from Afghanistan by the close of 2016. The White House says Afghanistan is different from Iraq, mired in sectarian violence since shortly after U.S. troops left, and that the drawdown decision is a done deal. Some lawmakers, however, are uncomfortable with Obama’s plan, which responds to the American public’s war fatigue and his desire to be credited with pulling the U.S. from two conflicts. Ten senators, Republicans
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American POW released in Afghanistan

The sole American prisoner of war held in Afghanistan was being flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Sunday, after he was dramatically freed in a swap deal for five Taliban militants who were released from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been held for nearly five years and his release, following years of on-and-off negotiations, suddenly became possible after harder-line factions of the Afghan Taliban shifted course and agreed to back it, according to U.S. officials. A U.S. defence official said Bergdahl was able to walk and became emotional on his way
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