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A new audit finds that the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is missing documentation for how it spent hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to Politico, Ernst and Young found the DLA could not account for $800 million.

The money was reportedly used for military construction projects and computer systems.

DLA confirmed failure to properly track its spending, but said there was no “loss of accountability”.

A spokeswoman said the DLA, which was founded during World War II, is already taking steps to improve.

Image source Wikimedia

9/11 Pictures of Pentagon Released by FBI

Kunduz Hospital Strike: Pentagon to Compensate Victims over Bombing

The Defense Department, which has an annual budget of $700 billion, has reportedly never undergone a full audit.

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans advocate billions of dollars in additional funding for the department.

According to the report, the audit raises concerns about how the agency handles its budget.

According to Politico, the DLA is one of the largest agencies in the Pentagon, employing 25,000 people with an annual budget of $40 billion.

The Pentagon’s annual budget exceeds half-a-trillion dollars.

Of the unaccounted money, $465 million was found to be used for construction projects for the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, the report said.

The agency also failed to produce documentation for $100 million of computer systems.

The report covers the fiscal year that ended in September 2016.

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The Pentagon has said that US bombers have flown close to North Korea’s east coast to demonstrate the military options available to defeat any threat.

It said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas that any US fighter jet or bomber had flown in the 21st Century.

Tensions have risen recently over North Korea’s nuclear program.

At the UN, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said President Donald Trump was on a “suicide mission”.

Ri Yong-ho’s comments to the General Assembly mimicked President Trump’s remarks at the UN on September 20, when he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man on a suicide mission”.

The North Korean foreign minister added that “insults” by President Trump – who was, he said, “mentally deranged and full of megalomania” – were an “irreversible mistake making it inevitable” that North Korean rockets would hit the US mainland.

Photo AP

North Korea Warns that More Sanctions Will Accelerate Its Nuclear Program

North Korea Launches New Ballistic Missile over Japan

North Korea Launches Fiery Attack on US Following UN Sanctions

President Trump, the foreign minister said, would “pay dearly” for his speech, in which he also said he would “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies.

Donald Trump responded to the speech on Twitter by saying Ri Yong-ho and Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer” if they continue their rhetoric.

Shortly before his address, the Pentagon announced that the show of force underscored “the seriousness” with which the US took North Korea’s “reckless” behavior, calling the country’s weapons program a “grave threat”.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”

US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam, escorted by Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace, the Pentagon added.

The flight follows a week of heated rhetoric between the leaders of both countries – after President Trump’s comments, Kim Jong-un called him “mentally deranged” and “a dotard”.

Ri Yong-ho did not comment on the Pentagon’s announcement.

North Korea has refused to stop its missile and nuclear tests, despite successive rounds of UN sanctions. The North Korean leaders say nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.

After North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.

However, speaking at the UN, Ri Yong-ho repeated that the restrictions would not make the country stop its nuclear development.

Meanwhile, a 3.4-magnitude tremor was detected near North Korea’s nuclear test site on September 23, but experts believe it was a natural earthquake.

The earthquake was recorded at a depth of 0km in North Hamgyong province, home to the Punggye-ri site, South Korea’s meteorological agency said.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) also said it occurred in the nuclear test area, but added that its seismologists assessed it as having a depth of 5km.

South Korea said no specific sound waves generated by artificial earthquakes were detected.

China’s Earthquake Administration said the quake was not a nuclear explosion and had the characteristics of a natural tremor. The agency had initially said it was a “suspected explosion”.

Senior al-Qaeda leader Farouq al-Qahtani has been killed in a US drone strike in north eastern Afghanistan last month, the Pentagon confirms.

Farouq al-Qahtani, al-Qaeda’s leader in the area, was killed two weeks ago in what the Pentagon described as a precision strike.

Image source Wikimedia

Image source Wikimedia

The Saudi-born was placed on a US list of most wanted terrorists in February.

Farouq al-Qahtani was said to be one of al-Qaeda’s senior plotters against the US.

A Qatari national, Farouq al-Qahtani was also accused of involvement in plots targeting Europe.

Afghan government spokesman Abdul Ghani Mosamem said that 15 insurgents were killed in the operation on October 23 in the province of Kunar.

Those killed included two Arabs and a number of Pakistani Taliban fighters.

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According to the Pentagon, North Korea has recently conducted an unsuccessful test launch of an intermediate ballistic missile.

The Musudan missile has an estimated range of up to 2,500 miles, enough to hit South Korea, Japan and the US territory of Guam.

Pyongyang has not reacted to the news.

North Korea has made a number of missile-related tests this year, despite being banned by the UN from any use of ballistic or nuclear technology.North Korea missile launch 2015

The move comes amid concerns that North Korea may soon launch another long-range rocket or conduct a nuclear test.

The test took place near the north-western city of Kusong at 03:33 GMT on October 15, the Pentagon said in a statement.

US Navy Commander Gary Ross said the missile launch “did not pose a threat to North America”.

South Korea confirmed the failed launch, and said in a statement it strongly condemned the actions of North Korea.

The Yonhap news agency reported the missile was believed to have exploded soon after its launch, without citing a source for the information.

Pyongyang insists its space program is for peaceful purposes.

The US, South Korea and even China, the country’s main ally, say the recent rocket launches are aimed at developing inter-continental ballistic missiles.

North Korea regularly makes claims about the progress of its nuclear and missile programs, but analysts say most of them are impossible to independently verify.

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According to the Pentagon, a Russian SU-27 fighter jet flew within about 10ft of one of its reconnaissance aircraft operating over the Black Sea.

The US described the intercept by the Russian plane on September 7 as “dangerous and unprofessional”.

According to Russian defense ministry, said the US Navy P-8A Poseidon had been approaching Russian territory and the SU-27 pilots had adhered to international rules.

Russia is currently carrying out military exercises in the Black Sea.

Image source YouTube

Image source YouTube

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the US Navy aircraft had been conducting routine operations in international airspace when the Russian fighter made the unsafe maneuver.

“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions, and could result in a miscalculation or accident,” he said.

A US defense official quoted by AFP news agency said the Russian plane had flown within 30ft of the P-8A before closing to just 10ft.

The Russian defense ministry said fighters intercepted the P-8A because it was heading towards Russian territory with its transponder signal – which helps others identify it – switched off.

Its statement said: “After the Russian fighters got close to the spy planes for visual confirmation and to determine their wing numbers, the American aircraft changed course sharply and flew away.

“The Russia pilots acted in strict accordance with international rules for flights.”

Relations between Russia and the West have been strained since the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

In April 2016, the US complained that Russian jets had confronted one of its reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner”.

In that incident, Russia also said that the US Navy plane had turned off its transponder signal.

The US will increase its military presence in Eastern Europe in response to an “aggressive Russia”, the Pentagon has announced.

From 2017, three fully manned US combat brigades will be deployed.

In February, the Pentagon announced plans to quadruple its budget for European defense in 2017.

The additional presence will increase US ability to conduct military exercises in the region.

The plan demonstrates “our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in eastern Europe and elsewhere”, said Gen. Philip Breedlove, the senior US commander in Europe.US troops in Eastern Europe

“Our allies and partners will see more capability. They will see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries,” Gen. Philip Breedlove added.

Each brigade will rotate through the region for nine months before being replaced.

There are about 4,500 soldiers in a brigade, bringing with them military vehicles and other equipment.

“There will be a division’s worth of stuff to fight if something happens,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work told the Wall Street Journal.

Relations between Russia and the West have plummeted since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014.

The intervention sparked fears that Russia was considering other incursions into neighboring countries.

Russia has accused NATO of using the situation in Ukraine as an excuse to move closer to Russian borders.

“Stories are being spread that Russia will send its tanks into the Baltic states, into Sofia or into Budapest. No-one intends to do that,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Some analysts suggested the US military could be planning for the post-Obama era.

Senior ISIS commander Omar Shishani died from injuries sustained in a recent US air strike in north-eastern Syria, the Pentagon has confirmed.

Earlier reports had suggested Omar Shishani, a Georgian whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, may have survived the attack on a convoy.

Several of his bodyguards were killed in the same bombing.ISIS commander Omar Shishani dead

The strike took place on March 4 near the north-eastern town of Shaddadi, where Omar Shishani had reportedly been sent to bolster local ISIS forces.

On March 13, monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ISIS leader had been “clinically dead” for several days.

In 2015, the US offered a $5 million reward for Omar Shishani.

It said he had held numerous senior military positions within the group, including “minister of war”.

Last week, the observatory’s director, Rami Abdul Rahman, quoted sources saying that Shishani had been badly wounded and had been taken to a hospital in Raqqa province where he was treated by “a jihadist doctor of European origin”.

US officials have said they believe Omar Shishani was sent to the Shaddadi area to reinforce ISIS militants following a series of military defeats.

Shaddadi was captured last month by the Syrian Arab Coalition, an alliance of Arab rebel groups which joined forces with the Kurdish YPG militia to battle ISIS.

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The Pentagon has warned that Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric undermines US national security by boosting ISIS.

Donald Trump has said Muslims should be banned from entering the US, in the wake of the deadly San Bernardino attacks.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said such talk “bolsters ISIL’s narrative”, referring to ISIS.

There has been a global outcry since Donald Trump made his remarks.

Secretary of State John Kerry joined the onslaught of condemnation on December 8 when he said they were “not constructive” in the fight against ISIS.

The ISIS militants are the target of a US-led bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq.Donald Trump Muslim ban proposal 2015

Donald Trump announced his plan days after an attack in California raised US fears about homegrown terrorism.

A Muslim couple, believed to have been radicalized, opened fire and killed 14 people at a social center in San Bernardino, California.

One of the two perpetrators, Tashfeen Malik, reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on the day of the tragedy.

Responding to Donald Trump’s remarks, the Pentagon said a border closed to Muslims would harm American efforts to counter extremist ideology.

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Peter Cook said: “Anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security.”

The Pentagon’s view echoed a tweet from Hillary Clinton that said Donald Trump’s proposed ban is “not only counter to our values – it plays right into the hands of terrorists”.

The outcry was swift as soon as Donald Trump said in a statement on December 7 that Muslims nursed a “hatred” towards America and should be banned “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.

The Republican presidential hopeful and reality TV star later said it would not apply to people living in the US.

Donald Trump defended the idea on December 8, comparing it to policies implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War Two against Japanese, German and Italian people in the US.

Muslim leaders, the UN and foreign leaders have criticized the call as dangerous and divisive, while the White House said Donald Trump should be disqualified from the race.

Attempting to explain his comments, Donald Trump said parts of London were “so radicalized the police are afraid for their lives”.

Responding to the billionaire’s comments, London Mayor Boris Johnson said that was “ridiculous” and added: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

UK PM David Cameron said Donald Trump’s comments were “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.

Republican leaders were strong in their condemnation. House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”

The US will pay compensation for those killed and injured in an air strike on Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, the Pentagon says.

At least 22 hospital staff and patients were killed in the bombing in the city of Kunduz last week.

The US has said the strike was a mistake and that it was trying to target Taliban insurgents.

MSF has called the attack a war crime and called for an international committee to investigate.Kunduz hospital bombing Afghanistan

Those injured in the strike and the families of those killed are eligible for “condolence payments” from the US.

“The Department of Defense believes it is important to address the consequences of the tragic incident at the MSF hospital,” a Pentagon spokesman said.

Funds will also be made available to repair the hospital, the Pentagon added.

President Barack Obama has apologized to the MSF president and the Afghan leader for the incident.

MSF is still trying to trace more than 30 staff and patients who remain unaccounted for.

Benghazi attack suspect Ali Awni al-Harzi has been killed in an US airstrike in Iraq, the Pentagon says.

Ali Awni al-Harzi died on June 15 in the city of Mosul, which is controlled by ISIS, the Pentagon adds.

He was designated as a terrorist by the US Treasury and state department.

The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was among four Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks in September 2012.Benghazi attack 2012

US officials blamed the attack on militants linked to al-Qaeda.

The Pentagon described Ali Awni al-Harzi as “a person of interest” in the attack on the US compound.

It said he was an organizational intermediary who operated closely with extremists linked to ISIS or ISIL throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

“His death degrades ISIL’s ability to integrate North African jihadists into the Syrian and Iraqi fight and removes a jihadist with long ties to international terrorism,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.

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According to new reports, the US spends more than $9 million a day on the war against ISIS, and has poured $2.7 billion into the bombing campaign since the start.

An international coalition has been conducting air strikes in Iraq and Syria since last August.

The first breakdown of US costs, released by the Pentagon, show that two-thirds of the total bill has gone to the Air Force.

It came as Congress rejected legislation banning further spending.US spendings  against ISIS

The US House of Representative approved a $579 billion defense spending bill.

It rejected an amendment calling for a stop to cash going on the fight against ISIS unless Congress passed a new authorization for the use of force.

The cost of the US military operation has risen sharply since it began last August in Iraq.

This week, the White House announced another 450 advisers for Iraq, bringing the total military personnel to 3,500.

But officials emphasize there are no combat troops and the US mission is to train local forces to do the fighting.

On June 11, the top general in the US said the country’s intervention in Iraq could extend further.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the role of calling in air strikes, which would put troops nearer the front lines, remained a future option.

Martin Dempsey raised the possibility of establishing a network of US training hubs in northern Iraq.

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Fifty one labs in 17 states and three foreign countries have been mailed samples of live anthrax, Pentagon officials have said on June 3.

The announcement doubled the number of incidents in the US. A smaller number of shipments were revealed last week.

Staff members at some of the labs have been treated for anthrax exposure as a precaution, but no-one has fallen ill.

The Pentagon has maintained there is no risk to the general public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading the investigation into the incidents.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

According to defense official Robert Work, the number of affected laboratories is expected to rise.

Experts in biosafety have heavily criticized the lapse and called for improved precautions.

Symptoms of anthrax exposure include skin ulcers, nausea, vomiting and fever, and can cause death if untreated.

The military has ordered all of its labs that have previously received inactive anthrax samples to test them. In addition it is advising all labs to cease working with these samples until told otherwise.

Pentagon officials say there was no sign the live samples were sent due to any deliberate action.

The samples were mailed from a Utah army facility by commercial post to laboratories over the past 10 years.

In addition to the US labs, samples were sent to facilities in Australia, Canada and South Korea.

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Pentagon is investigating an online threat allegedly made by Islamic State (ISIS) to about 100 of the US military personnel.

A list of names and addresses was posted on a website linked to ISIS alongside a call for them to be killed.

The group, which called itself the Islamic State Hacking Division, said it obtained the information by hacking servers and databases but US officials said most of the data was in the public domain.ISIS online threat to US military personnel

It said the personnel named had participated in US missions against ISIS.

The group urged its supporters in the US to “take the final step” and “deal with” those named.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “I can’t confirm the validity of the information, but we are looking into it.”

The US and its allies have been conducting air strikes against ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq since last September.

The US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts have been suspended after being hacked by a group claiming to back Islamic State.

One message on Centcom’s Twitter feed said: “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back.”

It was signed by ISIS, another name for the Islamic State. Some internal military documents also appeared on the Centcom Twitter feed.

Centcom said it viewed the breach as “cyber-vandalism” and not serious.

In a statement, the military command said there was no operational impact and no classified information was posted.

“We are viewing this purely as a case of cyber-vandalism,” it said.

The hack happened as President Barack Obama was giving a speech on cyber-security.Centcom Twitter hacked by ISIS

Reflecting on major breaches like a recent hack of Sony Pictures, President Barack Obama said in his speech the US had been reminded of “enormous vulnerabilities for us as a nation and for our economy”.

Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said the US is looking into the Centcom hacking.

He said they were investigating the extent of the incident, and that there was a significant difference between a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.

An unnamed Pentagon official told Reuters the hacking was an embarrassment but did not appear to be a security threat.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced that the US will close 15 military bases across Europe.

The Pentagon says the move will save around $500 million a year, and comes as the US military seeks to shift its attention towards Asia.

The US has named RAF Lakenheath to be the first permanent European base for the F-35 aircraft and currently has more than 60,000 troops stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy and the UK.

The number will remain the same, as the US ramps up rotations within Europe for training programs.

Many of the closures affect smaller bases that were remnants of the Cold War.

US officials also have finalized plans to cut about 500 military personnel from the Lajes military base in the Azores islands, which drew opposition from Portugal.

Chuck Hagel said he understood it would mean job losses and thanked those who had supported the US Air Force.

“I know that this will result in a reduction of our local host nations workforces at some locations. I value the tremendous support they provided us for decades.”

Other countries with closing bases include Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

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Four Afghan inmates have been released from the Guantanamo Bay prison and sent back to their home country, the Pentagon announces.

Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir were repatriated after a thorough review of their cases.

Eight Afghans are believed to be among the 132 detainees remaining at the US prison in Cuba.

President Barack Obama has pledged to close the facility, opened in 2002 to hold “enemy combatants” in what the US termed its war on terror.

“As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force,” a Pentagon statement said on December 20.

The four Afghans were flown to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul aboard a US military plane and handed over to the local authorities, a US official was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.Afghan detainees released from Guantanamo Bay prison

The Pentagon provided no further details.

The repatriation is the latest in a series of transfers from the Guantanamo Bay, as President Barack Obama seeks to eventually shut the facility.

Earlier this month, six prisoners were flown to Uruguay, which said they would enjoy complete freedom in the South American nation.

About half of the remaining detainees at the Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for transfer – but have nowhere to go because their countries of origin are unstable or unsafe.

The Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba was opened in 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

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Former Pentagon official Ashton Carter is expected to be nominated as new defense secretary after Chuck Hagel’s resignation.

His appointment now requires approval from the Republican-led US Senate.

Ashton Carter was previously the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer and an assistant secretary of defense under former President Bill Clinton.

A Rhodes scholar, Ashton Carter received a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University.

Chuck Hagel quit after two years in the job, reportedly under pressure to go.

Following word of his resignation in November, Chuck Hagel called manning the post his life’s “greatest privilege”.

Chuck Hagel, 68, a Vietnam war veteran and former Republican senator, will stay on as secretary until Ashton Carter is confirmed.

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Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, was killed following a US attack earlier this week, the Pentagon has confirmed.

The US carried out air strikes on Monday night targeting a convoy in which he was travelling.

“Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabab,” the Pentagon press secretary said in a statement.

Ahmed Abdi Godane was one of the US state department’s most wanted men.

Leader of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed following a US attack earlier this week

Leader of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed following a US attack earlier this week

It had placed a bounty of $7 million on his head.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said the military action on September 1 had “led to his death”.

The US has supported the African Union (AU) force that has driven al-Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu, and other towns since 2011.

The al-Qaeda-linked fighters want to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government and frequently attack government targets as well as neighboring countries that provide troops to the AU force.

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Humanitarian aid drops have been made by the US planes to the besieged Iraqi town of Amirli, the Pentagon has said.

Some 15,000 minority Shia Turkmen in Amerli have been surrounded by Islamic State (ISIS) militants for two months.

The US also carried out air strikes on ISIS positions. The Iraqi army, Shia militias and Kurdish fighters have been struggling to break the siege.

Aircraft from the UK, Australia, France joined the US in the humanitarian aid drops, said Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Food, water, and medical supplies were delivered.

Rear Adm Kirby said operations would limited in scope and duration, as required to protect civilians trapped in Amirli.

The UN has expressed fears there could be a massacre if IS breaks through defenses in the town, which lies in Kurdish-controlled Iraq.

Humanitarian aid drops have been made by the US planes to the besieged Iraqi town of Amirli

Humanitarian aid drops have been made by the US planes to the besieged Iraqi town of Amirli (photo AP)

Earlier, the US launched new air strikes on IS near the key Mosul Dam.

In a statement, the US military said an armed vehicle, a fighting position and weapons were destroyed in the raid.

It said the strikes were in support of operations conducted by the Iraqi security forces near the strategic dam in the north of the country.

ISIS has been accused of atrocities in areas of Iraq and Syria under its control.

The Shia Turkmen are seen as apostates by the ISIS militants.

From the south, Iraqi government troops and allied Shia militias are trying to push into the Marin hill, which overlook the plain on which Amirli lies.

With the help of air strikes by the Iraqi air force, they are reported to be making slow progress, with roads in the area heavily mined and booby-trapped by the Islamist militants.

From further north, a combination of army forces, Shia militia and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters is reported to be trying to push down towards Amerli through a string of villages held by ISIS.

In one village, Salam, local sources said Shia militias had taken control of half of the settlement – but the ISIS militants fought back and drove them out.

The impression at this stage is that rapid movement to break the siege is unlikely and that it may be a protracted affair.

The operation is reported to have two objectives: to break the siege of Amirli and to reopen the main highway leading north from Baghdad.

The road is currently blocked by ISIS.

Meanwhile, reports from Syria say that hundreds of Yazidi women, another Iraqi minority, have been sold and distributed as wives among militant fighters in Syria.

The women who were abducted during recent attacks by IS in Iraq are said to have been transported to Syria after being forced to convert to Islam.

At least 27 of them were sold to ISIS members for marriage, according to the UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Right.

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President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State (ISIS).

Correspondents say the move could mark the first step towards US air strikes inside Syria, where the jihadist group controls vast swathes of territory.

The US is already carrying out strikes against IS in neighboring Iraq.

On Monday, the Syrian government said it would work with the international community in the fight against IS.

Western governments have so far rejected suggestions that they collaborate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to counter the growing regional threat posed by IS.

They have repeatedly called on Bashar al-Assad to step down since the beginning of the three-and-a-half year uprising against his rule, in which more than 191,000 people are believed to have been killed.

On Monday evening, US officials said Barack Obama had approved over the weekend reconnaissance flights by unmanned and manned aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.

One official later told the Associated Press that they had already begun.

President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State

President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State

The US military has been carrying out aerial surveillance of IS – an al-Qaeda breakaway formerly known as Isis – in Iraq for months and launched air strikes on 8 August.

The president cited the threat to US diplomats and military personnel and the humanitarian crisis in the north, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes since June as IS fighters and allied Sunni rebels have taken control of dozens of cities, towns and villages.

Barack Obama has long resisted taking military action in Syria, but Pentagon officials are said to have advised him that the only way the threat from IS can be fully eliminated is to go after the group there.

A spokesman for General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon was “preparing options to address Isis both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools including air strikes”.

The options reportedly include targeting IS leaders in and around their stronghold of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, as well as in the east near the Iraqi border.

Last week, IS published a video showing it killing the American journalist James Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012. The group threatened to kill other US citizens it was holding in retaliation for US air strikes.

It later emerged that US special forces had attempted to rescue the hostages earlier in July, but that they were not at the location in Syria where the military thought they were being held.

One Obama administration official told the New York Times that the US did not intend to collaborate with the Assad government or inform him in advance of any operation.

“It is not the case that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser.

“Joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging [IS].”

On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said his government was “ready for co-operation and co-ordination at the regional and international level to fight terrorism”.

However, Walid Muallem warned the White House that it would view any unilateral military action as a breach of sovereignty and an “act of aggression”.

The Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army, which is fighting IS across northern Syria, meanwhile said its commanders on the ground were ready to co-ordinate with the US.

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Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two.

An entire class of Air Force attack jets was tipped to be axed under the plans, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlines his 2015 budget.

Chuck Hagel is expected to propose trimming the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel.

The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.

The number of active-duty US Army members is already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.

Referring to budget pressures, Chuck Hagel said at the Pentagon on Monday: “The reality of reduced resources and a changing strategic environment requires us to prioritize and make difficult choices.”

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two

Noting there are currently about 520,000 active-duty US Army members, Chuck Hagel will also say according to prepared remarks: “Since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy.”

The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since before the US entered World War Two in 1940, when 267,000 active-duty members were employed.

By the end of that conflict, 8.2 million active-duty US Army members were employed.

The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.

The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of September 11, 2001.

After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Chuck Hagel will also recommend reducing housing allowances and other benefits, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.

However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November’s midterm elections.

The plan is said to take into account government cutbacks as well as President Barack Obama’s pledge to end land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under the proposed cuts, the military would still be able to defeat any adversary, unnamed officials told that newspaper, but be too small to engage in protracted foreign occupations.

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Pentagon has decided to ease its uniform rules to allow religious wear including turbans, skullcaps, beards and tattoos, officials have said.

Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Wiccan soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen can now request exemptions to strict military uniform and grooming policies.

Requests will be evaluated individually and can be denied if they hinder military readiness.

Previously, at least three Sikhs had won specific accommodation.

Pentagon has decided to ease its uniform rules to allow religious wear including turbans, skullcaps, beards and tattoos

Pentagon has decided to ease its uniform rules to allow religious wear including turbans, skullcaps, beards and tattoos

Service members’ requests for a religious accommodation will be weighed on a case-by-case basis to ensure they do not impact “mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline”.

And appeals to be allowed to wear beards or special apparel, for example, may be denied if they hinder the safe operation of weapons or military equipment, such as helmets or protective masks.

An accommodation will only apply to the service member’s current assignment, requiring him or her to obtain new exemptions with every transfer.

The new policy, in effect on Wednesday, will extend to all religions recognized by the US military across all branches.

The US military counts nearly 3,700 Muslims and 1,500 Wiccans among its ranks, according to statistics reported by NBC News, but it remains unclear how many will apply for dispensations.

The Pentagon has decided to move an advanced missile system to the Pacific island of Guam as a precaution following threats by North Korea.

The US Department of Defence said it would deploy the ballistic Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) in the coming weeks.

Pyongyang has threatened to target South Korea and the US in recent weeks.

The Pentagon has decided to move an advanced missile system to the Pacific island of Guam as a precaution following threats by North Korea

The Pentagon has decided to move an advanced missile system to the Pacific island of Guam as a precaution following threats by North Korea

The North Korean warlike rhetoric follows new UN sanctions and joint military drills by the US and South Korea.

The Thaad system includes a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles, and AN/TPY-2 tracking radar, together with an integrated fire control system.

The Pentagon said in a statement the missile system would be moved to Guam as a “precautionary move to strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat”.

“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend US territory, our allies, and our national interests,” the statement added.

In recent weeks, North Korea has mentioned military bases in the US territory of Guam and the US state of Hawaii as possible targets.

“Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks, present a real and clear danger,” said Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first major speech on Wednesday since taking up his post.

Chuck Hagel added that Pyongyang had also threatened the interests of South Korea and Japan.

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The Pentagon has decided to resume flights on its F-35 fighter jets, after the whole fleet was grounded last week.

A cracked turbine blade found on a plane prompted the suspension. But tests showed that this was a “unique” problem and not a design flaw, engine maker Pratt and Whitney said.

Thousands of F-35s are due to be made for the US and its foreign partners.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons programme, with a cost of nearly $400 billion.

The fault was detected during a routine inspection of an air force version of the jet (F-35A) at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

But on Thursday a spokesman for Pratt and Whitney, Matthew Bates, told Reuters news agency: “The team has determined that root cause is sufficiently understood for the F-35 to safely resume flights.”

Extensive tests on the plane’s engine revealed the crack was a result of the “unique operating environment” of the test flight, and was not a widespread issue, he added.

The engine had been running at high temperatures for four times longer than a normal F-35 flight, causing a separation of the “grain boundary” on one blade, Matthew Bates explained.

The Pentagon later confirmed that all its 51 planes had been cleared to resume flights.

The Pentagon has decided to resume flights on its F-35 fighter jets, after the whole fleet was grounded last week

The Pentagon has decided to resume flights on its F-35 fighter jets, after the whole fleet was grounded last week

Last week’s order to ground the planes – in the US air force, army and Marine Corps – marked the second time in two months planes from the F-35 range have been grounded.

The Marine Corps variant (F-35B), a short take-off and vertical landing variant (STOVL), was grounded for nearly a month after a manufacturing defect caused a fuel line to detach just before a training flight in January.

The F-35 programme includes partners from nine countries.

The construction of the plane has been plagued by problems – it is seven years behind schedule and has required numerous re-designs because of delays in software delivery and bulkhead cracks.

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The Pentagon has grounded its entire fleet of 51 F-35 fighter jets after the discovery of a cracked engine blade.

The fault was detected during a routine inspection of an air force version of the jet (F-35A) at Edwards Air Force Base in California, said the Pentagon.

Different versions are flown by the navy and the marine corps. All have been grounded.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons programme. with a cost of nearly $400 billion.

The Pentagon said flight operations would remain suspended until the root cause is established.

The Pentagon has grounded its entire fleet of 51 F-35 fighter jets after the discovery of a cracked engine blade

The Pentagon has grounded its entire fleet of 51 F-35 fighter jets after the discovery of a cracked engine blade

Friday’s order was the second time in two months planes from the F-35 range have been grounded.

The marine corps variant (F-35B), a short take-off and vertical landing variant (STOVL), was grounded for nearly a month after a manufacturing defect caused a fuel line to detach just before a training flight in January.

The air force version takes off from, and lands on, conventional runways while the STOVL version takes off from shorter runways and lands like a helicopter.

With a top speed of 1,200 mph (1,930 km/h), the F-35 can fly almost twice as fast as the Harrier, while it also has radar transparency and stealth capabilities – the Harrier had neither.

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