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Obama orders Pentagon to prepare for full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Pentagon readies Afghanistan withdrawalBarack Obama formally ordered the Pentagon on Tuesday to make plans for a full pullout of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, pointing to a way out of the conflict that is reminiscent of his end to the Iraq campaign.

While the Obama administration reiterated that it would prefer to maintain a residual military presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has refused to sign an accord that would pave the way for some US forces to remain. That has forced the administration to begin a contingency plan for a full departure after Nato formally ends hostilities in November.

A similar rebuke from the Iraqi government prompted all almost all US troops to leave there in 2011.

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Army to discharge 500 NCOs in move to reduce ranks

NCO'sMore than 500 senior non-commissioned officers will be involuntary discharged this year as the U.S. Army moves to reduce its ranks, a Pentagon official says.

That's more than triple the 160 active duty and reserve NCOs released last fiscal year, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday.

The 506 soldiers were being released because "the Army can no longer retain soldiers in over-strength skills as we improve grade and [Military Occupational Specialty], Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of staff for personnel, said in an email.

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US Citizen Possibly Targeted for Drone Attack

Drone attacksAn American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.

The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he's a U.S. citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn't completed.

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Documents reveal chaotic US military sex-abuse record

US military baseAt U.S. military bases in Japan, most service members found culpable in sex crimes in recent years did not go to prison, according to internal Department of Defense documents. Instead, in a review of hundreds of cases filed in America's largest overseas military installation, offenders were fined, demoted, restricted to their bases or removed from the military.

In about 30 cases, a letter of reprimand was the only punishment.

More than 1,000 records, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, describe hundreds of cases in graphic detail, painting a disturbing picture of how senior American officers prosecute and punish troops accused of sex crimes.

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Why Are US Special Operations Forces Deployed in Over 100 Countries?

military deployment“Dude, I don’t need to play these stupid games. I know what you’re trying to do.” With that, Major Matthew Robert Bockholt hung up on me.

More than a month before, I had called US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with a series of basic questions: In how many countries were US Special Operations Forces deployed in 2013? Are manpower levels set to expand to 72,000 in 2014? Is SOCOM still aiming for growth rates of 3 percent to 5 percent per year? How many training exercises did the command carry out in 2013? Basic stuff.

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US Air Force copter crashes in England, killing 4

USAF helicopterA U.S. Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in the coastal marshes of eastern England during a training mission on Tuesday night, killing all four crew members aboard, officials said.

The helicopter crashed at about 6 p.m. local time near Salthouse on the Norfolk coast, a statement from the U.S. Air Force said. The aircraft was based at the nearby Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath, Suffolk County, which hosts USAF units and personnel.

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Obama signs defense bill, criticizes Congress' Guantanamo restrictions

Defense bill signedPresident Barack Obama Thursday signed legislation to fund the nation's defense, a measure that includes a small military pay raise and changes in how the military deals with sexual assault allegations.

Congress approved the legislation with bipartisan votes juse before ending its 2013 session last week.

The bill would provide about $625 billion for defense operations, slightly less than last year.

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