Author

Greg Norman

Browsing

The U.S. announced plans Wednesday to shift 12,000 troops out of Germany as part of a multibillion-dollar effort to deter Russian influence and reassure European allies in the region.

The moves, which will bring 6,400 American troops home and shift 5,600 elsewhere on the continent, are set to begin “within weeks,” according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. It also fulfills President Trump’s previously announced desire to withdraw troops from Germany, largely due to its failure to spend enough on defense.

“These changes will achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies and improving U.S. strategic flexibility,” Esper said.

A number of the forces will go to Italy, while the headquarters of the U.S. European Command and Special Operations Command Europe will be relocated from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium.

Esper told reporters Wednesday that the movements – which will cost in the “single-digit” billions of dollars – will keep about 24,000 troops in Germany and shift other forces further east into the Black Sea and Baltic regions.

Some of the troops returning stateside will later conduct rotational deployments “back to Europe,” he added.

Germany is a hub for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Africa. The decision to keep nearly half of the 12,000 affected troops in Europe, the Associated Press says, is a clear move by the Pentagon to assuage allies by avoiding their complete withdrawal from the region.

And by spreading forces into the east, it sends a message to Russia that the U.S. is not reducing its commitment to the region and remains ready to protect Eastern Europe from any Moscow aggression.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has voiced support for the plan while also acknowledging it will take “months to plan and years to execute.” He was briefed on the issue last week, and he issued a statement saying the “concept for realigning U.S. military posture in Europe” is sound.

In this 2011 file photo, the German and U.S. flags fly on a lamp post in front of the White House in Washington ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit. Defense officials say the U.S. will pull 12,000 troops from Germany, bringing 6,400 forces home and shifting 5,600 to other countries in Europe, including Italy and Belgium. The plan will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete. (AP)

But members of Trump’s own political party have criticized the troop move as a gift to Russia and a threat to U.S. national security. Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee recently wrote a letter to Trump saying a reduced U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense would encourage Russian aggression and opportunism.

Trump announced last month that he wanted to cut the number of active-duty U.S. troops in Germany from roughly 36,000 to fewer than 25,000. Shifting forces out of the country had long been rumored and is in line with the Pentagon’s efforts to put more troops in the Indo-Pacific.

The president on Wednesday indicated the move was tied more directly to his anger over Germany’s failure to meet NATO defense spending goals.

“We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent,” the president told reporters outside the White House, adding that he might rethink the decision to pull troops out of Germany “if they start paying their bills.”

In this 2015 file photo, an airplane lands at the US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany. (Ronald Wittek/dpa via AP)

Trump has branded Germany “delinquent” for failing to meet a NATO goal set in 2014 for members to halt budget cuts and move toward spending at least 2 percent of their gross national product on defense by 2024.

He asserted that the Germans had long shortchanged the United States on trade and defense, declaring that “until they pay” more for their own defense, he will reduce U.S. troops.

Overall, the U.S. has about 47,000 troops and civilian personnel in Germany, spread out across a number of bases, headquarters and smaller installations. Most of the 36,000 on active duty are in a handful of larger Army and Air Force bases, including Ramstein Air Base, a hub in the region. There also are 2,600 National Guard and Reserve forces in Germany and almost 12,000 civilians working for the services or the Defense Department.

Author: Greg Norman

Source: Fox News: US announces plans to remove 12,000 troops from Germany, with half coming home

Police in New York have launched an investigation after a flagpole at a memorial honoring five firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was cut down by vandals.

The damage at the patriotic display in Washingtonville, north of New York City, was discovered early Wednesday, according to the Times-Herald Record.

The flagpole at the monument was cut down, police say. ColoreMedia

Washingtonville Police Chief Brian Zaccaro told the newspaper that those behind the vandalism used a tool to sever the flagpole about five feet from its base and then scrawled a message on the part left standing.

Police would not disclose the nature of the message, but did reveal that an eagle figure attached to the flagpole was found next to a toppled sign at the St. Mary’s Parish Center about a half-mile away.

“These two locations mean so much to Washingtonville and the larger community,” New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, whose district includes the area, said in a press release.

Washingtonville Mayor Joseph Bucco said the village will replace the damaged flagpole and a $3,000 reward is being offered for information about the incident and the suspects, the Times-Herald Record reported.

The memorial features a semi-circle of granite monuments honoring five members of the New York City Fire Department – firefighters Mark Whitford, Bobby Hamilton and Gerry Nevins, Batallion Chief Dennis Devlin and Lt. Glenn Perry, the newspaper adds.

Author: Greg Norman

Source: Fox News: Vandals cut down 9/11 Memorial flagpole in New York village

Drone footage released by the Border Patrol over the weekend shows miles of a “new border wall system” going up at a location in Arizona near where illegal immigrants were seen streaming into America years ago.

The construction is taking place near San Luis and is being carried out with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“CBP has constructed over 60 miles of new border wall system along the SW border since 2017 and expects to complete 450 miles by the end of 2020,” the Border Patrol said in a tweet.

The agency also tweeted footage showing how a 10-foot wall in the area “failed to impede and deny illegal entries” in 2005.

“Today, CBP has a triple-layered enforcement zone which includes an 18’ bollard wall,” it added.

Elsewhere in Arizona, crews were installing 30-foot steel fencing Friday to replace older barriers next to a border crossing known as Lukeville Port of Entry, which is part of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Many Arizona residents use the crossing on their way to Rocky Point, a beach destination in Mexico.

Construction is expected to take about 45 days. The U.S. government then plans to tackle other projects in Arizona, including nearly 40 miles of fencing in other parts of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and areas of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.

Workers also broke ground Friday for construction between Columbus and Santa Teresa — small towns near ports of entry along the border between New Mexico and the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

The taller fencing is being funded through a national emergency declaration by President Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Greg Norman

Source: Fox News: Border Patrol releases drone footage showing miles of ‘new wall system’ being built

Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz Friday and briefly detained a second, marking a fresh escalation of tensions between Tehran and the West.

The U.K.-flagged Stena Impero, which has 23 crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationalities aboard, “was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters,” Stena Bulk, the shipping company that owns the vessel, said in a statement. “We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces, in a statement on their website, say the ship was seized for “non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and is being brought to an unnamed Iranian port, according to the Associated Press. Websites tracking the ship’s path showed it turn sharply in the direction of Iran’s Qeshm Island, instead of its intended destination of Saudi Arabia.

“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a U.K. government spokesperson told Fox News.

Stena Bulk says “there have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.”

Approximately an hour later, a Liberian-flagged tanker Mesdar was also seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and was seen on maritime tracking services making a turn toward Iran. However, the tanker’s owner later said the ship was briefly boarded by armed guards before being allowed to go. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency tweeted that the Mesdar had left Iran’s territorial waters.

“These seizures are unacceptable,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said as he prepared to enter an emergency government meeting Friday night. “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

“We’re not looking at military options, we’re looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved,” Hunt later told Sky News, warning that if the situation is not resolved quickly “there will be serious consequences.”

President Trump said Friday that Iran is “nothing but trouble” and that “we heard one, we heard two,” tankers were seized.

“Iran is showing their colors,” the president told reporters before departing the White House to spend the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “Iran is in big trouble right now. Their economy is crashing, it’s coming to a crash … It’s very easy to straighten out or it’s very easy for us to make it worse.”

“This is the second time in just over a week the UK has been the target of escalatory violence by the Iranian regime,” National Security Council Spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behavior.”

The Pentagon had no official statement on the situation, but Fox News has learned that there are no current plans for U.S. naval vessels to escort commercial ships through the strait.

Late Friday, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the U.S. had intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz. CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said that U.S. Naval Forces Central Command had been “in contact with U.S. ships operating in the area to ensure their safety.”

Late Friday, CENTCOM announced Operation Sentinel, what it described as “a multinational maritime effort … to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.

“The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman,” the CENTCOM statement went on. “This maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance. While the United States has committed to supporting this initiative, contributions and leadership from regional and international partners will be required to succeed.”

The seizures come two weeks after British Royal Marines seized a tanker off the island of Gibraltar that authorities said carried oil bound for Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran warned Britain that it would face “repercussions” over that seizure, which Tehran called “mean and wrong.” Last week, a British warship blocked three Iranian vessels from seizing another U.K.-flagged tanker.

UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Bob Sanguinetti said in a statement that the seizure was “in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters” and called on the British government to do “whatever is necessary” to ensure the safe and swift return of the ship’s crew.

Earlier Friday, Iran and the United States emphatically disagreed over Washington’s claim that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn’t happen.

Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim.

At the White House on Friday, President Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: “We shot it down.” But Pentagon and other officials have said repeatedly that the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer actually jammed the drone’s signal, causing it to crash, and did not fire a missile. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

“There is no question this was an Iranian drone, and the USS Boxer took it out as the president announced yesterday because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said. “It’s entirely the right thing to do.”

In Tehran, the Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with the USS Boxer.

Maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz has deteriorated in recent weeks after six attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. has blamed on Iran — an allegation the Tehran government denies. The incidents have jolted the shipping industry, with some of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region on high alert and many ordering their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed.

Of the roughly 2,000 companies that operate ships in the Persian Gulf, only a handful of companies have halted bookings outright.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Jennifer Griffin, Lucas Tomlinson, Vandana Rambaran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Greg Norman

Source: Fox News: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seizes one UK-operated tanker in Strait of Hormuz, briefly detains another

Ad Blocker Detected!

Advertisements fund this website. Please disable your adblocking software or whitelist our website.
Thank You!