By Carlo Muñoz and Jeremy Herb - 09/17/12 09:53 PM EDT
"The fundamental budget challenge has not changed," Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said at the Air Force Association's annual conference in National Harbor, Md., on Monday.
Gates, Mullen lash out at lawmakers: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen certainly weren’t pulling any punches Monday when they delivered a blistering critique of Congress and the political gridlock that’s left the prospect of sequestration a little over three months away from reality.
Gates and Mullen, speaking at an event on national security and the debt at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), talked about the need for “adults” to return to Washington after the election as they pleaded for some compromise in Washington.
Mullen said he was “worried sick” about the prospect of sequestration occurring, while Gates called on lawmakers to get out of their “ideological cocoons.”
While the former chiefs at the Pentagon talked about problems with the executive branch as well — and, by extension, their former boss President Obama — most of their criticism was directed squarely at Congress.
Gates laid his diagnosis for what ails Washington: gerrymandered congressional districts, wave elections, lack of deal-making committee chairmen and the prevalence of a 24-7 ideological media. He later talked about “parochial interests” as another roadblock. Gates summed up the current state of play in Washington by referring to the scene in the 1974 film “Blazing Saddles,” where the new sheriff in town puts a gun to his own head and threatens to shoot.
Enemy within: In March, Gen. John Allen told reporters in Washington that the rise in attacks on U.S. forces by Afghan soldiers and police were simply a fact of life on the ground in Afghanistan. Six months later, the top U.S. military officer is arguing those attacks could derail the White House's entire war effort and jeopardize the planned pullout of U.S. forces by 2014.
In an interview with American Forces Press Service (AFPS), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said the problem of "insider" attacks by Afghan security forces against American soldiers was becoming intolerable. "You can't whitewash it. We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change," he told the AFPS.
To date, 51 allied troops, a majority of them American, have died at the hands of their Afghan counterparts.
Most recently, two British soldiers were killed by an Afghan policeman in the southern province of Helmand on Saturday, and four American troops were killed in a similar attack Sunday in Zabul province, according to reports by The Associated Press. Saturday's daring suicide attack against Camp Bastion, the United Kingdom's largest military outpost in southern Afghanistan, was carried out by Taliban gunmen disguised as U.S. soldiers, according to recent reports.
U.S. forces have already suspended all training operations of Afghan forces, with NATO commanders following suit on Monday. For his part, Allen has ordered all U.S. troops to remained armed at all times — even when inside American or coalition bases — as a way to combat against insider attacks.
The Obama administration plans to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2014. However, that plan is predicated by Afghan military and police units being to shoulder the load for the country's security operations once American forces leave.
Sabotage, UN-style: Over the past few months, Iran has made some pretty outlandish allegations against the United States and its allies as it wages a propaganda war over its controversial nuclear enrichment program. On Monday, Tehran turned that campaign up a notch, alleging members of the United Nations's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were behind a series of bombings at one of the country's underground nuclear facilities.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davan on Monday said the explosions that cut the power lines the Fordow underground facility on Aug. 17 were somehow connected to the U.N. agency, which requested to inspect the facility the next day. "Does this visit have any connection to that detonation? Who, other than the IAEA inspector, can have access to the complex in such a short time to record and report failures?" Abbasi-Davani said at an IAEA meeting in Vienna, according to recent news reports.
The United States and Israel say Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. However, Iran's continued efforts to block IAEA inspectors from its nuclear facilities has cast serious doubts on Tehran's intentions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Iran could be only six months away from being close to obtaining nuclear weapons capability. Netanyahu’s comments come as he has publicly pushed the United States to issue firm “red lines” against Iran’s nuclear program. President Obama has said that while all options remain on the table, he wants a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear conflict and more time for sanctions to work.
Panetta in China: As the presidential campaign turned to a fight over China on Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders. Panetta is making his first trip to China as Defense secretary, and is slated to meet with the country’s soon-to-be leader Vice President Xi Jinping.
Panetta was in Japan before heading to China, where he said he was concerned about the growing dispute between China and Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, according to The Associated Press. China is also likely to express its own concerns about the growing U.S. presence in the region and its shift to the Pacific.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
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— Sen. Graham demands investigation into consulate attack
— DOD failing at curbing alcohol, drug abuse within ranks
— US shutters embassy in Sudan
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