Decision to cut troops raises doubts about ‘US war ability’

Updated 09 July 2015
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Decision to cut troops raises doubts about ‘US war ability’

WASHINGTON: The US Army is to cut 40,000 soldiers from its ranks over the next two years at home and abroad, a defense official said Tuesday, in a move that will raise doubts about its ability to fight wars.

Under the cost-cutting plan, the army will be down to 450,000 soldiers at the end of the 2017 budget year, even though in 2013 it argued in budgetary documents that going below 450,000 troops might mean it could not win a war, USA Today said.
By comparison, the army swelled to 570,000 men and women during the peak of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the newspaper said.
Some 17,000 civilians working for the army will also be laid off, the official told AFP, confirming the USA Today report.
The paper quoted a document it had obtained and said the cuts are being made to save money.
It will affect virtually every army post domestically and abroad, USA Today said
The defense official told AFP that the army plans to announce the cuts soon, with USA Today adding that the matter would be addressed this week.
Across-the-board government budget cuts are due to kick in in October and if Congress does not avert these the army will have to lay off another 30,000 soldiers on top of the 40,000, according to the document quoted by USA Today.
It comes just a day after President Barack Obama said that the US-led coalition fighting the Daesh group would step up its campaign in Syria, while cautioning a long battle remained.
Brigades stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska will be among those downsized, USA Today said.
Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, told the paper that the cutdown “makes no strategic sense.”
More than a year after IS fighters overran much of Iraq and Syria, the US and its allies are struggling to turn the tide against the extremists in an air campaign known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Pentagon last month said it was sending 450 additional US troops to act as advisers to help Iraqi forces seize back control of the western city of Ramadi from fighters.
Speaking to reporters after a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday, Obama warned the war “will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign.” He added that more needed to be done to train government forces and Sunni tribal fighters in Iraq, as well as moderate Syrian rebels.


Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 10 min 8 sec ago
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Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • The churches hit were in the north of the capital, and the town of Negombo, just outside Colombo
  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services

COLOMBO: At least 129 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, police told AFP, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

Another 10 people were confirmed dead in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country, where another church was targeted.
There were also reports of casualties in a blast at a church north of the capital and the toll was expected to rise.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed “many innocent people” and appeared to be a “well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.”
The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital.
Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.
“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.
Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.
An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant.
He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.
He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine and described “horrible scenes.”
“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”
“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.
The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.