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.


EU court can hear case on halting Brexit, Scotland’s Court of Session rules

Updated 6 min 49 sec ago
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EU court can hear case on halting Brexit, Scotland’s Court of Session rules

  • The Court of Session decision means the ECJ should say whether it is legally possible for Britain to stay in the world’s biggest trading bloc if and when the UK parliament so decides
EDINBURGH: A legal appeal to decide if Britain alone can change its mind about leaving the European Union should be given consideration by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Scotland’s highest court said on Friday in a boost to anti-Brexit campaigners.
Rounding out a week of bad news for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans, petitioners argued successfully that legal certainty about the process is needed in advance of any British parliamentary vote because no country has ever withdrawn from the European Union.
The Court of Session decision means the ECJ should say whether it is legally possible for Britain to stay in the world’s biggest trading bloc if and when the UK parliament so decides.
Brexit continues to be mired in doubt after EU leaders cautioned Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday that unless she presented an alternative to her current proposals, Britain would crash out of the EU without a deal.
Jo Maugham, a lawyer funding the judicial appeal, described the Scottish court’s decision to refer the issue to the European court as an “absolute bombshell” for the government.
London has argued that the question of whether Britain alone can stop Brexit is irrelevant, since it does not intend to change its mind.
The Court of Session disagreed.
“If Members of Parliament are to cast their votes in a responsible manner, it is surely obvious that they should be properly advised as to the existing legal position so far as that may be relevant to their deliberations,” Lord Carloway said in his judgment.
Britain’s Brexit ministry said it was “disappointed” by the decision and would carefully consider its response.
“As the government has repeatedly said, we are committed to implementing the result of the (2016) referendum and will not be revoking Article 50 (withdrawal clause),” a spokesman said.
Friday’s decision could now, theoretically, face another appeal before the UK Supreme Court, although legal sources close to the case believe that option is unlikely.
Pro-European petitioners argued that while there is no legal doubt that Britain could stop Brexit with the permission of the other 27-member states, it should seek to establish a legal right to do so unilaterally whether the rest of the bloc likes it or not.
The lawmakers behind the challenge represent electoral areas in Scotland which voted strongly to remain in the EU in the June 2016 referendum. The United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave.