Top US military officer steps down

Top US military officer steps down
Gen. Mark MilleyMilley served in uniform for four decades. (AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2023
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Top US military officer steps down

Top US military officer steps down
  • He was to be replaced as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Air Force General Charles “CQ” Brown

WASHINGTON: Gen. Mark Milley stepped down on Friday after a tumultuous term as the top US military officer that saw him face repeated crises abroad and on the home front, where he served through the chaotic final months of the Trump presidency.
The Pentagon put on an elaborate farewell ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, attended by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden.
He was to be replaced as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Air Force General Charles “CQ” Brown — the second African American to hold the top military job.
A barrel-chested army veteran of countless foreign deployments and high-level command posts, Milley served in uniform for four decades.
But he faced his highest-stakes challenge when Donald Trump appointed him in 2019 to the career pinnacle as senior officer reporting directly to the White House.
During a four-year term — continuing under Biden from 2021 — Milley managed the harrowing exit of US troops from Afghanistan, special forces operations in Syria, and the enormous program to assist Ukraine’s desperate fight against Russian onslaught.
As chairman, “it was one crisis right after another,” said Milley last month.
Milley’s years at the top, however, also saw the military dragged into the center of increasingly raucous cultural battles on the domestic political front.
While the Biden administration has pressed for changes including renaming bases named after Confederate leaders in the Civil War, senior Republicans have repeatedly lashed out at what they claim are “woke” leftist policies in the ranks.
And that was nothing compared to the precarious situation Milley found himself in during the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2020 presidential election — in which Trump, in an unprecedented political nightmare for the United States, refused to accept defeat.
At the height of tensions after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, Milley secretly called his Chinese counterpart to reassure Beijing that the United States remained “stable” and had no intention to attack China, according to the book “Peril,” by Bob Woodward.
That revelation has caused lasting fury for Trump, who just this month wrote on his social media network that “in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH!” for Milley.
The barely veiled threat from Trump — the clear frontrunner to be the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election -— prompted Milley to take “appropriate measures” for his safety, he told CBS News.
Biden lashed out on Thursday during a speech at Trump’s “heinous statements” and attacked the “deafening” silence from Trump’s fellow Republicans on the threat.
Milley’s replacement, chosen by Biden, will become the second Black top Joint Chiefs officer after Colin Powell. Austin, meanwhile, is the country’s first Black secretary of defense.
Brown — who officially takes the reins from Milley at midnight (0400 GMT) on Saturday — was commissioned as a US Air Force officer in 1984 and is an experienced pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours, 130 of them in combat.
Brown, known to most as “CQ,” even once survived ejecting from an F-16 during training over Florida.
He has commanded a fighter squadron and two fighter wings, as well as US air forces under the Central Command and Indo-Pacific Command, and served as chief of staff of the Air Force.
Following the 2020 murder of Black man George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota, Brown recorded an emotional video about his personal experiences, including with discrimination in the American military.
He said he felt pressure to “perform error-free,” and worked “twice as hard” to prove wrong those who expected less of him because of his race.
Brown’s nomination was one of more than 300 stalled by a dispute over Pentagon policies that assist troops who must travel to receive reproductive health care that is unavailable where they are stationed.
A single Republican senator who opposes those efforts has been preventing lawmakers from quickly approving senior military nominees in groups, and Brown was only confirmed in time through an individual vote on his nomination.


North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military

North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military
Updated 7 sec ago
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North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military

North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military
  • This is the eighth round of trash-carrying balloons launched by Pyongyang since late May
  • In response to the trash balloons, Seoul has fully suspended a tension-reducing military deal
SEOUL: North Korea is launching more balloons believed to be carrying trash toward the South, Seoul’s military said Thursday, in the latest round of a tit-for-tat balloon war between the two Koreas.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North was “launching (suspected) trash balloons aimed at the South once again,” adding they were currently floating across the border.
“Citizens are advised to be cautious of falling debris. If you find any fallen balloons do not touch them and report them to the nearest military unit or police station,” it added.
Seoul city authorities issued an alert to residents Thursday, saying “a suspected balloon from North Korea is confirmed to have entered the airspace of Northern Gyeonggi province. Citizens should be cautious of outside activities.”
This is the eighth round of trash-carrying balloons launched by Pyongyang since late May.
The nuclear-armed North has already sent more than a thousand of the balloons south, calling it retaliation for ones carrying anti-regime propaganda floated northwards by activists south of the border.
In response to the trash balloons, Seoul has fully suspended a tension-reducing military deal and restarted some propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers along the border.
It has also carried out live-fire drills in some border areas.
The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last week that more “dirty leaflets” from South Korean “scum” had been found in the North’s territory along the border, warning they would pay “a very high price.”
Kim Yo Jong, a key regime spokesperson, went on to say that North Korean military personnel were “now making an all-out search, throwing into fire and disposing of the found rubbishes,” according to a statement from the official Korean Central News Agency.

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population
Updated 24 min ago
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Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population
  • Aid includes over 60 tons of food, hygiene kits and sanitary equipment, along with 150 tents
  • The flight, which departed from the southern city of Brindisi, has landed in the Jordan capital of Amman from where the materials will be delivered to Gaza

ROME: Italy has sent food supplies and health equipment for the Gaza population aboard a humanitarian flight that landed in Jordan, a statement said on Thursday, as part of Rome’s “Food for Gaza” initiative to help civilians there.
Aid includes over 60 tons of food, hygiene kits and sanitary equipment, along with 150 tents. The flight, which departed from the southern city of Brindisi, has landed in the Jordan capital of Amman from where the materials will be delivered to Gaza.
“With this operation we give a tangible demonstration of the attention that the Italian government is dedicating to the humanitarian situation in the Strip,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said.
He added Italy was committed “to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza.”
The Food for Gaza initiative is led by Italy together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food program (WFP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
On Wednesday, the US military announced that its mission to install and operate a temporary, floating pier off the coast of Gaza was complete, formally ending an effort to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
Italy said in May it would allocate 30 million euros ($32.8 million) in the Food for Gaza plan, as it resumed funding for the United Nations’ Palestinian relief organization UNRWA.
UNRWA faced criticism over allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. ($1 = 0.9151 euros)


Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines

Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines
Updated 28 min 44 sec ago
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Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines

Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines
  • Italian aircraft carrier Cavour is in the northern Australian town of Darwin taking part in Exercise Pitch Black this week
  • 23 Italian jets, including eight stealthy F-35Bs, are practicing dogfights, strikes and other operations alongside its allies

DARWIN, Australia: An Italian carrier strike group on its first deployment to the Indo-Pacific region will sail through the South China Sea to the Philippines after participating in war games with US allies in Australia, a senior Italian navy official said on Thursday.
The moves come amid rising tensions between China and some of its neighbors in the contested South China Sea region. About 40 percent of Europe’s foreign trade flows through the South China Sea, where the United States, Japan, Australia and other nations have conducted joint maritime exercises they say uphold freedom of navigation. China claims almost the entire strategic waterway.
The Italian aircraft carrier Cavour is in the northern Australian town of Darwin taking part in Exercise Pitch Black this week, where Italy is contributing nearly two dozen fighter jets to the 20-nation drills with host Australia.
The United States, Britain, Japan, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea are also taking part.
It is the first time an aircraft carrier has joined the exercises, Italian Navy Rear Admiral Giancarlo Ciappina said.
Twenty-three Italian jets, including eight stealthy F-35Bs, are practicing dogfights, strikes and other operations alongside its allies over huge swathes of largely unpopulated land in northern Australia.
“Pitch Black gives us a chance to work with the main F-35 communities, shoulder to shoulder,” said Captain Dario Castelli, the strike group’s carrier air wing commander. “In terms of deploying far from home, it is also an incredible logistics exercise for us.”
After the current exercises end on Aug. 2, the 1,200-person strong Italian carrier strike group will travel to the US Pacific territory of Guam and Japan, before transiting the South China Sea to the Philippines for the first time, Ciappina said.
‘VERY POWERFUL TOOL’
Ciappina said his strike group did not plan to conduct any freedom of navigation operations.
The Cavour will carry out humanitarian work in the Philippines, performing surgery on children in the ship’s hospital while at port in Manila, he said.
“An aircraft carrier — just being present somewhere, it has an effect, it can influence. It is a very powerful tool,” Ciappina said.
Manila and Beijing have traded barbs repeatedly over jurisdiction as the Philippines challenges China’s permanent presence around strategic features inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
Ciappina said the Italian Navy’s first Indo-Pacific deployment improved its training and provided a better understanding of the region.
Although the deployment is not a NATO initiative, Italy has coordinated with the French Navy and Britain’s Royal Navy, which will send ships to the region later in the year, to ensure significant capacity remains in the Mediterranean, he said.
“Everything is connected... that’s why we have to also be present in the Pacific now,” he said.


Ukraine makes humanitarian flour shipment to Palestinians

Ukraine makes humanitarian flour shipment to Palestinians
Updated 38 min 18 sec ago
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Ukraine makes humanitarian flour shipment to Palestinians

Ukraine makes humanitarian flour shipment to Palestinians
  • Ukraine did not say whether the flour was intended for Gaza, which is facing a humanitarian crisis

KYIV: Ukraine said Thursday that it had sent flour to the Palestinian territories as part of an initiative to ship free agricultural supplies to poor countries and regions.
“Palestine received 1,000 tons of wheat flour,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry posted on X.
“The shipment is the first of three deliveries intended for Palestine... It will support over 101,000 Palestinian families for a month,” it said.
Kyiv launched the “Grain for Ukraine” initiative in a bid to ensure Russia’s invasion did not threaten its position as one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters.
Ukraine did not say whether the flour was intended for Gaza, which is facing a humanitarian crisis and steep drops in the amount of aid that has reached the coastal strip during the war between Israel and Hamas.
Kyiv was a major grain exporter to the Palestinians before Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.
Moscow has also shipped free grain to several countries in Africa, as the two countries compete for support in parts of the world that rely heavily on agricultural imports.
Global food prices shot up when Russia invaded Ukraine and the vital Black Sea waterway, from where Ukraine shipped grain around the world, was turned into a naval battleground.


Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest
Updated 18 July 2024
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Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest
  • Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party
  • Protests have escalated since violence broke out on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday

DHAKA: People stayed home and many malls closed their doors Thursday morning in Bangladesh’s capital as protesters attempted to impose a “complete shutdown” after days of student protesters violently clashing with police and ruling party-backed student activists.
Traffic was thin on Dhaka’s usually clogged streets. Offices and banks opened, but commuters complained that transport was limited.
Salma Rahman, an official at a financial institution in Dhaka, said that she left his car at home and caught a ride on a motorcycle. “Our office has alerted us to stay safe on streets, as there is fear that violence could happen during the shutdown.”
Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party, but the protests have escalated since violence broke out on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday. Six people were killed amid protests on Tuesday, leading the government to ask universities across the country to close and police to raid the main opposition party’s headquarters.
The violence continued late Wednesday in Dhaka. Traffic was halted on a major highway as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, who set fire to a toll booth, blocked streets and detonated explosives, Somoy TV reported.
Other news outlets said scores were injured in the hours of violence.
On Thursday morning, with classes suspended and dormitories closed, students near Dhaka’s BRAC University clashed with police, who fired tear gas.
Police set up checkpoints at the entrances to Dhaka University.
On Wednesday night, the protesters announced they would enforce “a complete shutdown” across the country on Thursday in response to security officials’ continued attacks on the campus demonstrators. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party said that it would do what it could to make the shutdown a success.
Protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30 percent of government jobs for family members of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. They argue that the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.
Hasina’s government halted the quotas after mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision and reinstated the quotas after relatives of the 1971 veterans filed petitions, triggering the latest demonstrations. The Supreme Court then suspended the High Court’s ruling and is expected to rule on Aug. 7. The government has also separately appealed the High Court decision in the wake of the protest, according to the attorney general’s office.
“I am requesting all to wait with patience until the verdict is delivered,” Hasina said in a televised address Wednesday evening. “I believe our students will get justice from the apex court. They will not be disappointed.”
While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh’s private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are stable and well paid. Each year, some 400,000 graduates compete for 3,000 jobs in the civil service exam.
Hasina said there would be a judicial probe into Tuesday’s deaths and vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice.
“Some precious lives have been lost unnecessarily,” she said. “I condemn every killing.”
UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk said in a post on the social media platform X that all acts of violence and deadly use of force must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable. Turk said freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights.
Bangladesh’s ruling party blamed the BNP for the chaos, and Dhaka police raided the party’s headquarters late Tuesday. Detective Chief Harun-or-Rashid said police arrested seven members of the party’s student wing, and said detectives found 100 crude bombs, 500 wooden and bamboo sticks, and five to six bottles of gasoline in the raid.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior BNP leader, said the raid was a government attempt to divert attention from the protests.