16 Jan 15. The number of U.S. troops expected to train Syrian opposition forces “could approach” 1,000, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters in a press briefing. While the final number is still being worked out, training could begin as early as spring, Kirby said. The deploying troops would include trainers as well as support personnel, and forces would range from special operations to conventional, Kirby said. No orders have been cut yet but are expected in about four to six weeks and perhaps as early as next week, he added. Training will take place at a variety of sites in the region with “significant contributions” from other nations, Kirby said. And while training is expected to take several months, Syrian forces could be ready by the end of the year to enter the fight in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group, Kirby said, adding, “It will take a lot of work.” Training Syrian forces will have three goals, Kirby said: to get Syrian troops ready to defend their own citizens and communities, to eventually go on the defensive against ISIL inside Syria, and to help them work with political opposition leaders toward a political solution in Syria. “Part of this training is to help them develop leadership on their own,” he said. The Syrian opposition forces to be trained will be carefully chosen, Kirby noted. “There will be a significant vetting program in place, multi-layered, and one that is implemented over the course of the training to make sure we’re dealing with individuals and units that are trustworthy,” he said. Kirby emphasized the U.S. military “is very good” and experienced at vetting opposition forces and training them. Information and intelligence from the area and from partner nations in the region will play into the vetting process, he added. (Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
16 Jan 15. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to sailors aboard the USS America in San Diego, Jan. 14, 2015. In his final address to the troops, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday against “micromanaging” the military in what could be seen as veiled criticism of the White House.
“You cannot micromanage or even attempt to micromanage” the Defense Department, Hagel said in a town hall meeting with senior enlisted soldiers at the Army Sergeants Majors Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“If you think you’ve got the right leaders, then let them do their jobs,” said Hagel, who abruptly announced his resignation Nov. 24 after reportedly clashing with an overbearing White House staff on national security issues.
Hagel also appeared to be referring to his differences with the White House in an earlier interview with the San Diego Times Union.
In his meetings with President Obama, Hagel said “he had the opportunity to express what I thought was right and what I thought was wrong, and I did.”
Hagel did not respond directly when asked if his advice was heeded: “I feel very good about the fact that I was able to make the kind of recommendations that I did and give the advice I did. That’s all I can do.”
Hagel’s two immediate predecessors, former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, have both written books complaining that President Obama and his national security staff also attempted to “micromanage” them.
Hagel had thus far avoided speculation on whether he was forced out, saying only that he and Obama late last year had reached a “mutual decision” that he should resign.
However, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Hagel spoke to him late last year of his frustrations with the White House.
“I know Chuck was frustrated with aspects of the administration’s national security policy and decision-making process,” McCain told News Talk 550 radio in Arizona.
“His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micromanagement they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their j