US Army to Cut 40,000 Troops By End-2017

US Army to Cut 40,000 Troops By End-2017US Army to Cut 40,000 Troops By End-2017

The US Army plans to cut 40,000 soldiers from its ranks over the next two years, a defense official said, in a move that will raise doubts about its ability to fight wars. Some 17,000 civilians working for the army will also be laid off.

Under the plan, first acquired and reported on by USA Today, the cuts are likely to affect all of the army’s domestic and foreign posts, many of which were expanded during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, RT reported.

That expansion saw soldier recruitment swell to 570,000 personnel to ensure deployments could be limited to once a year.

Since the expansion, the army has discharged 80,000 soldiers, but the newly planned cuts could affect the future of army bases across the US, such as Fort Drum in New York or Fort Benning in Georgia.

The personnel cuts come as the Pentagon is attempting to absorb nearly $1 trillion in reductions to planned defense spending over a decade.

US President Barack Obama’s defense budget request of $534.3 billion for the fiscal year 2016, beginning this October, represented a 7.7% increase on the previous year.

The additional $38 billion is higher than the mandated level imposed by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act, or the steep spending cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect in 2013 after congress and the president failed to reach an agreement on taxes and spending.

The army said an additional 30,000 soliders could be cut in October if sequestration takes place, and that would bring the total troop level down to 420,000 by the end of the 2017 budget year.

The US Army will not be the only military branch affected by cuts. If congress does not give the military its requested budget, the US Air Force will have to cut $10 billion from its budget, leading to a reduction of 10,000 personnel.

That would shrink its force from 492,000 to 482,000 for active-duty and reserve forces.

 Military Ties With Jordan

US lawmakers on Tuesday approved legislation that would ramp up military cooperation with Jordan, including accelerated arms sales to a Middle East ally contending with growing threats from extremism.

Jordan has become a focal point in the fight against the Islamic State militant group because it borders Syria and Iraq, two nations where large swathes of land have been claimed by IS.

The news comes after it was reported that Jordan is planning to build a buffer zone on its border with southern Syria, which will cut through the Syrian provinces of Sweida and Deraa.

The buffer zone will be the first humanitarian zone for the Syrian opposition fighters and refugees since the bloody conflict began four years ago.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said the measure sends a “strong message of support” to a critical partner at a vital time.

“Jordan sits on the front lines of the fight against IS and a refugee crisis in Syria where millions have been displaced,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said. “As a longtime key partner for peace and security in the region, it is important the US support Jordan as it confronts these security challenges.”

In February Washington announced its intention to increase overall US assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion annually for the 2015-2017 period.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of June, there were 629,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, majority of them living outside refugee camps.

 Failure in Rebel Training

The US has trained only about 60 Syrian opposition fighters to battle IS militants, far below expectations, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Tuesday.

The program, launched in May in Jordan and Turkey, was designed to train as many as 5,400 fighters a year and seen as a test of Obama’s strategy of engaging local partners to combat IS extremists.

“Given the poor numbers of recruited and trained Syrian fighters thus far, I am doubtful we can achieve our goal of training a few thousand this year,” said Republican Senator John McCain.

Carter said he believed the Syrian recruits needed some US protection but said no decisions had been made on what assistance to provide.