Mideast Briefs: Revised Defense bill reinstates pay raise
Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — Troops could see another pay raise and reactivation of a host of bonuses within days after lawmakers gave their final approval to the revised 2008 Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday.
The $696 billion measure, which sets Defense spending priorities, was originally passed by Congress last month but vetoed by President Bush after concerns over legal language that could have frozen Iraqi government funds in U.S. banks.
But the veto also delayed a promised 3.5 percent pay raise for all servicemembers, and 26 specialty pays for recruits and re-enlisting troops. Instead, troops saw only a 3.0 percent pay increase in their first 2008 paycheck, and bonuses were canceled for the programs that weren’t reauthorized.
Both Bush and Congress promised to make those funds retroactive to Jan. 1 once the problematic language was fixed. The House passed an amended version of the bill last week, which includes that retroactive provision, and the Senate gave its final approval on Tuesday.
White House officials have said Bush is expected to sign the new bill, but no timeline has been set.
Panel: Canada’s military needs more NATO help
TORONTO — An independent panel recommended Tuesday that Canada extend its military mission in Afghanistan only if another NATO country puts 1,000 soldiers in the dangerous southern province of Kandahar.
The report comes as the Conservative government is under pressure to withdraw about 2,500 troops from Kandahar province, the former Taliban stronghold, after the deaths of 77 soldiers and a diplomat. The mission is set to expire in 2009 without an extension by Canadian lawmakers.
Report: Afghan reporter sentenced to death
KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan journalist sentenced to death for distributing an article that asked why women couldn’t have multiple husbands under Islam is actually being punished for reporting by his brother about abuses by northern warlords, a media group said Wednesday.
Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, 23, was sentenced to death Tuesday by a three-judge panel in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for distributing a report he downloaded from the Internet to fellow journalism students at Balkh University.
The case now goes to the first of two appeals courts.
Army reviews proposal on length of war tours
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is considering a proposal to cut soldiers’ battlefield tours from 15 months to 12 months beginning in August, in a sweeping effort to reduce the stress on a force battered by more than six years at war.
The proposal, recommended by U.S. Army Forces Command, is currently being reviewed by senior Army and Pentagon leaders, and would be contingent on the changing needs for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.