Tom Bowman

If you ask NPR reporter Tom Bowman about his career aspirations, he'd probably tell you he already has the best job possible: covering the Pentagon for NPR. For Bowman, coming to NPR was an "excellent opportunity to work at a great organization with a world-wide reputation, a huge listenership, and stability" and to work closely with "some of the best journalists around."

Bowman's nuanced NPR coverage reflects his years of experience on his current beat. Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at the Baltimore Sun. His familiarity and knowledge of the people and issues connected with the Pentagon, he says, are great assets to his coverage.

During his 19 years at the Baltimore Sun, Bowman also covered the Maryland Statehouse, the United States Congress, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Security Agency (NSA). His coverage of racial and gender discrimination at NSA led to a Pentagon investigation in 1994.

Bowman says he has been groomed for journalism since a young age, recalling his years at a parochial school just outside of Boston. The strict Catholic nuns and scholarly Xaverian brothers were "good preparation for covering the Pentagon," he reflects. "You are taught how to hone your questions and develop a thick skin." Bowman also recognizes that the "training under lots of Irish relatives – and friends – who can charm their way into a situation and talk a dog off a meat truck," have been assets to his career.

Bowman initially imagined his career path would take him into academia as a history, government, or journalism professor. However, after graduation he landed a job at the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., and thrived amid "the deadlines, the competition, and the personalities both at a newspaper and in the political realm." Bowman also worked for the Daily Transcript in Dedham, Mass., and then as a reporter at States News Service, writing for the Miami Herald and the Anniston (Ala.) Star.

Over his career, Bowman as been honored with several awards for news writing and features, from the New England Press Association and the Maryland Press Association. He is also a co-winner of a 2006 National Headliners' Award for stories on the lack of advanced tourniquets for U.S. troops in Iraq.

NPR's White House Correspondent David Greene says of Bowman, "Tom is so well-sourced. Anytime I would talk to someone at the Pentagon or in the military, they would not only know Tom, but would compliment his reporting and pass on a hello. And what a team player — Tom is always willing to pitch in and share his expertise in any way that makes our stories better."

Bowman earned a B.A. in history from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vt., and a master's degree in American Studies at Boston College.

If he had his choice of locales, Bowman's geographic inclinations would take him far from the DC area; he'd prefer to spend summers on Monhegan Island, Maine, and pass the winters skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Till then, you'll find him on NPR.

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5:04am

Wed October 24, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Eager To Step Aside; Are Afghan Forces Ready?

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 7:30 am

Afghan soldiers stand at attention during a ceremony transferring authority from NATO-led troops to Afghan security forces in Afghanistan's Kunar province. The transfer of responsibility for security from NATO-led ISAF forces to Afghan troops is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.
Rahmat Gul AP

America's exit strategy in Afghanistan is to have Afghan forces take the lead in fighting for their country. But too often these days, the job still falls to U.S. troops.

A senior officer in Afghanistan tells NPR that Americans continue to coddle Afghan forces and that this must stop. Tough love is in, the officer says. He says the Afghan forces are far more capable than the U.S. estimates and have simply grown accustomed to the U.S. doing everything for them.

That pretty much sums up the situation in southern Afghanistan earlier this year.

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3:40pm

Tue October 23, 2012
It's All Politics

Horses, Bayonets And The Modern Military

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 3:58 pm

U.S. Army Special Forces ride horseback as they work with members of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001.
AP

President Obama said during Monday night's debate that the U.S. Army has fewer horses and bayonets than in the past.

That's true. Although Army Special Forces were on horseback in Afghanistan when they helped defeat the Taliban in 2001, the Army's horses are now used only for ceremonial occasions.

As for bayonets? The last bayonet charge was during the Korean War in 1951.

The bayonet has somewhat gone the way of the horse cavalry, as far as the Army is concerned (although Marines still use bayonets in training).

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12:10pm

Tue October 16, 2012
The Two-Way

Second Female Marine Fails Grueling Infantry Officer Course

Female Marines unload their rifles after a patrol with Afghan soldiers in Helmand province in June. The Marine Corps leadership has started an experiment to determine whether female Marine lieutenants have what it takes to become infantry officers and lead on the battlefield.
Adek Berry AFP/Getty Images

The second of two female Marines who tried to make it through the grueling Infantry Officer Course has failed due to medical reasons. The female volunteers are part of a study by the Marines to see if women can become ground combat leaders.

The Marines have not released the names of either woman, citing privacy concerns.

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2:52pm

Tue October 9, 2012
The Two-Way

Marine General Expected To Be Next Commander In Afghanistan

Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Marines.mil

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce during a meeting of NATO defense leaders in Brussels Wednesday that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford will be nominated to succeed Gen. John Allen as the top commander in Afghanistan, according to a defense official familiar with the decision.

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6:06am

Sun October 7, 2012
Solve This

Afghanistan Deadline Awaits Next U.S. President

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 1:24 pm

Afghan children run to school on Sept. 24. Whoever takes over as the next U.S. president will have to determine how many troops will remain after the December 2014 deadline to help with long-term security.
Jeff Pachoud AFP/Getty Images

How does a president bring the war in Afghanistan to an end? There are 68,000 American troops serving in the country as the war enters its 12th year.

The war hasn't been a major issue in the presidential campaign, and polls show American voters are tiring of the war. But the next commander in chief will find the Afghan war among the most difficult of many foreign policy challenges.

Both President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney appear to agree on a date: the last day of December 2014. That's when the Afghan security forces are scheduled to takeover.

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3:49am

Thu October 4, 2012
National Security

First Female Marines Take Combat Leadership Test

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 10:19 am

Female Marines unload their rifles after a patrol with Afghan soldiers in Helmand province in June. The Marine Corps leadership has started an experiment to determine whether female Marine lieutenants have what it takes to become infantry officers and lead on the battlefield.
Adek Berry AFP/Getty Images

Women in the U.S. military have been flying warplanes for years, and recently began serving in artillery and tank units. But they're still barred from direct ground combat.

Now, for the first time in the course's 35-year history, the Marine Corps is putting the first women through its grueling Infantry Officer Course: 86 days crawling through obstacle courses, lugging heavy machine guns, navigating the woods at night.

Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers, the top trainer at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia, says there's a good reason the course is so tough that 1 in 5 Marines fail.

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3:45am

Mon September 17, 2012
History

Antietam: A Savage Day In American History

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 9:51 am

Between two farm fields in Sharpsburg, Md., there was a sunken road, which Confederates used as a rifle pit until they were overrun by federal troops. The road has since been known as "Bloody Lane."
Library of Congress

On this morning 150 years ago, Union and Confederate troops clashed at the crossroads town of Sharpsburg, Md. The Battle of Antietam remains the bloodiest single day in American history.

The battle left 23,000 men killed or wounded in the fields, woods and dirt roads, and it changed the course of the Civil War.

It is called simply the Cornfield, and it was here, in the first light of dawn that Union troops — more than 1,000 — crept toward the Confederate lines. The stalks were at head level and shielded their movements.

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5:08pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Faces Growing 'Insider Attacks' In Afghanistan

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 5:55 pm

Spc. Ben Purvis (center) helps train Afghan troops on how to use mortars in the eastern province of Kunar in June. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, points to several factors in the rise of "insider attacks" on American forces. He says relations between U.S. and Afghan troops are good overall.
Lucas Jackson Reuters/Landov

Gunmen wearing Afghan police and army uniforms have killed 40 U.S. and NATO troops so far this year, and the top American commander in Afghanistan says there is no single reason — and no simple solution.

Taliban infiltrators, disputes between NATO and Afghan security forces, and even the timing of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, are all factors, according to Gen. John Allen.

"We think the reasons for these attacks are complex," says Allen, who spoke by video link from Kabul on Thursday. Ten of the American deaths have come in just the past two weeks.

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3:19am

Fri August 10, 2012
National Security

Air Force Chief Leaves Legacy In The Sky: Drones

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 6:28 am

Gen. Norton Schwartz (shown here in October 2010) is stepping down as the top U.S. Air Force officer.
Tim Sloan AFP/Getty Images

The top officer in the U.S. Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz, is stepping down Friday after four years on the job.

Schwartz got the job after his predecessor was fired for — among other things — clashing with his Pentagon bosses over how many fighter jets the military needs.

Schwartz is most likely to be remembered for pushing another kind of aircraft: drones.

At this moment, dozens of these unmanned aircraft are flying high above Afghanistan.

Just don't call them drones when speaking with Schwartz.

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3:27pm

Tue July 31, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Wages Sisyphean War Against Afghan Corruption

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 6:35 pm

U.S. investigators allege that Afghan Gen. Ahmad Zia Yaftali stole tens of millions of dollars' worth of medicine from the Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul. He has been removed from that post, but has not been prosecuted. He's shown here at the hospital on Dec. 18, 2010.
Altaf Qadri AP

U.S. officials consider widespread corruption one of the main barriers to a stable Afghanistan. They say it undermines support for the government and helps fuel the Taliban insurgency.

The U.S. has trained Afghan investigators and assisted in high-level corruption probes, yet the U.S. has little to show for its efforts.

The U.S. has created several task forces, including a one that's currently being set up: the Illicit Activities Initiative for Afghanistan, based in Washington.

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4:20pm

Thu July 19, 2012
The Two-Way

As Fighting In Syria Intensifies, U.S. Worries About Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 4:49 pm

Syrian President Bashar Assad waves at supporters during a rare public appearance in Damascus on Jan. 11.
AFP/Getty Images

"Deathly afraid."

That's what one U.S. official says about the prospect that Syria's vast stockpile of chemical weapons might be used against rebel forces. From a U.S. national security standpoint, an even worse outcome would be for those weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.

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3:29am

Wed July 4, 2012
Those Who Serve

Grandfathers' Stories Inspire Military Service

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 10:04 am

Capt. Jared Larpenteur plans a combat mission at the 82nd Airborne's Delta Company command center in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, earlier this year.
Amy Walters NPR

A very small percentage of Americans are now serving in the military — fewer than 1 percent. Some are looking for direction. Others are inspired by a sense of patriotism or by a family member who served in an earlier war. On this Independence Day, we continue with an occasional series, Those Who Serve, a look at the men and women wearing their country's uniform during a time of war.

Capt. Jared Larpenteur is from Cajun Country in Louisiana. His family never expected he'd make the military his career.

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1:30pm

Wed May 30, 2012
The Two-Way

No. 2 U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Would Like 68,000 Troops Into Next Year

Marines with Echo Company of the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines out of Camp Lejeune, guide their M-ATV, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle in to the district government compound in Marjah, Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

(NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan this month. On Morning Edition, he reported from the eastern province of Ghazni about what's being called "the last major combat offensive of the Afghan War." Now, he tells us about his interview with the No. 2 U.S. officer in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.)

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3:33am

Wed May 30, 2012
Afghanistan

For U.S. Troops, One More Big Push In Afghanistan

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 5:48 pm

Bagi Kheyl, in the eastern province of Ghazni, is one of the villages where the 82nd Airborne has been operating as part of a broader effort to drive away the Taliban.
Amy Walters NPR

Several thousand soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are taking part in what is being called the last major combat offensive of the Afghan War.

Their task is to clear Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold and a key prize because it straddles the major roads to Kabul and the insurgent supply routes into Pakistan.

But the American troops are challenged by a stubborn enemy and a short time to finish the job.

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4:03pm

Tue May 22, 2012
Afghanistan

Former Taliban Stronghold Faces The Post-U.S. Future

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 11:15 am

Afghan local police officers wait outside a classroom at a training facility in Marjah. U.S. Marines are training local security forces how to maintain calm in the region.
David Gilkey NPR

If there was a place in Afghanistan synonymous with the Taliban, it was the district of Marjah in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand.

Two years ago, thousands of U.S. Marines and British and Afghan forces descended on this checkerboard of villages, canals and fields. They pushed out the insurgents — but at a heavy cost.

Now, with U.S. combat forces on track to depart in the coming months, many are asking whether Marjah's relative peace will last after the Marines are gone.

'We Have Good Security Here'

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1:50pm

Mon May 21, 2012
All Tech Considered

Military Addresses Double-Edged Sword Of Troops On Social Media

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 8:21 pm

At Forward Operating Base Payne in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Marine Cpl. Jonathan Odriscoll looks at pictures of his sister on Facebook. Troop access to social media has been both a blessing and curse for the military.
Bay Ismoyo AFP/Getty Images

Inside a plywood shack at a combat outpost in Marjah, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, three Marines sit before a bank of computers provided by the military to help keep up morale. The dingy outpost is made up of a collection of tents where troops live among swarms of flies and the constant hum of generators.

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4:17pm

Thu May 17, 2012
Afghanistan

An Afghan Shoots, A Marine Dies, Mistrust Grows

Originally published on Thu May 17, 2012 7:16 pm

A Marine Corps team carries the remains of Marine Sgt. J.P. Huling, 25, of West Chester, Ohio, at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on May 9. Huling was killed three days earlier by an Afghan soldier in southern Afghanistan, one of a growing number of such shootings.
Cliff Owen AP

Sgt. J.P. Huling, a Marine from Ohio, was killed this month in southern Afghanistan.

It wasn't a roadside bomb or a Taliban sniper that killed him. It was another sergeant — an Afghan soldier known as Sgt. Zabitollah, who like many Afghans went by one name.

It was a grim coincidence that brought these two sergeants together on May 6, a Sunday afternoon, at a mud-walled compound along a desolate stretch of road in a remote corner of Afghanistan.

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5:03am

Sat May 12, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Military Mission: Pushing Afghans To Take Lead

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:48 am

In Afghanistan, American troops are pushing Afghans to take charge.
David Gilkey NPR

The American military has two main jobs now in Afghanistan: sweeping the remaining Taliban from safe havens and getting Afghan security forces to take charge in the fight.

On a recent day, the Afghan National Army, or ANA, is to be out front on a joint Afghan-U.S. patrol in the countryside outside Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. It may seem like a small thing, but it's actually a big deal.

Sgt. Matthew McMurray lets his platoon know.

"ANA is going to lead, too. If they don't want to lead, just stop and make them walk ahead of you," he says.

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3:47pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Afghanistan

As The Clock Ticks, Americans Train Afghan Troops

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:07 pm

U.S. troops are training Afghan soldiers to take more responsibility in the war against the Taliban. But the Afghans still depend heavily on the Americans. Here, an Afghan solider fills up gas cans with diesel fuel from a U.S. Army tanker in southern Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

Just outside Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military is starting a new program it hopes will wean Afghan troops off American assistance.

A dozen or so American soldiers make up one of the Security Force Assistance Teams, and the goal is to help the Afghan army plan for operations and supply itself in the field.

But the mission is still a work in progress.

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11:48am

Wed May 2, 2012
The Two-Way

About 25,000 Troops May Be Needed In Afghanistan After 2014, Planners Say

When President Obama on Tuesday signed a 10-year security agreement with Afghan President Karzai, it wasn't announced how many U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan past 2014 — the year Afghans are supposed to take over full responsibilty for security there.

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3:36am

Tue April 24, 2012
National Security

U.S. Military Wages Battle Against Misconduct

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 5:18 am

The Marines' most senior officers — including top commander Gen. James Amos (shown here in 2011 in Afghanistan's Helmand province) — are weighing in on recent incidents involving misconduct by troops serving in Afghanistan.
Bay Ismoyo AFP/Getty Images

There's some soul-searching going on in the military these days.

The latest scandal to hit U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan surfaced last week when The Los Angeles Times published photographs showing smiling American soldiers holding up body parts of a Taliban suicide bomber.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the latest incident during a trip to Brussels.

"That behavior that was depicted in those photos absolutely violates both our regulations and, more importantly, our core values," he said last week after a NATO meeting.

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4:47pm

Wed April 18, 2012
NPR Story

Panetta Condemns Latest U.S. Troop Photo Scandal

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 5:54 pm

Newly-published photos show U.S. troops in Afghanistan posing with the dead bodies of insurgents. The incident, first reported by The Los Angeles Times, occurred in 2010. It's the latest setback for the military's counterinsurgency strategy, which depends on winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

8:00am

Sat March 24, 2012
Afghanistan

Line Of Defense: Arguments In Afghan Attack Case

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 10:41 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. Murder charges have been filed against the U.S. Army Sergeant accused of killing 17 Afghan men, women and children. Now, an investigative officer will decide whether there's enough evidence to go forward with a court martial. NPR's Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman, walks us through the legal challenges ahead for the defense and the prosecution.

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4:00am

Mon March 19, 2012
U.S.

Details Still Emerging In Afghanistan Shooting

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We've spent much of the weekend trying to understand a nightmare moment of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. An American soldier apparently walked off his post and killed 16 Afghan men, women and children. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales - we know his name now - is being held in solitary confinement in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been gathering details of the shooter's life, and he's on the line now. And, Tom, what have you learned?

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12:01am

Tue March 13, 2012
Afghanistan

Killings A Blow To U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan

Originally published on Tue March 13, 2012 8:25 am

A U.S. soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, stands outside a military base in Panjwai, Kandahar province, south of Kabul, on Sunday.
Allauddin Khan AP

The killings of some 16 civilians in Afghanistan on Sunday allegedly by a U.S. soldier are raising new questions about U.S. military strategy: whether the surge of American troops worked, and whether the U.S. troops have won over the Afghan people or alienated them.

The place where the killings happened was a "no-go zone" for American and even Afghan troops as recently as two years ago — it was Taliban country.

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4:49pm

Fri March 9, 2012
National Security

Experts: A Strike On Iran Poses Many Challenges

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 9:12 am

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addresses a meeting in Tehran on Thursday. Khamenei is a staunch defender of Iran's nuclear program.
AFP/Getty Images

The question hanging over Washington for months has been this: Will Israel strike the Iranian nuclear program?

The Obama administration seems to have bought some time this week after rounds of meetings and speeches with Israeli officials in Washington.

Still, the president assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will do all in its power to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

So the military option is still on the table.

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12:01am

Thu March 1, 2012
National Security

In Mock Village, A New Afghan Mission Takes Shape

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:59 am

Lt. Col. Mark Schmitt, who will be among a group of U.S. military trainers heading to Afghanistan soon, calls out orders during a mock attack on the model Afghan village at the U.S. military base in Fort Polk, La.
David Gilkey NPR

At the Fort Polk military base in the pine forests of central Louisiana, the Army has created a miniature version of Afghanistan — with mock villages and American soldiers working alongside Afghan role-players.

This is the training ground for a new American approach in Afghanistan as the U.S. begins to look ahead to the goal of bringing home the U.S. forces by the end of 2014. The idea is that Afghan forces have to be good enough to defend their country against the Taliban, and to make that happen, the U.S. Army is creating small U.S. training teams at Fort Polk.

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5:14pm

Mon February 27, 2012
National Security

Afghan Violence Raises Questions About U.S. Strategy

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 8:27 pm

The latest violence in Afghan has raised doubts about the U.S. strategy. Here, Afghan demonstrators shout anti-U.S. slogans as they carry a wounded man during a protest in the Western city of Herat on Feb. 24.
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

The violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan has called into question the American exit strategy, which is set to play out steadily over the next three years.

It was only a few weeks ago that the second-ranking American military officer in Afghanistan laid out a new phase of that strategy. Small groups of U.S. advisers would team up with larger Afghan units to train them, said Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

The first of these U.S. assistance teams will head into Afghanistan this spring to train Afghan police and soldiers.

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3:35pm

Tue February 14, 2012
National Security

As China's Military Grows, U.S. Assesses Risks

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama greeted China's Vice President Xi Jinping and called for cooperation between the two nations.

Later in the day, the Chinese vice president crossed the Potomac to visit the Pentagon, where the U-S military may hope for cooperation, but has to plan for possible confrontation.

The Pentagon's new budget request, unveiled Monday, signals a shift for the US military, with a greater focus on the Pacific.

China is building more ships and aircraft, and is now patrolling hundreds of miles out into the Pacific.

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2:19pm

Mon January 23, 2012
National Security

In Afghan War, U.S. Prepares To Redefine The Mission

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 8:03 am

The U.S. military wants Afghan troops to begin taking the lead role in combat operations. Here, Afghan cadets who are joining the army are shown at their graduation ceremony on Dec. 18 in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Qais Usyan AFP/Getty Images

American commanders in Afghanistan are preparing for a major shift in their mission this year.

U.S. troops are expected to move away from their lead role in combat operations in most areas. Instead, they'll advise Afghan forces to take the lead in both operations and security duties throughout much of Afghanistan.

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