Senate backs defence bill expanding military campaign against Islamic extremists | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Senate backs defence bill expanding military campaign against Islamic extremists

This frame grab from video provided by C-SPAN2 shows Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. giving his farewell address on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/C-SPAN2)
December 12, 2014 - 2:57 PM

WASHINGTON - Congress on Friday sent President Barack Obama a massive U.S. defence policy bill that endorses his stepped-up military campaign of air strikes and training of Iraqis and moderate Syrian rebels in the war against Islamic State militants.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that authorizes funds for basic military operations, including construction of new ships, aircraft, and weapons as well as a 1 per cent pay raise for the troops. The vote was 89-11.

A coalition of defence hawks and Western state Republicans overcame objections by Sen. Tom Coburn and several other Republican senators, who were furious that unrelated provisions to designate 250,000 acres (more than 100,000 hectares) of new, federally protected wilderness were added to the popular legislation dedicated to military operations.

The measure would authorize the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebels battling the extremists, a mandate that lasts for two years. It also would provide $5 billion to train Iraqis to counter the militants who brutally rule large sections of Iraq and Syria.

"American air power had changed the momentum on the ground somewhat and given moderates in the region an opportunity to regroup, but ISIS cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it on the ground," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "To do that, our Arab and Muslim partners must be in the lead because the fight with ISIS is primarily a struggle within Islam for the hearts and minds of Muslims."

Congress now has passed a defence bill for 53 consecutive years, and Levin noted that lawmakers' desire to help the troops has fostered bipartisanship despite bitter political divisions.

"They not only protect us; they unite us," said Levin, who received sustained applause and hugs at the end of his remarks. He is retiring after 36 years in the Senate.

The bill would provide the core funding of $521.3 billion for the military and $63.7 billion for overseas operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite Obama's objections, the measure maintains the prohibition on transferring terror suspects from the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.

The bill would prohibit the retirement of the A-10 Warthog, the close-air support plane often described as ugly but invaluable.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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