Metro-East News

Roger That: Pentagon spending $11 million per day on Islamic State missions

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

Air Force missions accounted for nearly 70 percent of the more than $5 billion the Defense Department spent on operations related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an average of $11 million a day, between September 2014 and the end of last month, the Pentagon reported Monday, according to the Washington Post.

Slightly more than half of the $5.36 billion total went to daily air operations, with $1.26 billion spent on “munitions.” Most of the rest went to “mission support,” including logistics and military pay.

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Six Air Force families are mourning the loss of their loved ones who died when a Taliban suicide bomber drove a motorcycle packed with explosives into a U.S.-Afghan air patrol.

The attack was the deadliest on U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year. Among the victims was Air Force Maj. Adrianna Vorderbruggen, 36, the first openly gay service member killed in combat, according to CBS News.

“She’s a hero and I hope she’s a hero to all of us, not just to me,” said her older brother, Christopher Vordergbruggen, choking on tears.

He said his trailblazing sister was charged with protecting the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

“She intentionally would go on these patrols with her men because she wanted to show them that she would do what she was asking them to do,” he said.

Vorderbruggen is the first openly gay female U.S. Air Force officer killed in action. She had long championed the repeal of the military’s "Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy, a change that makes her wife and son eligible for military benefits.

Also killed in the attack were: Staff Sgt. Michael Cinco, 28, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 11th Field Investigations Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas; Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, AFOSI, Detachment 816, Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, AFOSI, Detachment 405, Maxwell AFB, Ala.; Tech Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, 1005th Security Forces Squadron, Stewart National Guard Base, N.Y.; Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, 31, 105th Security Forces Sqaudron, Stewart AFB, N.Y.

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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deferred entering a plea Tuesday against charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, after he allegedly deserted his unit in 2009 and was then held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for five years, according to ABC News.

Bergdahl was arraigned at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and made his first appearance before a judge. If Bergdahl is convicted of misbehavior before the enemy, he could face a life sentence, while the desertion charge carries a maximum five-year sentence.

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Military Times is reporting that American-backed Iraqi forces erected makeshift floating bridge across a branch of the Euphrates River on Tuesday and began pushing troops and vehicles into the center of the strategically important city of Ramadi, which the Islamic State has held since May.

“The fall of Ramadi is inevitable. The end is coming,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman in Baghdad, said Tuesday.

But “there is still a long way to go before we can declare Ramadi is completely clear. There is a lot of dense terrain here that needs to be negotiated,” Warren said in a press briefing.

Iraq’s army chief was quoted on Wednesday as saying he needed only days to drive Islamic State from the city of Ramadi, whose fall in May exposed the weakness of the Baghdad government and dampened hopes of restoring control in the north and west, according to Reuters.

If it is captured, it will be the second major city after Tikrit to be retaken from Islamic State in Iraq. It would provide a major psychological boost to Iraqi security forces after the militant group seized a third of Iraq, a major OPEC oil producer and U.S ally, in a sweeping advance last year. Progress has been slow because the government wants to rely entirely on its own troops and not use Shi’ite militias in order to avoid rights abuses such as occurred after the recapture of Tikrit from the militants in April.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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