Tom Bowman

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American troops have been stationed on the Korean Peninsula for nearly 70 years. More recently they've become something of a political football.

North Korea wants them out as part of any nuclear deal. South Korea wants them to stay to help with its defense. And President Trump is considering reducing their numbers to save money.

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On Thursday, the Pentagon will release the results of an investigation into the deaths of four American soldiers who were ambushed last October by ISIS fighters in the African country of Niger. The attack raised questions about whether the soldiers had enough training and equipment, and whether they were taking too many risks in working with local forces in Africa.

NPR has obtained details of the yet-to-be-released report, which says there was no single failure, and no deficiency was the sole cause for the men's deaths outside the village of Tongo Tongo on Oct. 4, 2017.

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The city of Raqqa was the de facto capital of the Islamic State. ISIS fighters were defeated there back in October, and they scattered in all directions. But they left behind a deadly legacy — thousands upon thousands of explosive booby traps.

Now U.S. and Syrian trainers are teaching young men how to dismantle those bombs, at a village on the outskirts of the city.

The Kurdish soldiers stand watch at this rustic outpost, nothing more than sand bags and hardened earth, like some sort of prehistoric fortress. Some of the fighters carry AK-47s, others hold machine guns. And all are looking to the south and the front line with ISIS in northeast Syria.

It's a vast open plain.

Gen. Hassan commands these troops. He's a short, squat man with salt-and-pepper hair, and he points out in the distance where the enemy is located, just a couple of mud huts on the horizon.

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Looking back a half-century, to when they were young officers, their memories of the Battle of Hue are still fresh.

"What I saw was probably the most intense ground fighting on a sustained basis over several days of any other period during the war," says Howard Prince, an Army captain who worked with South Vietnamese forces.

"We were under fire, under heavy fire," says Jim Coolican, a Marine captain.

Mike Downs, another Marine captain, recalls, "We didn't know where the enemy was, in which direction even."

The Pentagon unveiled its National Defense Strategy, a document that focuses on the "eroding" U.S. military advantage with regard to Russia and China, and will likely influence future spending on weapons systems and other military hardware.

"The department needs to focus on Russia and China," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development Elbridge Colby, during a question and answer session with reporters at the Pentagon. "The erosion of our military advantage is the problem."

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The Army is training thousands more soldiers in tunnel warfare, part of an effort to be ready to offer President Trump military options for North Korea, U.S. officials tell NPR.

North Korea is honeycombed with thousands of tunnels and bunkers, some of them discovered leading across the border and close to the South Korean capital, Seoul. Others in North Korea are hundreds of feet deep and could be used to hide troops and artillery, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

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The Army's Green Berets have gained a reputation over the decades for their toughness and fighting skills. They served with local forces in Vietnam, and in recent years, they've deployed repeatedly to Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of their deployments continues to grow: Niger. Somalia. Yemen. Syria. Philippines.

Now a fight appears to be growing inside the Green Beret community.

The new troops of the Afghan 215th Corps are assembled on a wide plaza at midday at their base, called Camp Shorabak.

Passing in review is their new commander, Maj. Gen. Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai. He proved himself fighting the Taliban in northeast Afghanistan. Now he's in charge of Helmand — the deadliest province in a troubled country.

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Gen. John W. "Mick" Nicholson settles into his wood-paneled office inside the American-led military headquarters in Kabul. It's lined with plaques, pictures and ceremonial swords.

He has spent more time in Afghanistan, in various jobs, than any other senior American officer — a total of 5 1/2 years. The commander of NATO's Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan since March 2016, Nicholson is a genial West Point graduate with salt-and-pepper hair — and a renewed confidence.

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President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to an Army medic on Monday afternoon at the White House, nearly 50 years after his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

Over three days of bravery, Jim McCloughan ran toward enemy fire numerous times to save his fellow soldiers, even though he was wounded himself.

At the ceremony, the president called McCloughan a "hero" and "a veteran who went above and beyond the call of duty."

"He would not flinch in the face of sure death and definite danger," Trump said.

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Today - this afternoon at the White House, President Trump awards the Medal of Honor to United States Army medic, who is receiving the honor almost 50 years after his actions during the Vietnam War.

A debate has broken out at the Pentagon and in Congress over a proposal to dismantle an 8-year-old program that gives fast-track citizenship to immigrant soldiers who were recruited because they have critical skills in languages and medicine.

More than 4,000 immigrant soldiers recruited through the program — mostly from China and South Korea — are serving in uniform, including on overseas tours. Another 4,000 recruits have enlisted and are awaiting training.

When President Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary, it was a rare choice. No recently retired general had been selected for the top Pentagon job since George Marshall, some 66 years earlier.

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