Reports of Taliban retaking control of Afghan district disputed | Pentagon: US will continue to fly in zone claimed by China | US won't attend Russia's Afghanistan peace talks
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March 24, 2017
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Reports of Taliban retaking control of Afghan district disputed
Local government and military officials in Afghanistan's Helmand province say the Taliban have seized control of the Sangin district, but US military sources and Afghanistan's central government say those reports are incorrect. US Navy Capt. William Salvin said Afghan security forces remained in the district.
The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (3/23),  Military Times (tiered subscription model) (3/23) 
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In the Pentagon
Pentagon: US will continue to fly in zone claimed by China
US military aircraft will continue flying over a disputed region of the East China Sea, the Pentagon said after Chinese officials said the US should respect China's air defense identification zone there. The comments came after a US bomber was warned by China that it was illegally flying in the zone.
Reuters (3/23) 
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US won't attend Russia's Afghanistan peace talks
The US has turned down an invitation to attend a peace conference on Afghanistan set for next month in Russia because it wasn't consulted beforehand and isn't sure of Russia's objectives, a State Department official said. Among the nations invited to the conference are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India.
The Associated Press (3/23) 
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On the Hill
Scaparrotti discusses budget, troop needs with Senate panel
Proposed cuts in the State Department would make Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti's job more difficult, Scaparrotti said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Scaparrotti, who is the US European Command leader, also said EUCOM needed more troops and assets to counter Russia's growing power.
The Hill (3/23),  Stars and Stripes (tiered subscription model) (3/23) 
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Service Section News
Air Force secretary nominee Wilson to get hearing soon, McCain says
Heather Wilson, President Donald Trump's nominee for Air Force secretary, may get a Senate hearing as soon as next week, according to Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Wilson, who was nominated for the post in January, formerly represented New Mexico in the House.
Defense News (3/23) 
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Army readiness funds will dry up if CR is extended, Allyn says
The Army's 2017 readiness budget will run out in mid-July if a continuing resolution is extended, says Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Allyn. Rumors are swirling that lawmakers might extend the current continuing resolution past the April 28 expiration date.
Defense News (3/22) 
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Reserve Life
VA: Hiring surge needed to address backlog of appeals
The backlog of benefits appeals at the Veterans Affairs Department continues to grow, and VA officials are asking for a major staff increase to help handle the workload. The wait time already can be as long as five years.
The Associated Press (3/23) 
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Study recommends changes to Tricare
The Department of Defense should make changes to Tricare to boost the overall health of military forces and to improve sustainability of the program, says a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Among other things, the report suggests increasing enrollment fees for future retirees to 20% of the coverage cost and implementing health and nutrition programs. (3/23) 
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