US & Canada

US Senate backs further defence spending for anti-IS fight

An F/A-18F Super Hornet lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Gulf, 23 September Image copyright AFP
Image caption The US has launched air strikes and missile attacks on Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria

The US Senate has approved a new annual defence bill expanding the military campaign against Islamic State (IS).

The bill approves a general Pentagon budget of $496bn (£316bn) plus $64bn for US wars abroad.

The measure also authorises the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebel fighters for two years.

The bill had already been passed by the House of Representatives and has now been sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

IS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, imposing a rigid version of Sunni Islam and persecuting or killing non-believers.

The US-led coalition has launched more than 600 air strikes against IS militant targets in Iraq since the campaign began on 8 August.

The US, with Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has also carried out almost 500 attacks on IS in neighbouring Syria since 23 September.

Until now, US operations against IS had been funded from the existing Pentagon budget.

The new bill, which was passed by 89 votes to 11, approves $3.4bn for the direct deployment of US forces against IS, and a further $1.6bn for training Iraqi Kurdish forces for two years.

Democrat Senator Carl Levin said that US air power had "changed the momentum on the ground" but added that IS "cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it".

'Warthogs' stay

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) had been the subject of cross-party talks for several months.

The bill rejected President Obama's request to approve the closure of the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

It also extended a ban on transferring inmates from the prison to the US.

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Media captionUS military footage shows the impact of air strikes on IS

The bill protected for another year the fleet of aging A-10 "Warthog" ground-support aircraft, whose retirement had been proposed.

A 1% pay rise for military personnel was also agreed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lauded the bill, saying "it enhances our efforts to keep our warfighters safe on the battlefield, and it authorises the resources needed to responsibly conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan".

The bill also requires the provision of annual mental health screenings for military personnel.

Who are Islamic State (IS)?

  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of enemy soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
  • The US has been launching air strikes on IS targets in north-eastern Iraq since mid-August, and in Syria since late September

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