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US approves massive defense spending bill

The United States Senate has overwhelmingly approved more than a half trillion dollars in defense spending. Several billion dollars are specifically earmarked to combat the "Islamic State" terror militia.

The United States Congress approved a massive defense spending bill Friday that provides for an enhanced air campaign against the "Islamic State" terror group, as well as the training of Iraqis and moderate Syrian rebels.

The legislation, which passed 89 votes to 11 in the Senate, includes US President Barack Obama's $5-billion (4-billion-euro) request for funds to combat the

Islamic State

. Of that, $3.4 billion will be allocated to the deployment of US forces as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, and $1.6 billion will be used to equip and train Kurdish forces for two years.

"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 Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, using another acronym for the terrorist group.

Kampf um Kobane 17.11.2014 Luftangriff

The defense bill includes several billion dollars for the continued air campaign against the Islamic State

"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."

The bill provides $521.3 billion in core funding for the military and a total of $63.7 billion for overseas operations.

"This bill includes a pay raise for members of the Armed Services, it enhances our efforts to keep our warfighters safe on the battlefield, and it authorizes the resources needed to responsibly conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Despite objections from President Obama, the bill prevents the closing of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The United States spends more on its military in absolute terms than any other nation on earth. In 2013, the US spent $640 billion on defense, followed by China with $188 billion and Russia with $88 billion, according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In 2013,

Russia invested a greater percentage

of its GDP in its military (4.1 percent), topping US spending (3.8 percent) for the first time in a decade.

bw/cmk (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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