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Jason Ditz

Trump Administration Considers Declaring Yemen’s Houthis ‘Terrorists’

Just weeks after promising to back a peace effort in Yemen, the Trump Administration is reportedly considering labeling the Shi’ite Houthi movement in northern Yemen, one of the principal forces, a terrorist organization. The move appears unrelated to US policy in Yemen itself. Rather, it reflects the Trump Administration’s desire to go after perceived Iranian allies. Saudi Arabia, who is attacking the Houthis, has accused them of being in league with Iran.
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US Airstrike Kills at Least 28 Civilians in Eastern Syria

US and coalition planes in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor attacked a village along the Iraqi border which had some ISIS remnant forces within. Among the strikes was an airstrike against the local ice factory, which families were hiding out in waiting for the end of the raid.

At least 28 civilians, and over 30 civilians by some accounts, were killed in the attack, and dozens of others were wounded. The Syrian state media reported that the US was behind the strike.

The US did not contest this assessment, with a spokesman saying that US coalition forces “may have conducted strikes in the vicinity” and promised that there would be an assessment at some point regarding civilian casualties.
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Sen. Graham Visits Syria, Attacks Trump Plan to Pull Troops Out

Hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made a surprise visit to Syria on Monday, stopping off in the city of Manbij, which is held by US and Turkish forces. Graham delivered a speech clearly designed to attack the idea of a US pullout from Syria.

There is no official plan for the US to withdraw from Syria. Indeed, Pentagon officials have been presenting the US military presence in Syria as open-ended. That’s not to say that Graham’s comments had no reason.
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Pentagon Seeks Arms for 65,000 US-Backed Troops in Syria



While US “relief funds” are frozen in Syria, the Pentagon continues to seek massive amounts of funding for its military operations in the country. This includes a request for $300 million in weapons to give to “partner forces” in Syria.

This amounts to enough arms for 65,000 fighters. This is expected to center on the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is to say, almost entirely the Kurdish YPG. The US has been arming the YPG for years now as part of its Syria operations.

This is being sought in spite of repeated US assurances to Turkey that their arming of the YPG was temporary. With ISIS virtually wiped out in Syria, the YPG no longer has offensive goals fitting into US plans for Syria, and rather is focused chiefly on fighting a Turkish invasion of northern Syria.
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US Watchdog: Afghan Military Shrinking Sharply

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a Pentagon watchdog, is warning that the Afghan military is in sharp decline over the last 12 months, as rising casualties and desertion rates far outstrip its ability to recruit.

Over 12 months, the Afghan security forces have 10 percent less personnel, down to around 300,000. While reports of growing casualties, struggling recruitment, and desertion have been common, this is the first actually data offered on the size of the problem.
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Afghanistan’s President Offers Taliban Talks ‘Without Preconditions’

Following the Taliban having made two very public offers of peace talks in the past two weeks, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has issued his own statement offering to enter into talks with the Taliban insurgency “without preconditions.”

Ghani offered to recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate part of the political process, and said he didn’t want to pre-judge anyone who was willing to come to the table to discuss reaching a settlement to end the Afghan War.
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US Special Envoy on North Korea Retires After Trump Rejects Talks

US special envoy on North Korea Joseph Yun, an advocate of direct diplomacy with the reclusive nation since 2016 has informed the State Department of his intention to retire on Friday.

Though he didn’t offer a specific statement on this sudden decision, it came immediately after President Trump’s most recent comments spurning direct talks with North Korea without massive preconditions.
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In Trump’s 2019 Budget, Lockheed Looms Almost as Large as State Dept


In great measure, the Pentagon runs on Lockheed Martin. The US armsmaker racked up $35.2 billion in sales to the US government last year, a preposterously large figure that positions them both as heavily reliant on the government for its profits, and gives them a level of influence unmatched.

Lockheed Martin, after all, gets nearly as much money from the US government as the State Department. CEO Marilyn Hewson is, by the reckoning of some analysts, as powerful as most US cabinet secretaries.
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