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Jason Ditz

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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US-Led Coalition Continues to Underreport Civilians Killed in Iraq, Syria Airstrikes

The US-led coalition has issued yet another report on the civilian death toll in their airstrikes against Iraq and Syria since 2014, and continues to dismiss the vast, vast majority of the civilian deaths as “not credible.”

Out of 27,500 coalition airstrikes in that period, 1,799 reports of civilian casualties have been issued, with thousands killed. The coalition, however, dismissed all but 208 of the reports, and put the figure at 817 dead.
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NSA Surveillance Reauthorization Stalls on Demands for New Debate

The House Republican leadership has been forced to abandon plans to reauthorize Section 702 FISA, which is soon to expire and has been used by the NSA for wholesale surveillance against the American public, because many are demanding time for debate.

Though the Section 702 reauthorization was long believed to rest on inserting something that gave the appearance of “reform” without angering the leadership by amounting to any actual reform, they appear to have been unable to thread that needle, and now it is expected that a short-term extension will be rushed through the delay expiration until January.
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44,000 US Troops on ‘Unknown’ Deployments Worldwide

When the Pentagon wants to mislead the public about where US troops are, generally speaking, they just lie. Yet sometimes the number of troops is just too big to claim as a rounding error, and questions start happening.

This week, the focus is on over 44,000 US military personnel deployed to “unknown,” which immediately raises red flags, because that’s not a place. Pentagon officials, however, say there is “no good way” to describe where they are.
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Pentagon to Admit to 2,000 Troops in Syria, Number Likely Far Higher

US officials said on Friday that the Pentagon is expected to concern confirm that there are “about 2,000” US ground troops in Syria, a major increase from the roughly 500 that they officially claim is the case.

The US has overtly lied about troop levels in Syria consistently throughout their deployment. Less than a month ago, Gen. James Jarrard told reporters the US had about 4,000 troops in the country, though the Pentagon at the time claimed he was wrong and the real number was only 503.
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Saudi Arabia Prevents Yemeni Govt Returning to South Yemen

Making it less and less clear what Saudi Arabia’s ultimate intentions in the Yemen War are at this point, reports out of Riyadh say that the “Saudi-backed” Yemeni government is effectively under house arrest within the Saudi capital, and being actively prevented from returning to southern Yemen.

Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in 2015, vowing to reinstall President Hadi, who had previously resigned, and whose term in office had long since run out. After Saudi forces captured the southern coast of Yemen, they made a big show of sending Hadi and other officials from his “government-in-exile” to the port city of Aden, making it a “temporary capital” of Yemen.
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