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Jason Ditz

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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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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