ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

Trump Straightens-Out Loud-Mouthed, War-Pig, Senator Lindsay Graham

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump argued that his Syria decision amounted to making good on one of his campaign promises. | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Trump announced earlier this month that he would end U.S. military activity in Syria, a move he reportedly announced against the advice of multiple military and national security advisers. The announcement angered many on Capitol Hill, including some of his staunchest supporters, but Trump stood behind his decision in a series of posts Monday morning on Twitter.

Trump campaigned for president railing against the U.S. presence in the Middle East, and had long vowed to withdraw troops and to untangle the U.S. from extended conflicts there.

Trump on Monday hit back at the naysayers, writing on Twitter that the torrent of criticism stemmed from “the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived” and who “like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working.”

He argued that his Syria decision amounted to making good on one of his campaign promises, writing that he was “just doing what I said I was going to do! …..Except the results are FAR BETTER than I ever said they were going to be!”

While the U.S. has been successful in beating back the Islamic State in Syria, opponents of U.S. withdrawal have argued that the move amounts to handing back power there to the dictatorial regime of President Bashar Assad and his backers, Russia and Iran. The president’s decision has also sparked warnings that a U.S. withdrawal could create a vacuum that would allow the Islamic State to revive.

The catalyst for Trump’s Dec. 19 decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria has also been cause for concern.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s closest allies on the Hill but one of the most vocal critics of the Syria decision, said after a lunch with the president on Sunday that Trump would be “slowing” the U.S. pullout to “assess the effects of the conditions on the ground,” but he said Trump remained firm in his decision.

Does Newly Released Security Video Show Saudi Assassins Carrying Bags Containing Khashoggi’s Remains?

Video shows bags believed to contain Khashoggi’s remains: report

Footage shows Saudi hit team carrying bags believed to contain body parts of murdered journalist, Turkish reports say.

Video footage leaked to Turkish media shows a Saudi hit team in Istanbul carrying bags reportedly containing the remains of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder sparked an international outcry and jeopardised the kingdom’s relations with its Western allies.

The video shows the arrival of some of the members of the team at the Saudi consul-general’s residence in Istanbul on the day Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate, several hundred metres from the residence.

One of the hit team members is seen carrying bags, which according to the Turkish media, may contain body parts of the journalist, who was a critic of Saudi Arabia‘s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 to obtain documents certifying he divorced his ex-wife so he could remarry. He was killed and dismembered inside the consulate, in what Turkey called a “premeditated murder” orchestrated by the Saudi government.

Saudi officials have countered that claim, insisting Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation”, after initially claiming he had left the building before vanishing.

Turkey said the killing was ordered at the highest level of Saudi leadership, implying Prince Mohammed was behind the murder. The kingdom has maintained MBS had no knowledge of the killing.

Saudi authorities last month requested the death penalty for five unnamed suspects in Khashoggi’s murder, while 11 suspects were indicted and referred to trial.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said the video first aired on Turkish news channel A Haber, which sourced the footage through Ferhat Unlu, a journalist with the investigation unit of the Daily Sabah newspaper.

The publication is known for its close ties to Turkish intelligence and has in the past reported on a series of leaks from the Turkish investigation into the murder of Khashoggi.

The journalist recently released a co-authored book about the killing, titled Diplomatic Atrocity: The Dark Secrets of the Khashoggi Murder.

“The reporter said there is no evidence that the luggage carried by the hit team was taken out of the consul’s residence. Therefore, we are facing new questions,” Koseoglu reported late on Sunday.

“The consul-general’s residence was searched, but there was a well that the Saudis did not let the Turkish investigators search properly. These new pictures have changed the course of the investigation,” Koseoglu added.

Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center Washington, DC, called the release of the video “very significant”.

“It adds another layer of the complexity to the continuing investigation in the murder of Khashoggi, in the sense that there is one significant remaining question: where is the body?” he told Al Jazeera.

“Now we have direct evidence showing that a van left the consulate office building, went to the nearby consul-general’s house, and you see staff or members of the killing team unloading body bags or black bags of some sort. So, it leaves the impression that Khashoggi’s body ended up at the consular’s residence and that’s what the investigation should focus now, what happened to it there.”

On Sunday evening, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had a phone call with Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s former foreign minister and current state minister in charge of foreign affairs. It is not yet clear what was discussed during the call.

Last week, Saudi King Salman replaced Jubeir with Ibrahim al-Assaf, a former finance minister, in the first cabinet reshuffle since the killing of Khashoggi.

“Most probably, the Saudi side would hope that this recent cabinet reshuffle puts an end to the case and relieves Saudi Arabia from this pressure by the Turks and the international community looking for some answers – but it is clear judging from these pictures and judging from the new book that was released just a couple of days ago in Turkey … that the case is not disappearing, shuffling the cabinet or not shuffling the cabinet,” Jahshan said.

“Saudi Arabia needs to come clean, needs to explain the legal process, needs to prove that the people who have been dismissed from office because of their implication in this crime have actually been arrested and are being indicted on charges of murder.”

Saudi authorities have said that all members of the hit squad were arrested after returning to the kingdom, but the recently released book cites an unnamed source as saying that Salah al-Tubaigy, the forensic doctor who allegedly dismembered Khashoggi’s body, escaped any action.

Instead, the book says, Saudi authorities asked him to disappear from the limelight, and Tubaigy is now living in a villa in Jeddah with his family.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

America’s slow-motion military and policy disaster in Afghanistan and Pakistan


An Afghan soldier stands guard at a military academy in Kabul after an attack by insurgents there Monday. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Graeme Wood writes for the Atlantic and is a visiting fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

In Kabul in December, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told Vice President Pence that more senior Taliban members had been killed in 2017 than in the previous 15 years combined. “Real progress,” Pence said. The dry language of wire reports does not reveal whether this reply was delivered in the sarcastic tone one might expect, given the utter chaos now reigning in Afghanistan. There are times when one wishes pool reporters used emoticons in their dispatches.

Steve Coll’s “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan ” is an account of a slow-motion military and policy disaster. It is sometimes as affectless as a wire report, but the unadorned facts in its narrative more than suffice to stoke bafflement and despair. After 17 years of war in Afghanistan, more than 100,000 Afghans are dead, and the Taliban and the Islamic State are competing to inflict wanton violence on civilians in the capital. The only thing U.S. policymakers know for sure is that the situation will degrade fast if we leave. It will probably degrade slowly and expensively if we stay. Previous attempts at discreet draw-downs have not, Coll notes, been dignified or had positive results. In 2014, at a ceremony marking the end of a phase of U.S. combat in Afghanistan, “the ceremony program noted that attendees should lie down flat on the ground in the event of a rocket attack.”

Coll’s book is chronological, and mostly a catalogue of mistakes made and lessons learned far too late, if at all. He quotes a soldier who summarized his job to Eliot Cohen, then counselor of the State Department: “You walk through a valley until you get into a firefight and then you keep shooting until it stops.” (“That’s a little troubling,” Cohen replies.) Various strategies are attempted — the current one, conceived at the end of the Obama era, involves vigorous use of drones and commando teams — but at no point after 2003 does the United States recover the initiative. Almost every endeavor threatens to be undone in a moment. By 2012, a quarter of the soldiers killed in the U.S.-led alliance were killed by the very Afghan soldiers they were training.

The mistakes are legion. First, in the heady days after Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. spies were fighting a war with “blood in the mouth” — an attitude that the CIA’s battlefield commander describes as a “burning need for retribution.” This attitude inspired numerous shortsighted policies in the war on terrorism, including the opening of Guantanamo Bay’s prison camp and the policy of making no distinction between al-Qaeda militants and those who harbored them. Most of the Taliban fighters were ornery yokels, with only the vaguest understanding of what America was. They did not require annihilation — of course, we slowly discovered that we couldn’t kill them all anyway — and they could, at some point, have been incorporated into the Afghan state rather than hunted in endless war. Moreover, the Taliban had provided order, and the United States had no plan to install and nurture a similarly orderly government. Afghans quickly grew irritated at an occupier skilled at fighting but uninterested or incompetent at governing.


“Directorate S,” by Steve Coll (Penguin Press/Penguin Press)

Coll’s strongest sections detail the relationship not with the Taliban but with Pakistan. Pakistan is a democracy of 193 million people. But the force that determines its national security and foreign policy is not its elected politicians but its spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. The agency has a staff of 25,000, and it is not paranoia but good sense to assume that if you are a journalist or politician in Pakistan, its agents are watching you. Foreign government officials treat its director — always a high-ranking army general — all but officially as Pakistan’s leader. Its most secretive division, Directorate S, controls covert operations “in support of the Taliban, Kashmiri guerrillas, and other violent Islamic radicals.”

ISI has been demonized both justly and unjustly; shadowy bureaucracies tend to be spotted in the shadows even when they aren’t there. But Coll’s account of the agency makes it hard to treat it as benign, overall. The Afghan Taliban fights with ISI’s blessing, and its members drop into Pakistani territory to rest and re-equip. (More than one policymaker has concluded that this problem of Pakistani sanctuaries makes defeating the Taliban impossible.) ISI analysts themselves acknowledge the desire to cultivate Taliban fighters for future deployment, especially in Kashmir. According to one estimate, Coll says, 100,000 militants are in Pakistan on ISI’s watch.

Coll reports that the late Richard Holbrooke, tasked by President Barack Obama with fixing the region, considered ISI “obsessed” with India and thought its policy toward Afghanistan was motivated by a desire to curtail perceived Indian influence. I tend to agree. Before 2001, ISI enjoyed access to Afghanistan as “strategic depth” for Pakistan’s war against India. We remember the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, complete with monkey-bar obstacle courses, but we forget the many more Pakistani-run camps for guerrillas preparing to fight in the heights of Kashmir. ISI viewed the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai as too India-friendly, and by 2003 — after the United States distracted itself with Iraq — ISI resumed its meddling in Afghanistan, to stave off Indian influence.

Finally, Coll identifies the Iraq invasion of 2003 as a costly distraction for the United States and a boon for Afghanistan’s forces of chaos. In 2003, Coll writes, “the National Security Council met to discuss Afghanistan only twice.” Meanwhile, the enemy extracted useful lessons from Iraq and began to apply them at home. Those ornery Taliban, once inwardly focused, came to learn from, and in some cases consider themselves part of, a global jihad. They acquired a taste for wanton slaughter — a hallmark of the Jordanian terror master Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but not of the Taliban previously — and became a pet movement for the religious fanatics of Pakistan and elsewhere.

Coll himself is, in the venerable tradition of newspaper reporting, absent from the narrative, although his harsh judgment of U.S. policymakers is pervasive. Absolutely nothing works; “the United States and Europe,” Coll writes, “have remade Afghanistan with billions of dollars in humanitarian and construction aid while simultaneously contributing to its violence, corruption, and instability.” “Directorate S” is one of the most unrelentingly bleak assessments of U.S. policy of recent years, and it shows, regrettably, that American errors have accumulated beyond recovery. The question is less whether Afghanistan can be saved than how its failure will affect the region. The billion-plus citizens of Pakistan and India have now enjoyed a generation without war, and the fall of Afghanistan could contribute to a premature end to that holiday.

Coll’s previous book on Afghanistan, the Pulitzer Prize winner “Ghost Wars,” is widely considered the best book on U.S. policy in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, 2001. This superlative actually undersells it: If you tore the book into two pieces, the resulting ragged scraps would be the best and second-best books on Afghanistan, respectively. This companion volume is also definitive, if different in effect. “Ghost Wars” struck a tragic tone, with a disastrous conclusion known to the reader. The conclusion of the policy blunders chronicled in “Directorate S” is not known. But because the errors so often look, in retrospect, unforced, they are just as painful to contemplate, and they should induce shudders as we consider the conclusion to which we might be hurtling this time.

DIRECTORATE S
The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Steve Coll

Pakistan’s Secret Terrorist Armies

ISI is Pakistan’s ‘first line of defence’ says Pakistani PM 

Pakistan General Elections: ISI, military ‘chose’ Imran Khan to lead country because PML-N, PPP were difficult to manipulate

Smoke rises from the site of a blast and gunfire between Taliban and Afghan forces in PD 6 as policemen keep watch in Kabul, Afghanistan March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Pakistan’s Secret War Machine

Pakistani intelligence has mainstreamed terrorism and political violence in the region.

A new nonviolent mass movement has swept through Pakistan in recent months, demanding an end to Pakistan military’s oppression and extrajudicial killings of minority ethnic Pashtuns. This grassroots movement has rattled Pakistan’s deep state, primarily the notorious spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

For decades, Pakistan’s spy service has operated as a formidable U.S. adversary, albeit dressed as a friend, especially in Afghanistan. It has endlessly frustrated the Afghan war efforts since 2001 by playing Santa Claus to all manner of anti-Afghan militant groups, mainly the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. This support has morphed the Afghan conflict into a bloody contest of competing interests and influence, where ISI’s toxic influence is supreme. ISI’s role in managing several anti-India proxy networks is also unmistakable.

ISI is no ordinary intelligence agency. It operates under Pakistan’s military command and is highly secretive, politically influential, patient, alarmingly active and ruthless to anyone they see as opposition. Unlike what some reports suggest, ISI is not a rogue agency but rather a disciplined, non-factional, cohesive and bureaucratic enterprise, where reports of defections are rare. The institution is also well-off. with its active and retired personnel frequently profiting from numerous Pakistani military-owned charitable foundations and corporations. The agency’s nearly  twenty-five thousand  personnel is mostly ethnically homogeneous, hailing predominantly from the army ranks.

More troublingly, the organization operates under a philosophy that it needs enemies to remain relevant—and in control. This paranoia has allowed the service to manufacture pet militant groups and imaginary threats to drive its motives. To do so, the service allegedly maintains a roster of nearly  one hundred thousand  militant fighters at its discretion.

Inside Pakistan, ISI sits at the core of the Pakistani state. It has regularly challenged the country’s civilian rule and has hampered Pakistan’s democratic progress through systematic coercive campaigns against dissenting voices, including politicians, activists, academics and the media. It has forged alliances with extremist religious groups and fringe political parties meant to control the Pakistani people by keeping them subservient to the state. As such, ISI has used old tactics wedded to the new, including intimidation, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and assassinations. The service also frequently engages in sabotage activities, psychological operations and influence campaigns. More worryingly, ISI’s infatuation with jihadi groups has adversely affected the agency and has turned segments of the agency increasingly extremist.

In Afghanistan, ISI’s Afghan operations are undertaken by at least three units. The first is Directorate S , the principal covert action arm that directs and oversees the Afghan policy, including militant and terrorist outfits and their operations. The second unit is the Special Service Group (SSG), also known as the Pakistani SS, and are the army’s special forces element that was established in the 1950s as a hedge against the communists. Today, some SSG units effectively operate as ISI’s paramilitary wing and have fought alongside the Taliban until 2001. In other instances, SSG advisors have allegedly been embedded with Taliban fighters to provide tactical military advice, including on special operations, surveillance, and reconnaissance. In fact, encountering ISI operatives fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan has become a common occurrence that no longer surprise Afghan and American forces. The third ISI unit is the Afghan Logistics Cell, a transport network inside Pakistan facilitated by members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps that provide logistical support to the Taliban and their families. This includes space, weapons, vehicles, protection, money, identity cards and safe passage.

Such ISI support networks have been designed to break Afghanistan into pieces and then remold it into a pliant state. The objective is to complicate Afghanistan’s security landscape and drive its political climate into an uncharted constitutional territory to create a vacuum, which inevitably places the Taliban in the driving seat. These support actions have visibly made the group more effective. However, the Pakistani mantra is that they maintain contacts with the Taliban but exercise no control over them.

Yet the ground realities suggest otherwise. The Taliban has recently become deadlier and adaptive. The old Taliban has, in effect, transformed into a new Taliban—decentralized and sated with recruits, including mid-level commanders, who come fresh out of the Pakistani madrassas eager to kill. This new decentralization has enabled the group’s young frontline commanders to exercise greater autonomy in the field, allowing ISI to leverage them for their needs. ISI reportedly manage their leadership succession, bypassing the Taliban’s chain of command.

The Taliban’s devolution of authority has also seemingly fractured the movement’s unity and cohesion and has resulted in multiple power centers within the movement. The group is increasingly taken over by the Haqqani Network, which controls at least 15 percent of the Taliban’s manpower and influences many smaller Taliban fronts. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, and his principal deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, are allegedly on bad terms, which has also disturbed the movement’s unity. The new Taliban’s funding now streams not only from the Pakistani intelligence but also from drug trafficking, racketeering, extortion and kidnapping for ransom, where the Haqqanis play a seminal role.Meanwhile, some Taliban groups have taken on to undertaking basic state-like functions, including levying taxes on local businesses, overseeing kangaroo courts, resolving local disputes, and operating organized schooling. The Taliban uses such state-like measures to create legitimacy for themselves among the local people. Unsurprisingly, this has formed a tacit social pact between helpless local Afghans and the Taliban—a bargain in which the group guarantee no harm to the local people in exchange for their compliance. However, this frail Taliban-civilian relationship exists because of the Taliban’s intimidation and killing campaign, rather than peoples’ compatibility with the group.

More vitally, the Taliban have adopted a robust resource-efficient operational strategy meant not only to fragment Afghan forces but also to capture more territory. This strategy has enabled the group to determine where and when to fight, in which they skillfully avoid the strongest elements of Afghan forces and instead target where they are weakest. The group frequently employs similar tactics in their operations such as ambushes, traps, surprise and simultaneous coordinated attacks and, increasingly, the use of snipers. At the same time, the group has advised their fighters not to give away information upon capture for up to forty-eight hours to allow Taliban leaders the time to render any reports useless. Pakistani intelligence has been in many respects in sync with this Taliban strategy. In contrast, Afghan forces are often blind on the battlefield.

Simply put, Pakistan’s ISI has turned terrorism into a school of thought, directed from the country’s governed spaces that remain undefeated. What can the United States do to unravel the Gordian knot of the Pakistani intelligence and its support to terrorist groups? Three things.

First, the United States should begin to treat the Pakistani spy agency similar to how it manages Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This would involve the U.S. Treasury Department adding Pakistan’s ISI and its affiliate, the Special Service Group—akin to Iran’s Quds Force—to the U.S.’ antiterrorism sanctions list. By doing so, the United States would impose targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, on active and retired Pakistani intelligence personnel with ties to terrorist networks. Meanwhile, Washington and Kabul should encourage defections within the Taliban ranks, meant to loosen ISI’s grip on the group. Washington can extend defected and corrigible Taliban members some sanctions relief, including relaxing travel restrictions, to help build confidence.

Second, bolster the Afghan intelligence apparatus to become relevant and in sync with the Taliban’s shifting strategy. This would require boosting Afghan intelligence capabilities to include a 360-degree collection effort to better understand the internal leadership dynamics and changing tactics of the Taliban and other groups. Similarly, the Afghan Defense Ministry should increase the number of its S2 intelligence and information officers in Afghan forces to handle tactical intelligence and security clearances at the unit level. These officers should also be trained to trace militants, track Taliban surveillance routes, manage interrogations and weed out infiltrators. Meanwhile, the Afghan government should deploy counterintelligence assets to its prisons to limit the communication of Taliban detainees with their leaders outside.

Third, the Trump administration should cease the cyclical pattern of its tempestuous relationship with Pakistan. Unfortunately, America’s Pakistan policy has followed a much too predictable pattern for over sixty years that incentivizes the Pakistani military for cooperation that in fact does not truly exist. This recurrent pattern of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is often tactical and reactive. In the first half of the cycle, for example, the relationship spins around convening strategic dialogues and state visits by Pakistani leaders followed by U.S. military assistance and other concessions. But in the cycle’s other half, the warm period abruptly comes to an end until an unexpected event prompts the next standard cycle in the bilateral relationship. Instead, the United States should adopt fewer carrots and more sticks policy and ensure that the stick is tough enough to change Pakistani state behavior meaningfully.

In short, Pakistani intelligence has mainstreamed terrorism and political violence in the region. In Afghanistan, ISI appears increasingly confident in its assertiveness and is seeking a maximalist outcome. It is operating from a position of strength, but no position is so strong that it is permanent. ISI still requires access to funds and defense supplies for its reach, internal stability, as well as legitimacy. The United States can deny or strictly condition that access to them. Meanwhile, Washington should voice its support to the peaceful Pashtun movement, an investment that could potentially pay off and serve the United States in the fight against extremism.

Javid Ahmad, a nonresident fellow at West Point’s Modern War Institute, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council. The views expressed here are his own. You can follow him on Twitter at @ahmadjavid.

 

Russian Diplomatic Sources Claim Rukban Refugee Camp Shrouded In Heavy Smoke, Possibly Large Cremation Operation

A military-diplomatic source has told Sputnik that heavy smoke has recently been seen near the Rukban refugee camp situated near the Al-Tanf US military base. According to the source, it could be a sign that militants, “harboured by the US military” have intensified their activities following the announcement of the impending US pull-out.

The source believes that these militants could be burning bodies of the diseased camp inhabitants, who died of illnesses and famine because they failed to receive humanitarian aid shipments. He also suggested that international humanitarian and human right organisations will be spending years, sorting out the “legacy” of the US stay in Syria.

The Rukban refugee camp is located near the Syrian-Jordan border in the zone of responsibility of the US Al-Tanf base. Russia has accused the US base of providing safe haven for terrorists, who later conducted attacks on the positions of the Syrian army.

There Are No Good Reasons For Staying In Syria, Only Really Bad Reasons, With No Valid Justification

The terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad reason the military wants to stay in Syria

 

The president has made the right decision. Having won the war against ISIS, he does not want to lose the peace by getting into a military conflict with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces, or with the Iranians or the Russians, or even with the Turks for that matter.

As the father of an Army officer who is in theater right now, I think I have a right to an opinion. And in my opinion, the desert sands of Syria are not worth a single American life.

Everyone agrees that the commander in chief should bring our troops home from any overseas combat theater as soon as the mission is complete.

But what is the mission?

Was it the defeat of ISIS? Or is it “regime change” and “nation-building”?

When President Trump took office, he was assured that the reason we sent troops into Syria in 2014 was to assist local Kurdish forces in destroying the Islamic State. He approved the continuation of this limited mission. This mission is now complete. The Islamic State no longer exists as a territorial entity.

To be sure, scattered bands of ISIS terrorists — numbering perhaps 500 — still operate in parts of eastern Syria. But the mopping-up operation can be done by the Turks, or by the Syrian army, or even by the Russians. It certainly does not require a continued US presence, and Trump has declared “mission accomplished.”

The Washington foreign-policy swamp is outraged by Trump’s “mission accomplished,” calling it “precipitous” and “reckless.”

What they are not telling you is that, for them, the “mission” was never primarily about ISIS; it was about eliminating the Assad regime. The Islamic State was simply a convenient cover to deploy troops into Syria. And now, having taken control of everything east of the Euphrates River with the help of the indigenous Kurdish population, they want to attack Assad.

Overthrowing the Syrian dictator has been their goal since the beginning of that country’s civil war in 2011. Two different aid programs, one run by the Pentagon and the other run by the CIA, were set up to fund and empower the Syrian rebels. Both failed to dislodge the Assad regime, and both were ended by Trump by mid-2017.

Still, establishment types managed to convince the new president to expand the scope of the Syria operation. In mid-January of this year, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the US intended to maintain an open-ended military presence in Syria to not only defeat ISIS but to oust Assad and counter Iran’s influence.

Even as late as this September, the Washington Post, citing unnamed officials in the State Department, claimed that Trump had agreed to implement a new strategy that indefinitely extended the military effort with the goal of “establishing a stable, non-threatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.”

The same foreign-policy geniuses that gave us the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were back, offering the same old tired, unworkable ideas: regime change and nation building.

This mission creep was sold to the president as a continuation of the war on ISIS.

But when he learned that the Islamic caliphate was no more, he rightly decided it was time for America’s boys and girls to come home.

The Syrian Civil War is over. Obama failed to give the Democratic forces there the support that they needed at a time when it would have made a difference.

If we stay in Syria very much longer we will wind up fighting not ISIS, but the Syrian government forces, and perhaps the Russians as well.

If we stay in Syria very much longer we will wind up fighting not ISIS, but the Syrian government forces, and perhaps the Russians as well.

Our forces east of the Euphrates have already destroyed a Russian armored column that was advancing on them in a hostile manner. That battle, which resulted in a couple hundred Russian casualties, could easily have escalated into a wider conflict.

Of course, Vladimir Putin is happy to see us pull out of Syria, but so what? Let Russia pour the blood of its young men into the desert sands of the Middle East for a change.

President Trump is criticized for making the decision to withdraw after consulting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. But why shouldn’t we be working with our NATO ally, which has its own concerns about terrorists on its southern border?

The same people who love to attack this president for not working more closely with our NATO allies have now turned on a dime and are criticizing him for coordinating with Turkey. It’s a wonder that they don’t get whiplash.

Much of the angst in the Pentagon over America’s withdrawal from Syria has to do with the perception that we are abandoning our Kurdish “allies.” But the Kurds fought alongside us not because they had any particular affection for America, but because the caliphate was occupying their towns and villages.

I can understand the loyalty that some American commanders on the ground, including outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, feel for their Kurdish battle brothers. But I am glad that our president understands he was elected to keep Americans safe, not Kurds. And not Syrians, or Iraqis, or Afghans either, for that matter.

There is no reason to keep American forces in Syria.

In fact, there is no reason to keep American forces in harm’s way, separated from their families and loved ones, in any foreign country unless it directly benefits the United States in direct, tangible ways.

As for me and my family, we are looking forward to having our son home soon.

Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order

White House Denies That Trump Ordered Draw-down of US Forces In Afghanistan

[SEE: Pentagon withdrawing 7,000 troops from Afghanistan]

White House says Trump has not made a determination to drawdown US military presence in Afghanistan.

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A week after reports about a possible withdrawal of US troops from the country, a White House spokesman, quoted by the Bloomberg News, said the US President Donald Trump has not ordered the Pentagon to pull troops out of Afghanistan.   

“The president has not made a determination to drawdown US military presence in Afghanistan and he has not directed the Department of Defense to begin the process of withdrawing US personnel from Afghanistan,” the Bloomberg News quoted Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, as saying in an emailed statement on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report about the possible withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

But, the US and NATO Forces Commander in Afghanistan Gen. Scott Miller in a meeting with Nangarhar governor last week on Sunday assured that they will continue to support the Afghan forces even if they get an order about troop withdrawal – an issue which Miller said is rumors by “newspapers”.

“I have seen the same rumors I have from the newspapers but all I would assure you is first of all I have no orders, so nothing changed,” he said in the meeting.

There are at least 14,000 forces in Afghanistan who are engaged in counterterror as well as train and advise mission for their Afghan counterparts.