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Australia seeks early Afghan pull-out: minister

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SYDNEY – Australia’s defense minister Wednesday said he was hoping to wrap up military operations in Afghanistan as soon as possible, despite US and NATO moves for more troops to shore up the campaign.

Defense Minister John Faulkner said Australia was studying how to complete the mission in the “shortest time-frame”. Australia has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan with no date set for their withdrawal.

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“I’ve certainly asked the Australian Defense Force for any recommendations they have about ensuring we do complete that important role and responsibility both effectively, but in the shortest time-frame possible,” he told ABC radio.

Faulkner admitted Australia’s move would affect the push by General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, for an Iraq-style troop “surge” against the increasingly powerful Taliban militia.

“I’ve been discussing these issues with the chief of the Defense Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and obviously it’s a critically important matter for me,” he said.

“I’m not going to talk specifically about the approaches we’ll take but I do acknowledge that there will be impacts on the approach that NATO and ISAF partners will be taking as a result of General McChrystal’s 60-day assessment.”

McChrystal warned last month that the war could be lost within a year without extra resources to fight the resurgent Islamists, who were driven from power by the 2001 US-led invasion.

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President Barack Obama is considering boosting US troops by 40,000 to more than 100,000. Political uncertainty also continues with President Hamid Karzai facing a run-off with rival Abdullah Abdullah after August’s flawed polls.

Australia has lost 11 soldiers in Afghanistan with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd insisting the country’s commitment was “rock-solid” following the latest death in July. However, Rudd also admitted the war was “unpopular”.

Armed forces chief Angus Houston has expressed hope that international troops could hand over to Afghan forces in three to four years, although he warned against the dangers of an early withdrawal.

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Rudd sent an extra 450 troops in April, acknowledging the “current civilian and military strategy is not working”. However last week he said Australia would not follow Britain’s move to send another 500 armed forces.

“We are in the business of raising an Afghan national army brigade, we are training Afghan police and we are also engaged in capacity building with the Uruzgan provincial authority,” Rudd said.

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“Once that mission is completed and we hand over our responsibility to that provincial authority, then of course Australia’s mission will be concluded and our troops would come home.”

About 100,000 international troops are currently based in Afghanistan, including a US contingent which will hit 68,000 by year-end and another 9,500 from Britain.

Germany has 4,200 troops while France is the fourth-largest contributor with 2,900, although President Nicolas Sarkozy is refusing to send any more.

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Small businesses in turmoil as pandemic stimulus talks stalled: report

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On Tuesday, Politico reported that small businesses are in limbo as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has stalled, and as the White House and Congress appear to be at a standstill on extending coronavirus stimulus.

"The collapse of pandemic relief negotiations has brought complications for the massive emergency lending program, which shut down on Saturday to new loans after doling out more than $520 billion in funds, leaving banks and borrowers unsure of how to proceed with a key phase of the rescue," reported Zachary Warmbrodt.

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2020 Election

Trump can’t attack Kamala Harris without contradicting his own message: Bakari Sellers

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On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers broke down why Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) poses such a challenge for President Donald Trump.

"What we're seeing with the two parties is the narrow focus is going to be on the fact that Donald Trump and the Trump campaign have no way, and they do not know how to deal, with Kamala Harris," said Sellers. "It very difficult to say 'Kamala is a cop' and be a 'law and order president.' Those two things simply do not mesh. Not only ahistorical and inaccurate, but the messages, they collide."

"But second, it shows that the Republican Party and Democratic Party are going in two vastly different directions," continued Sellers. "The country is becoming more diverse, the country is becoming more brown. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris represent the demographics of what the country will be, and Donald Trump and Steven Miller and Mike Pence represent a day that's passed. So what I would say tonight is while Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to cheer on the Confederacy, we're trying to re-imagine what this country will look like. It goes back to a time where Americans can feel good about being first and about thinking about what our country can be: full of hope and faith."

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2020 Election

WATCH: Tucker Carlson flips out after guest teaches him how to pronounce ‘Kamala Harris’

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Fox News personality Tucker Carlson repeated mispronounced the first name of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is Joe Biden's running mate.

"On Fox, Tucker Carlson keeps calling her KAM-uh-luh, which is not how it's pronounced," Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel noted.

He linked to a tweet with a picture of Harris explaining in her memoir how to pronounce her name.

Harris wrote, "my name is pronounced 'comma-la' like the punctuation mark. It means 'lotus flower,' which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flower rising above the surface while its roots are planted firmly in the river bottom."

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