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US Army cancels plan to send another brigade to Iraq

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The US military on Friday canceled plans to send a 3,500-strong Army brigade to Iraq because of improving security conditions there, possibly freeing up troops for the war in Afghanistan.

The 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, New York, had been scheduled to relieve another combat brigade in Iraq in January but will not deploy, the Defense Department said in a statement.

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With the US commander in Afghanistan asking for major reinforcements, the move could provide another brigade for the troubled mission if President Barack Obama decides to approve the troop request.

“The decision was based on a thorough assessment of the security environment in Iraq and reflects the continued improvement in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to safeguard Iraqi citizens and institutions,” the statement said.

The brigade “will return to the Army’s pool of available combat forces,” it said.

The US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has said he wants to retain a larger force in the country to maintain security for elections due in January before a planned drawdown of forces down to 50,000 by the end of August 2010.

About 119,000 US troops are currently stationed in Iraq, down from about 140,000 at the beginning of the year.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last month that if Obama approves a troop buildup in Afghanistan, the first reinforcements would not arrive on the ground until January.

US troop levels are to reach 68,000 in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

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Trump appointee flails in Senate hearing as he tries to explain contradictory Pentagon statements

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In the wake of news reports that the Trump administration is considering sending an additional 14,000 troops to the Middle East, potentially doubling the current amount of US troops sent to the region since May, the Pentagon's attempts to deny the revelations aren't going to well, according to Task & Purpose.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah said that there are no plans for a troop increase "at this time."

"As discussed in the hearing today, we are constantly evaluating the threat situation around the world and considering our options," Farah said. "We adjust our force posture and troop levels based on adversary action and the dynamic security situation. Secretary Esper spoke to Chairman Inhofe this morning and reaffirmed that we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East at this time."

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‘Make America 36th Out of 41 Developed Nations Again’: Social justice index of developed nations puts US near bottom

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Meanwhile, the democratic-socialist Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden enjoy the top spots in detailed survey of OECD nations.

Not dead last, but close to it.

That's where the United States came out in a new survey of the world's 41 highly-developed nations measuring access to social justice and the opportunities they afford their respective citizens and residents.

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Where’s the ‘secret’ White House Russia room? diplomat jokes

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One of Moscow's top diplomats joked to President Donald Trump on Thursday after touring the White House that he was disappointed not to have seen the "secret" Russia room.

"Thank you for the tour of the White House," Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, told Trump at a lunch for the members of the UN Security Council.

"We saw the China room, but we didn't see the Russia room," Nebenzya said to laughter from around the table, adding that he wondered if such a room existed but was "top secret."

Nebenzya's quip followed remarks by China's UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, who thanked Trump for his hospitality, saying, "We have made a tour around this number of rooms: the green one, the red one and also the China room."

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