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US military training dozens of Syrian fighters in new program

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The U.S. military said on Friday it has started training dozens of Syrian opposition fighters to battle the militant group Islamic State as part of a revamped program that aims to avoid mistakes that doomed its first training effort in Turkey last year.

Training for the first group of recruits includes how to identify targets for U.S.-led coalition airstrikes to allow coalition aircraft to better strike Islamic State from the air.

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“That allows us to bring significantly more fires into play in any of these skirmishes, battles, and firefights that are taking place throughout Syria,” said U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

Warren said no Syrian fighters had yet graduated from the program.

The Pentagon has declined to say where the training is being conducted, but U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told Reuters it is in Turkey.

The failure of the original program, which sought to train thousands of fighters, has been a concern for President Barack Obama, whose strategy depends on local partners combating Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

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The 2015 program was problematic from the start, with some of the first class of Syrian fighters being attacked by al Qaeda’s Syria wing, Nusra Front, in their battlefield debut. At one point, a group of U.S.-trained rebels handed over ammunition and equipment to Nusra Front.

Instead of trying to pull entire units from the fight for training, as the Pentagon sought to do last year, the new program will take small groups of fighters from the front-lines for training.

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“If it works we’ll do more. And if it doesn’t, we’ll shift again,” Warren said.

The U.S. strategy against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where the Sunni militant group has carved out a self-declared caliphate, aims to force the collapse of its two major power centers of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Although Iraq-led operations to retake Mosul have already begun, U.S. officials have declined to say if they think the city can be recaptured this year.

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The timing of any operation to capture Raqqa is less clear.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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2020 Election

Democrats could flip the Texas state house in 2020 — and reshape the national map

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Blue Texas? Democrats have long dreamt of winning Texas’s 38 electoral votes in the presidential election. That may still be a long shot, but a recent “Texodus” from Congress has given new talk to a political transformation across the Lone Star State that could have massive ramifications down the ballot and for decades to come.

This article was originally posted at Salon.

Four of the state’s GOP members of Congress have announced their retirements in recent weeks, an unusual torrent of departures signaling that a storm is coming. And evidence shows that it’s not just hitting Texas’s federal delegation. It’s coming to Austin, too.

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‘There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there’: Joe Biden at Cape Cod fundraiser

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Former Vice President Joe Biden defended Republican lawmakers in DC as "decent people" during a campaign fundraiser held at Cape Cod.

"There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there," Biden argued, according to Washington Post reporter Matt Viser.

"I get in trouble for saying that with Democrats, but...every time we ever got in trouble with our administration, remember who got sent up to Capitol Hill to fix it? Me," he said.

”Because they know I respect the other team. I do. They’re decent people," Biden claimed. "They ran because they care about things, but they’re intimidated right now.”

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Neo-Nazi ‘Atomwaffen Division’ holding live-fire militia training exercises at ‘The Base’: report

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One sign of the growing white nationalist crisis in America is a new outreach effort for paramilitary training.

"A neo-Nazi group focused on providing paramilitary-style training to far-right extremists has been conducting a massive recruitment drive and claims to have already conducted live-fire training with its members," Vice News reports.

"The Base, which is connected to extreme-right groups the Atomwaffen Division and the Feuerkrieg Division, has been promoting its growth on social media with photos announcing its presence in major cities across North America, including New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and in Europe, South Africa, and Australia," Vice reported. "The images often include a small contingent (typically one to three) of masked, camo-clad men holding weapons standing in front of The Base's flag, a black flag with three white lines running down the centre."

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