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US weighs its options in Afghanistan despite risk of deeper involvement

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As President Donald Trump’s administration drafts an Afghanistan policy, U.S. officials are seeking a way to reverse gains by militant groups without wading deeper into a 15-year-long war that has no end in sight.

In the past month, three U.S. service members have been killed in operations against Islamic State militants near Afghanistan’s porous border with Pakistan, where armed groups still find sanctuary.Officially, the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan ceased combat operations at the end of 2014, but the conflict has proved difficult to exit without risking the overthrow of the government in Kabul.

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Current and former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Trump administration is carrying out an inter-agency review, and while no decision has been made, the discussions revolve around adding 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

One of the officials said there is an emphasis on avoiding artificial deadlines. Former President Barack Obama wanted to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan before he left office. He had ordered in more troops in 2011 that peaked at about 100,000.

Nearly 9,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan; some 7,000 of them train and assist Afghan forces, and about 1,500 are a part of a counter-terrorism unit that mostly targets pockets of al Qaeda and Islamic State fighters, but also engages the Taliban.

In February, Army General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he needs several thousand more international troops to break a stalemate with the Taliban.

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Some U.S. officials question the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan. To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and over 17,000 wounded since the U.S. invaded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

These officials, who agreed to discuss political deliberations only on the condition of anonymity, said the situation in Afghanistan is even worse than they had expected, and that any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security.

“Before you can get to the question of how many troops is enough you have to have clarity on what is the goal,” said Christine Wormuth, former undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration.

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“Is the goal to decisively defeat [the Taliban] and make Afghanistan into a viable state (or) is the goal to continue to prop up the government of Afghanistan?” Wormuth said.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Kay Johnson; editing by John Walcott and Grant McCool)


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Trump’s EU ambassador is using the ‘Don Jr. defense’ of being too dumb to break the law: national security expert

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Gordon Sondland, the man whom President Donald Trump appointed to be his ambassador to the European Union, told congressional investigators on Thursday that he didn't understand that President Donald Trump might be holding up establishing direct contact with Ukraine's government unless the government agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

However, given that the president did ask him to run all Ukraine policy through attorney Rudy Giuliani, and given that Giuliani was already publicly boasting about trying to get Ukraine to probe Biden, Sondland's testimony raises the question of what he actually believed the president's intentions were in withholding aid to the country this past summer.

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Historians demolish John Yoo for claim Founding Fathers wouldn’t want Trump impeached in an election year

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Comments made by attorney and law professor John Yoo on Fox News on the Founding Father's intentions about impeachment received a brutal debunking by two historians -- including one of his colleagues at UC Berkeley.

Appearing with Fox News personality Laura Ingraham, lawyer Yoo -- who is infamous for providing President George W. Bush's administration with legal justifications for the torture of prisoners of war -- claimed that the Founding Fathers would object to the president being impeached in an election year.

According to Yoo, Democrats are getting it all wrong when they say the Constitution compels them to hold impeachment proceedings against Trump just one year before the election.

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McConnell drops a surprise on Trump — calls for an even stronger resolution to rebuke him

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated he opposes the bill out of the House to denounce President Donald Trump's military withdrawal in Syria because it isn't tough enough, reported Bloomberg's Steven Dennis.

https://twitter.com/StevenTDennis/status/1184840222846148608

"My first preference is for something stronger than the House resolution," McConnell said according to Bloomberg's Laura Litvan.

She went on to say that McConnel wants a bill that outlines what action should take place in Syria.

McConnell said the House version was "curiously silent on the issue of whether to actually to sustain a U.S. military presence in Syria."

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