Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Mattis Says Syria Policy Has Not Changed After White House Changes Syria Policy
Monday afternoon found Defense Secretary James Mattis diving, dipping, ducking, and dodging as a gaggle of reporters pressed him on whether the focus of the U.S. military mission in Syria has shifted away from ISIS and toward creating a bulwark against Iran.
Ambassador John Bolton, national security advisor to President Trump, had signaled earlier in the day that U.S. troops would remain in Syria to deter Iranian influence – echoing previous statements by the State Department’s special representative for Syria and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Bolton reportedly said Monday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
At a Pentagon news conference afterward, Mattis insisted that he and Bolton are in agreement but he reiterated that the U.S. military’s mission in Syria is defeating ISIS. That mission entails training local security forces so they can prevent ISIS from making a comeback, Mattis said, citing the collapse of security in Iraq after U.S. troops left the country in December 2011 as a cautionary example of what happens when we don’t stick around for the long haul.
“Getting rid of the caliphate doesn’t mean you then blindly say, ‘Ok, we got rid of it,’ march out, and then wonder why the caliphate comes back,” Mattis said.
The secretary of defense went on to explain that Washington is supporting the Geneva process – a United Nations effort to negotiate an end to the Syrian civil war – which hinges on Iran agreeing to “stop fomenting the trouble” by providing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with critical military and financial aid.
But when asked whether U.S. troops will remain in Syria until Iran withdraws its troops and proxy forces from the country, Mattis deferred to Bolton.
“I think we’re on the same sheet of music,” Mattis said, adding that he meets with Bolton weekly and had already talked to him twice on Monday. “I’ve told you what we’re doing there right now and there is no daylight between his appreciation of the situation and mine.”
Sensing confusion, Mattis offered that the communication barrier was probably due to the labyrinthine nature of the the situation in Syria, which he called “the most complex” he has encountered in his more than 40 years of public service.
“I understand why you want clarity,” Mattis said. “Please understand: issues can only be clarified to the point that the complexity permits. There’s 100 different little intricacies and nuances, I’ll be the first to admit.”
After being hit from every direction on Syria, Mattis was treated to a round of questions about Afghanistan, courtesy of Task & Purpose. The defense secretary was visibly perturbed when T&P; asked if the surging death toll among Afghan security forces seemed to indicate that the Taliban is winning the war.
While he acknowledged that the Afghan army has taken “severe casualties” over the past 18 months, Mattis said the Afghans are not at risk of being bled white by the Taliban. The Afghan defense minister told parliament on Sunday that 513 Afghan troops had been killed in a single month of fighting and another 718 were wounded.
Mattis said he was unable to confirm those numbers but said “they sound about right.” Even though Afghan continue to suffer high numbers of killed and wounded, he added, “it appears they have sustained it, somehow.”
“They have continued to fight,” Mattis said. “We are adjusting tactics. We’re bringing more support in certain areas. So far, they have taken hard casualties over the last year and they’re still in the fight.”
The Army allegedly missed this soldier's stomach cancer for 4 years. His widow wants someone to answer for it
The widow of a soldier whose stomach cancer was allegedly overlooked by Army doctors for four years is mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the military, but due to a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, her case will likely be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.
Hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War have repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital
In an uh-oh episode of historic proportions, hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War recently and repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital city.
Wait – they had hand grenades in the Revolutionary War? Indeed. Hollow iron balls, filled with black powder, outfitted with a fuse, then lit and thrown.
And more than two dozen have been sitting in cardboard boxes at the Department of Historic Resources, undetected for 30 years.
At least 4 American veterans among group arrested in Haiti with arsenal of weapons and tactical gear
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
White supremacist Coast Guard officer stockpiled firearms and hit list of Democrats for mass terror attack
A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested this week planned to "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," according to a court filing requesting he be detained until his trial.
(Reuters Health) - Military service members who are at risk for suicide may be less likely to attempt to harm themselves when they receive supportive text messages, a U.S. study suggests.