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Russian forces enters former ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian forces have entered Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate, in one of the starkest examples yet of how Moscow has filled the vacuum created by President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S. forces from northern Syria.
Russian troops were shown in footage on the defense ministry's Zvezda TV channel shaking hands with Syrian children and unloading humanitarian aid bundles with the slogan "Russia is with you" from the back of trucks.
Raqqa was captured two years ago by U.S. troops and their Kurdish-led Syrian allies in the biggest victory of Washington's campaign against Islamic State in Syria. But since Trump abruptly ordered a pull-out in October, Moscow has swiftly advanced into territory where U.S. troops had operated.
Russia is a close battlefield ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, which was invited by the Kurds into territory they controlled after Trump pulled his forces out of the way of a Turkish assault against Kurdish-held areas.
Russian troops in Raqqa were handing out humanitarian aid and its military doctors were offering residents medical attention, Vladimir Varnavsky, a defense ministry officer, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.
"Work in the city to get rid of the rubble and clear the area (of bombs or mines) is not yet complete and there is a shortage of clean water, medicine and food," he said.
Russia last month set up a helicopter base an airport in a northeastern Syrian city and also landed forces at a sprawling air base in the region that had been vacated by U.S. forces.
Russia and Turkey are carrying out joint patrols along Syria's northern border with Turkey as part of a deal struck between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.
After saying all U.S. troops would leave northern Syria, Washington has left some behind for now at some bases but rolled back most of their operations.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Peter Graff)
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.
Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.
"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."
That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.