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Trump Says It's 'Insane' That Watchdog Reports About Afghanistan Are Released To The Public
At the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump expressed intense dismay about ongoing oversight provided by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the U.S. government's main watchdog for the 17-year-long effort to rebuild the country.
Asked about reported efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, Trump, seated next to new acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, criticized the transparency provided by SIGAR reports.
"One of the things I've told the secretary and other people, we do these reports on our military, some [inspector general] goes over there — who [are] mostly appointed by President Obama, but we'll have ours too — and he goes over there, and they do a report telling every single thing that's happening, and they release it to the public. What kind of stuff is this?" Trump said.
"We're fighting wars, and they're doing reports and releasing it to the public. Now the public means the enemy. The enemy reads those reports. They study every line of it," Trump added. "Those reports should be private reports. Let them do a report, but they should be private reports and be locked up, and if a member of Congress wants to see it he can go in and read."
"For these reports to [released], to [be given out] essentially, forget about [the public], given out to the enemy is insane," Trump said. "And I don't want it to happen anymore, Mr. Secretary. You understand that?"
Trump then said that "nobody" had been more critical of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. "Hey, it's not my fault. I didn't put us there," he said. "But we're getting out and we're getting out smart, and we're winning."
Trump's sudden announcement last month that he would pull U.S forces from Syria was greeted with concern even by opponents of a protected US presence there, many of whom viewed Trump's move as hasty. The move also led Jim Mattis to resign as defense secretary.
President Donald J. Trump, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, addresses his remarks to U.S. troops Wednesday, December 26, 2018, at the Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. White House photo
Trump's announcement about withdrawing from Syria was followed by reports that the White House planned to start withdrawing from Afghanistan, pulling out half of the roughly 14,000 US troops there. Those reports also caused concern, especially among countries bordering Afghanistan, who fear the US withdraw could trigger new waves of migration.
Trump stressed Wednesday that withdrawals would come "over a period of time."
"I never said I'm getting out tomorrow. I said we're pulling our soldiers out, and they will be pulled back in Syria," he said. "We're getting out of Syria, yeah, absolutely, but we're getting out very powerfully."
SIGAR was created by Congress in 2008 to "conduct robust, independent, and objective oversight of the U.S. reconstruction investment in Afghanistan."
That money has been used to develop Afghan security forces, promote good governance, assist development, and support counternarcotics and anti-corruption efforts.
SIGAR has revealed a wide array of waste and abuse, however.
Its findings include $86 million spent over seven years to develop a counternarcotics plane that "missed every delivery deadline and remained inoperable," $3 million spent on a cancelled request for boats to patrol rivers in the landlocked country, $6.5 million spent on six communications towers that were never used, and that an "unacceptably high" number of Afghan soldiers and police brought to the U.S. for training go absent without leave.
SIGAR probes also found that the U.S. Army refused to bar individuals and groups with alleged ties to terrorist groups from getting US contracts and that USAID and the State and Defense departments had "not adequately assessed their efforts to support education in Afghanistan" despite spending $760 million on them between 2002 and 2014.
SIGAR also reported at the end of 2016 that there had been increases in poverty, unemployment and underemployment, violence, outmigration, internal displacement, and the education-gender gap, and that services and private investment had fallen, while share of the country controlled by the Afghan government had fallen.
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A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.