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United States and Iraq agree on eventual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops

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WASHINGTON — The United States and Iraq said Wednesday they have agreed on the eventual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and that the two governments would hold talks to work out the timing of the move.

In a joint statement following a round of talks between U.S. and Iraqi officials, the two governments said the mission of U.S. forces was now focused on training Iraqi troops to fight ISIS. As a result, combat troops would no longer be necessary in the future, the statement said.

There are currently roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq helping Iraq counter ISIS, according to the Pentagon, but it’s not clear how many forces could be considered combat troops.

“Based on the increasing capacity of the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces), the parties confirmed that the mission of U.S. and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks,” said the joint statement.

“The transition of U.S. and other international forces away from combat operations to training, equipping, and assisting the ISF reflects the success of their strategic partnership and ensures support to the ISF’s continued efforts to ensure ISIS can never again threaten Iraq’s stability,” said the statement.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters no details had been worked out as to the possible timing of a combat troop exit, or even the timing of planned talks on the issue.

“There was no specific agreement of a date certain or a certain number of troops by a certain date,” Kirby said.

The United States has never intended to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, he said.

“I think we all realized when we were invited in by the government of Iraq, that this mission was aligned against ISIS, and that there was no expectation that it was going to be a permanent, enduring mission or footprint,” Kirby said.

President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, and then sent forces back to the country in 2014 after ISIS militants seized large swathes of territory in Iraq.

The Pentagon says the threat posed by ISIS has been greatly diminished and that the group has been dramatically weakened from what it was, but that the militants still pose a danger to Iraq and the region.

Mosheh Gains contributed.

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Dominic Raab slashes China foreign aid budget by massive 95% – UK pledges less than £1m

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DOMINIC RAAB has slashed the foreign aid to China by a staggering 95 percent, with the UK sending just £900,000 to Beijing.

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Senate to vote on Vanita Gupta for Justice Dept. No. 3 despite broad GOP opposition

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WASHINGTON — The Senate is set to vote Wednesday afternoon on the nomination of Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general despite nearly unified opposition from Republicans.

The Senate advanced Gupta’s nomination for the Justice Department’s No. 3 spot in a 51-49 vote earlier Wednesday after Moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, joined all Democrats in bringing the nomination to a final vote. Murkowski’s support for the vote meant Vice President Kamala Harris was not needed to break a tie.

Harris could still be needed to do so for the final confirmation vote, expected around 2:15 p.m. ET. The final vote comes almost a month after the Senate Judiciary Committee took a 11-11 party-line vote on her nomination, which required the Senate to vote last week to discharge the nomination from committee to allow it to come to the floor.

Gupta, who ran the Justice Department’s civil rights division as an associate attorney general during the Obama administration, will bring a “long overdue perspective” to the department, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.

“Not only is Ms. Gupta the first woman of color to ever be nominated to the position, she is the first civil rights attorney ever to be nominated to the position — the third-ranking official in the Justice Department,” he said. “And just to give you a sense of Ms. Gupta’s commitment to civil rights and racial equity, in her very first case after law school, she won the release of several African Americans who had been wrongfully convicted by all-white juries in Texas.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that he would “strongly oppose” Gupta’s nomination, arguing that she has “repeatedly amplified left-wing fear-mongering toward judicial nominees and sitting federal judges” and “levied attacks on members of this body.”

McConnell also accused Gupta of employing “the loosest possible interpretation of her oath to deliver honest testimony” during her confirmation process and said her reputation “contrasts sharply” with that of Attorney General Merrick Garland, whom he voted to confirm.

“The White House needs to make a better choice for this key post,” he said. “The Senate should create that opportunity by voting no today.”

President Joe Biden praised Gupta, who serves as head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in his remarks Tuesday night following the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

Biden said Gupta and Kristen Clarke, the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whom he nominated to run the DOJ’s civil rights division, “are eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who have spent their entire careers fighting to advance racial equity and justice.”

Gupta and Clarke have the experience and skill “to advance our administration’s priorities to root out unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system, and they deserve to be confirmed,” Biden said.

Many Republicans have voiced opposition to Clarke’s nomination as well.



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Fat chance! EU mocked over 2050 green target as Germany falters – hours after UK pledge

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GERMANY has been criticised for lagging behind its climate targets after Angela Merkel welcomed new EU emissions laws.

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