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Trump agrees to keep U.S. troops in Syria for undetermined period of time to defeat ISIS

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“The president made his displeasure clear about any kind of long-term presence in Syria,” the official said, adding that Trump was trying “light a fire” under his team to get the military mission wrapped up.

Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and John Sullivan, the acting U.S. secretary of state, were in the meeting, which took place Tuesday after Trump’s comments on Syria at a joint press conference with the Baltic heads of state, along with Mattis. John Bolton, Trump’s nominee to replace H.R. McMaster, as national security adviser, was not in attendance, nor was Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA director and pick to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, according to the official.

The official said Trump told his aides that he expects partner governments in the region to make good on verbal pledges to help pay for reconstruction. In the meeting, according to two U.S. officials, Trump said the Saudis would provide as much as $4 billion in stabilization efforts for Syria.

The U.S. has around 2,000 forces on the ground in Syria fighting ISIS.

Tuesday’s meeting followed a scramble by Trump’s national security aides to address his recent threat to pull out all U.S. forces from Syria.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump said he wanted to get out of Syria and bring U.S. troops back home — only moments after his top advisers said publicly that the fight against ISIS was not finished.

 A convoy of U.S. troops drive on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters in Manbij, north Syria, on Saturday. Hussein Malla / AP

“I want to get back, I want to rebuild our nation,” Trump said, reiterating comments about withdrawal that he made last week. “It’s time. We were very successful against ISIS; we’ll be successful against anybody militarily, but sometimes it’s time to come back home. And we’re thinking about that very seriously.”

The president, speaking at a joint news conference at the White House with the leaders of the Baltic states, did not give a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops but said a decision would be made soon.

Just minutes earlier, however, the president’s envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, had stressed that the job was not finished.

“We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission,” McGurk said, standing alongside Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “Our mission is not over. And we are going to complete that mission.”

U.S. and coalition partners on the ground have taken control of almost 95 percent of the territory in Syria once held by ISIS, but U.S. officials have said their remaining presence will prove difficult to eliminate quickly and could take months.

Votel, for his part, stressed on Tuesday the importance of stabilization in Syria, and said the U.S. military can help.

“The hard part, I think, is in front of us, and that is stabilizing these areas, consolidating our gains, getting people back into their homes,” Votel said.

In a statement Wednesday, the White House said the U.S. mission in Syria was “coming to a rapid end.”

“The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed. The United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “We will continue to consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans. We expect countries in the region and beyond, plus the United Nations, to work toward peace and ensure that ISIS never re-emerges.”

But Nick Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrrorism Center and an MSNBC and NBC News national security and intelligence analyst, said Wednesday that the U.S. should exercise caution in declaring victory over the terrorist group.

“There is still a significant ISIS problem we’re dealing with. When you use words like defeat and destroy, that’s a pretty high bar to get to in terms of eliminating a terrorist organization,” Rasmussen said.

Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube reported from Washington, and Adam Edelman from New York.

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France bulks up military with mega cash injection as budget soars to €41BN – up €1.7BN

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EMMANUEL MACRON announced a huge increase in spending for the French Armed Forces, in his latest bid to win over voters ahead of next year’s Presidential elections.

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Biden seeks to bring his party together amid infighting over agenda

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WASHINGTON — The true fate of President Biden’s legislative agenda was always going to be clear when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V. huddled with progressives to tell them what he’s specifically for on reconciliation, and when Biden rolled up his sleeves to tell his party how it should proceed.

Today, it appears we might get an answer to that second question — or at least the beginning of the answer.

President Biden is expected to meet today with House and Senate Democrats to discuss a way forward on the infrastructure/reconciliation legislative packages, especially with the infrastructure bill set for a House vote on Monday, per NBC News.

“As of Tuesday evening, the White House had not settled on the final timing and invite list for the gatherings but a source familiar with the planning told NBC News that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are expected to attend a 2 p.m. ET meeting at the White House,” NBC’s Teaganne Finn, Sahil Kapur, Geoff Bennett and Haley Talbot write.

The standoff here: “Progressive lawmakers have said they won’t back the Senate-passed infrastructure bill, a top priority for the Democratic leadership, unless the larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package passes first. Moderates, meanwhile, said they won’t support the reconciliation measure unless the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes on Monday as scheduled.”

The real endgame to this stalemate has always been Manchin finally showing his cards about what he can support on reconciliation, given that Democrats need his vote (as well as Sen Kyrsten Sinema’s) in the current 50-50 Senate.

But the other key component was Biden leading his party and trying to find a way out.

Can Biden really afford to see his infrastructure deal go down to defeat next week?

Progressive House Dems are threatening to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure deal that the Senate passed last month — as a way to keep both it and the reconciliation package (which is still TBD) tied together legislatively.

But can Biden afford to see the infrastructure bill go down to defeat in the House? Even if the measure gets another vote whenever the reconciliation stalemate gets resolved?

Here’s what Biden said last month when the infrastructure package cleared the Senate by a 69-30 vote, with 19 Republicans joining all 50 Democratic senators:

“Folks, above all, this historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want — what you’ve been asking for for a long, long time. This bill shows that we can work together.

“I know a lot of people — some sitting in the audience here — didn’t think this could happen. This bill was declared dead more often than — anyway. That bipartisanship was a thing of the past. From the time I announced my candidacy (inaudible) bringing the country together and doing things in a bipartisan way, it was characterized as a relic of an — an earlier age.

“As you may well remember, I never believed that. I still don’t.

“So, I want to thank those senators who worked so hard to bring this agreement together. I know it wasn’t easy.

“For the Republicans who supported this bill, you showed a lot of courage. And I want to personally thank you for that, and I’ve called most of you on the phone to do just that.

“You have — and no doubt, you will –- disagree with me on many issues. But where we can agree, we should. And here, on this bill, we proved that we can still come together to do big things, important things for the American people.”

Bottom line: Will someone who ran for president touting his deal-making ability (including with the opposition), who delivered an inaugural address on achieving unity, and who routinely emphasizes the power of his word in negotiations really allow his party to defeat this bill?

Even if it’s a temporary defeat?

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

$30 million: How much the DSCC is investing in a new field program targeting nine states with the hopes of holding onto their slim majority.

500 million: How many more Pfizer Covid vaccine doses America is buying to donate to the world.

42,455,954: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 125,672 more since yesterday morning.)

682,653: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,360 more since yesterday morning.)

386,780,816: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 542,935 more since yesterday morning.)

54.8 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

66 percent: The share of all U.S. adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

U.S. diplomats suffering from the so-called “Havana Syndrome” had a tense meeting with Secretary of State Blinken this month.

The New York Times reports that the Trump campaign wrote a memo in mid-November that acknowledged many of the conspiracy theories spouted by Trump’s allies claiming massive election fraud were false.

Many Americans are having to postpone important medical procedures because hospitals are inundated with Covid patients.

Democrats are criticizing the Biden administration over the treatment of Haitian migrants.

The Washington Post reports that few GOP Senate candidates are backing Trump’s call to depose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The former French Ambassador to the U.S. hammered the Biden administration over its handling of L’affaire Sous-marine.

And this Wednesday night at 7:00 pm ET, Speaker Pelosi, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and other Democratic lawmakers will join progressive health-care activist Ady Barkan for the online premiere of his documentary “Not Going Quietly.”



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'Get a grip and give me a break!' Boris rages in French as he loses patience with Macron

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BORIS Johnson has lost his temper at Emmanuel Macron over Frances’s reaction to the AUKUS pact between the US, UK, and Australia.

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