US-led coalition airstrikes targeted Syrian regime forces

Syrian regime forces occupying five vehicles were targeted by US airstrikes after breaching a “de-confliction zone,” a US official told CNN Thursday.

The strike was near a base in An Tanf used by the US-led coalition to train “Vetted Syrian Opposition” to aid the fight against ISIS.

Two US aircraft were dispatched as a “show of force” to get the Syrian vehicles to turn around. According to a US defense official, the vehicles did not stop and the show of force was escalated to include an airstrike. The official said at this time it is not clear if the strike was intended as a warning or intended to hit regime forces, who were militia tied to the regime as opposed to regular army troops.

A second US defense official said that an additional strike did hit the convoy after the vehicles continued toward the base.

A convoy of 20 pro-regime vehicles were headed toward An Tanf Wednesday night, searching vehicles and buildings along the way, according to a US official. Thirteen of the vehicles breached the “de-confliction zone” around the base that is the area that the coalition has communicated to the Russians to stay away from. The official said five of the vehicles came within 29 kilometers of the base at about midnight EST Thursday when the aircraft were dispatched.

There is a Syrian regime base nearby, the official said, adding that forces there are equipping to handle about a battalion’s worth of troops.

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ISIS leader in Afghanistan killed in raid

The ISIS leader in Afghanistan, Sheikh Abdul Hasib, was killed in an April 27 raid conducted by Afghan special security forces and US troops, Afghan and US authorities said Sunday.

Fifth US Army rangers and 40 Afghan commandos were dropped by helicopter into Nangarhar Province, within a mile or so of the site where the United States dropped the MOAB, or “mother of all bombs,” on April 13.

Within minutes, the rangers were surrounded by heavy fire, the Pentagon said, causing the soldiers to call in support from an AC-130 aircraft, F-16s, drones and Apache helicopters.

The Pentagon said Hasib was the target of the attack, but didn’t confirm his death until Sunday.

The raid also resulted in the deaths of several other high ranking leaders of ISIS-K, the terror group’s regional branch, and 35 ISIS fighters. Two American soldiers died in the attack, perhaps from friendly fire, the Pentagon said.

“This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters,” said General John Nicholson, Commander US Forces – Afghanistan. “For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.”

In a series of Tweets on Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani’s Office confirmed Hasib was killed in the attack.

“He was responsible for ordering the attack on the 400-bed hospital in Kabul, kidnapped girls and beheaded elders in front of their families,” the President’s office said.

The March 8 attack on the hospital, carried out by gunmen disguised as medical personnel, left 30 people dead before Afghan security forces killed the attackers.

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Defense Department identifies Navy SEAL killed in Somalia

A Navy SEAL who was killed in an operation against terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia earlier this week has been identified by the Department of Defense as Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine.

Milliken, a senior chief special warfare operator, was killed Thursday in a remote area of Somalia 40 miles west of Mogadishu when he and other troops came under small-arms fire.

Milliken was a member of SEAL Team Six, a defense official confirmed to CNN. The elite special operations unit, which led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was on a scheduled deployment to East Africa for training and carrying out counterterrorism missions. The target in Somalia was a local al-Shabaab leader who had been involved in planning attacks against facilities used by US and African forces in Somalia.

Milliken was on a mission advising Somali National Army forces.

“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best Navy SEALs,” Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate — and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.”

Two other military service members were wounded in the operation, including an interpreter who was also a US citizen, a US defense official told CNN.

A US military official confirmed that this is the first US service member killed in action in Somalia since 1993, when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed in the Battle for Mogadishu.

The US troops were part of a US military program to advise and assist Somali ground forces. The mission was not part of the stepped-up effort in Somalia to conduct airstrikes and ground missions against terror targets.

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U.S.: We’ll pay for missile defense system in South Korea (for now)

After President Trump set off a furor over who should pay for a U.S. missile defense system that’s being installed in South Korea, his national security chief said Washington will pick up the check. For the time being, at least.

White House national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster told his South Korean counterpart that the U.S. would continue to bear the cost of the system, according to a statement Sunday from the office of the South Korean president.

McMaster was responding to the controversy Trump stirred up last week with South Korea, a key U.S. ally in Asia.

“I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they pay” for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “That’s a billion-dollar system.”

The deployment of THAAD has already proved unpopular with many South Koreans and hurt the country’s relations with China. The South Korean Defense Ministry has repeatedly said the country will provide the land but won’t foot the bill for the system, which is designed to protect against the threat of missiles from North Korea.

McMaster’s reassurances to to Kim Kwan-jin, the South Korean director of national security, that the U.S. would stick to the existing deal appeared to contradict Trump’s remarks. But in an interview Sunday with Fox News, McMaster denied that suggestion.

“That’s not what it was,” he said. “What I told our South Korean counterpart is until any renegotiation, that the deal is in place. We will adhere to our word.”

McMaster said the Trump administration plans to renegotiate the U.S.’s defense relationships with South Korea and “all of our allies … we need everybody to pay their fair share.”

But the South Korean Defense Ministry isn’t interested in going back to the table on the THAAD issue.

“I don’t believe this is a matter that can be renegotiated,” spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said Monday.

South Korea already helps pay for the cost of the roughly 28,500 U.S. troops currently stationed in South Korea, contributing nearly 1 trillion won ($880 million) every year.

The existing agreement over those terms expires at the end of 2018, and negotiations over its renewal are expected to start around the end of this year.

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US troops patrol Turkey-Syria border after Turkish strikes on Kurds

US forces have begun patrolling part of the Turkey-Syria border after Turkish airstrikes in the area killed fighters closely allied to the United States.The People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Peshmerga in Iraq — both Kurdish groups — said at lea…

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The kids suing Donald Trump are marching to the White House

A 16-year-old walked up to the microphone.

“The state of the planet is unraveling all around us because of our addiction to fossil fuels,” Xiuhtezcatl Martinez said at the steps of the US Supreme Court this week. “For the last several decades, we have been neglecting the fact that this is the only planet that we have and that the main stakeholders in this issue (of climate change) are the younger generation. Not only are the youth going to be inheriting every problem that we see in the world today — after our politicians have been long gone — but our voices have been neglected from the conversation.

“Our politicians are no longer representing our voices.”

So, what’s a voiceless kid to do?

How about sue President Donald Trump and his administration — and then march to the White House?

Martinez is one of 21 young people taking Trump and members of his administration to federal court over inaction on global warming. On Saturday, several of these “Climate Kid’ plaintiffs — the youngest is 9 — will walk alongside the chanting and sign-pumping adults at the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in Washington. That demonstration is a call for a clean energy revolution, and it’s expected to draw thousands. Perhaps fittingly, local forecasts call for potentially record-setting temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Demonstrators plan to converge on the White House.

Yes, it’s easy to tire of protests in the Trump era, with this rally coming right on the heels of last week’s March for Science and not so long after the Women’s March. Talk is cheap. But these climate kids deserve your attention.

Instead of bemoaning the Orwellian satire that has become the American news cycle, these kids are doing something. They’re suing on behalf of the future.

Their lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Oregon, initially targeted then-President Barack Obama and his administration. Last year, it survived motions by industry and government to dismiss the case. It has taken on new significance in the first 100 days of Trump’s tenure. The President has famously called climate change a hoax, and members of his Cabinet have equivocated on the science, injecting doubt into a long-held scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to warm by burning fossil fuels and pumping heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere.

The administration’s efforts go well beyond rhetoric. Trump ordered a review of the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s signature climate legislation. He aims to open federal lands and ocean for fossil fuel extraction. Coal jobs are coming back, he crows. Nevermind that millions of people around the world die each year from diseases linked to air pollution — much of which comes from coal.

The administration is reportedly mulling pulling out from the Paris Agreement, an international accord designed to push the planet out of the fossil fuel era. Federal monuments and parks are under review; funding for regulators is on the chopping block.

All of this is likely to lead to more pollution and therefore more warming — more wildfires, longer droughts, rising seas, mass extinction. This is the polluted and dangerous world we are creating, and it’s what’s chasing activists into the streets.

The climate kids could help change the tide.

They’re arguing on constitutional grounds that their rights to life, liberty and property are being violated by runaway climate change. Their attorneys also say these kids and others are being discriminated against as a class of people.

Since they’re young, they will live longer into the climate-changed future.

They’re people like Levi Draheim, who at 9 years old is the youngest child plaintiff. He’s a bubbly kid with wild curly hair who lives on the coast of Florida, a place threatened by rising seas. As the Earth warms, the oceans expand and ice melts. Draheim told me he dreams frequently that his home is underwater. Those dreams have only become more frequent since Trump’s election, he said.

“It was really highly disturbing to me that (adults) would choose somebody who doesn’t believe in climate change — and is not going to,” he said. “It’s scary having someone who doesn’t believe in climate change being our president and shutting down the (Environmental Protection Agency), or trying to. It is so anti-preventing climate change.”

Draheim isn’t old enough to vote, of course. But Saturday’s march — and the court case — give him and other kids a voice. Julia Olson, an attorney and founder of Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit helping to bring the lawsuit, told me she expects the case to go to trial later this year. In court, she told a Washington crowd, “alternative facts are perjury.”

Experts in climate law say the suit may be a long shot but remains significant.

“The case is important, in my mind, from a symbolic and ethics perspective,” said Deborah Sivas, director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School. “It often takes the law a long time to catch up to changing moral sensibilities. It only does so when people are willing to press innovative, outside-the-box arguments. My hope is that we will be able to look back on this case as an early, first mover of a changing jurisprudence.”

“After several years with little success, environmental plaintiffs have now won climate change cases in several countries based on constitutional, human rights and international law grounds, as opposed to the more traditional statutory grounds — the Netherlands, Pakistan, Austria and South Africa,” Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said in an email. “The Oregon case now joins that list, and its symbolic importance has added weight now that Washington is run by climate deniers.”

Olson, the attorney for the kids, said the case is not symbolic and can win. Those who say otherwise “are denying the capacity of humans to take care of democracy and take care of the planet,” she said.

I spent a couple days this week with the climate kids. I heard about their visits to Washington museums and to see the Constitution. I watched as they sang and danced at DC Metro stops, playing Kendrick Lamar simultaneously on two phones to get twice the experience. I talked to them about their hopes and fears about this case, about why so many American adults — 47% according to a Yale survey — don’t understand humans are causing global warming. They explained why they’re marching and speaking here even at a moment when they worry adults might not listen.

“Most people know climate change is happening, but they push it aside so they can continue living their lives,” said Isaac Vergun, 15.

“It’s not their fault,” chimed in Zealand Bell, 13. “They don’t know better.”

Their hope and generosity are infectious. Their parents and attorneys didn’t put them up to this. (I’ve talked with kids who had to convince their parents to let them do this.) The kids are genuinely concerned their generation will inherit an irreparably messed-up world.

The truth is that we adults need these climate kids.

We need them more than thousands of adults marching on Saturday.

We need them as a moral compass.

And we need them to remind us that our actions will echo for generations to come.

“They’ll be adults by the time they get to court,” Cherri Foytlin, one of their parents, joked as we watched several of the kids speak alongside US senators Thursday at the Supreme Court.

I hope not. But if so, they’ll be better adults than most.

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