US has legitimate reasons for leaving Syria: Ex-general

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. has legitimate reasons for deciding to withdraw its troops from Syria, a former brigadier general said Friday.</p>  <p>Mark Kimmitt, who also served as a top defense official under former President George W. Bush, spoke at a panel discussion hosted by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), a think tank based in Washington, D.C.</p>  <p>&quot;There remain legitimate reasons, and overwhelmingly positive reasons, for the U.S. to be getting out of Syria rather than staying in it,&quot; said Kimmitt. </p>  <p>Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump surprised many, including his own cabinet, when he announced plans to withdraw all American forces from Syria.</p>  <p>The decision came during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country.</p>  <p>Kimmitt laid out the reasons for defending the decision, saying that for one thing, the Daesh terrorist group is no longer a threat to the U.S.</p>  <p>&quot;ISIS may not be defeated. [But] it is certainly degraded. The caliphate is gone,&quot; said Kimmitt, using another name for the Daesh. &quot;They are not an existential threat to the United States.&quot;</p>  <p>Echoing comments by U.S. Special Representative to Syria James Jeffrey, the former defense official also noted that the nature of the U.S. alliance with the YPG/PKK terrorist group was &quot;temporary, transactional, and tactical&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;This notion that somehow the YPG are brave, democratic-seeking allies of the United States, I think, needs to be questioned,&quot; he added.</p>  <p>In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people. The YPG is the group's Syrian branch.</p>  <p>Kimmitt also said the U.S. did not want to get into a confrontation with Turkey, a NATO ally.</p>  <p>&quot;We have to make the choice: do we fight the Turks? Do we defend the YPG? Who owns what territory?&quot; he said.

Coalition airstrikes kill 20 in Syria's Deir ez-Zor

                            By Mohamed Misto and Adham Kako</p>    <p>DEIR EZ-ZOR/ANKARA (AA) - U.S.-led coalition warplanes on Friday struck Daesh positions in eastern Syria, leaving a number of civilians dead, according to local sources.</p>    <p>Twenty people in Deir ez-Zour’s Al-Susah district were killed by the strikes after trying to flee an exchange of fire between Daesh and the YPG/PKK terrorist group, sources said.</p>    <p>Backed by the U.S., the YPG/PKK has recently registered gains in Deir ez-Zor’s rural outskirts. </p>    <p>In September of last year, the terrorist group -- aided by U.S. air support and French artillery batteries -- managed to wrest Deir ez-Zor from Daesh.</p>    <p>According to estimates, nearly one third of Syria is currently controlled by the YPG/PKK terrorists. 

US-led coalition strikes mosque in northern Syria

            By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S.-led coalition hit a mosque Thursday believed to be a military command post for Daesh in northern Syria. </p>  <p>The strike &quot;destroyed an ISIS command and control facility in a mosque&quot; in Safafiyah town in Deir ez-Zor province, the coalition said in a statement, using another name for Daesh.</p>  <p>The terror organization &quot;continues to violate the Law of Armed Conflict and misuse protected structures like hospitals and mosques, which cause a facility to lose its protected status,&quot; it said.  </p>  <p>The coalition said the strike killed Daesh terrorists &quot;who presented an imminent threat to our Syrian partner forces.&quot;</p>  <p>The attack also &quot;eliminated another deadly ISIS operational capability from the battlefield,&quot; said the statement. </p>  <p>The coalition did not mention any civilian casualties from the strike.</p>  <p>The strike came a day after four Americans, including two soldiers, were killed in an apparent suicide attack claimed by Daesh in the northern city of Manbij. </p>  <p>Over the past few months, the coalition has carried out several strikes on mosques in northern Syria it said hosted Daesh terrorists, killing dozens of civilians.  

US man accused of plotting White House attack arrested

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Authorities apprehended a Georgia man Wednesday who allegedly sought to attack the White House and other federal buildings in Washington, D.C. </p>  <p>Hasher Taheb, 21, is suspected of planning to use an anti-tank rocket and other explosives to attack the executive mansion and other &quot;targets of opportunity,&quot; U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia BJay Pak told reporters. </p>  <p>Chris Hacker, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta field office, said Taheb was arrested on a tip from the community.</p>  <p>The tip, that Taheb had become radicalized, was originally given to local law enforcement who contacted federal investigators last March. </p>  <p>He has been charged with attempting to attack a federal building with an explosive following a nearly year-long undercover operation. </p>  <p>The suspect was apprehended after attempting to trade his car in for guns and explosives, according to multiple reports which cited court documents that were not immediately available. </p>  <p>Taheb allegedly made his plans known during meetings with a confidential informant and at least one undercover FBI agent. </p>  <p>He allegedly told the informant he wanted to perform &quot;hijrah&quot; in reference to his desire to travel to Daesh-controlled territory. But because he lacked a passport, he instead chose to plot an attack within the U.S., mulling attacks on the White House and the Statue of Liberty.

UPDATE 3 – 2 US troops killed in Manbij explosion

                                            ADDS PENTAGON STATEMENT</p>  <p>By Kasim Ileri </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - At least four Americans were killed, and three others injured in an apparent suicide attack in Manbij, Syria, the Pentagon said Wednesday. </p>  <p>U.S. Central Command said two service members died, as well as a Pentagon civilian and a contractor, while conducting a &quot;local engagement.&quot; A defense official speaking on condition of anonymity said the contractor was working as an interpreter. </p>  <p>All of the wounded Americans were service members, according to the command.  </p>  <p>An unknown number of local civilians were also killed and injured. </p>  <p>The terrorist group Daesh has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which it said was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest.</p>  <p>Manbij remains under the control of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organization. During its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives.  </p>  <p>U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement he and President Donald Trump condemn Wednesday's attack &quot;that claimed American lives and our hearts are with the loved ones of the fallen.&quot;</p>  <p>&quot;Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities,&quot; Pence said using another name for Daesh. &quot;As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever.&quot;</p>  <p>The attack came after Trump's surprise announcement last month of the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.</p>  <p>The pullout decision came during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country. </p>  <p>On the attack, Trump has been &quot;fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria,&quot; said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.</p>  <p>*Servet Gunerigok contributed to the story 

UPDATE 2 – US troops killed in Manbij explosion

            ADDS PENCE STATEMENT; CHANGES HEADLINE 

By Kasim Ileri

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. service members were killed in an apparent suicide attack in Manbij, Syria on Wednesday, according to the spokesman for the international anti-Daesh coalition.

Col. Sean Ryan said an as-yet unknown number of troops was "killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol," which reportedly killed several civilians.

"We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time," said Ryan.

Initial reports suggested four Americans may have been killed.

The terrorist group Daesh has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which it said was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest.

Manbij remains under the control of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organization. During its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement he and President Donald Trump condemn Wednesday's attack "that claimed American lives and our hearts are with the loved ones of the fallen."

"Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities," Pence said using another name for Daesh. "As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever."

The attack came after Trump's surprise announcement last month of the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.

The pullout decision came during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country.

On the attack, Trump has been "fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

*Servet Gunerigok contributed to the story

US' Pence claims Daesh defeated hours after attack

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence claimed Wednesday the Daesh terrorist group has been finally defeated just after it claimed an attack that took the lives of a yet determined number of service members and civilians in Manbij, Syria. </p>  <p>&quot;The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated,&quot; Pence declared at a State Department gathering of more than 180 ambassadors, using another name for Daesh.  </p>  <p>The U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition said the number of American soldiers who were &quot;killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol&quot; remains unknown.</p>  <p>Initial reports suggested the attack, reported to be a suicide bombing, claimed the lives of four American service members. </p>  <p>President Donald Trump abruptly announced in December that all U.S. troops would be exiting Syria. </p>  <p>The pullout decision came during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-ravished country.</p>  <p>But it has resulted in significant pushback within his administration and on Capitol Hill. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned his post shortly after the announcement was made public, and Trump's closest legislative allies have warned against following through with the policy.</p>  <p>Speaking during a committee hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham reiterated his long-standing concerns adding &quot;you had set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we are fighting.</p>  <p>&quot;I would hope the president would look long and hard of where he is headed in Syria,&quot; said Graham.</p>  <p>Trump &quot;has been fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria,&quot; White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. 

Turkey vows to eliminate Daesh from Syria

             By Aynur Ekiz</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Amid the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Turkey will press the fight against terrorist group Daesh to clear it from Syrian soil, Turkey’s president said Wednesday.</p>  <p>&quot;Turkey will continue the fight against Daesh and eliminate this terrorist group in Syria,&quot; Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a joint press conference with visiting Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in the capital Ankara.</p>  <p>On Wednesday's suicide attack in Manbij, Syria, which killed an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers, Erdogan said that he doesn't believe U.S. President Donald Trump will lie down in the face of this attack, as this would mean victory for Daesh.</p>  <p>He added that the attack could be meant to dissuade the U.S. from leaving Syria.</p>  <p>Initial reports suggested four Americans may have been killed in the attack, claimed by Daesh.</p>  <p>Manbij remains under the control of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organization.</p>  <p>During its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives. The PYD/YPG is its Syrian branch.</p>  <p>The attack came after Trump's surprise announcement last month of the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.</p>  <p>The pullout decision came during a phone call with Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country. </p>  <p> 

UPDATE – US service members killed in Manbij explosion

            ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT 

By Kasim Ileri

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. service members were killed in an apparent suicide attack in Manbij, Syria on Wednesday, according to the spokesman for the international anti-Daesh coalition.

Col. Sean Ryan said an as-yet unknown number of soldiers was "killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol," which reportedly killed several civilians.

"We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time," said Ryan.

Initial reports suggested four Americans may have been killed.

The terrorist group Daesh has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which it said was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest.

Manbij remains under the control of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organization.

During its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives. The PYD/YPG is its Syrian branch.

The attack came after U.S. President Donald Trump's surprise announcement last month of the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.

The pullout decision came during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country.

On the attack, Trump has been "fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told CBS News.

*Servet Gunerigok contributed to the story

US service members killed in Manbij explosion

            By Kasim Ileri </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. service members were killed in an apparent suicide attack in Manbij, Syria on Wednesday, according to the spokesman for the international anti-Daesh coalition. </p>  <p>Col. Sean Ryan said the yet-to-be-known number of the soldiers were &quot;killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol,&quot; which reportedly killed several civilians.  </p>  <p>&quot;We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,&quot; said Ryan. </p>  <p>The Daesh terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which it said was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest.</p>  <p>Manbij remains under the control of the PYD/YPG, the Syrian affiliate of PKK terrorist organization. </p>  <p>The attack came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced withdrawal of troops from the region last month. 

*Servet Gunerigok contributed to the story