By: Meghann Myers - Military Times
Authorities are investigating the Thursday non-combat death of an Okinawa-based Special Forces soldier, according to a Friday release from U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Green, 38, was a military liaison to the U.S. embassy in Papua New Guinea, assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa, Japan, the release said.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Green,” said Col. Will Beaurpere, 1st SFG’s commander, in the release. “He served his nation selflessly, and his death is a loss that will be felt across the Special Forces community. Our condolences go to his family, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
While no further details are available about the circumstances of his death, USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt clarified that it was not a vehicle-related accident.
Green joined the Army as a cavalry scout in 2003 before completing Special Forces selection training and reporting to 1st SFG, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, in 2011, the release said.
The Green Beret’s deployments included two stints in Iraq, and one each to the Philippines, Thailand and Afghanistan.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.
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By Mac William Bishop, Stella Kim and Alastair Jamieson - NBC News
SEOUL, South Korea — The leaders of North and South Korea signed a historic declaration Friday pledging "no more war" and a common goal of "complete denuclearization" on the Korean Peninsula.
The countries, which technically remain in a state of war, heralded the deal as part of "a new era of peace" after a historic summit.
North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in also vowed to "cease all hostile acts" and to "transform the Demilitarized Zone into a peace zone."
The two leaders embraced, and Moon said he would visit Pyongyang in the fall.
The summit laid the foundation for a meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump, amid concerns about North Korea's nuclear program. Kim has repeatedly threatened to destroy both the U.S and South Korea.
Trump gave the deal a cautious welcome, tweeting that "time will tell" if it leads to an end to nuclear missile tests. "The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place," he added.
Earlier, Kim and Moon briefly crossed into each other's countries before a meeting that appeared to mark a turning point in one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints.
Kim stepped across a low concrete military demarcation line separating the rival nations and greeted Moon with smiles and handshakes. As cameras clicked, he took Moon by the hand and invited him to briefly step back into North Korea.
“We have a chance to heal the wounds,” Kim told Moon as they sat down for talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.
Kim then wrote a promise in a ceremonial book: "A new history begins now."
After breaking off for lunch, the leaders met again to plant a commemorative pine tree and strolled together through the village without aides.
Kim made an unconventional attempt to break the ice with a comment about his recent missile tests, according to a briefing to reporters by Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young Chan.
Kim said to Moon with a smile: “I was told that you used to be unable to get a good night’s sleep, being awakened … to attend the National Security Council meetings because of us.”
The North Korean leader added: “I’ll make sure that you can sleep soundly.”
In the first meeting between North and South leaders in a decade, Kim also said that he looks forward to "making the most of this opportunity so that we have the chance to heal the wounds between the North and the South. Let’s meet more often from now on."
He added: “Let’s meet people’s expectations to make a better world. I promise we will do well in the future.”
According to Yoon, Kim also told Moon: “I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation as well as to work shoulder to shoulder with you to tackle the obstacles between us. I came to with the confidence that a brighter future awaits us.”
Before the declaration was signed, China applauded the leaders for taking a "historic step" toward peace. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing that China hopes for "new journey of long-term peace and stability on the peninsula."
With North Korea’s nuclear weapons program having reached what American policymakers describe as a critical stage, expectations are high that Friday's talks will lay the foundation for reduced tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.
The proposed meeting between Kim and Trump would be the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. It is not clear when it would take place, although American officials have said it could be from late May to mid-June. Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden and Mongolia have all been cited as possible venues.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the U.S. "looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks."
Meetings between leaders of the two Koreas have occurred in the past, in 2000 and 2007, but in each of those instances the South Korean president traveled to Pyongyang.
Friday's summit comes after last week's news that Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, recently held one-on-one talkswith the reclusive strongman. The U.S. Senate voted to confirmPompeo on Thursday.
Kim also gave his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, a place at the negotiating table, The Associated Press reported. She took a seat beside Kim as he started his first round of talks.
The only other North Korean official present was former intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, the top official in charge of relations with the South.
Diplomatic efforts waned late last year amid Trump’s war of words with Kim. He warned that Kim would be met with "fire and fury" and dubbed him "little rocket man."
However, earlier this year, South Korea made some breakthroughs with its warring neighbor after a series of meetings and discussions that resulted in North Korea's sending athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Athletes from the two countries entered the Olympic arena in PyeongChang under a unified flag, signaling the potential for warmer ties.
Mac William Bishop and Stella Kim reported from Seoul, Alastair Jamieson and Jason Cumming reported from London.
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Mike Calia | Dan Mangan - CNBC
The doctor's withdrawal follows a bombshell New York Times report Wednesday that said Jackson allegedly provided a "large supply" of the opioid Percocet to a White House staffer, and wrecked a government car while intoxicated.
After that story was published online, Jackson told reporters that he "did not wreck a car." Jackson, who is Trump's personal physician in the White House, also said his nomination is "still moving ahead as planned" before walking away from reporters.
Jackson also allegedly wrote himself prescriptions, and after he was caught doing so he asked a physician assistant to provide the medication, the Times reported, citing a Democratic Senate staff summary of alleged conduct by Jackson.
The summary is based on testimony from 23 current and former colleagues of Jackson.
Previously, there were allegations that Jackson oversaw to a hostile work environment and drank alcohol on the job. There were already concerns about his experience and skill set for the job of leading an agency with 377,000 employees before the allegations emerged.
The Veterans Health Administration is the nation's largest integrated health-care system, providing services for 9 million vets at 1,240 health-care facilities.
Trump picked Jackson last month after he fired Secretary David Shulkin, who was under scrutiny for alleged ethics violations and for his resistance to privatize veterans' medical care.
Since Shulkin's firing, the interim head of the VA has been Robert Wilkie, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness.
Jackson's appearance before the Senate committee reviewing his nomination, which was supposed to happen Wednesday, was postponed because of the claims.
But the White House aggressively defended Jackson on Wednesday, saying that at least four background investigations had found no areas of concern. Later that night, however, key White House officials were seen huddling with Jackson in the West Wing.
Here is Jackson's statement announcing his withdrawal:
One of the greatest honors in my life has been to serve this country as a physician both on the battlefield with United States Marines and as proud member of the United States Navy.
It has been my distinct honor and privilege to work at the White House and serve three Presidents.
Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.
The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.
In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.
Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation's heroes.
While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I am proud of my service to the country and will always be committed to the brave veterans who volunteer to defend our freedoms.
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Tammie Jo Shults, who landed crippled Southwest plane, was one of first female fighter pilots in U.S. Navy
By Elizabeth Chuck and Shamar Walters - NBC News
The pilot who coolly landed a Southwest Airlines plane after one of the jet's engines failed and torpedoed shrapnel through a window midflight has gone against the odds before.
Identified by The Associated Press as Tammie Jo Shults, she wasted no time steering the plane into a rapid descent toward safety when chaos broke out shortly after takeoff from New York — maintaining her composure even as passengers reported from the cabin that a woman had been partially sucked out of a shattered window.
“We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” she’s heard calmly telling air traffic controllers in audio transmissions after reporting the aircraft's engine failure.
“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults then requests.
A air traffic controller asks her if her plane is on fire, to which Shults calmly replies: “No, it’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing. They said there’s a hole, and — uh — someone went out.”
One passenger was killed, and seven others suffered minor injuries, authorities said. But many say the toll on Dallas-bound Flight 1380, which had 149 people aboard, would have been much higher had it not been for Shults' quick thinking during her emergency landing in Philadelphia.
"Most of us, when that engine blew, I think we were pretty much going, 'Well, this just might be it,'" said passenger Peggy Phillips, from Brandon, Texas. "To get us down with no hydraulics and a blown engine and land us safely is nothing short of miraculous to me. She's a hero, for sure."
A 1983 graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, Shults, 56, received her degree in biology and agribusiness, said Carol Best, a spokeswoman for the university.
Shults then became one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, according to the alumni group at her alma mater.
Cindy Foster, a classmate of Shults, told The Kansas City Star that when Shults enlisted in the Navy, she encountered "a lot of resistance" because of her gender. She was passionate about flying and dreamed of being in the Air Force, but went to the Navy instead after the Air Force denied her a chance, Foster added.
"So she knew she had to work harder than everyone else," Foster told the paper. "She did it for herself and all women fighting for a chance."
In addition to being among the first female fighter pilots, Shults was the first woman to fly an F/A-18 Hornet for the Navy, Foster told The Kansas City Star.
She then trained military pilots before she was hired as a pilot for Southwest, the paper reported.
MidAmerica Nazarene's director of alumni relations, Kevin Garber, said Shults traveled to campus last spring from her home in Texas to talk with students about her career. He described her as a "solid woman of faith" and very down-to-earth.
"The nature of her talk was sharing her life journey and life path, and encouraging female students to pursue their dreams and don't give up. You can arrive at that next level," Garber said. "Students were inspired by her tenacity, her motivation, her determination."
"She's just an excellent role model for women certainly in the workplace, and just people in general," he added.
Female pilots are a minority in their field, comprising just 4 to 5 percent of all pilots in North America, according to Conde Nast Traveler.
Southwest Airlines and Shults declined to be interviewed by NBC News on Wednesday.
But those close to her said she's always had the skills necessary to perform the job.
"She's a formidable woman, as sharp as a tack," Gary Shults, Shults' brother-in-law, told the AP.
He said that Shults' husband is also a Southwest pilot.
"My brother says she's the best pilot he knows. She's a very caring, giving person who takes care of lots of people," he said.
After Flight 1380's emergency landing, Shults walked down the aisle and checked in on passengers, travelers said.
Matt Tranchin, 34, of Dallas, said the travelers burst into applause once they landed.
"There was a lot of hugging," he said. "I personally hugged the pilot. I think just relief — relief that we get to live for another day."
The passengers also described horror in the moments after the plane's window was shattered. Eric Zilbert told NBC News that a woman was "partially sucked out" of the plane as the cabin suddenly depressurized, and said a group of passengers leapt over to pull the woman back in.
"There were several heroic gentlemen who pulled her back through the window and administered CPR," he said.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly on Tuesday evening offered condolences to the family of the passenger who died, calling it "a sad day," and added, " I do want to thank and commend our flight crew for their swift action and for safely landing the aircraft."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also extended sympathies and said in a statement, "I commend the pilots who safely landed the aircraft, and the crew and fellow passengers who provided support and care for the injured, preventing what could have been far worse."
Passenger Sheri Sears described the descent as chaotic but praised the flight crew.
"There was insulation flying everywhere," she said. "The passengers were amazing, they stayed remarkably calm. The flight attendants were so courageous. And that pilot — I give it out to her. I mean, wow."
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Jasper County Traveling Wall Committee
The Jasper County Traveling Wall Committee will hold an Escort Ride on May 23, 2018 in Rensselaer, IN. This ride is a way to welcome home the 58,000 men and women who never made it home.
By taking part in the ride you will be honoring the ultimate sacrifice that these service members made. The ride will begin at the Fairgrounds and travel East into Rensselaer. We will take a short route through town and end at Brookside Park. All riders will proceed through the Park and then exit following the exit route West on Bunkum Road.
Participating riders can begin staging at the Jasper County Fairgrounds off of IN 114 West of Rensselaer, IN no earlier than 2:00 pm on May 23rd.
Riders safety briefing will be at 3:30.
Roll out will begin at 4:00 sharp.
Any individuals who do not take part in the safety briefing will not be allowed to participate in the escort ride, no exceptions will be made.
The committee is earnestly appreciative for the support that the community has shown for this event. The committee still requires your assistance with funding the last details of this project. There are still advertising fees, printed materials, landscaping arrangements, signage, and portable lavatories to be funded.
Donations will be taken up to the day of the event. All donations can be made to the Jasper County Veterans Council through the Veterans Service Office at the Jasper County Courthouse located in Rensselaer, IN.
See Below for Volunteer Opportunities
By Madison Park and Carma Hassan - CNN
(CNN) R. Lee Ermey, the actor known for his Golden Globe-nominated role as an intimidating drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket," died Sunday at the age of 74, according to his manager.
Ermey died from complications of pneumonia, said Bill Rogin, his manager, in a post on Twitter.CNN's calls and emails to Rogin were not returned.
Ermey played the role of the tough Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, who trains a new group of recruits in the 1987 film "Full Metal Jacket." He received a Golden Globe best supporting actor nomination in the movie directed by Stanley Kubrick.
The Vietnam veteran brought authenticity to the role after having served in the Marine Corps from 1961 to 1972. He spent two years as a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and rose to the rank of staff sergeant. He was medically retired for injuries in 1971 and in 2002 he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant, according to a biography on his website."It is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform," Rogin said in a statement issued on Facebook.
"He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever."
The US Army tweeted: "Rest In Peace, Gunny. We are grateful for your service to our country and for supporting our servicemembers. Semper Fi."
Ermey appeared in movies such as "Dead Man Walking," "Seven," "Prefontaine" and "Leaving Las Vegas."
He did voice-overs and lighter content, lending his voice to "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," as well as the "Toy Story" movies, where he voiced Sergeant or just "Sarge," the green Army soldier. And he had two programs on the History Channel: "Mail Call" -- in which he answered questions about the military -- and "Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey," focusing on weapons.
Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24, 1944.
After serving in the Marines, he enrolled at the University of Manila in the Philippines by using his G.I. bill benefits and he studied drama. "Apocalypse Now" was being filmed in the area and that's where Ermey had his first featured role in an acting career that spanned both film and television, according to his website.
"The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need," Rogin said in a statement.
"Please support your men and women in uniform. That's what he wanted most of all."
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Debate over privatizing healthcare services under the Department of Veterans Affairs is nearing a boiling point as President Donald Trump's VA secretary-nominee prepares for a Senate confirmation grilling.
The spark was Trump's firing of David Shulkin, who has since warned loudly that the administration is heading down the privatization road.
A confirmation hearing for the nominee, White House physician Ronny Jackson, is not yet set.
Privatization conversations ramped up in 2014, when the Veterans Health Administration was embroiled in a high-profile negligence scandal after several high-level officials were found falsifying data about patient wait times.
The controversy gave way for the rise of hardline privatization advocacy organizations such as Concerned Veterans for America, funded by Republican donors Charles and David Koch, which pushed for privatizing much of the VA's healthcare services as opposed to reinvesting in the department.
With uncertainty surrounding the future of the VA and potential changes to the ways in which veterans' healthcare services are delivered on the horizon, here are five things to know about potential VA privatization.
1. The state of healthcare in the VA
Widespread privatization would be an ambitious undertaking: The VA oversees 145 hospitals, 300 veterans’ centers and over 1,200 outpatient facilities. As of 2016, the department had more than 377,800 employees, making it the second-largest federal agency.
The U.S. is home to about 22 million veterans, and about 9 million of them are enrolled in the VA. All have varying healthcare needs and geographic differences that impact their access to that care.
"We're getting into a political fight over one-third of the veteran population," Rory Riley, a consultant for veterans organizations such as the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, told Healthcare Dive. "It's hard to lump them all into one category. One size doesn't fit all."
Many are already getting most of their care through the private sector. A 2014 Congressional Budget Office report comparing private sector and VA healthcare costs found about 70% of veterans enrolled in the VHA system already receive most of their care outside the system.
Bob McDonald, VA secretary under President Barack Obama, cited a higher figure in 2016, saying the average veteran uses the VA for just 34% of their care.
"If that 34% becomes 35%, we need a $1.4 billion increase in budget," he told Fortune in 2016.
The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed by Trump last month includes about $185 billion in Veterans Affairs funding, though not all goes to care. The bill also left out funding for one VA program that allows veterans to get care through the private sector.
2. What's currently privatized
The Veterans Choice Program was created through the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, a bipartisan bill signed by Obama in 2014 in response to the wait time scandal. The program, offered through the Office of Community Care, allows veterans the option of receiving care from the private sector if they live more than 40 miles driving distance from a VA facility, or if they have to wait more than 30 days to get an appointment.
The program was originally intended as a pilot that would last two years, and it has faced funding difficulties as it has been extended. In December, Congress approved $2.1 billion for the program, but Shulkin warned before his departure that the program would run out of money by early June.
The $1.3 trillion spending bill did not include funding for Choice. As a result, TriWest, one of two private insurers contracting with the VA to manage the networks for eligible veterans, is preparing to lay off up to 25% of its workforce, about 700 people. The other payer, Health Net Federal, will not get a renewed contract after September.
Republicans back expanding the Choice program to give more veterans the option of getting care through the private sector. Democrats argueexpanding the program would give way to widespread privatization of the agency altogether.
"Rural people may not live close to a VA or private care provider," Riley said. "For them, the consideration is different from someone in New York City who wants to get the best care no matter where it is."
A 2016 RAND report found that veterans relying most on VA care tend to be younger, poorer and to live in rural areas where they lack healthcare from other sources. However, only 25% of veterans live within an hour of a VA medical facility, and access to specialized services is even slimmer. Some 43% of veterans live within 40 miles of VA interventional cardiology services and 55% of veterans live within 40 miles of VA oncology services.
Maggie Elehwany, government affairs and policy vice president at the National Rural Health Association, told Healthcare Dive that the organization is "very pleased" to have a better working relationship with the VA through the Choice program, but "there's still so much to be desired."
The 40-mile mandate, for example, includes Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, which often don't offer specialized services, especially in rural America.
"The VA system can be wonderful, and it offers some of the best specialized care ... but we need to get veterans the ability to better access care in rural areas. They should have the choice to see their local provider," Elehwany said. "When they have been able to access care at a local provider, it's been cumbersome and difficult for the provider to get reimbursement."
The RAND report concludes that Congress "may need to revise VA's authority to purchase outside care" to mitigate barriers to access.
Most hospital groups haven't taken a firm stance on privatization. AHA was not able to comment for this story.
NRHA, according to Elehwany, is a proponent of "hybrid privatization" that gives veterans more options through programs like Choice.
By: Meghann Myers - Military Times
FORT JACKSON, S.C. — There’s just something about a drill sergeant that makes trainees stand up straight and act right.
The Army is looking to recapture some of that magic with young soldiers by putting drill sergeants back into advanced individual training, with a plan to re-train 600 platoon sergeantsthis year and send them back to work with one of those iconic campaign hats.
“Soldiers do fear the hat and badge,” Staff Sgt. Cortashia Shields, who is going through the 10-day conversion course here at the Drill Sergeant Academy, told Army Times on April 3. “You can see it.”
The Center for Initial Military training is in the midst of evaluating its entire enterprise, from basic training’s program of instruction to revamping how instructors are trained.
As part of that study, leaders identified AIT as a weak point in the chain between when a young person is recruited and when they report to a first unit.
To close the gap, the Army unveiled big changes in early 2018, first re-configuring the basic combat training curriculum in February, then sending current AIT platoon sergeants back to the Drill Sergeant Academy at Fort Jackson to shape them into drill sergeants.
“The biggest benefit of AIT and BCT combining into the drill sergeant program is that everybody is getting the same training now,” Sgt. 1st Class Amy Davis, a drill sergeant instructor, told Army Times. “The BCT drill sergeant and the AIT drill sergeant come from the same standard, whereas when they were two programs, only BCT was highlighted.”
To fill in the blanks, platoon sergeants in the conversion course are brushing up on manual of arms and weapons qualification requirements, as well as the more hands-on approach that drill sergeants use to mold new soldiers.
“I think we went a little more in-depth on room inspections, and how to handle certain special cases,” said newly converted Sgt. 1st Class John Doody.
“Sometimes when they get to us, they fall back into old habits,” he said of the AIT environment.
With those lifestyle issues and everything else, drill sergeants at AIT will be charged with maintaining the continuity of their presence and their methods through the end of initial entry training.
Previously, drill sergeants were only trained about what went on at BCT, and AIT platoon sergeants likewise with AIT — with little understanding from drills about what trainees should expect in AIT, and little awareness from AIT platoon sergeants on how their trainees were managed in basic.
“Now that they’re both in the same program, it produces a better product,” Davis said. “We’re going to be more on the same page, whereas it used to be two separate entities.”
The merging also required an update to current drill sergeant training, to prepare them to work at AIT.
“There were minor tweaks, because at AIT they do more of the counseling,” Sgt. Maj. Corey Thompson, the deputy commandant of the Drill Sergeant Academy, told Army Times.
He added that AIT instructors also work on career development and setting soldiers up with sponsorship for their first units.
Next up, he added, could be a drill sergeant academy POI overhaul to go with the new basic training.
“We’re looking at rolling that out by maybe the end of June,” he said, pending approval from his command.
Though they were eager to make the transition, the new drill sergeants said, they did not feel any added pressure.
“The hat and the badge, I don’t think, is going to change that NCO from being that NCO,” new drill sergeant Staff Sgt. Nicole Mong said. “However, it is something tangible for the soldier to see.”
One of the issues at AIT, they identified, is that soldiers outside of their own platoons may not know who they are, but their distinctive uniform items will now broadcast to the entire post that an authority figure is present.
“Overall, it’s a good look, especially in the AIT environment,” drill sergeant instructor Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Berry said. “When it’s one of me to 60, 80, 100 privates, the round brown is an actual symbol that stands out.”
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WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials consulted with global allies Tuesday on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack, as President Donald Trump canceled a foreign trip in order to manage a crisis that is testing his vow to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Trump spoke with other world leaders, and other U.S. officials said the U.S., France and Britain were in extensive consultations about launching a military strike as early as the end of this week. None of the three countries’ leaders had made a firm decision, according to the officials, who were not authorized to discuss military planning by name.
A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the U.S. in the lead, could send a message of international unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons and counter Syria’s political and military support from Russia and Iran.
President Emmanuel Macron said France, the U.S. and Britain will decide how to respond in the coming days. He called for a “strong and joint response” to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma on Saturday, which Syrian activists and rescuers say killed 40 people. The Syrian government denies responsibility.
The French president does not need parliamentary permission to launch a military operation. France is already involved in the U.S.-led coalition created in 2014 to fight the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Multiple ISIS attacks have targeted French soil, including one last month.
Trump suggested Monday he had little doubt that Syrian government forces were to blame for what he said was a chemical attack, but neither he nor other administration officials have produced hard evidence. Officials suggested such evidence was lacking, or at least not yet at hand. This is in contrast to an incident one year ago in which U.S. intelligence agencies had video and other evidence of certain aspects of the actual attack, which involved the use of Sarin gas. Trump responded by launching Navy cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield.
One official said the U.S., France and Britain were considering military options that would be more extensive than the punitive, one-day strike last April. That strike did not appear to have had the desired effect of deterring Assad from further use of chemical agents. So the three countries are discussing a range of options, including preventing Assad from conducting future attacks by striking military capabilities involved in carrying out such attack, the official said.
Asked whether France would take military action, Macron said his country will continue discussing technical and strategic information with U.S. and British allies and “in the coming days we will announce our decision.” He said any action would “target chemical weapons” stocks. Under a 2013 agreement for which Russia was a guarantor, Syria was to have eliminated all its chemical weapons, but it has used chlorine and perhaps other chemicals since then.
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