Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIL, resigned this week over his disagreement with President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to pull US troops out of Syria, US media reported on Saturday, citing unnamed sources.
Both the Associated Press and CBS news reported the departure, saying McGurk submitted his resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, a day after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was leaving his post.
In the letter, which was described to the Associated Press by an official familiar with its contents, McGurk said fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) were on the run, but not yet defeated as Trump had said.
He added that the premature pull-out of American forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to ISIL.
McGurk, whose resignation is effective on December 31, was planning to leave the job in mid-February after a US-hosted meeting of foreign ministers from the coalition countries, but he felt he could continue no longer after Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria and Mattis’s resignation, according to the official speaking to the Associated Press.
The White House and State Department could not immediately be reached for comment.
Trump’s surprise announcement of the troop withdrawal came on Wednesday, with the president declaring victory over ISIL. Since then he has defended the move, but backtracked saying, ISIL has “largely been defeated”.
The White House said some of the 2,000 US troops in the country were already returning back to the US.
Many politicians have called the plans for the full withdrawal rash and dangerous.
Mattis, perhaps the most respected foreign policy official in the administration, announced on Thursday that he will leave by the end of February. He told Trump in a letter that he was departing because “you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours”.
The US began airstrikes in Syria in 2014, and ground troops moved in the following year to battle ISIL and train Syrian rebels in a country torn apart by civil war.
The decision will fulfill Trump’s goal of bringing troops home from Syria, but military leaders have pushed back for months, arguing that the ISIL group remains a threat and could regroup in Syria’s long-running civil war.
McGurk said at a State Department briefing on December 11 that “it would be reckless if we were just to say, ‘Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now.’ I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”
A week before that, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US had a long way to go in training local Syrian forces to prevent a resurgence of ISIL and stabilise Syria. He said it would take 35,000 to 40,000 local troops in northeastern Syria to maintain security over the long term, but only about 20 percent of that number had been trained.
McGurk was appointed to the post by former President Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump.
He previously served as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, and during the negotiations for the landmark Iran nuclear deal by the Obama administration, led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there.
McGurk, was briefly considered for the post of ambassador to Iraq after having served as a senior official covering Iraq and Afghanistan during President George W Bush’s administration.
A former Supreme Court law clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, McGurk worked as a lawyer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion and joined Bush’s National Security Council staff, where in 2007 and 2008, he was the lead US negotiator on security agreements with Iraq.
Taking over for now for McGurk will be his deputy, retired Terry Wolff, who served three tours of active duty in Iraq.
Jim Jeffrey, a veteran diplomat who was appointed special representative for Syria engagement in August, is expected to stay in his position, officials said.
Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.
Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.
For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.
“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.
After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.
In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.
The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.
Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.
“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”
The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.
Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat
In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.
Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.
“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.
Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.
“If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”
With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.
The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.
Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.
Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.
While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.
Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.
Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic
TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.
Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.
“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.
While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.
That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.
So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.
In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.
Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category. PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.
The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.
Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.
Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.