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Trump defends Syria pull-out during surprise visit to Iraq | Trump News

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In a surprise trip to Iraq, President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria where they have been helping battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. 

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” Trump told American servicemen and women at a base in western Iraq. 

Trump said it’s because of US military gains that he can withdraw 2,000 forces from Syria. During his first visit to a troubled region, Trump also said he has no plans to withdraw US forces from Iraq.

“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip ISIS of its military strongholds,” Trump told troops clad in fatigues at al-Asad Airbase west of Baghdad.

The decision to withdraw troops from Syria came despite objections from a number of politicians within his own party and Pentagon officials. 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned following the announcement. Mattis was expected to leave his post in February, but Trump forced him out early, saying he was replacing Mattis on January 1 with deputy defence secretary Patrick Shanahan in an acting capacity. 

Brett McGurk, the top US envoy in the anti-ISIL fight, announced he was leaving earlier than expected due to Trump’s decision. 

Trump’s announcement also rattled allies around the world, including in Iraq. 

Trump said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to take out “any remnants” of ISIL left in Syria. The US presence in Syria was not meant to be “open-ended,” he said, adding that other wealthy nations should pay for rebuilding Syria.

First visit to conflict zone

Trump’s trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy. Air Force One flew overnight from Washington, DC, landing at an airbase west of Baghdad under the cover of darkness Wednesday evening. It is his first visit with troops stationed in a troubled region.

Trump has drawn criticism from some in the US military for not having visited US troops in conflict zones since taking office in January 2017, particularly after he canceled a trip to a World War One cemetery in France last month due to rain.

While there has been no full-scale violence in Iraq since ISIL suffered a series of defeats last year, US troops train and advise Iraqi forces still waging a campaign against the group.

The US military says it has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, focused on training and advising Iraqi troops to ensure that ISIL does not re-emerge.

NATO defence ministers agreed in February to a bigger “train-and-advise” mission in Iraq after a US call for the alliance to help stabilise the country after three years of war against ISIL.

On his way home from Iraq, he will also stop to visit troops at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.






Can the US be a dependable ally?


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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