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US Senate rebukes Trump over Syria, Afghanistan troop withdrawals | Trump News





Washington, DC – The US Senate voted to advance an amendment seeking to rein-in President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of American special forces from Syria and put parameters around plans to reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan.

The 68-23 vote came on a procedural matter clearing the way for an amendment on Syria and Afghanistan troop levels by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican.

McConnell is seeking to add the resolution to a pending measure on Middle East security policy that has broad bipartisan support.

Thursday’s vote serves notice to the White House that senior Republican leaders want a reversal of Trump’s order to withdraw US special forces from Syria and a check on future plans to drawdown troops in Afghanistan.

“I think the president is slowing down in Syria and he is taking the opportunity to see if we can get a new structure in Afghanistan, if we can get a peace agreement,” Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, told Al Jazeera.

The resolution calls on the Trump administration to “conduct a review of the military and diplomatic strategies in Syria and Afghanistan” and to “set conditions” for the long-term defeat of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

It also calls on Trump to “certify” that those conditions have been met “before initiating any significant withdrawal”. 

Last month, Trump announced he was withdrawing some 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring ISIL had been “defeated”. 

He has since backtracked on his initial order of a rapid withdrawal, with US officials announcing that no timetable has been set. 

This week, US intelligence chiefs said that the ISIL remains a threat. 

Hurdles ahead

Trump has also ordered the military to come up with plans to withdraw about 7,000 or up to half of the US troops in Afghanistan. 

After six days of talks in Qatar last week, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the US and the Taliban had reportedly reached a rough framework for peace talks between the US-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban. 

Major hurdles remain, however, including terms on a ceasefire and withdrawal of foreign forces.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address on January 28 that all foreign forces would eventually leave Afghanistan once they are no longer needed.

The resolution voted by the Senate on Thursday specifically acknowledged “progress made by” Khalilzad and offers support for diplomatic efforts.

The non-binding amendment would encourage Congress and the White House to work together to develop long-term strategies in Afghanistan and Syria. 

It also says that a hasty withdrawal in both countries could “allow terrorists to regroup, destabilise critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia”. 

Trump’s withdrawal announcements are “being used against us right now,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, as he took to the Senate floor to argue in favour of the amendment. “This is a very dangerous situation. That’s why this [troop withdrawals] is a very bad idea.” 

Although the amendment enjoys bipartisan support, a number of more liberal politicians – some hoping to seek a 2020 presidential bid – voted against the measure on Thursday.

“What McConnell is saying is let’s maintain the status quo,” said Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who also acknowledged that he believes Trump made the announcements too abruptly. 

A final vote on the amendment could come next week. If it advances, it would be added to a broader  foreign policy bill that includes a measure to “combat” boycotts of Israel. 

That measure, titled the “Combatting BDS Act”, is opposed by rights groups and some Democrats who say it infringes on free speech. BDS stands for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.


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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse





Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa





If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake





The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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