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Trump’s ISIS strategy: Just follow Obama’s plan but ‘try harder’

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US President Donald Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS (IS, Daesh, ISIL) looks much like that of Barack Obama, according to officials familiar with the matter. It also seems that Trump is unlikely to deliver on his election promise to consider joining forces with Russia in Syria.

US President Donald Trump’s much-anticipated plan to defeat ISIS (IS, Daesh, ISIL) resembles nothing so much as his predecessor’s strategy, NBC News reported citing two senior officials with knowledge of the matter.

“The current plan to defeat the Islamic State [Daesh] is just like that old saying: Plan B is just, ‘Try harder at Plan A’. We have not come up with new ways of approaching this. I would say the president might want to send that report back to his team to take another hard look,” retired Admiral James Stavridis told the media outlet.

The media outlet specified that the new plan envisages continued bombing, increasing support and assistance to local forces in Iraq and Syria to seize ISIS’s strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa. It also calls for cutting off ISIS’s sources of income and stabilizing the areas captured from militants.

Still, the question on everyone’s lips since Trump’s inauguration has been whether or not the US President will team up with Russia to defeat ISIS.

Although Trump had repeatedly dropped hints during his election campaign that he would consider joining forces with Moscow in Syria, the information came earlier this week that the US President is not planning to increase cooperation with Russia.

Furthermore, it was also reported that Washington is mulling beefing up the US’ military presence on the ground in the region.

Citing US defense officials familiar with the matter, the Washington Post wrote Wednesday that the US military may deploy “up to 1,000 more soldiers into northern Syria in the coming weeks.”

If approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump, the deployment would double the number of US soldiers on the ground in Syria, the media outlet noted.

According to earlier reports, there are about 500 US Special Ops in Syria as well as 250 Rangers and 200 Marines. In addition, there are more than 5,000 American military personnel including advisers, trainers and attack helicopter crews currently deployed in Iraq.

Politico’s defense editor Bryan Bender reported Friday about concerns growing inside the Pentagon that “the United States could finish up in another open-ended ground war,” if it continues to beef up its presence on the ground in the Middle East.

“The US has quietly sent hundreds of additional soldiers to Iraq and Syria since Trump took office, and is considering dispatching thousands more to counter ISIS [Daesh], fight militants in Yemen and stem a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan,” Bender wrote, adding that the latest developments clearly contradict Trump’s election promise “to steer clear of foreign entanglements.”

“Some call this accelerating the campaign; some call it mission creep,” a US military officer told the columnist, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

On Thursday Mattis met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to discuss Middle Eastern security matters.

It has since become clear that Trump will pursue a strategy strikingly similar to that of his predecessor, Perendzhiev said, adding that the US Middle Eastern policy is largely impacted by influential lobbyists not America’s national interests.

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Training Accident Leaves 15 US Marines Injured at Camp Pendleton

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A total of 15 US Marines were injured Wednesday during a training exercise that involved an amphibious landing vehicle at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, according to the Marine Corps.

Though the vehicle was engulfed in flames, all of the Marines involved were able to escape, the marines said in a statement. The landing-accident took place at approximately 9:33 a.m. local time when troops were in the middle of a scheduled battalion training.

The Marines are currently being treated for injuries.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines and their families as they receive medical care,” the statement added.

This is the latest in a string of accidents for the US military. Back in July the US Marine Corps canceled all flights for the KC-130T Hercules Transport planes after a crash killed one sailor and 15 Marines in Mississippi.

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Combat vets say tattoo policy is big barrier to re-enlistment to Marine Corps

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Time may be the biggest factor causing combat veterans to leave the Marine Corps, but there’s another reason that should not be underestimated, some vets say: the Corps’ tattoo policy. Jeff Schogol wrote an article on Marine Corps which describes problems that combat vets have with Marine Corps tattoo policy.

Brian Davenport was barred from re-enlistment in 2015 because two of his tattoos were so close together that they were considered to be one tattoo that was too big under the Marine Corps’ tattoo policy at the time, he said. He and other Marines have a similar story: When the Marine Corps stopped deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in large numbers, tattoos became a career killer for them, even if they had ­combat experience.

“As soon as we got back from Afghanistan and we found out we weren’t going to be going back, everything just did a complete 180,” Davenport told Marine Corps Times. “It was more stressing the little things: your uniform, appearances.”

Where have all the combat vets gone?

The Marine Corps is facing a drain of battle-tested Marines. Davenport deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 as a machine gunner, but he felt the Marine Corps did not value his combat experience after he returned, he said.

“You had leaders saying, ‘We don’t care that you’re a combat veteran,’” he said. “I had a second lieutenant, he was brand new and he’s like: ‘No one cares about Afghanistan. That’s over. We’re moving on. There’s a new Marine Corps.’”

Davenport’s return from Afghanistan coincided with the Marine Corps’ drawdown from 202,000 to 182,000 ­active-duty Marines that was driven by cuts to defense spending. On the day that Davenport found out that he could not re-enlist because of his tattoos, he went straight to an Army ­recruiter, who was able to get him into the Army two days after he left the Corps, he said.

During the drawdown from 202,000 Marines a few years ago, the Corps ratcheted up its enforcement of tattoo policies. Starting in 2014, Marines were required to submit photographs of their tattoos for re-enlistment.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. ­Robert Neller has explained the reason for the Corps’ tattoo policy: “We are not in a rock and roll band. We are ­Marines. We have a brand. People expect a ­certain thing from us,” he told Marine Corps Times in February 2016.

Marine veterans often look to get jobs as police officers, but local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are very strict on whether applicants can have visible tattoos, Neller added.

In June 2016, the Marine Corps announced an updated tattoo policy, which allows visible tattoos to extend further on Marines’ upper arms and thighs. Although some Marines would have ­preferred a more lax policy, Neller certainly listened to their opinions on the matter, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said at the time.

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