The American combat role in Iraq expanded on Thursday as U.S. Marines operating from a small outpost provided targeting assistance and artillery fire to support Iraqi troops beginning an offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants.Iraq said it armed forces went on the offensive against Islamic State in the northern province of Nineveh, reported Reuters, in what Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described as the first phase of a campaign to liberate areas around the city of Mosul.The Iraqi assault was launched from the Makhmur area, to which thousands of Iraqi troops have deployed in recent weeks, setting up base alongside Kurdish peshmerga and U.S. forces around 40 miles south of Mosul, Islamic State\\\'s main bastion.
A senior U.S. official said the Marines fired illumination rounds to help the Iraqi forces locate IS fighters, and also fired artillery rounds in support of the operation, as Iraqi troops took control of several villages on the outskirts of Makhmur, reported The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and requested anonymity.Earlier this week, U.S. military officials confirmed the creation of the Marine outpost, dubbed Fire Base Bell. It\\\'s the first such base established by the U.S. since it returned forces to Iraq in 2014. But they insisted that the nearly 200 Marines were only there to provide security for Iraqi forces and U.S. advisers at the nearby Iraqi base in Makhmur.A second U.S. official on Thursday said the Marines provided the artillery fire in response to a request from the Iraqi government and that U.S. leaders don\\\'t believe this to be an expanded combat mission. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was considered expanded support for the Iraqis.
Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters on Monday that Fire Base Bell should not be considered a combat outpost because it is located behind the front lines and is not initiating combat with the militants.On Thursday, however, the use of illumination rounds and artillery to support the forward advance of the Iraqi troops appeared to expand the Marines\\\' role from purely security to more direct combat action, although the Marines were not on the front lines with the Iraqis.
The White House has ruled out a ground combat role for the U.S. in Iraq, and is intent on avoiding the appearance of any expansion in military operations there — more than four years after President Barack Obama pulled U.S. troops out of the country.
So officials have been walking a fine line as they describe the operations of the Marine artillery unit, insisting everything is related to \\\"force protection\\\" of the Iraqi and U.S. forces at the Makhmur base.
The key difference Thursday was that the Marines were not firing artillery to protect Iraqis and U.S. advisers at the base but were helping the Iraqis in an offensive operation against the Islamic State militants.Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said the U.S. is looking at a number of options to \\\"accelerate\\\" the fight against IS. Those options are still under discussion in the Pentagon and have not yet officially been submitted to the White House for approval. The range of options could include sending additional U.S. forces to Iraq, using Apache helicopters for combat missions, deploying more U.S. special operations forces or using American military advisers in Iraqi units closer to the front lines.
The White House has capped the number of U.S. forces in Iraq at about 3,870, but that total doesn\\\'t include as many as 1,000 troops who are there but exempt because of the military\\\'s personnel accounting system. For example, troops sent to Iraq for temporary, short-term assignments are exempt.The Marines at Fire Base Bell are part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has been based on the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship that has been deployed in the region.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman for Iraq\\\'s Joint Military Command, announced Thursday that the Iraqi forces had launched their campaign for Mosul. But U.S. officials have described it more as early operations that are aimed at clearing a path and eventually setting the stage for a Mosul offensive.
It\\\'s not clear how long it would take to recapture Mosul. U.S. military and defense leaders have declined to say when the actual move to retake the city will begin or if the IS militants could be ousted from the Mosul by the end of the year. The U.S. has said it will take many months to prepare Iraqi forces for such a long and complicated offensive, reported the AP.
Iraqi officials say they will retake Mosul this year but, in private, many question whether the army, which partially collapsed when Islamic State overran a third of the country in June 2014, will be ready in time, reported Reuters.
The northern city is by far the largest population center controlled by the jihadists, and has already been cut off on three sides by the peshmerga, who are less than nine miles from its northern outskirts at some points along the front line.Abadi said the move had been \\\"swift and decisive\\\".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought on Saturday to temper pressure from Paris, Brussels and her own government to force Britain into negotiating a quick divorce from the EU, despite warnings that hesitation will let populism take hold.Eurosceptics in other member states applauded Britons’ decision to leave the European Union in a referendum that sent shockwaves around the world, with far-right demands for a similar vote in Slovakia underlining the risk of a domino effect.With the referendum decision finally made on Thursday and Prime Minister David Cameron having announced his resignation, European politicians and institutions felt free to shower demands on Britain over its future outside the world’s largest trading bloc.
The European Central Bank said Britain’s financial industry, which employs 2.2 million people, would lose the right to serve clients in the EU unless the country signed up to its single market – anathema to “leave” campaigners who are set to lead the next government in London.Almost alone in continental Europe, Merkel tried to slow the rush to get Britain out of the EU door. Europe’s most powerful leader made clear she would not press Cameron after he indicated Britain would not seek formal exit negotiations until October at least.“Quite honestly, it should not take ages, that is true, but I would not fight now for a short time frame,” Merkel told a news conference.
“The negotiations must take place in a businesslike, good climate,” she said. “Britain will remain a close partner, with which we are linked economically.”Britain’s decision to leave the EU is the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity. But Merkel appeared more conciliatory than others within her coalition government and elsewhere in Europe.The chief executive of Britain’s “Vote Leave” campaign called for informal talks before London notifies the EU it wants to leave under the Lisbon Treaty, which provides for two years of divorce proceedings.
But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a member of Merkel’s Social Democrat coalition partners, showed a greater sense of urgency on getting talks going.“This process should get underway as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe,” he said after hosting a meeting of his colleagues from the six founding members of the EU – Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned of the dangers of delay. “We have to give a new sense to Europe, otherwise populism will fill the gap,” he said.
They followed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said on Friday it didn’t make any sense to wait until October to negotiate the terms of a “Brexit”.Britain’s representative on the EU executive, Financial Services Commissioner Jonathan Hill, resigned on Saturday after campaigning against a British exit.In Britain itself, divisions widened after the relatively close vote.
Almost 1.9 million Britons have signed a petition on parliament’s website calling for a second EU referendum because Thursday’s 52-48 percent result in favor of “Brexit” was not decisive enough.The petition will have to be discussed by lawmakers, but it has no legal force and its backers compare with the 17.4 million Britons who voted “leave”.
Tens of thousands are also set to pack into Trafalgar Square in the British capital on Tuesday to show “London stands with Europe”, the Evening Standard newspaper reported.In contrast to Cameron, Scotland’s pro-EU first minister said she wanted to open negotiations directly with Brussels. The option of a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom – after Scots rejected the idea two years ago – should be “on the table”, she said.South of the border in England, eurosceptic newspapers rejoiced but others pondered an uncertain future. “So what the hell happens now?” asked the Daily Mirror.Cameron announced on Friday he would resign after the referendum that sent global stock markets plunging, and inflicted the biggest one day drop on sterling in history.
He promised to stay on as a caretaker until October while the Conservative Party chooses a new leader.Even before the British vote, anti-establishment parties were on the rise across the EU, not least in France where far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to perform strongly in a presidential election next year.Raising mainstream fears that other member states might be tempted to follow the British example, Slovakia’s far right People’s Party on Saturday launched a petition for a referendum on the country’s future in the EU.“Citizens of Great Britain have decided to refuse the diktat from Brussels. It is high time for Slovakia to leave the sinking European ‘Titanic’ as well,” the party said.
The British pound fell as much as 10 percent against the U.S. dollar on Friday to levels last seen in 1985 on fears the decision could hit investment, threaten London’s role as a global financial capital, and cause months of political uncertainty.Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded its outlook for Britain, saying its creditworthiness was now at greater risk.The uncertainty risks damaging economies far beyond Britain’s shores, and European Central Bank policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau joined the clamor for haste.
Villeroy delivered a warning over the City of London financial center which handles trillions of euros of business even though it lies outside the ECB’s jurisdiction.That was at risk, including the “passport” arrangement under Europe’s single market rules which allow London banks to do business with clients in the euro zone, even though Britain never joined the common currency.“If tomorrow Britain is not part of the single market, the City cannot keep this European passport, and clearing houses cannot be located in London either,” he told France Inter radio. The only way around this was for Britain to follow Norway, which lies outside the EU but has joined the single market.
This means signing up to the rules, including the free movement of workers – likely to be opposed in Britain where the “leave” camp promised to control immigration from the EU.Cameron’s replacement could be his Conservative rival Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who became the most recognizable face of the Leave camp.There was euphoria over the vote in much of the British press. “Birth of a new Britain,” the Daily Telegraph said, while the Daily Star tabloid borrowed from Donald Trump’s campaigning message with its headline “Now Let’s Make Britain Great Again”.
But those among the more than 16 million who voted to stay in the EU also raised their voices.
The United Kingdom itself could also now break apart. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her devolved government was preparing to present legislation allowing a second independence referendum while continuing discussions on its place within the EU.Scots rejected independence in 2014. But they voted to stay in the EU on Thursday, raising the possibility that they would be forced out against their will.In 2014, Nationalists said Scotland would prosper on revenues from North Sea oil, but since then prices have collapsed, raising questions over the economic viability of an independent Scotland.
U.S. military drones are being used to spy over American territories, the Pentagon says.USA Today says a report written by a Pentagon inspector general reveals that drones have gone on \\\"non-military missions\\\" over the past 10 years and are \\\"always in compliance with existing law.\\\"The report, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, quotes a military law review article that states \\\"the appetite to use [spy drones] in the domestic environment to collect airborne imagery continues to grow, as does congressional and media interest in their deployment.\\\"
Berlin: Philipp Kohlschreiber overpowered Lukas Rosol in five sets before Thomas Berdych equalized with a hard earned five-set victory over youngster Alexander Zverev, at the Davis Cup first-round encounter in Hannover.Germany\\\'s No. 1 Philipp Kohlschreiber grabbed the opener for the hosts on Friday after clinching a five-set (3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3) in 2 hours 57 minutes against Lukas Rosol. It is Kohlschreiber\\\'s fifth win in six clashes with Rosol, reports Xinhua.Rosol caught a bright start on the road and in front of 4500 spectators as the Czech wrapped the first set 6-3 thanks to 13 winners, and 13 unforced errors by Kohlschreiber.
The German grabbed a foothold into the second set and secured a break at 4-3 to level in sets following 6-3. Kohlschreiber gained momentum and sealed the third set 6-4 before Rosol fought back in the fourth (6-2) to force the World\\\'s No. 30 into the decider.Philipp Kohlschreiber put the victory beyond doubt after a break at 4-3 to pull away 6-3 for the 1-0 lead against Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic tied the game 1-1 in the second game of the opening day, as Czech Thomas Berdych overcame resilient Alexander Zverev in five sets (6-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6) after 4 hours 20 minutes.The 18-year-old German debutant gave Berdych a hard time but for all that the World\\\'s No. 7 secured the first set in the tiebreak (6-8) after 69 minutes. Zverev remained unimpressed and bounced back after winning the second and third set (6-1, 6-4).
Berdych proved his skills and experience as he responded with two straight sets (7-6, 6-4). Especially Berdych\\\'s faultless serve in the fourth as well as in the fifth set wrapped the Czech\\\'s 49th victory in the teams\\\' competition.\\\"It was a tough match against a great player. Germany can be proud to have Alexander in their team. It is a tough loss for him but I see a bright future ahead of him. It was difficult for me but I fought till the end and it paid out,\\\" Berdych said.Germany face top-ranked Czech Republic for the team\\\'s doubles on Saturday before two singles conclude the first round on Sunday.
Green Cards and other immigration documents may have been sent to the wrong people thanks to the nation\\\'s immigrant processing facilities not being modernized, The Department of Homeland Security\\\'s inspector general says in a new report out on Tuesday.ABC News reports that moving the application system online was to keep potential terrorists from receiving benefits.
But in his report, Inspector General John Roth says \\\"numerous\\\" documents have been found to have incorrect names or some were sent to the wrong addresses.
\\\"[It] has created potential security concerns about documents that cannot be accounted for or that may have fallen into the wrong hands,\\\" Roth says.