We'll dust off and old staple and start this morning as we always used to; with the latest casualties of war.
While we were off shopping this past weekend, our military was around the world doing what it always does. A soldier was killed in Afghanistan
....and was nary a blip on our daily routine.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- An Army Ranger assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Saturday.
Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, was mortally wounded during a firefight with al-Qaida forces in Nimruz province, according to a Defense Department statement released early Sunday. He was medically evacuated from the combat zone and later died of his injuries at a medical facility in Helmand province.
Jasso, from Leavenworth, Wash., was on his third deployment to Afghanistan. He enlisted in the Army in 2012 and became an accomplished soldier, completing the Basic Airborne Course and earning the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the much-sought after Ranger tab.
"Sgt. Jasso was a humble professional who placed the mission first, lived the Ranger Creed and will be deeply missed," said Lt. Col. Rob McChrystal, commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in a prepared statement.
Jasso's death raises to 10 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year. Earlier this month, Maj. Brent Taylor of the Army National Guard was killed during an insider attack in Kabul that also injured another U.S. service member.
We remain questioning if it's worth the cost paid in blood and treasure, but as we've been noting for years here at AAV, this seems to be merely a downward spiral with no clear goals or results in sight.
WASHINGTON â€” The U.S. and Afghan governments have made "little clear progress" recently in compelling the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal, according to a new U.S. assessment Monday that said military and political signs point toward continued stalemate.
"Progress toward peace remains elusive," Glenn A. Fine, the acting Pentagon inspector general, wrote in an introduction to a comprehensive review of military, political and humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan during the July-September period. These were the final three months of the 17th year of a war that began in October 2001.
The report offered little support for the Trump administration's assertions that its revised war strategy, announced in August 2017, is bringing the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency closer to peace and reconciliation. When he visited Kabul in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strategy "is indeed working."
In the three months following Pompeo's visit, the Taliban demonstrated their resilience even as the U.S. military continued its focus on training and advising the Afghan army and police while helping develop an Afghan air force.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Saturday that efforts to draw the Taliban into peace talks are being made "below the surface." But he indicated that progress is insufficient. "We're a long way from where we could say that we're on the right path," Dunford said at the Halifax International Security Forum, referring to effectively combining military, political and social pressure on the Taliban.
Noting that U.S. officials as recently as a year ago called the war a stalemate, Dunford said, "it hasn't changed much" since.
And since war is our business, let's take a look at a very disturbing story from Syria. It was not that long ago that the thought of Russia and the United States fighting each other would include visions of missiles and mushroom clouds....but we're actually doing it with small arms and artillery.
Methinks this doesn't bode well.
American and Russian forces have clashed a dozen times in Syria -- sometimes with exchanges of fire -- a U.S. envoy told Russian journalists in a wide-ranging interview this week.
Ambassador James Jeffrey, U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement, offered no specifics about the incidents, speaking to the Russian newspaper Kommersant and state-owned news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Jeffrey had been asked to clarify casualty numbers and details of a February firefight in which U.S. forces reportedly killed up to 200 pro-Syrian regime forces, including Russian mercenaries, who had mounted a failed attack on a base held by the U.S. and its mostly Kurdish local allies near the town of Deir al-Zour. None of the Americans at the outpost -- reportedly about 40 -- had been killed or injured.
Jeffrey declined to offer specifics on that incident, but said it was not the only such confrontation between Americans and Russians.
"U.S. forces are legitimately in Syria, supporting local forces in the fight against Da'esh and as appropriate -- and this has occurred about a dozen times in one or another place in Syria -- they exercise the right of self-defense when they feel threatened," Jeffrey said, using an Arabic term for the Islamic State group. "That's all we say on that."
Asked to clarify, he said only that some of the clashes had involved shooting and some had not.
"There have been various engagements, some involving exchange of fire, some not," he told the journalists in remarks confirmed on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow website. "Again, we are continuing our mission there and we are continuing to exercise our right of self-defense."
Both Russia and Iran back the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war, now in its eighth year. The U.S., which Jeffrey said regards Assad as a "disgrace to mankind," has deployed hundreds of troops and equipment to eastern Syria as part of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
Since 2015, Washington and Moscow have broadly maintained a "deconfliction line" to communicate the locations of U.S. and Russian air and ground forces in the country.
Pentagon officials had no immediate comment on the ambassador's statement.
And wrapping up this morning, I can only state "We knew we were going to see this.
" I can hope that any and all such investigations will gather steam with the full weight of a new Congress behind them.
WASHINGTON -- A top government watchdog has agreed to investigate the amount of influence three wealthy members of President Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Fla., exerted over the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In a letter released Monday, the Government Accountability Office accepted a request from Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, to investigate the trio's influence over national veterans policies. Orice Williams Brown, managing director of congressional relations for the GAO, wrote in the letter that it was "within the scope of its authority."
But the GAO won't have the staff available to investigate for another five months, Brown wrote.
ProPublica first reported in August that Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, lawyer Marc Sherman and Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor, used their proximity to the president to influence VA operations. Though none of them have served in the U.S. military or government, they steered VA officials on policies affecting millions of Americans, ProPublica reported.
Since the report, numerous lawmakers have requested information from the VA, as well as investigations from the GAO and VA Office of Inspector General.
The VA Office of Inspector General declined to investigate until a private lawsuit on the issue is settled.