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Today’s War Briefing

US troops join Afghan battalions; Trump rolling out new Iran strategy; NATO’s 2% benchmark is about 98% misleading; Only 1 in 10 Puerto Ricans has electricity; and just a bit more

via BEN WATSON

CENTCOM’s Gen. Joseph Votel says American troops are newly working at the battalion level in the Afghan military — one of the changes to the Trump administration’s own approach toward the longest war in U.S. history, which includes adding a 3,800 service members to the 11,000 or so still in place. Also newly in place: six more U.S. Air Force F-16s, the Associated Press reported Thursday from Tampa.

Votel: “I think we’re still very keen to break the stalemate and that’s what this effort is about here.”

The overall idea, in brief: more beef. Defense Secretary Mattis’s new direction aims to “beef up military support to the Afghan units,” put  “American troops closer to the fight,” and “beef up U.S.counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and a growing Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban and other extremist groups,” according to AP.

Don’t expect too many more details, AP writes, since the Pentagon “has repeatedly refused to even provide estimates of how many of the additional troops have deployed, despite promises that the department will be more transparent with the American people about how many U.S. service members are serving there, in harm’s way.” Read on, here.

And here’s Votel on another concern about his AO: “Iran is kind of a long-term destabilizing actor in the region and so we remain concerned about their activities as well,” he told reporters in Tampa. “Leadership will make the decisions and we will be prepared to do what we need to do to continue to protect ourselves and particularity to protect our interests in the region,” he added. That, via Reuters, here.

Trump to unveil new Iran approach today. The wraps are already off an embargoed list of bullet points released last night, but stay tuned for more news at 11:30 a.m., followed by a scheduled TV appearance by President Trump at 12:45 p.m.