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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Daily Combover - April 3, 2017

This weekend #TrumpRussia continued to unfold. And Trump's popularity continued to falter (now just 34%). And while we learned some really troubling news about Carter Page knowingly working with Russian spies, the bigger story is emerging from the weeds.

To set the stage, let's look at this AP report on civilian casualties.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Week by week, country by country, the Pentagon is quietly seizing more control over warfighting decisions, sending hundreds more troops to war with little public debate and seeking greater authority to battle extremists across the Middle East and Africa.
This week it was Somalia, where President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants. Next week it could be Yemen, where military leaders want to provide more help for the United Arab Emirates' battle against Iranian-backed rebels. Key decisions on Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are looming, from ending troop number limits to loosening rules that guide commanders in the field.
. . .  
Explaining his request for more leeway in Somalia against al-Shabab militants, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, told Congress this month that more flexibility and "timeliness" in decision-making process was necessary.
Approved by Trump on Wednesday, it was hardly the first military expansion.
The Defense Department has quietly doubled the number of U.S. forces in Syria. It has moved military advisers closer to front lines in Iraq. It has publicly made the case for more troops in Afghanistan.
The White House is tentatively scheduled this coming week to discuss providing intelligence, refueling and other assistance to U.A.E. as it fights Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to officials who weren't authorized to speak about a confidential meetings and demanded anonymity.
Some changes are happening with little fanfare. While there is limited American appetite for large-scale deployments in Iraq and Syria, additions are coming incrementally, in the hundreds of forces, not the thousands.
The result may be confusing for the public. Trump hasn't eliminated Obama's troop number limits. Thus, the caps of 503 for Syria and 5,262 for Iraq are still in effect.
The military is operating on what sports fans would call a "soft cap." It's a restriction, sure, but there are loopholes.  While we are trying to keep numbers relatively low, if the Pentagon wants to go into Somalia, they tell Trump, he declares it a "war zone" and they send in a small contingent. Trump further backs them by eliminating safeguards for civilians.
But what happens when they need more bodies out there? We call in mercenaries. It's really easy to scale down official troop presence when you replace US soldiers with highly paid contractors mercenaries. Just how highly paid? A report during the height of the Afghan war, when we had nearly 100,000 mercenaries on the ground found that we were spending between $15,000 and $22,500 per merc per month.  For ease of math, let's assume that they averaged $20,000. That means we were spending $2 billion per month on mercenaries in Afghanistan. Someone was clearly getting rich off of the war and it wasn't the Afghani or American people.

It was Erik Prince. And as I said this weekend:

The Kleptocrats have moved out of the shadows and are officially running the show. Now is where the media needs to step up their game and put the pieces together before it's too late and we're embroiled in another pointless war in a Muslim country so Erik Prince can make another billion dollars.

Catch you on the flip side.

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