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Retired U.S. general says war with China likely in 15 years

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…As Airstrike kills at least 19 civilians at vegetable market in Yemen’s Hodeidah, official says***

The former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe warned Wednesday that it’s very likely the United States will be at war with China in 15 years.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said that European allies will have to do more to ensure their own defenses in face of a resurgent Russia because America will need to focus more attention on defending its interests in the Pacific.

“The United States needs a very strong European pillar. I think in 15 years — it’s not inevitable — but it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China,” Hodges told a packed room at the Warsaw Security Forum, a two-day gathering of leaders and military and political experts from central Europe.

“The United States does not have the capacity to do everything it has to do in Europe and in the Pacific to deal with the Chinese threat,” Hodges said.

Hodges was U.S. Army commander in Europe from 2014 until last year. He now is a strategic expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based research institute.

Despite shifting geopolitical priorities, Hodges said the U.S. commitment to NATO remains “unshakable.” He said he is certain the Trump administration views Europe’s security as a key U.S. interest even though President Donald Trump has sometimes questioned the Western military alliance’s usefulness.

“So you’re going to see us continue to invest here in Europe, continue to train, to practice rotational forces, as well as permanently assign forces for the eventuality that in 10 or 15 years we’re going to be having to fight in the Pacific,” Hodges said.

Hodges told The Associated Press that a recent near-miss between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Chinese warship in the disputed South China Sea was only one of the signs pointing to an “an increasingly tense relationship and increasing competition in all the different domains.”

Others, he said, are China’s “constant stealing of technology” and how China is gaining control of infrastructure by funding projects in Africa and Europe. He said that in Europe, China owns more than 10 percent of the ports.

In the meantime, at least 19 civilians were killed and 10 others injured on Wednesday in an airstrike at a vegetable market in Yemen, a local health minister told NBC News.

The airstrike hit a market in the city of Yemen’s Hodeidah province, Sana’a-based heath minister Taha Mutawakil said. Eight of the injured were in critical condition and at a local hospital, he said.

The minister added that the bodies were so badly damaged that it was not yet possible if those killed were men, women or children.

A Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 has conducted frequent airstrikes targeting the Iran-aligned Houthi group and has often hit civilians, although it denies doing so intentionally, according to Reuters.

News of the airstrike comes as Saudi Arabia is facing international condemnation for the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi at a consulate in Istanbul. When the kingdom finally acknowledged Khashoggi’s death — 17 days after he disappeared after entering the consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage — Saudi Arabia claimed the writer died following a “quarrel and fighting by hand.”

That explanation, and repeated claims that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was unaware of the operation, even though some of his lieutenants were involved, has drawn international skepticism.

On Tuesday, the Saudi government said a 15-member squad was sent to take Khashoggi, a legal resident of the U.S., to a safe house in Turkey for up to two days to try to convince him to return to his homeland.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country has “strong signs that this murder did not stem from a momentary incident, but it is rather a planned operation.”

Residents in Yemen told Reuters violent clashes erupted in the southern outskirts of Hodeidah, a port city that pro-government forces have been trying to capture from the Houthis since the renewal of an offensive in September.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Colonel Turki al-Malki, told Reuters the alliance is investigating the incident.

“We take this report very seriously and it will be fully investigated, as all reports of this nature are, using an internationally approved, independent process. Whilst this is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” he said.

The coalition sometimes admits “errors” and has in the past pledged to hold accountable anyone who caused civilian deaths, according to Reuters.

The coalition entered Yemen’s conflict after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country, already the poorest on the Arabian Peninsula, to the verge of widespread famine.

On Tuesday, the United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said, “There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.”

The U.N. said that revised assessments showed that the number of people facing pre-famine conditions could soon reach reach 14 million, three million more than the estimate last month.

NBC

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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