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US Military to Withdraw 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan

In September 2017, Trump announced the US would send 3,000 extra troops to the country amid a shift of strategy

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Not concerned about Apple's stock price slump: Trump. VOA

The Donald Trump administration has ordered the US military to start withdrawing roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, a move that is likely to plunge the war-torn country further into chaos.

President Trump made the decision to pull out the troops — about half the number the US has in Afghanistan now — at the same time he decided to pull American forces out of Syria, a defence official was cited as saying by the New York Times on Thursday.

The withdrawal of the troops could take months and the order marked a significant departure from Trump’s August 2017 decision to slightly increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan and keep them in place with conditions on the ground dictating withdrawal, reports say.

The Afghanistan directive also came as the US was attempting to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban to end the 17-year-old war. According to the Times, the abrupt troop withdrawal decision stunned Afghan officials, who said they had not been briefed on the plans.

The President’s orders on Syria and Afghanistan led to the resignation on Thursday of his Pentagon chief James Mattis, who disagreed with him on a hasty withdrawal from both countries.

Trump’s decision was also met with opposition by some of his senior Cabinet officials, including outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The Times said that the troop withdrawals and the resignation of Mattis leaves a murky picture for what is next in the US’ longest war and they come as Afghanistan continues to witness spasms of violence in its capital Kabul and other important areas.

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U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, most of which are present as part of a larger NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. Any withdrawal would be complicated by the fact that the US is part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.

Senior Afghan officials and Western diplomats in Kabul woke up to the shock of the news on Friday. Several of them said that they had received no indication in recent days that the Americans would pull troops out.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that any withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would be a “high risk strategy” which could reverse US progress in the region and pave the way towards a “second 9/11”.

Trump had repeatedly before his election campaign in 2016, publicly advocated leaving Afghanistan — where US forces have been since 2001.

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However, in 2017 he indicated he would keep boots on the ground in the country indefinitely to prevent the country’s collapse amid a Taliban resurgence.

American-led combat operations against the group officially ended in 2014, but in the years since the group’s power and reach has soared.

In September 2017, Trump announced the US would send 3,000 extra troops to the country amid a shift of strategy. (IANS)

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US: CDC Identifies 193 Potential Cases of Severe Lung Illness Tied to Vaping in 22 States

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users

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US, CDC, Vaping
FILE - A high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass., April 11, 2018. VOA

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had identified 193 potential cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping in 22 states as of Aug. 22, including one adult in Illinois who died after being hospitalized.

The CDC has been investigating a “cluster” of lung illnesses that it believes may be linked to e-cigarette use, although it has not yet been able to establish whether they were in fact caused by vaping.

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which kill up to half of all lifetime users, according to the World Health Organization. But the long-term health effects of vaping are largely unknown.

No link to specific product

US, CDC, Vaping
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it had identified 193 potential cases of severe lung illness tied to vaping in 22 states as of Aug. 22, including one adult. Pixabay

In a briefing with reporters, representatives from health agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said they have not linked the illnesses to any specific product and that some patients had reporting vaping with cannabis liquids.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency was analyzing product samples from states to identify any potentially harmful elements that may be triggering the illnesses.

He said health agencies were trying to learn which specific vaping products were used and whether they were being used as intended or mixed with other substances.

“Those kinds of facts need to be strung together for every single one of these cases, so that we can see if any other kinds of patterns have emerged,” Zeller said.

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The number of potential cases has more than doubled over the past week. On Aug. 17, the CDC said it was investigating 94 potential lung illnesses in 14 states.

Brian King, deputy director of research translation at the CDC’s smoking and health division, said it was possible there might have been earlier cases that health agencies had not identified.

Possible health implications

“The bottom line is that there’s a variety of things in e-cigarette aerosols that could have implications for lung health,” said King, adding that none of those compounds had been directly linked to the recent hospitalizations.

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The CDC has been investigating a “cluster” of lung illnesses that it believes may be linked to e-cigarette use, although it has not yet been able to establish whether they were in fact caused. Pixabay

In a statement Thursday, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said he was “confident” the illnesses were being caused by devices containing cannabis or other synthetic drugs, not nicotine.

Patients have reported difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and sometimes chest pain before being hospitalized. Some have shown symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.

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“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement earlier. (VOA)