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Washington (CNN)The US military will no longer release any immediate information about American combat deaths in Afghanistan — a shift in policy that will delay casualty announcements until days after they occur.

Specifically, military officials will hold all information about the death of US troops in Afghanistan until 24 hours after the next-of-kin is notified.
Traditionally, the military has released what is considered “non-identifying information” in the hours following a combat casualty — withholding names and details of the situation for 24 hours until the family could be notified.
Under the new policy, spearheaded by Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, the military will no longer issue that initial statement.
“Gen. Nicholson is insistent that the support system for family members of our fallen and wounded warriors is in place with those families prior to public release; hence the 24-hour hold after next-of-kin notification,” said Capt. William Salvin, a spokesperson for US led coalition in Afghanistan.
“Information that we have historically released that was considered ‘non-identifying information’ has become identifiable given that we have such a limited footprint in Afghanistan,” he added.
Coming nearly 16 years into the US war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says the change is intended to provide more time to set up a support system for the families of fallen soldiers before the public is notified.
But the move raises questions about the military’s commitment to notifying the public about its operations in Afghanistan and potentially in other conflict zones around the world.
A US defense official told CNN that an internal, informal review is underway to see if notification policies need to be changed or standardized across the military.

The US military has said it was repositioning its aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of American air crews targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State group.

The announcement comes as tensions escalate following the US downing of a Syrian military jet near Raqqa yesterday.

Iran also launched missiles at IS targets in eastern Syria yesterday –  the first time each state has carried out such actions in the multi-sided conflict.

The US said the downed Syrian plane had dropped bombs near fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters battling to capture Raqqa from IS.

Russia’s Defence Ministry responded by suspending cooperation with the US aimed at avoiding air incidents over Syria, where the Russian air force is bombing in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s campaigns against rebels and IS.

The Syrian army said the jet was shot down while flying a mission against IS.

The SDF however accused the Syrian government of attacking its positions using planes, artillery and tanks.

“If the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate,” a SDF spokesman said.

The Syrian government this month marched into Raqqa province from the west but had avoided conflict with the US-backed SDF until the latest incident.

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As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries Friday to “immediately take steps to de-escalate” the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, which he said is “hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS,” President Donald Trump continued his criticism of Qatar for what he portrayed as that country’s role in funding terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and two other countries cut diplomatic ties with their neighbor, Qatar, early this week, accusing the small nation of supporting organizations they regard as terrorist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The nations withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar and cut off air, sea and land travel to the peninsular nation, which is rich in oil but depends heavily on imported food.

Tillerson began his remarks at the State Department with a tough message for Qatar to “be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors.” He said Qatar has historically supported groups that have “spanned the spectrum of political expression from activism to violence.”

But the secretary of state also called on Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar, which he said is causing “unintended” humanitarian consequences such as forcibly separating families and creating food shortages.

President Trump, speaking at the White House later in the day Friday, took a somewhat different tack.

Trump bashed Qatar as a “funder of terrorism at a very high level” and called on it to stop funding terrorist organizations.

“For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations,” Trump said. “We ask Qatar and other nations in the region to do more and do it faster.”

A senior administration official downplayed any divergence between Trump and Tillerson’s remarks in the aftermath, characterizing any perceived difference in their stance on Qatar as a “misperception.” The official said that Trump supports easing the blockade for humanitarian reasons and would like to build a productive relationship with the emir of Qatar.

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President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

U.S. President Donald Trump relies far more than his recent predecessors on advisers with a military background, but his apparent disregard for climate science is at odds with the U.S. military’s consensus on the risks of climate change to security.

Over the last decade, the U.S. military and intelligence officials have developed a broad agreement about the security threats that climate change presents, in part by threatening to cause natural disasters in densely populated coastal areas, damage American military bases worldwide and open up new natural resources to global competition.

Watch: Trump: I Was Elected To Represent ‘Citizens of Pittsburgh, Not Paris’

President focuses on jobs

In his comments Thursday announcing he had decided to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump focused on economic issues, arguing that abandoning the deal would save manufacturing and mining jobs that he views as crucial to the U.S. economy.

In 2012, Trump tweeted that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China, and this week his aides repeatedly declined to answer directly when asked if he believes in the phenomenon. When asked at a Friday briefing if Trump believes in climate change, his spokesman Sean Spicer said he had not spoken to the president about it.

In seemingly doubting the existence of climate change, Trump is at odds with the military he leads.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (center) sits pierside along with support ships at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., April 27, 2016.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (center) sits pierside along with support ships at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., April 27, 2016.

“We’re living in it, we are operational,” said Ray Toll, a retired U.S. Navy captain who conducted a pilot project with former President Barack Obama’s White House to examine the regional challenges presented by climate change. “If you’re changing the dynamics, changing the environment, changing the conditions, it’s going to have all kinds of impacts on the way you launch weapons, the way you deploy people.”

Asked about the national security role of climate change in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis demurred, saying the Paris agreement is “not inside my portfolio” and that the Pentagon deals with aspects of a warming climate.

But in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis wrote that “climate change can be a driver of instability” and “a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response.” The testimony was published by ProPublica in March.

Instability and conflict

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The U.S. Department of State approved a possible sale of tanks, remedy machine guns, health ammunition, nurse and other land force military supplies to Saudi Arabia worth $1.15 billion.

The State Department gave its approval of the sale to Congress, which now has 30 days to review it before the sale can proceed.

Saudi Arabia requested more than 100 tanks, 300 machine guns, 100 smoke grenade launchers, and other military equipment and ammunition, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic regional partner which has been and continues to be a leading contributor of political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” the DSCA said in a statement.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the DSCA added.

The announcement of the proposed sale of the land force military equipment came the same day that news of an airstrike by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen killed 14 civilians working at a food factory, The Associated Press reported.

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