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News Wrap: U.S. forces in Afghanistan ‘not a blank check commitment, says Tillerson

In our news wrap Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, as the Trump administration commits more troops to shore up the Afghan regime. Tillerson also flew to Baghdad in a bid to curb Iran's influence in Iraq. Also, at least 67 civilians were reportedly massacred by Islamic State militants in a Syrian town that was recently recaptured.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The nation’s top military commander is promising answers on why and how four U.S. special operations troops were killed in the African nation of Niger.

    They died October 4 in an ambush by soldiers affiliated with the Islamic State.

    Marine General Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a rare extended news conference today at the Pentagon. He acknowledged many things are unclear, including the mission’s intelligence and air support.

  • Gen. Joseph Dunford:

    I think it’s important for us to baseline what support was requested, at what particular time, when did it arrive, was it what they needed.

    We certainly have expressed a sense of urgency in getting the answers to the questions that you have asked and the family have asked. We want to have that investigation concluded as quickly as possible. But we have prioritized making sure that the investigation is accurate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will hear more of General Dunford’s remarks and delve into all of this after the news summary.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today during his current overseas trip. It came as the Trump administration commits more troops to shore up the Afghan regime. Tillerson flew into Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, and met with President Ashraf Ghani.

    He reaffirmed President Trump’s commitment, but said it’s not unlimited.

  • Rex Tillerson:

    He’s also made it clear it is not a blank check commitment. That’s why it is a conditions-based commitment. Clearly, we have to continue the fight against the Taliban and against others in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tillerson also urged moderates in the Taliban to move toward reconciliation and full participation in the Afghan government.

    From Kabul, Tillerson made a second unscheduled flight, to Baghdad, in a bid to curb Iran’s influence in Iraq. He had called Sunday for Iranian-backed paramilitary forces in Iraq to — quote — “go home.” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi insisted today that the units are Iraqi patriots.

    Tillerson also urged a peaceful solution to Baghdad’s dispute with its Kurdish region. The Kurds are pressing for independence.

    There’s word of a new massacre in Syria by Islamic State militants. Damascus says at least 67 civilians were found dead in a central town recaptured over the weekend. Activists say the real number may be double that.

    Meanwhile, a U.S.-backed militia has captured Syria’s largest oil field from ISIS. The militia says it’s asking the Russians to prevent their Syrian allies from trying to take it for themselves.

    Donor nations pledged nearly $230 million in new funds today to aid Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh. More than 600,000 have fled violence in Buddhist Myanmar since late August.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports on conditions in the refugee camps.

  • Jonathan Miller:

    When you have been burned out of your homes, raped, shot at and beaten, and now just want something to eat, this is the last thing you need.

    The Bangladesh army was in charge of this handout today. And it all got a bit testy. At least now, though, there is aid. And, on the whole, there is order. Kutupalong, refugee camp, now a shanty city of more than a million, over half new arrivals.

    Rohingya are still arriving faster than those trying to help them can cope with. But the U.N. has a more visible presence now. Medical care is more widespread, and there are thousands of new orange toilets, although there is still only one for every 100 people.

    There’s an acute shortage of safe water, but they’re sinking new tube wells daily, and hand pumps mean people don’t have to wash themselves and their dishes in puddles and filthy rivers. They have now turned into municipal swimming pools.

    New tented classrooms are being built for the 450,000 children who need education. The schools, though, still need nearly 6,000 teachers.

    Now that the monsoon is drying up, makeshift shelters are springing up all over the flood plain of this river down here. And you can bet that, within a few weeks, this will be covered, only to be flooded out again come the next deluge.

    Sometimes, you find sick people running high fevers just by the roadside. We walked deeper into suburban Kutupalong, where there is a frenzied construction boom. Here, though, 17,000 people suffer acute malnutrition and an outbreak of cholera or measles could be a mass killer.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

    In the Philippines, the government today declared the southern city of Marawi liberated. Militants aligned with the Islamic State seized it five months ago, and more than 1,100 people died in the fighting since. Today, troops celebrated across the city after defeating the last holdouts. Federal employees raised the national flag at city hall.

    Back in this country, President Trump today presented the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War medic. Retired Army Captain Gary Rose was honored for repeatedly risking his life to help wounded soldiers during a battle in September 1970.

    He spoke later outside the White House.

  • Capt. Gary Rose (ret.):

    This is our medal. It’s not mine. We all earned it. And to a great extent, it’s for all those men who fought those seven years in MACV-SOG, and even further than that to honor the men in all the Special Forces groups who fought and died in that war.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Rose is now 70 and he lives in Huntsville, Alabama.

    President Trump today ruled out changes to 401(k) retirement programs as part of tax reform. There’d been reports that Republicans were talking about limiting the amount that workers may put aside in 401(k)s.

    Separately, the president also told FOX Business Network that special counsel Robert Mueller has not asked to interview him about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    And stocks closed lower on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 54 points to close just under 23274. The Nasdaq fell 42, and the S&P 500 slipped 10.

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