Mosul is more than a potentially climactic military battle
WASHINGTON (AP) — More is riding on the battle for Mosul than the recapture of the Islamic State group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq. Also on the line is the Obama administration’s theory that the extremists can be defeated in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere without American ground troops doing the fighting.
For more than two years, the administration has stuck to its argument that the only path to a sustained victory over the Islamic State group is for locals, not Americans or other outsiders, to bear the main responsibility for the fighting and for governing after the extremists are removed.
President Barack Obama has taken a lot of political heat for that approach, which critics say has allowed IS to expand its international reach and influence.
The viability of Obama’s strategy has been widely doubted. In May 2015, after months of U.S. bombings in Iraq and while in the midst of Americans training and advising Iraqi ground troops, the Iraqis lost the city of Ramadi. Defense Secretary Ash Carter publicly said he doubted the Iraqis’ will to fight. Since then, the U.S. support role has grown and the Iraqi security forces have managed to retake key parts of western and northern Iraq, including Ramadi.
Mosul is different, not least because it is the place where Islamic State leaders in 2014 announced their intent to create an Islamic-run state after taking a large swath of Iraq and Syria in a lightning surge.
FBI records: Effort to reduce Clinton email classification
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior State Department official asked the FBI last year to help reduce the classification of an email from Hillary Clinton’s private server, according to FBI investigative files made public Monday. It was to be part of a bargain that would have allowed the FBI to deploy more agents in foreign countries, according to the files.
It was not immediately clear whether the State Department official or someone at the FBI first raised the prospect of a bargain over the email’s classification.
The bureau records, citing an FBI official whose name was censored, said Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy sought assistance in exchange for a “quid pro quo.”
But the FBI said Monday it was the now-retired FBI official who first asked Kennedy about deploying more agents overseas. The State Department said the same.
“This allegation is inaccurate and does not align with the facts,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday. He said Kennedy had been trying to understand the FBI’s classification decisions, and added that there was never an increase in the number of FBI agents assigned to Iraq as a result of the conversations.
10 Things to Know for Tuesday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:
1. WHY MOSUL IS MORE THAN A KEY MILITARY BATTLE
Recapturing the main Islamic State stronghold in northern Iraq could prove a decisive test of the Obama administration’s theory that the extremists can be defeated without U.S. ground troops.
2. MELANIA BREAKS HER SILENCE
Melania Trump dismisses her husband’s sexually aggressive language as “boy talk.”
Confident Clinton expanding her campaign into ‘red’ states
WHITE PLAINS, New York (AP) — Hillary Clinton is advancing into states the Democrats haven’t won in decades, confidently expanding her offensive against Donald Trump and aiming to help her party win back control of Congress.
There’s a new $2 million push in Arizona, aides said Monday, including a campaign stop in Phoenix by first lady Michelle Obama, one of Clinton’s most effective surrogates. An additional $1 million is going into efforts in Missouri and Indiana, both states with competitive Senate races, a small amount of TV time is being bought in Texas and media appearances are scheduled in Utah.
At the same time Clinton is showing new signs of confidence, she faced fresh revelations about her use of a private server as secretary of state and hacked emails from a top campaign official’s personal account. FBI records released Monday show that a senior State Department official unsuccessfully sought to lower the classification level of an email found on the server, a move Trump’s campaign labeled collusion.
The new questions highlight a dual reality of the presidential race: Even as Clinton has a growing advantage, she’s been unable to put the biggest controversy of her campaign behind her.
With her lead increasing, Clinton is unlikely to need any of the normally solid-red states to win the White House. But her team believes that a wide presidential margin of victory would help end Trump’s political movement and undermine his intensifying claims that the election is rigged.
Russia sets brief cease-fire for Aleppo as strikes kill 36
BEIRUT (AP) — Russian and Syrian forces will halt hostilities for eight hours in the eastern districts of Aleppo, Russia’s military announced on Monday, a day on which opposition activists said their airstrikes killed at least 36 people, including several children, in and around the divided city.
The two militaries will observe a “humanitarian pause” between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 20 to allow civilians and militants safe passage out of the city, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of Russia’s general staff said in Moscow. Militants, the wounded and sick would be allowed to evacuate to the neighboring rebel-held province of Idlib.
U.N. humanitarian officials have pleaded with combatants to observe weekly 48-hour cease-fires to allow humanitarian relief into the city’s besieged eastern districts, but Russian and Syrian forces have only escalated their aerial and ground assault on the rebel-held areas in recent weeks. The airstrikes have claimed hundreds of lives, wounded many, flattened apartment buildings and laid waste to the already crippled medical sector.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that the eight-hour pause was a unilateral halt to fighting. A 48-hour or 72-hour cease-fire “will require some sort of mutual arrangement,” he said.
Russian and Syrian leaders are now capitalizing on a proposal made by the U.N.’s envoy earlier this month to allow al-Qaida-linked militants to leave in exchange for peace and local administration for the eastern districts.
Iraqis push toward IS-held Mosul in long-awaited offensive
KHAZER, Iraq (AP) — The long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group began Monday with a volley of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments on a cluster of villages along the edge of Iraq’s historic Nineveh plain east of the militant-held city.
Iraq’s Kurdish peshmerga fighters led the initial assault, advancing slowly across open fields littered with booby-trapped explosives as plumes of black and orange smoke rose overhead — the opening phase of an unprecedented campaign expected to take weeks if not months, and involve more than 25,000 troops.
By the end of the day Kurdish forces had retaken some 200 square kilometers (80 square miles), according to the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Peshmerga commanders on the ground estimated the offensive retook nine villages and pushed the frontline with IS back eight kilometers (five miles).
But the forces’ hold appeared fragile and the gains largely symbolic. Some of the villages were so small they comprised no more than a few dozen homes, and most were abandoned.
And though some troops were less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Mosul’s edges, it was unclear how long it would take to reach the city itself, where more than 1 million people still live. Aid groups have warned of a mass exodus of civilians that could overwhelm refugee camps.
US policing leader apologizes for historical racial abuse
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The president of one of the largest police organizations in the United States on Monday apologized for historical mistreatment of minorities, calling it a “dark side of our shared history” that must be acknowledged and overcome.
The reaction from leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement was mixed, saying words needed to be backed by actions, while the head of an officers’ union in Minnesota said there was no need to apologize.
Terrence Cunningham, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said at the group’s annual conference that police have historically been a face of oppression, enforcing laws that ensured legalized discrimination and denial of basic rights. He was not more specific.
Cunningham said today’s officers are not to blame for past injustices. He did not speak in detail about modern policing, but said events over the past several years have undermined public trust.
His comments come as police shootings of black men have roiled communities in Ferguson, Missouri; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota; and as black shooters have targeted officers in Dallas, the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin and Baton Rouge.
Rocket launch reignites space station deliveries in Virginia
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — One of NASA’s main delivery companies made a triumphant comeback seen up and down the East Coast on Monday night, launching its first space station shipment from Virginia since a rocket explosion two years ago.
It was the first flight of Orbital ATK’s unmanned Antares rocket since the Oct. 28, 2014, blast that wrecked the pad and destroyed everything on the space station supply run.
The launch provided a show for sky gazers along much of the East Coast. Reports poured in via Twitter from observers in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and even Raleigh, North Carolina.
For Antares’ long-awaited return, the pad underwent a $15 million restoration, and the rocket got new Russian engines to replace the vintage ones from a half-century earlier.
As the Antares streaked through the night sky from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, it appeared as though all the work had paid off. Launch controllers applauded when the supply ship reached orbit and victory was declared.
NBC News fires Billy Bush after lewd Donald Trump tape airs
NEW YORK (AP) — NBC News on Monday fired “Today” show host Billy Bush, who was caught on tape in a vulgar conversation about women with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump before an “Access Hollywood” appearance.
Bush was suspended at the morning show two days after contents of the 2005 tape were reported on Oct. 7. Once it became clear he wouldn’t be back, NBC and Bush’s representatives had been negotiating terms of his exit.
On the tape, Bush is heard laughing as Trump talks about fame enabling him to grope and try to have sex with women not his wife. Trump has denied groping women, and Bush later said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by what was caught on tape.
NBC made the announcement of his firing in a note from “Today” show top executive Noah Oppenheim to his staff. Oppenheim called Bush, who spent 15 years at “Access Hollywood,” ”a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.”
Bush, a 44-year-old father of three and nephew of former President George H.W. Bush, said that he was “deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead.”
Big 12 presidents decide to pass on expansion
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — The smallest Power Five conference is not getting any larger. The Big 12 is staying at 10 schools.
After three months of analyzing, vetting and interviewing possible new members, Big 12 leaders on Monday took expansion off their agenda.
“This was not a decision to not expand,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “This was an endorsement and reinvestment in the 10 that we had.”
Oklahoma President David Boren said the decision was unanimous and no specific schools were discussed or voted on during five hours or so of expansion talk while Big 12 presidents and chancellors met Sunday night and Monday.
Boren, the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors and the only president who has been in the league since its inception in 1996, insisted he has never seen “such a unified sense of purpose on the board.”