ISIS loses all territory, but its shadowy leader still at large - Lebanon news - أخبار لبنان
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ISIS loses all territory, but its shadowy leader still at large

BEIRUT — The Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, but its shadowy leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” is still at large. With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organization into…

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ISIS loses all territory, but its shadowy leader still at large

BEIRUT — The Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, but its shadowy leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” is still at large.

With a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man, responsible for steering his chillingly violent organization into mass slaughter of opponents and directing and inspiring terror attacks across continents and in the heart of Europe.

Despite numerous claims about his death in the past few years, al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts remain a mystery. He appeared in public only once, in 2014. Since then, many of his top aides have been killed, mostly in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

He is among the few senior ISIS commanders still at large after two years of steady battlefield losses that saw the self-styled “caliphate” shrink from an area the size of Britain to a tiny speck in the Euphrates River valley.

Although largely seen as a symbolic figurehead of the global terror network — he was described as “irrelevant for a long time” by a coalition spokesman in 2017 — al-Baghdadi’s capture would be a coveted prize for the various players across both Syria and Iraq.

But so far, he has eluded the Americans, Russians, Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds.

In the last days of ISIS, as U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces zoned in on the last slice of territory held by the militants in eastern Syria — a couple of villages and farmlands near the Iraqi border — the possibility remained that al-Baghdadi would turn up there. Several hundred ISIS leaders and hardcore fighters, many of them Iraqis, made a last stand in the enclave before surrendering.

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The last pocket, in the eastern village of Baghouz, was declared liberated on Saturday after weeks of fighting. During the siege, civilians streamed out of the pocket and surrendered — estimated at more than 30,000, mostly family of ISIS. But there has been no sign of al-Baghdadi.

“The Coalition is not holding him nor do we know where he is,” U.S.-led coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told The Associated Press.

Mohammed Kheder, co-founder of the Sound and Picture group which documents ISIS, said the last time al-Baghdadi was spotted in the area was about 15 months ago, citing sources on the ground and the testimony of the people who left the area.

In Twitter posts, Kheder’s group has said it cannot rule out the possibility al-Baghdadi was detained long ago — “especially since many of American airdrops and night operations targeting ISIS leaders along the Iraqi border have not been disclosed by the coalition.”

Iraqi intelligence officials believe al-Baghdadi is hiding somewhere in the desert stretching across the Syrian-Iraqi border, using tunnels to move around.

“He does not use any communication equipment or internet to avoid detection by coalition planes,” a senior intelligence official said. “When he wants to see someone from the organization, they are brought to him individually in cars that stop around two hours away from where al-Baghdadi is, and then they are brought to him individually on motorcycles.”

Another official, a colonel, said the Americans recently targeted some of al-Baghdadi’s closest people, including his personal bodyguard Khaled al-Saudi — known as Khallad — who was killed last week near the area of al-Baaj along the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Khallad’s wife was arrested. Another close aide to al-Baghdadi was also recently killed and his wife captured, the colonel said, adding that the Americans believe such targets will soon lead them to al-Baghdadi. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to share intelligence information.

Al-Baghdadi was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai in 1971 in Samarra, Iraq, and adopted his nom de guerre early on. According to ISIS-affiliated websites, he was detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and sent to Bucca prison in February 2004 for his anti-U.S. militant activity.

He was released 10 months later, after which he joined the al-Qaida branch in Iraq of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He later assumed control of the group, known at the time as the Islamic State of Iraq.

After Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011, al-Baghdadi dispatched comrades to the neighboring country to create a like-minded Sunni extremist group there. The group, which came to be known as the Nusra Front, initially welcomed moderate Sunni rebels who were part of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Over time, more of his fighters and possibly al-Baghdadi himself relocated to Syria, pursuing his plan to restore a medieval Islamic state, or caliphate. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced what amounted to a hostile takeover of the Nusra Front, saying he was merging it into a new group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Nusra Front’s leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani refused to accept the takeover — as did al-Qaida’s central leadership, which broke with al-Baghdadi.

Al-Baghdadi’s fighters went onto to capture a contiguous stretch of territory across Iraq and Syria, including key cities such as Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. In June 2014, the group announced its own state, or caliphate. Al-Baghdadi became the declared caliph of the newly renamed Islamic State group.

The group ruled with a virulently extreme interpretation of Islamic law. The atrocities, massacres and beheadings by al-Baghdadi’s militants that followed — many broadcast in grisly and macabre video postings on militant websites — secured ISIS a spot in some of the darkest, most brutal annals of modern history.

Throughout it all, al-Baghdadi was in the shadows.

His only known public appearance on video was on June 29, 2014, when he appeared as a black-robed figure to deliver a sermon from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri in which he urged Muslims around the world to swear allegiance to the caliphate and obey him as its leader.

“It is a burden to accept this responsibility to be in charge of you,” he says in the video. “I am not better than you or more virtuous than you. If you see me on the right path, help me. If you see me on the wrong path, advise me and halt me. And obey me as far as I obey God.”

Little is known about al-Baghdadi’s family. An ex-wife, Saja al-Dulaimi, and her daughter from al-Baghdadi, were detained in Lebanon in 2014. She was released a year later as part of a swap with al-Qaida in exchange for kidnapped Lebanese soldiers and policemen. In July 2018, IS announced that al-Baghdadi’s son, Huthaifa al-Badri, had been killed fighting government forces in central Syria.

None of the subsequent reports of al-Baghdadi being killed or wounded were confirmed. In 2017, Russian officials said there was a “high probability” he had been killed in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of Raqqa, but U.S. officials later said they believed he was still alive.

He resurfaced in late September 2017, calling in an audio message on followers to burn their enemies everywhere. Another audio was posted last August in which al-Baghdadi urges followers to “persevere” in fighting ISIS’ enemies — the speech was sprinkled with references to current events to show it was recent.

Experts tracking militant figures said the voice in the recordings was al-Baghdadi’s.

It was the last time he was heard of.

Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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Please leave your guns at home for boot camp graduation, Parris Island officials say

Boot camp graduation in the Marine Corps is a joyous occasion, newly minted Marines finally getting the chance to bid farewell to sandpits and quarterdecks and strut around the parade deck showing off some dazzling close order drill maneuvers. The natural inclination for any red-blooded American on this most joyous occasion may be to follow…

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Please leave your guns at home for boot camp graduation, Parris Island officials say

Boot camp graduation in the Marine Corps is a joyous occasion, newly minted Marines finally getting the chance to bid farewell to sandpits and quarterdecks and strut around the parade deck showing off some dazzling close order drill maneuvers. The natural inclination for any red-blooded American on this most joyous occasion may be to follow the lead of Will Ferrell in “The Other Guys” and pop off a few celebratory rounds from the family Colt .45. Or, if you have more of a foreign bent, a sleek Glock 19. The staff at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, however, is beseeching family members of newly graduated Marines — be the one, too — to not bring guns on base. In a May 17 Facebook post, MRCD Parris Island indicated that, since the May 7 reopening of boot camp graduations to the public, there has been an uptick in families attempting to bring guns onto the premises. “As a federal installation, no personal firearms are authorized aboard the base and those families must take measures to store their firearms prior to entering the base or they will be turned away,” Capt. Bryan McDonnell told Marine Corps Times in a written statement. A spokesperson for California’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego told Marine Corps Times the left coast installation, predictably, has not experienced a gun problem over the same period. In addition to firearms, the Corps also bans toy guns, knives with a blade longer than three inches, prescription medication not properly labeled, explosive materials or fireworks, alcohol and any illegal drugs. Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup Don’t miss the top Marine Corps stories, delivered each afternoon (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup. Basically, if it’s material your “I woulda enlisted in the military but can’t no drill instructors tell me what to do” cousin employes to spend a fun weekend, it’s likely banned from Parris Island. Although, with the full reopening of the base after extensive closures due to COVID-19, even those would-haves are welcome to come see the real thing.

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III MEF sends AAVs back in the water

Members of III Marine Expeditionary Force have returned to waterborne training with amphibious assault vehicles for the first time since July 2020, when an AAV sank off the California coast killing 8 Marines and one sailor. Shortly after the accident, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger called a halt to all waterborne AAV training until…

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III MEF sends AAVs back in the water

Members of III Marine Expeditionary Force have returned to waterborne training with amphibious assault vehicles for the first time since July 2020, when an AAV sank off the California coast killing 8 Marines and one sailor. Shortly after the accident, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger called a halt to all waterborne AAV training until the causes of the accident could be discovered and addressed. The Corps and Navy have launched at least four investigations into the accident, the vehicles and the formation of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which owned the vehicle that sank. The Corps found numerous safety issues and unclear, confusing regulations surrounding AAV operations. Following its first investigation into the accident, the Marine Corps conducted a thorough review of its AAV fleet, with updated requirements for watertight integrity and bilge pump functionality. “A majority of the AAVs failed to meet the new inspection criteria,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, commander of Marine Forces Pacific, said in the investigation. The most common failures were, “bilge pump ­discrepancies, inoperable emergency egress lighting systems and plenum leakage,” exactly what had doomed the AAV assigned to the 15th MEU. Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup Don’t miss the top Marine Corps stories, delivered each afternoon (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup. Satisfied with the new standards and Marines performance in a weeks-long training exercise, the Corps has now returned AAVs to water operations. “U.S. Marines with Company B, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion, completed a demanding waterborne operations training package June 8, 2021, on Okinawa, Japan, in compliance with all updated policies and procedures, effectively returning an important capability to III MEF,” according to the news release. The MEF conducted a “thorough review” of all safety procedures and maintenance related to AAV waterborne operations prior to the training event, the release stated. “We completed a rigorous review to ensure we can operate our AAVs safely, protect our Marines and Sailors, and complete our mission responsibly,” Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, commanding general of III MEF, said in the release. “We will continue to mitigate risk while employing a ready and capable force to deter aggression and respond to crisis in the region in support of our nation’s interests and our allies and partners,” he added.

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Biden to return $2 billion diverted from Pentagon projects for border wall

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s signature border wall project would lose much of its funding as well as the fast-track status that enabled it to bypass environmental regulations under a Biden administration plan announced Friday. President Joe Biden suspended construction of the wall upon taking office while his administration reviewed the project. That angered…

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Biden to return $2 billion diverted from Pentagon projects for border wall

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s signature border wall project would lose much of its funding as well as the fast-track status that enabled it to bypass environmental regulations under a Biden administration plan announced Friday. President Joe Biden suspended construction of the wall upon taking office while his administration reviewed the project. That angered Republicans in Congress eager to see it go forward amid an increase in apprehensions of migrants along the southwest border. The new plan does not cancel the wall project outright, but it’s still likely to face opposition in Congress, where many Republicans are eager to promote a project closely associated with the former president. Biden plans to return more than $2 billion that the Trump administration diverted from the Pentagon to help pay for the wall and use other money appropriated by Congress to address “urgent life, safety, and environmental issues” created by the construction. It also asks lawmakers not to provide any additional funding for what the Biden team believes is an unnecessary effort. “Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement outlining the plan. The government has built walls and other barriers along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border for decades to eliminate some of the easier routes of avoiding checkpoints. Trump turned the issue into a centerpiece of his political identity. Trump vowed to build a “virtually impenetrable” wall, insisting it would be paid for by Mexico, which never happened. Instead, his administration set aside about $15 billion through a combination of congressional appropriations and taking the money from the Pentagon and other parts of the government. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. The Trump administration built about 450 miles (725 kilometers) of wall, moving quickly and waiving requirements for environmental reviews and mediation, though only about 52 miles (84 kilometers) were in areas where no barrier previously existed. Biden’s decision to suspend construction prompted Republican senators to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the administration was violating federal law in not using appropriated money for its intended purpose. The administration said Friday that it will use funds already set aside by Congress for “their appropriated purpose, as required by law” but is requesting no new money for wall construction in the Department of Homeland Security’s 2022 budget. Biden is instead seeking money for increased technology at the ports of entry and elsewhere, saying there are more efficient ways to stop illegal immigration and drug smuggling at the border. The administration said it would return $2 billion taken from the Pentagon and use it for the construction projects for which the money was originally intended. That includes $79 million for an elementary school for the children of American service members in Germany; $25 million for a fire and rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida; and $10 million to expand defenses against North Korean ballistic missiles at Fort Greely in Alaska. It plans to use the approximately $1.9 million remaining appropriated by Congress for the wall for drainage and erosion control or other environmental problems caused by wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and elsewhere. Dozens of advocacy organizations have called on the Biden administration to pay for the restoration of sensitive wildlife habitat and land considered sacred to Native Americans that was damaged by wall construction. “This is a welcome, sensible next step to begin healing the devastation that Trump inflicted on the borderlands,” said Paulo Lopes, a senior policy land specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity. The administration doesn’t explicitly say it won’t build any new wall. But it says that any new construction will be subjected to environmental review and that it will review ongoing efforts to seize land from property owners by eminent domain and will return parcels to the owners if the Department of Homeland Security determines it’s not needed. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Thursday that the state would build its own new barriers along the border with Mexico but offered no details, including precisely where or what they would look like. He has promised more details next week. “We need to recognize that the numbers of people coming across the border are just going to continue to increase unless we change the game plan,” Abbott said. Associated Press writers Anita Snow in Phoenix and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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