As Wildfires continue Authorities evacuate town in Washington state

Revelation 16:9 “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Wildfires rage in US: Authorities evacuate town in Washington State. This is what has happened:
  • The Sheriff said six homes and eight other structures had got destroyed in fire. With the help of state and local resources, the authorities are trying to control the fires. The evacuation process is also going on, as per the Sheriff.
  • According to officials at a community meeting on Wednesday night, about 1300 people are being evacuated. Officials have warned that fires could break out again in the next few days as clouds clear and humidity drops.
  • The fires broke out last Friday and charred about 92 square miles. More than a hundred homes and other buildings were burned down, and four bodies were found.

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Russia accusing Washington of “adding fuel to the fire” by sending more advanced artillery systems to Ukraine

Luke 21:10:  Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia criticizes US plans to send more advanced artillery systems to Ukraine, accusing Washington of “adding fuel to the fire”
  • President Biden announced the move earlier, but played down fears of a direct Nato-Russia conflict
  • He said the goal was to help Ukraine defend itself and that Washington was not encouraging Ukraine to strike beyond its borders
  • Meanwhile, an official in the key eastern city of Severodonetsk says Ukrainian forces now only control 20% of territory there
  • But while Russia targets its efforts on the east, President Zelensky says Ukraine is making advances in battlegrounds elsewhere in the country

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As the national price of gas keeps rising gas stations prepare pumps to go as high as $10 per gallon

Rev 6:6 NAS “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Gas stations in Washington reprogram pumps to prepare for $10-a-gallon fuel as Bidenflation sends average price soaring to $4.57 – almost twice the $2.41 during Trump’s final month
  • A national gas station chain is reprogramming its pumps in Washington state to accommodate the possibility of $10-a-gallon gasoline
  • The average price of gasoline across the country reached $4.57 on Wednesday – almost twice the $2.41 average during Trump’s last month in office
  • Other stations in the state have begun running out of gas, with a local Facebook group identifying 10 stations that have run out of fuel
  • Meanwhile some states – such as California – are reporting spiraling prices of up to $5.98 this week

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Exclusive: U.S. concerned over Turkey’s drone sales to conflict-hit Ethiopia

By Jonathan Spicer, Giulia Paravicini and Orhan Coskun

ISTANBUL/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – U.S. authorities have taken issue with Turkey over its sales of armed drones to Ethiopia, where two sources familiar with the matter said there was mounting evidence the government had used the weapons against rebel fighters.

Washington has “profound humanitarian concerns” over the sales, which could contravene U.S. restrictions on arms to Addis Ababa, a senior Western official said.

The year-long war between Ethiopia’s government and the leadership of the northern Tigray region, among Africa’s bloodiest conflicts, has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions.

A State Department spokesman said U.S. Horn of Africa envoy Jeffrey Feltman “raised reports of armed drone use in Ethiopia and the attendant risk of civilian harm” during a visit to Turkey last week.

A senior Turkish official said Washington conveyed its discomfort at a few meetings, while Ethiopia’s military and government did not respond to detailed requests for comment.

Turkey, which is selling drones to several countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, has dismissed criticism that it plays a destabilizing role in Africa and has said it is in touch with all sides in Ethiopia to urge negotiations.

Last week the United Nations agreed to set up an independent investigation into rights abuses in Ethiopia, a move strongly opposed by its government.

Tigrayan rebel forces said on Monday they were withdrawing from some northern regions after government advances and, in a letter to the U.N., called for a no-fly zone for drones and other hostile aircraft over Tigray.

The U.S. State Department clamped down in May on exports of defense products for Ethiopia’s armed forces.

In September, the White House authorized sanctions on those engaged, even indirectly, in policies that threaten stability, expand the crisis or disrupt humanitarian assistance there, though there has been no indication of any such imminent action against Turkey.

The U.S. Treasury, which has broad economic sanctions authority under that executive order, declined to comment on whether sanctions could apply to Turkey.

The senior Turkish official said the foreign ministry examined how the drone sales might impact U.S. foreign policy as part of 2022 budget planning.

“The United States has conveyed its discomfort with Turkey’s drone sales …but Turkey will continue to follow the policies it set in this area,” the person told Reuters.

A second senior Turkish official, from the defense ministry, said Ankara had no intention of meddling in any country’s domestic affairs.

Turkish defense exports to Ethiopia surged to almost $95 million in the first 11 months of 2021, from virtually nothing last year, according to Exporters’ Assembly data.

DRONES IN ACTION

Ethiopian government soldiers interviewed by Reuters near Gashena, a hillside town close to the war’s front, said a recent government offensive succeeded following an influx of reinforcements and the use of drones and airstrikes to target Tigrayan positions.

A Reuters team spotted destroyed tanks and armored anti-aircraft trucks there.

A foreign military official based in Ethiopia said satellite imagery and other evidence gave “clear indications” that drones were being used, and estimated up to 20 were operating. It was unclear how many might be Turkish-made.

“Surveillance drones are having a greater impact …and being very helpful,” the person said, adding the guerrilla-warfare nature of the conflict made armed drones less useful.

Asked whether foreign countries had also supplied drone operators, the official said: “I know Turkish personnel were here at one point.”

Turkish and Ethiopian officials have not publicly confirmed the drones sale, which Reuters first reported in October, and Turkey’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for further details.

It said last week that U.S. envoy Feltman and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal had discussed developments in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

Ethiopia has also bought drones from the United Arab Emirates, which did not respond to a request for comment about possible U.S. concerns. Feltman was also scheduled to visit the UAE earlier this month.

TURKISH EXPANSION

Under President Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has poured military equipment into Africa and the Middle East, including training of armed forces in Somalia, where it has a base.

The Turkish military used its Bayraktar TB2 drones last year with success in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting interest from buyers globally in a market led by U.S., Chinese and Israeli manufacturers.

In October, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said Ethiopia was free to procure drones from anywhere. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that engagement with Africa was based on mutual benefit.

NATO allies Washington and Ankara have strained ties over several issues including the Turkish purchase of Russian missile defenses, and U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

The State Department spokesperson said Feltman had underscored that “now is the time for all outside actors to press for negotiations and end the war” in Ethiopia.

The Western official, who requested anonymity, said Ankara had responded to U.S. concerns by saying it attaches humanitarian provisions to the Ethiopia deal and requires signed undertakings outlining how drones will be used.

(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay in Ankara, Stephen Grey in Gashena, Ethiopia, Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi; Editing by John Stonestreet)

Rise of Omicron dashes New York’s Christmas cheer as COVID surges

By Maria Caspani and Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) -COVID-19 cases surged in New York City and around the United States over the weekend, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season, resurrecting restrictions and stretching the country’s testing infrastructure ahead of holiday travel and gatherings.

The spike is alarming public health officials, who see the Omicron variant of the coronavirus fast becoming dominant in the United States and fear an explosion of infections after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

With the new variant in circulation, COVID-19 cases are now doubling in one and a half to three days in areas with community transmission, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

Lines for COVID-19 tests wrapped around the block in New York, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities over the weekend as people clamored to find out if they were infected before celebrating the holidays with family.

“I just want to make sure before seeing my wife’s 70-year-old mom that I’m negative,” said David Jochnowitz while waiting for a test in Washington.

With a rapid rise in infections, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday reinstated an indoor mask mandate until the end of January and required government workers to get vaccinated, including a booster shot.

“I think we’re all tired of it,” Bowser told reporters. “I’m tired of it too, but we have to respond to what’s happening in our city and what’s happening in our nation.”

In New York City, COVID-19 cases rose 60% in the week that ended on Sunday as the Omicron variant spread rapidly around the U.S. northeast. New York has set records for the most new cases reported in a single day since the pandemic started for three consecutive days.

“It is a predictor of what the rest of the country will see soon, and the minimum – since NYC is highly vaccinated – of what other parts of the country will experience in under-vaccinated cities and states,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director for American Public Health Association.

Many Broadway productions canceled performances as cast and crew have become infected. The popular “Hamilton” production on Monday extended cancellations until after Christmas due to breakthrough COVID-19 infections.

Breakthrough infections are rising among the 61% of the country’s fully vaccinated population, including the 30% who have gotten booster shots.

Omicron appears to be causing milder symptoms in vaccinated populations, and health experts remain optimistic this wave might not cause the same spikes in hospitalizations and deaths as previous surges.

‘JUST STAY HOME’

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi on Monday said that while new COVID-19 cases have “increased sharply,” hospitalizations have not jumped at the same rate. He credited vaccinations and booster shots, which help prevent severe illness, and urged that more were needed to build a “sea wall” against the variant.

The rise of Omicron prompted Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday to require all students, faculty and staff to get a COVID-19 booster shot for the upcoming spring semester.

On Monday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced he tested positive for COVID-19. U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren said the same on Sunday. All three said they had been vaccinated and boosted.

Nationally, cases rose 9% in the past week but are up 57% since the start of December, according to a Reuters tally. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients have increased 26% this month, with hospitals in some areas already strained by the Delta variant.

While cases climbed in the U.S. Northeast, Midwest hospitals are still dealing with a surge in patients from a Delta wave this fall. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio have the nation’s most hospitalized COVID patients per 100,000 residents, a Reuters tally found.

In New York City, the daily test rate reached an average of 130,000 per day, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Monday, more than double three weeks ago.

With demand for tests exceeding capacity, de Blasio said the city was working with the White House and private sector to help increase testing availability.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday she was ramping up the state’s testing program, with 1 million kits arriving this week and the same amount in each of the next two weeks.

“More and more people are going to be testing positive from this,” she said. For those who do, she advised: “Just stay home, do not go out. Don’t go to work. Don’t go see your family.”

Omicron’s arrival is a headwind for an economic revival in New York that already lags the rest of the country, especially where employment is concerned.

The pandemic delivered an even larger body blow to the city than the country because of the outsized role played by tourism, leisure and hospitality, which suffered the worst under lockdowns and travel restrictions. New York’s jobless rate topped out at 20% in the spring of 2020 – more than 5 percentage points above the U.S. average, and is still 9%, more than twice the national rate.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Additional reporting and writing by Gabriella Borter in Washington and Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Carl O’Donnell in New York and and Greg Savoy in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Exclusive-Qatar to act as U.S. diplomatic representative in Afghanistan – official

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and Qatar have agreed that Qatar will represent the diplomatic interests of the United States in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official told Reuters, an important signal of potential direct engagement between Washington and Kabul in the future after two decades of war.

Qatar will sign an arrangement with the United States on Friday to assume the role of “protecting power” for U.S. interests to help facilitate any formal communication between Washington and the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which the United States does not recognize.

The move comes at a time when the United States and other Western countries are grappling with how to engage with the Taliban after the hardline group took over Afghanistan in a lightning advance in August as U.S.-led forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.

Many countries including the United States and European states are reluctant to formally recognize the Taliban as critics say they are backtracking on pledges of political and ethnic inclusivity and not to sideline women and minorities.

But with winter approaching, many countries realize they need to engage more to prevent the deeply impoverished country from plunging into a humanitarian catastrophe.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will announce the deal with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani at a news conference after their meeting on Friday.

According to the arrangement, which will come into effect on Dec. 31, Qatar will dedicate certain staff from its embassy in Afghanistan to a U.S. Interests Section and will coordinate closely with U.S. State Department and with U.S. mission in Doha.

The U.S. official said the United States would also continue its engagement with the Taliban through the Qatari capital, Doha, where the Taliban have maintained a political office for years.

“As our protecting power, Qatar will assist the United States in providing limited consular services to our citizens and in protecting U.S. interests in Afghanistan,” said the senior State Department official, who spoke about the sensitive matter on the condition of anonymity.

Consular assistance may include accepting passport applications, offering notarial services for documentation, providing information, and helping in emergencies, the U.S. official said.

The U.S. Interests Section will operate out of certain facilities on the compound in Kabul used by the U.S. Embassy prior to the suspension of operations, the State Department official said, adding that Qatar would monitor the properties on the compound and conduct security patrols.

Millions of Afghans face growing hunger amid soaring food prices, a drought and an economy in freefall, fueled by a hard cash shortage, sanctions on Taliban leaders and the suspension of much financial aid.

The Taliban victory in August saw the billions of dollars in foreign aid that had kept the economy afloat abruptly switched off, with more than $9 billion in central bank reserves frozen outside the country.

In a separate agreement, Qatar will continue to temporarily host up to 8,000 at-risk Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas (SIV) and their eligible family members, the U.S. official said.

“SIV applicants will be housed at Camp As Sayliyah and al-Udeid Air Base,” the official said.

The two decades-long U.S. occupation of Afghanistan culminated in a hastily organized airlift in August in which more than 124,000 civilians, including Americans, Afghans and others, were evacuated as the Taliban took over. But thousands of U.S.-allied Afghans at risk of Taliban persecution were left behind.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Editing by Robert Birsel)

COVID-19 still rages, but some U.S. states reject federal funds to help

By Andy Sullivan

(Reuters) – As the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic burns through the rural U.S. state of Idaho, health officials say they don’t have enough tests to track the disease’s spread or sufficient medical workers to help the sick.

It’s not for want of funding.

The state’s Republican-led legislature this year voted down $40 million in federal aid available for COVID-19 testing in schools. Another $1.8 billion in pandemic-related federal assistance is sitting idle in the state treasury, waiting for lawmakers to deploy it.

Some Idaho legislators have accused Washington of overreach and reckless spending. Others see testing as disruptive and unnecessary, particularly in schools, since relatively few children have died from the disease.

“If you want your kids in school, you can’t be testing,” said state Representative Ben Adams, a Republican who represents Nampa, a city of about 100,000 people in southwestern Idaho.

Meanwhile, the state is reporting the fifth-highest infection rate in the United States, at 369 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schools in at least 14 of Idaho’s 115 districts, including Nampa, have had to close temporarily due to COVID-19 outbreaks since the start of the year, according to Burbio, a digital platform that tracks U.S. school activity.

Idaho’s experience illustrates how political ideology and polarization around the COVID-19 epidemic have played a role in the decision of mostly conservative states to reject some federal funding meant to help locals officials battle the virus and its economic fallout.

For example, Idaho was one of 26 Republican-led states that ended enhanced federally funded unemployment benefits before they were due to expire in September. Gov. Brad Little claimed that money was discouraging the jobless from returning to work. At least six studies have found that the extra benefits have had little to no impact on the U.S. labor market.

Idaho has also rebuffed $6 million for early-childhood education, as some Republicans in the state said mothers should be the primary caretakers of their children.

The state also did not apply for $6 million that would have bolstered two safety-net programs that aid mothers of young children and working families. Little’s administration said it had enough money already for those programs.

Idaho has accepted some federal COVID-19 help. In fact, the rejected funds are just a small portion of the nearly $2 billion in federal relief Idaho has spent since March 2020 to fight the virus and shore up businesses and families, state figures show.

But hundreds of millions more remain untouched. Idaho has deployed just $780 million, or 30%, of the $2.6 billion it received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March.

Neighboring Washington state, by contrast, has parceled out nearly three-quarters of the $7.8 billion it received under that legislation. Washington has recorded roughly 60% as many cases per capita as Idaho since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some in Idaho are exasperated that a state of just 1.8 million people would turn down a dime of assistance when it’s struggling to tame the pandemic.

With no testing in place, nurses in Nampa schools rely mainly on parents to let them know when a child is infected, the district’s top nurse, Rebekah Burley, told the school board in September. She said she needed three or four more staffers to track existing cases and attempt to keep people quarantined.

“We’re tired, we are stressed, and something needs to change,” she said.

REJECTING FEDERAL MONEY

The refusal by red states to accept some types of federal aid that would benefit their constituents isn’t new.

For example, a dozen Republican-controlled states have rejected billions of dollars available through the landmark 2010 Affordable Health Care Act to cover more people under the Medicaid health program for the poor, which is jointly funded by the federal government and the states. Lawmakers from these places contended their states couldn’t afford to pay their share of an expansion. (Idaho initially was among them, but its voters opted in to the Medicaid expansion through a 2018 ballot referendum, bypassing state leaders.)

That same dynamic has played out during the coronavirus crisis. Since March 2020, Congress has approved six aid packages totaling $4.7 trillion under Republican and Democratic administrations, including the bipartisan CARES Act in March 2020 and the Democratic-backed American Rescue Plan Act this year.

Florida and Mississippi didn’t apply for benefits that would give more money to low-income mothers of young children. Four states, including Idaho, North Dakota and Oklahoma, opted not to extend a program that provided grocery money to low-income families with school-age kids in summer months.

Iowa, like Idaho, turned down federal money for COVID-19 testing in schools. New Hampshire rejected money for vaccinations.

Republican lawmakers in Idaho, like those elsewhere, cite concerns about local control, restrictive terms attached to some of the aid, and the skyrocketing national debt.

“We are chaining future generations to a lifetime of financial slavery,” said Adams, the Idaho legislator.

Yet even before the pandemic, Idaho long relied on Washington for much of its budget. Federal funds account for 36% of state spending in Idaho, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, above the national average of 32%.

State officials say they have enough money to handle the COVID-19 crisis for now.

Critics say Idaho’s reluctance to use more federal aid is a symptom of its hands-off approach to COVID-19 safety. Few public schools require masks, and local leaders have refused to impose mask mandates, limits on indoor gatherings and other steps to contain the virus.

“There’s a lot of people in our legislature and some local officials who really have not taken this seriously,” said David Pate, the former head of St. Luke’s Health System, the state’s largest hospital network.

Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with only 55% of adults and teens fully immunized, compared to 67% nationally.

HOSPITALS FULL

COVID-19 is pummeling Idaho even as cases have plunged in much of the nation. Intensive-care units statewide are full, forcing hospitals to turn away non-COVID patients. At least 627 residents died of the disease in October, well above the previous monthly death toll of last winter, records show.

Idaho received $18 million through the American Rescue Plan to hire more public-health workers, but lawmakers did nothing with that money this year.

Some local public health departments say they do not have enough staff to track the virus. “We have a lot of people doing two or three jobs right now,” said Brianna Bodily, a spokesperson for the public-health agency serving Twin Falls, a southern Idaho city of 50,000. The department is working with a 12% smaller budget than last year.

Such staff shortages have contributed to a backlog of test results statewide, which the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says is hurting its ability to provide an up-to-date picture of the disease’s prevalence.

With funding bottled up in the state capitol, Little, the governor, announced in August that he would steer $30 million from a previous round of COVID-19 aid to school testing.

The Nampa school district has requested some of that money but has yet to set up a testing program, spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck said. Roughly 20% of the district’s students were not attending class regularly in the first weeks of the school year due to outbreaks, according to superintendent Paula Kellerer.

Nampa resident Jaci Johnson, a mother of two children, ages 10 and 13, said she and other parents have been torn over whether to send their children to class, due to the potential risk.

“Do we feed our kids to the lions, or do we keep them home and make them miserable?” Johnson said.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Marla Dickerson)

U.S. embassy in Moscow dwindling to “caretaker presence,” U.S. official says

By Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department is getting to the point of being able to maintain only a “caretaker presence” in Russia in the face of a deep downturn in diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow, a senior department official said on Wednesday.

Russia and the United States withdrew their ambassadors in April after the incoming Biden administration issued sanctions and expelled 10 Russian diplomats over actions including the SolarWinds cyber attack and election interference.

Those ambassadors returned in June, but the staff at the embassy in Moscow – the last operational U.S. mission in the country after consulates in Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg were shuttered – has shrunk to 120 from about 1,200 in early 2017, the State Department official told reporters at a briefing.

Staff were struggling to issue visas, putting a drag on business ties between the two countries, and were unable to repair elevators or entrance gates, creating safety concerns, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We’re going to confront the situation… sometime next year where it’s just difficult for us to continue with anything other than a caretaker presence at the embassy,” the official said.

Russia and the United States continue to engage in talks over nuclear threat reduction and climate change, but relations remain strained by issues like the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe and President Vladimir Putin’s suppression of his domestic opponents.

The United States was forced to lay off nearly 200 locally employed staff after Russia banned the embassy from employing non-Americans, and a visa-for-visa arrangement has prevented Washington from bringing U.S. citizens into Russia.

Russia has just over 400 diplomats in the United States, including its delegation to the United Nations in New York, the State Department official said.

U.S. officials continue to negotiate with their Russian counterparts to stabilize the “downward spiral” in relations, the official added.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

One trapped, several hurt in Washington building collapse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Search and rescue crews were attempting on Thursday to free a construction worker trapped inside a partially-built five-story building that collapsed during a rain storm in Washington.

Four other construction workers were removed from the debris shortly after the building in the U.S. capital came down at about 3:30 pm (1930 GMT), said John Donnelly, assistant chief of D.C. Fire and EMS.

The rescued workers were taken from the scene about 5 miles (8 km) north of the Capitol building to a local hospital. They had non-life-threatening injuries, Donnelly said.

The trapped worker was conscious and in contact with fire crews as they sought to free him from the rubble, Donnelly said, adding: “We are talking to him and I view that as a good thing.”

Images showed dozens of firefighters swarming over piles of wood left behind by the collapse, using saws and heavy equipment to move large pieces.

Last week, a condominium tower collapsed in Surfside, Florida as most residents slept. Searchers there have recovered 18 bodies and say another 145 people remain missing.

President Joe Biden traveled to the scene of the 12-story Champlain Towers South in Florida on Thursday.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

U.S. adds Turkey to list of countries implicated in use of child soldiers

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday added Turkey to a list of countries that are implicated in the use of child soldiers over the past year, placing a NATO ally for the first time in such a list, in a move that is likely to further complicate the already fraught ties between Ankara and Washington.

The U.S. State Department determined in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) that Turkey was providing “tangible support” to the Sultan Murad division in Syria, a faction of Syrian opposition that Ankara has long supported and a group that Washington said recruited and used child soldiers.

In a briefing call with reporters, a senior State Department official also made a reference to the use of child soldiers in Libya, saying Washington was hoping to work with Ankara on the issue to address it.

“With respect to Turkey in particular…this is the first time a NATO member has been listed in the child soldier prevention act list,” the State Department official said. “As a respected regional leader and member of NATO, Turkey has the opportunity to address this issue, the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Syria and Libya,” he said.

Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations in Syria against the so-called Islamic State, as well as U.S.-backed Kurdish militia and has frequently used factions of armed Syrian fighters on top of its own forces.

Some of these groups have been accused by human rights groups and the United Nations of indiscriminately attacking civilians and carrying out kidnappings and lootings. The United Nations had asked Ankara to rein in these Syrian rebels while Turkey rejected the allegations, calling them ‘baseless.’

Turkey has also been involved in the Libyan conflict. Ankara’s support has helped the Tripoli-based government reverse a 14-month assault from eastern forces backed by Egypt and Russia.

Governments placed on this list are subject to restrictions, according to the State Department report, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment, absent a presidential waiver.

It was not immediately clear whether any restrictions would automatically apply to Turkey.

It was also not immediately clear if the placing of Turkey on this list would have an impact on its ongoing negotiations with the United States to run Afghanistan’s Kabul airport once Washington withdraws its troops.

Turkey has offered to guard and run Hamid Karzai airport after NATO’s withdrawal and has been holding talks with the United States on logistic and financial support for the mission.

The mission could be a potential area of cooperation between Ankara and its allies amid strained ties, as the security of the airport is crucial for the operation of diplomatic missions out of Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

To carry out this task, Ankara has sought various financial and operational support, and President Joe Biden, in a meeting last month with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had said that U.S. support would be forthcoming, Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan had said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Aurora Ellis)