News Briefs – November 20, 2019

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Two U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

KABUL, Afghanistan–Two U.S. service members were killed Nov. 21 when their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.
“The cause of the crash is under investigation, however preliminary reports do not indicate it was caused by enemy fire,” officials from Resolute Support, the Kabul-based headquarters overseeing U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
Wednesday’s crash brought the number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year to 19. There have also been three non-combat deaths this year. More than 2,400 Americans have died in the 18-year war.
The U.S. military statement added that in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense policy, the names of the service members killed in action are being withheld until 24 hours after notification of their next of kin is complete. AP
 

China urges U.S. to “stop flexing muscles” in South China Sea

China has urged the U.S. military to “stop flexing muscles” in the disputed South China Sea.
A spokesman for the Chinese ministry of defense told reporters in Bangkok that Beijing wants the U.S. to halt what he called “provocations” in the South China Sea.
The spokesman, Col. Wu Qian, spoke to reporters Nov. 19 after the Chinese minister of defense, Gen. Wei Fenghe, met with U.S. Defense Minister Mark Esper on the margins of an Asia defense officials conference.
In brief remarks afterward, Esper said they made progress and agreed to hold frequent follow-up talks. AP
 

Egypt could face sanctions over Russia warplanes

A senior U.S. official warned Egypt on Nov. 19 that if it purchases Russian fighter jets it risks American sanctions.
R. Clarke Cooper, the State Department’s assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, made the comment to journalists on the sidelines of the biennial Dubai Airshow.
Cooper said the planned purchase of Russian jets puts Egypt “at risk of sanctions and it puts them at risk of loss of future acquisition.”
Egypt has concluded a deal to buy Russian Su-35s jets, according to military officials in Cairo, which it says are to help combat a yearslong Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Egyptian military, which is the largest in the Arab world, went to Russia after the U.S. did not answer requests over a year ago to acquire roughly two dozen F-35 fighter jets, according to one Egyptian military official. The Russian deal was meant to diversify Egypt’s weapon suppliers, because in past years U.S. military assistance was stopped due to concerns over human rights violations, said another official.
Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid outside of NATO, has been turning toward Russia in recent years for military backing. In 2017, Egypt agreed to allow Russian military planes use of its airbases. This month, the two counties’ air forces conducted joint exercises. AP