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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making clear he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors wrote to President Joe Biden asking that the administration remove the mandate. They say it has hurt the U.S. National Guard’s ability to recruit troops. Congress may consider legislation this coming week to end the mandate as a requirement to gather enough support to pass this years’ defense budget, which is already two months late. Austin says the mandate has kept the forces healthy.

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The United States soccer team captivated the nation with its brief World Cup run. That run ended Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the round of 16. The second-youngest team at the tournament played only four games but it was enough to thrill diehard supporters in Doha and briefly unite a fractured nation back home. Fans gathered outside the stadium ahead of Saturday's match to bond over the American team before they marched in together as a collective fan club. United States captain Tyler Adams says “the support has been amazing."

Five Louisiana-based soldiers have been arrested for an alleged Thanksgiving night sexual assault. News outlets report the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office said the five men stationed at the U.S. Army’s military base at Fort Polk are accused of drugging and raping two women in Rosepine.  Authorities said one victim said she knew one of the five men who arrived at her home Nov. 24. Both women told detectives they drank alcohol that the men brought, but noted they felt unwell and came close to losing consciousness. Sheriff Sam Craft said forensic testing performed later on the women showed injuries consistent with sexual assault.

U.S. troops have resumed joint patrols with Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria days after they were stopped amid Turkish threats of a new ground incursion into the war-torn country. U.S. officials had said the patrols that resumed Saturday are not to counter Islamic State group militants. They say the patrols will be limited to areas around a sprawling camp housing mostly women and children linked to IS as well as prisons where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are holding thousands of extremists. Turkey has launched a barrage of airstrikes on suspected militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq in retaliation for a deadly bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups.

U.S. forces have stopped joint military patrols in northern Syria to counter Islamic State extremists, as Turkish threats of a ground invasion stymie those missions with Kurdish forces. Other security patrols, particularly around prisons, will begin again on Saturday. U.S. Central Command on Friday said American troops have now paused all of the joint operations with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces against IS in Syria. It said the Kurdish and U.S. forces continue to conduct patrols and maintain security at the al-Hol displaced persons camp and the prisons.