The only phone calls that really matter are from a fallen soldier's buddies, Kelly said.

“It was a moment of niceness that we needed because we were going through hell,” said Natasha De Alencar, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan.

'I would just ask you not to question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight,' Mattis said.

Johnson, a young father of two with another one on the way, was one of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.

Critics deride the moves as potentially unlawful, and that they'll turn away prospective troops.

The threat lurks with every step made by those fighting to liberate the city.

The United States has historically targeted al-Qaeda in the civil war-racked nation.

  • Opinion

He's said to be a contender for health and human sServices secretary, the post abruptly vacated by Tom Price.

  • Joseph R. Chenelly
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Bergdahl is expected to be sentenced Oct. 23.

Mattis's remarks are the first clear sign that senior officials have backed away from proposals to kill the program.

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