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NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) bow their heads during a ceremony marking the end of ISAF's combat mission in Afghanistan at ISAF headquarters in Kabul on Dec. 28, 2014. (Photo by Shah Marai/AFP/Getty)

America's longest war comes to an end (sort of)

12/29/14 08:00AM

The U.S. war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 and it became the longest war in American history several years ago. In at least one way, that conflict ended yesterday, and President Obama marked the occasion with a statement heralding the war's "responsible conclusion."
"For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan," Obama said in a statement that came hours after the United States and NATO formally ended the war with a ceremony Sunday at a military headquarters in Kabul.
 
Obama said the ceremony marked a milestone for the nation and thanked U.S. troops and intelligence personnel for their "extraordinary sacrifices." Approximately 2,200 American troops were killed in Afghanistan in a war that cost the U.S. $1 trillion since the initial invasion in 2001.
The Associated Press' report noted that there was "a quiet flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul" yesterday "in front of a small, hand-picked audience at the headquarters of the NATO mission." If this sounds familiar, a similar ceremony was held a few weeks ago when American and NATO troops closed their operational command center, marking the formal end of the "combat mission."
 
But note the language President Obama added to his statement: "Compared to the nearly 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan when I took office, we now have fewer than 15,000 in those countries. Some 90 percent of our troops are home."
 
It's that remaining 10 percent that serves as an important caveat -- and suggests the end of the war isn't really the end of the war.

Missing plane and other headlines

12/29/14 07:34AM

Missing AirAsia flight likely on 'bottom of the sea,' search official says. (NBC News)

The NSA's Christmas Eve news dump. (Bloomberg)

Pres. Obama talks about 2015. (NPR)

Twenty states will raise their minimum wage on January 1. (Washington Post)

California gears up for migrant driver's licenses. (AP)

GOP learns lessons from KS Gov. Brownback's tax scare. (Politico)

Bob McDonnell's downfall is wife Maureen's fault, daughter says. (Washington Post)

The Wall Street Journal reads Jeb Bush's email. (WSJ)

In North Dakota, a tale of oil, corruption and death. (NY Times)

The last 'radium girl' dies at 107. (NPR)

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addresses the Nebraska Republican Convention in Grand Island earlier this year. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

This Week in God, 12.27.14

12/27/14 09:00AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a specific kind of invitation extended to far-right evangelical leaders by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).
 
As we talked about last week, Jindal, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is set to host a massive prayer rally called "The Response" next month in his home state. The event is not without controversy in light of the religious extremists, including the American Family Association, which are helping sponsor the evangelical event.
 
Jindal has so far been publicly indifferent to the hullabaloo and this week, according to the conservative Washington Times, the GOP governor reached out to church leaders to encourage their participation in the upcoming rally (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
In a letter distributed to pastors, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal calls on them to consider public service, as part of his invitation to a gathering scheduled to take place a day before a highly-publicized prayer event Jan. 24 at Louisiana State University.
 
The letter, which begins with "Pastor ..." invites recipients to consider being a guest at a pastors' briefing hosted by the American Renewal Project, which is to take place the night before "The Response: Louisiana" will take place at LSU.
Much of the letter was unremarkable, though the correspondence specifically told pastors, "As we make an appeal for leaders of faith to rise up and engage America in the public square with Biblical values, we are trusting you will hear God's call on your life for this mission.... The time has come for pastors to lead the way and reset the course of American governance."
 
The notion that church leaders -- as opposed to public officials elected by the American public -- would "lead the way and reset the course of American governance" seemed like an odd sentiment in a secular democracy. Indeed, given that the separation of church and state is a bedrock principle in the American system of government, it's rather alarming that a governor and likely presidential hopeful is looking to pastors -- presumably, ministers who share his beliefs and agenda -- to establish the course for public policy.
 
Given that so many of Jindal's allies on the extreme fringe, this is all the more problematic.
 
With about a month remaining before "The Response" event kicks off, look for protests to continue. If you missed it, Rachel's segment from earlier this week is well worth your time.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lights the plaza, New York City, December 11, 2013.

Holiday Open Thread, 2014

12/24/14 08:01AM

It's likely to be pretty quiet here at MaddowBlog for the next couple of days, so readers should expect a light-to-nonexistent posting schedule. That said, I'll be around in case there's breaking news of interest, and there will be a new installment of "This Week in God" on Saturday morning.
 
We'll return to a normal posting schedule on Monday morning.
Librarians volunteer to help out in Ferguson

Librarians volunteer to help out in Ferguson

12/23/14 11:13PM

Rachel Maddow reports on volunteer librarians who are using their holiday time off to travel to Ferguson, Missouri to help the local library there sort through the abundance of books donated in the wake of protests over the Michael Brown grand jury... watch

Showings scheduled for Sony's 'The Interview'

Showings scheduled for Sony's 'The Interview'

12/23/14 09:49PM

Rachel Maddow reports on Sony Pictures reversing course and distributing 'The Interview,' which depicts the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong Un, in defiance of threats from hackers believed by the U.S. to be backed by North Korea. watch

Few options to pressure Grimm out of Congress

Few options to pressure Grimm out of Congress

12/23/14 09:11PM

Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether any rules of Congress will be triggered as Rep. Michael Grimm has pleaded guilty to a felony and what political pressures he might suffer from fellow House Republicans. watch

Decency not enough to force Grimm from office

Decency not enough to force Grimm from office

12/23/14 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the scant history of members of Congress expelled from office as a result of a felony conviction, pointing out that in nearly all cases, the decency of the politician or the electorate prevent that situation from happening. watch

Ahead on the 12/23/14 Maddow show

12/23/14 07:58PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer
  • Kevin Cope, president of the Louisiana State University Faculty Senate

And here's producer Julia Nutter with what everyone's working on:

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