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Bullit Marquez / AP

It's been a busy week, mostly preoccupied with James Comey's Senate testimony on Thursday and the subsequent updates. Here are the top defense stories you might have missed this week:

1. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have entered Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS. ISIS "losing Raqqa is the beginning of the end for Daesh," via The Guardian.

2. Trump-Saudi $110 billion weapons deal revealed to Defense News: "Previously slim on specifics, includes seven THAAD missile defense batteries, over 100,000 air-to-ground munitions and billions of dollars' worth of new aircraft, according to a White House document obtained by Defense News and authenticated by a second source."

3. The U.S. vs. the Kurds: This September, the U.S. will oppose the Kurdish region's decision to hold a referendum on independence. A referendum is necessary because "Iraqi Kurds currently enjoy almost total autonomy, but tensions with the Baghdad government remain over control of oil reserves." More via RadioFreeEurope.

4. American military casualties abroad. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack in Eastern Afghanistan. The Afghanistan soldier also wounded another U.S. soldier, per The Hill. Trump was "following the emerging situation in Afghanistan."

5. The U.S. helps Philippines in fight against ISIS. After recently threatening to kick U.S. military out of the region, the Philippines government is now accepting "technical support" from the U.S. as Islamic militants to continue to terrorize their country. "Nearly 140 militants and 60 government troops have been killed the fighting." More from The Atlantic.

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

5 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.