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Thread: POST Pull-out Iraq

  1. #601

    Iraqi Forces Retake Mosul Airport, Inherent Resolve Commander Says

    (Source: US Department of Defense; issued March 1, 2017)

    WASHINGTON --- Iraqi security forces have taken back Mosul International Airport in Iraq after a couple days of difficult fighting to liberate western Mosul from control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.

    Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said Iraqi forces attacked the city's west side northward along the Tigris River, where they captured high ground, enabling them to move quickly to the airport.

    Moving to Mosul's Outskirts

    "Now, they've begun breaching into the outskirts of the city, with the Iraqi counterterrorism service, federal police and army moving along three axes of advance that clear the enemy from neighborhoods inside the city, but also enveloping the city to the west," the general said, adding that presenting multiple dilemmas to the enemy proved to be effective.

    "This enemy's been preparing for this battle for some time, and they've done an extensive amount of work to dig and build barriers to complicate the Iraqi advance," Townsend said. "We've seen them use ... tunnels, shipping containers and vehicles in the streets to slow the [Iraqi forces] down, and they've rigged many of these barriers with explosives."

    The U.S.-led coalition strikes those barriers with precision fire to help the Iraqis advance, Townsend said. "We'll also continue to remove leadership figures from the battlefield, attack their command-and-control and logistics nodes, enemy weapons caches and fighting positions. Our coalition of advisors [is] also with the Iraqi command elements. Their support accelerates the Iraqi advance even more."

    Bab Liberation Strikes Blow to ISIS

    ISIS has been dealt another significant blow in Syria, where Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated Bab, the last significant ISIS-controlled population center in the Aleppo district, Townsend said, noting that freeing Bab closed the door to ISIS' supply line of new fighters and its ability to export terrorists around the world.

    "The coalition supported Turkey and their partner-force efforts in al-Bab with more than 50 airstrikes, taking fighters off the battlefield, destroying [vehicle-borne homemade bombs], mortar and artillery pieces and denying the enemy use of dozens of vehicles, buildings, excavation equipment and weapons caches," he said. The liberation of Bab also means Turkey now has secured its border from ISIS, the general noted.

    The United States, Turkey and coalition partners also are working together to support stabilization and local civilian governance in the Syrian town of Manbij, Townsend noted. "The coalition is committed to the security of Turkey and will continue to work in close coordination with partner forces and allies to deliver a lasting defeat to ISIS, which remains the greatest terrorist threat to the region and the world," he added.

    Freeing Raqqa Expected To Cripple ISIS

    The coalition continues planning for the eventual liberation of Raqqa, ISIL's self-proclaimed capital, Townsend told reporters. "We are confident that the [Syrian Democratic Forces] that are isolating Raqqa will continue their recent successful clearance operations and set the stage for the liberation of the city. This would be a major setback for the enemy," Townsend said.

    Friendly forces have cleared more than 6,000 square kilometers of territory -- or nearly 2,317 square miles -- in the countryside of Raqqa since the operation began Nov. 5, he added.

    "We've continued discussing how Turkey and their partner forces might contribute to the liberation of the city," Townsend acknowledged. "The liberation of Raqqa will bring an end to the enemy's mythology that they were ever more than a brutal, murderous terrorist group. And then, we will continue working with our partners to deal them a lasting defeat," he said.

    Coalition efforts by, with and through partners in Iraq and Syria have made significant progress, the general said.

    "I continue to be encouraged by the bravery and commitment of our partner forces that have fought hard and made many sacrifices in their efforts to liberate their land," Townsend said. "Their efforts protect the people of Iraq, Syria, the region and the world from a threat that needs to be eliminated for the good of all."

    -ends-

  2. #602

    Iraq Agreed to Share More Information With US to Avoid Travel Ban

    By Patrick Tucker

    7:13 PM ET


    AP / MAYA ALLERUZO

    Other countries will have a harder time pulling the same trick.

    In order to get off the list of countries whose refugees will soon be barred from the United States, the Iraqi government has agreed to share a lot more information. Baghdad also will move quickly to repatriate refugees when they’ve broken the law, U.S. officials told reporters Monday morning. Those are the key reasons why President Trump’s new executive order, signed Monday to take effect on March 16, deletes Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens are banned from entry.

    But the governments of the remaining six — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — will have a harder time pulling the same trick. When Trump announced his original ban on Jan. 27, Defense Department officials expressed concern that it would undermine military operations in Iraq diplomatically, by causing friction with an ally in the fight against ISIS, and personally, by preventing the long-planned resettlements of interpreters and other Iraqis who helped U.S. forces over the years.

    To secure a new agreement with the Trump administration, Iraqi officials “had agreed to enhance some of their travel documentation capabilities…bringing some of their travel documents up to standards that are much desired on behalf of the United States government,” a senior U.S. official told reporters on Monday. “The information sharing, using some of the information it has on its own nationals,” was key to that, and was “extremely beneficial” in getting Iraq off the list, according to the official.

    Bottom line: Iraq stepped up to play a bigger role in the vetting process.

    It’s not clear what additional information Baghdad will share with Washington. Neither U.S. officials on the call nor other DHS employees that Defense One contacted independently would elaborate.

    Currently, all refugees are vetted*by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which interviews and collects information about people before referring them to the United States or other countries for resettlement. DHS uses the same data to make determinations about refugees.

    A senior officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency official said Monday that the agency was very happy to continue to use the UN information and said that the process works fine. But he acknowledged that the “main interest” of the UNHCR process is to determine “if a person’s claimed information classifies them as a refugee,” not necessarily detailed security checks. So while there’s nothing wrong with the UN data, more data on refugees could be helpful, according to the official, who spoke on background because he was not authorized to discuss vetting concerns publicly.

    DHS can share information it collects on asylum seekers with the Defense Department’s Automated Biometric Identification System, ABIS. In places like Iraq, where more Defense personnel are on hand to conduct interviews and collect biometric information, DHS has the opportunity get more info from the Defense Department.

    More data, and especially a greater variety of data, won’t necessarily tell border agents if someone from Syria intends to join ISIS, but it can help guards reach a higher level of confidence that that person being screened is who they say that they are, according to the CBP official. It’s one reason why DHS is looking to accelerate the biometric collection of iris and fingerprint data for people entering the country and also leaving the country, eventually broadening the range of data collected to include voice. (There is currently no timeline for when that entry and exit collection process will be fully implemented, officials told reporters on Monday morning.)

    For DHS, biometric information, alongside other identifying information such as addresses, phone records, certificates of birth, etc. provides greater assurance of identity than does one piece of information by itself, so better information sharing between governments is key to creating more certainty about the identities of refugees for DHS, said the CBP official.

    But that sets up a Catch-22 that leaves many refugees in a terrible situation. The governments of most countries that produce refugees have screening abilities insufficient to U.S. standards, are hostile to the United States, or both. They are not in a good position to enter into a satisfactory information sharing agreement with the United States, the CBP official confirmed.

    Information gathered from third party countries with which the U.S. has a positive relationship, such as Australia, Canada, and various European countries, can add another layer of reassurance, said the official. That could go a long way toward removing some of the other countries from the list.

  3. #603

    What ISIS Will Do After Mosul Falls

    By Colin P. Clarke & Amarnath Amarasingam
    The Atlantic

    3:27 PM ET


    Khalid Mohammed/AP

    They have options, write two terrorism scholars.

    The Islamic State is reeling. With its finances cut in half over the past six months, its media and information operations in tatters, and the offensive in western Mosul eating through its territory, the end of its so-called caliphate across the Middle East seems near. While a clear-cut victory is far from inevitable, at the current rate, it is conceivable that U.S. forces and their allies will defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria by killing and capturing its fighters, driving the group from key cities and villages in what formerly constituted its vaunted caliphate, and ultimately taking Raqqa, its stronghold.

    The focus, then, will shift to what ISIS’s foreign fighters, who at their peak numbered tens of thousands from dozens of countries, will do next. There are several possibilities.

    When a conflict ends, either through force or negotiated settlement, transnational terrorists are likely to disperse in numerous directions. ISIS fighters are unquestionably capable: Dug in to their positions, they have skillfully used tunnels and subterranean networks to move men and materials, and have perfected the production and deployment of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices to keep their adversaries at bay.

    The “hardcore fighters,” especially the foreign ones within the inner circle of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his top commanders, will likely remain in Iraq and Syria, and look to join the underground resistance of an “ISIS, 2.0.” In all likelihood, these guerrilla insurgent shards of ISIS will congeal into a clandestine terrorist organization. Besides conducting sporadic raids, ambushes, and, perhaps, spectacular attacks using suicide tactics, these ISIS fighters will rest, rearm, and recuperate.

    During this time, the militants may switch their allegiances between a smattering of groups on the ground, including ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and Ahrar al-Sham (already a loose coalition of Islamist and Salafist units), and will actively seek out ungoverned areas still beyond the writ of either Syrian or Iraqi government forces and their allies. As the terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman has suggested, if the fortunes of ISIS continue to decline, there may be a group of jihadists that see rapprochement with al-Qaeda as the only option to continue their struggle. Interviews with some Western ISIS fighters suggest that the ideological differences between al-Qaeda and ISIS are too significant to be bridged quickly, but this may change over time.

    A second group of fighters are those potential “free agents” or mercenaries who are prevented from returning to their home countries. They can be expected to form a cohort of stateless jihadists who will travel abroad in search of the the next jihadi theatre, Yemen, Libya, West Africa, or Afghanistan, to protect, sustain, and expand the boundaries of the so-called caliphate. These are the militant progeny of the original mujahideen, or transnational jihadists that once filled the ranks of al-Qaeda and fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and in Chechnya and the Balkans. ISIS affiliates and local Sunni jihadists in these places would likely welcome an influx of battle-hardened comrades.

    And then there is the third group of foreign fighters: “the returnees.” This is the cohort that most concerns those in counterterrorism circles. These fighters may attempt to return to their countries of origin, like Tunisia or Saudi Arabia, or go further afield to Europe, Asia, or North America. States with more*robust national defense structures, well-trained border police, world-class intelligence services, stand a better chance of blunting their impact. But all Western security services are not created equal: Some will inevitably have a tougher time containing this threat than others. Further complicating the issue is the inability among nation-states, especially those within the European Union, to even agree on the definition of “foreign fighter.”

    The returnees are not as homogeneous a group as they may seem. Some will be among the “disillusioned”—those that went to Syria in search of utopia, adventure, and an opportunity to express their religious identity and instead found something far different. According to interviews and other research, local Syrians—whom the fighters said they went to “save”—did not respect them. These fighters struggled to fend for themselves when it came to obtaining basic things like food and financing, and grappled with the*tribulations of war. But upon returning to the West, they could be used to mentor other radicalized youth. These fighters may require psychological care, not prison time.

    There is a second subgroup of returnees that we’ll call the “disengaged but not disillusioned.” Just as militants are motivated to join the fight for a variety of reasons, they may leave it behind for any number of reasons: an impending marriage, battle fatigue, or because they miss their families. They are, however, still committed to jihadism. As one returnee recently said, “I left ISIS, but if another fight happened somewhere else, I would probably go.” This individual grew disillusioned with ISIS as an organization, but not with jihad as a whole.

    The final subgroup of returnees are the “operational” returnees: returning fighters who attempt to resuscitate dormant networks, recruit new members, or conduct lone-wolf style attacks. They will be well-positioned to attempt attacks under the command and control of what remains of ISIS in the Middle East. They are the most deadly. The November 2015 Paris attacks, conducted by foreign fighters who trained in Syria and were dispatched to France, are perhaps the clearest instance of this. Operational returnees are an even bigger concern if, in fact, hundreds of operatives have already been deployed to Europe, with hundreds more hiding out on Europe’s doorstep in Turkey.

    For the West, countering these different groups will require a range of strategies. The hardcore fighters who remain in Iraq and Syria must be killed or captured by Iraqi Security Forces and the rest of the coalition battling ISIS. Taking on the roving bands of militants calls for continued efforts to build the partner capacity of host-nation forces in weak and fragile states, training and equipping military and security forces, strengthening the rule of law, and promoting good governance and a host of other medium to long-term objectives.

    While the EU is distracted with the fallout from Brexit and Russian meddling in national elections, militant jihadists will be streaming back into Europe, some of them determined to strike. And while transnational terrorists will undoubtedly flock to Libya and Yemen, the real challenge will be preventing further attacks around the globe, including in major European cities.
    Last edited by buglerbilly; 07-03-17 at 03:47 AM.

  4. #604

    The Coming Fall of Mosul

    By Andrew Exum

    Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, The Atlantic

    9:55 AM ET


    Susannah George/AP

    Iraqi forces are on the verge of a mighty victory.

    Although there is much hard fighting to be done in Iraq, the fall of Mosul will effectively spell the end of the Islamic State’s eastern province. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will then be the Islamic State of Syria. In Arabic, we’ll have to start calling Daesh—the acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—“Dish.”

    Last fall, I visited Iraq on two occasions with the then-secretary of defense. On our last visit, in December, the U.S. commander on the ground, Steve Townsend, told the secretary that he could sense the Islamic State’s defenses in eastern Mosul were about to collapse. He was right. Since our visit, Iraqi troops have seized the entirety of eastern Mosul.

    The campaign for Mosul in entering a new phrase, with Iraqi troops now pushing into the western half of the city. Mosul—and northern Iraq in general—is complicated human and physical terrain. Demographically, Mosul is a diverse city, ethnically and religiously, but its western half has always been more Sunni Arab than its eastern half. To the degree the Islamic State still has local support in Mosul, it is almost certainly greater in the western half of the city.

    Physically, western Mosul is dense urban terrain emptying out into the western deserts of northern Iraq. If the Islamic State can be driven from the city, its fighters will present ripe targets for U.S. and allied air power.

    Getting them out of the city, though, will be difficult, and thus far, Islamic State fighters have chosen to stay and fight rather than flee. Iraqi forces will have to fight block by block and street by street against an enemy that has had ample time to prepare its defenses and has learned from previous battles in Manbij in Syria, Sirte in Libya, and Fallujah in Iraq. The fight for western Mosul will take time and will further stress Iraqi forces exhausted from a hard fight for eastern Mosul.

    Yet the Islamic State is essentially surrounded in Mosul—a condition that’s presaged its defeat in other cities as well. Why haven’t they fled before now? It’s anyone’s guess, but it’s worth remembering how we—the U.S. military and its partners—often assume the enemy understands his situation better than he actually does. Because*we*usually have good situational awareness, we assume the other guy does as well. But if we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the enemy amidst the fog of war, it’s very possible the Islamic State fighters simply failed to realize how cornered they were until it was almost too late.

    A phenomenon whereby fighters fled a city while leaving a rump force behind has more or less repeated in places like Manbij, Sirte, and Fallujah until now. What makes 2017 different from last year is there are very few places to which the Islamic State fighters can still retreat. Aside from a few remaining strongholds in Iraq—most of them along the middle Euphrates River Valley—and a few towns in Syria such as Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, Islamic State fighters have few options for places to go.

    One option remains the desert caves west of Mosul, while another would be the remaining cities under Daesh control in central Syria along the Euphrates River. The Russians and Assad regime, in particular, fear the Islamic State will retreat to the latter, where a small regime garrison hangs on by its fingernails outside Deir Ezzor.

    Throughout the fall of 2016, Russian generals with whom I was negotiating in Switzerland on the fate of Aleppo would anxiously inquire about our plans for Mosul and Raqqa. They had not been successful in convincing either Iran or Hezbollah to devote larger numbers of fighters to the defense of the besieged regime garrison. Indeed, they had not been successful in convincing any of their coalition partners—Iran, Hezbollah, the Assad regime—to focus on fighting the Islamic State, which is just one of many reasons why partnering with Russia in Syria remains folly. At the same time in which U.S.-allied forces were dealing the Islamic State defeat after defeat, Russian-backed forces repeatedly failed, with much embarrassment, to even defend the isolated desert town of Palmyra in central Syria just a few hours drive from Damascus.

    Ideally, of course, the Iraqis would be pressing the Islamic State in Mosul at the same time in which Russian-backed forces were doing the same in Deir Ezzor, and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces were doing the same in Raqqa. Simultaneous pressure against the Islamic State—pressure that creates dilemmas for where the Islamic State’s commanders devote their precious resources—won the gains of 2016.

    The Trump administration, though, has decided to first conduct a review of the war effort in general before making a decision to arm the Kurds in Syria in a way that would surely anger Turkey. To be entirely fair, this is responsible governing: The Obama administration conducted its own review of the war in Afghanistan in 2009 prior to making any big decisions on troop commitments.

    What decisions the Trump administration makes in Syria or elsewhere with respect to the Islamic State will be interesting and fraught with consequence. In Iraq, however, the Islamic State’s days are truly numbered. Although Islamic State terror attacks will continue, and although Islamic State redoubts remain spread out throughout the country, Mosul is the decisive battle, and when the Iraqi flag flies once again over all of Mosul’s neighborhoods, the Iraqis will have won a mighty victory.

  5. #605

    Inside The “Mad Max-Style” Tactics ISIS Is Using In Its Last Stand In Iraq

    With waves of suicide bombs and armed drones, ISIS is turning western Mosul into a dystopian battlefield. “They are trapped, and they have no choice but to fight,” an Iraqi officer said.


    posted on Mar. 10, 2017, at 2:05 a.m.

    Mike Giglio
    BuzzFeed News Reporter


    The US-led coalition launches an airstrike against ISIS militants in the village of Tel al-Rayan, on the outskirts of western Mosul. Warzer Jaff for BuzzFeed News

    TEL AL-RAYAN, Iraq — Suicide bomb cars, mortar rounds, sniper fire, and armed drones prowling the skies — ISIS has turned western Mosul’s streets into a dystopian battlefield.

    On a cold recent morning, the elite Iraqi soldiers advancing to retake ISIS’s key stronghold in Iraq were forced to fend off a vicious counterattack by ISIS militants that featured all of these weapons at once — the start of a hard day of fighting that put the enemy’s deadly and evolving tactics on full display.

    ISIS deployed four car bombs in quick succession as its drone rained bombs onto the soldiers. A sniper’s bullet kicked up dust. A mortar blast wounded two soldiers, who were rushed away.

    These changing tactics are inflicting a heavy toll on Iraqi soldiers as they advance across multiple fronts — and show how ISIS is trying to stay one step ahead of the US-led coalition striving to do the same. “They were watching how we work,” said Mustafa Bakr, a sergeant major with Iraqi special forces. “They know our weaknesses.”

    Iraqi forces backed by US artillery and airstrikes have been waging a bloody offensive for Mosul since October, working to drive ISIS from the city where in June 2014 it had declared its caliphate. The Iraqis won control of the eastern half of the city — which is dissected by the Tigris River — in January, after suffering heavy casualties. But western Mosul promises to be an especially difficult fight. As Iraqi forces press deeper in, the area’s narrow streets will force them at times to leave the protection of their armored Humvees to clear houses on foot. The dense urban blocks will limit US airstrikes, as will the estimated 650,000 civilians still trapped there, which Iraqi officers say ISIS is exploiting both by blending in among them and using them as human shields.

    With Mosul encircled and the road to Syria blocked by pro-government Shiite militia, the ISIS fighters hunkered down in western Mosul also have nowhere to run. “They are trapped, and they have no choice but to fight,” said Maj. Ali Taleb, who commands an Iraqi special forces battalion that has led the charge into Mosul’s west.


    A member of the Iraqi special forces carries a wounded soldier after an ISIS mortar round landed among their Humvees on Feb. 24. Warzer Jaff for BuzzFeed News

    The morning attack Taleb and his soldiers faced was a preview for a difficult day of combat. After Iraqi special forces repelled ISIS’s attack, they began their assault in two columns of armored Humvees. One headed deeper into the center of Tel al-Rayan, a strategic village that ISIS had made into a defense line for western Mosul, while a second attacked the village’s southern flank. They met resistance immediately.

    Bullets whizzed around the lead Humvee as ISIS fired from concealed positions on the seemingly abandoned streets ahead. Explosions shook it as ISIS fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The machine gunner atop the Humvee returned fire.
    Taleb, the battalion commander, had warned the previous night that in the early stages, at least, of the battle for western Mosul, ISIS was putting up a surprisingly determined defense: “They are fighting us face-to-face.”

    There was a sudden eruption of smoke and fire about 100 yards away on the passenger’s side. ISIS had used an anti-tank missile to destroy the lead vehicle in the second convoy, killing all four soldiers inside. As smoke billowed from the charred vehicle, the Humvees near it backed up hurriedly. When a group of soldiers then ran up to retrieve the bodies, ISIS hit them with a mortar round, wounding at least one, who laid on the ground amid a cloud of dust, waving for help.

    Eventually, the convoy paused its advance. The gunshots died down. Then the soldiers spotted something racing towards them on a sidestreet — a vehicle with a boxy shell of reinforced metal painted in a gleaming spaceship white.

    Humvees raced to get out of the way before the car detonated. A violent shock wave jerked the Humvee’s passengers forward in their seats. The blast destroyed one bulldozer in the convoy, but the driver had escaped unharmed.


    A suicide car bomb races towards the Iraqi special forces convoy in Tel al-Rayan. Warzer Jaff for BuzzFeed News

    Shown a photo of the car bomb later, Iraqi officers recognized it as factory-made, perhaps coming from the makeshift production centers ISIS still runs in the western part of the city. “They build kind of Mad Max-style up-armor in order to stop or reduce [rocket-propelled grenade] fire or anti-tank weapons systems,” said Col. Arkan, an Iraqi special forces officer who calls in US-led airstrikes, and who asked that his last name be withheld for security reasons.

    Arkan, who spends much of his time trying to destroy the car bombs with his strikes, said the photo showed how ISIS had made an alteration to its most important weapon: The bright white paint on the car was meant to look like a civilian vehicle to the US-led coalition’s pilots and drone operators. “It’s a new technique,” he said.

    ISIS had also made deadly adaptations to its use of drones, Iraqi officers said. In the first days of the battle for western Mosul, they were being employed with newfound intensity, swarming Iraqi positions, disrupting operations, and inflicting casualties. The drones dropped more than 70 bombs on one sector alone in a span of just two days, commanders said. Arkan himself was wounded in the foot by shrapnel from one as he called in airstrikes. “I can’t command and control with all this chaos,” he said. “Like, I can deal with the shooting. But with things dropping, it’s very difficult.”


    The remains of an ISIS drone, which the militants are using to harass and spy on the US-led coalition. Warzer Jaff for BuzzFeed News

    At least initially, he added, ISIS found ways to go around the coalition’s efforts to jam the drones, and the militants controlling them were getting smarter too. “They are not using a fixed location. It’s one shithead on a motorbike with a backpack,” he said. “And when he gets to a crowded area like downtown Mosul it’s kind of hard to hit him.”

    The drones were used more frequently in eastern Mosul as the battle there progressed but reached a new peak in the early stages of the battle for the west. “They have learned to improve the drones. Even the grenades, they’re improving them. Now when they drop the grenades, they’re penetrating,” said Gen. Haider Fadhil of Iraqi special forces. “I can say it’s more effective.”

    ISIS was also using drone video feeds to help coordinate its mortar and car bomb attacks, Fadhil said. He said this may have been the case with the car bomb that attacked the convoy, which was sent just after the four-man team manning the tank had briefly left the vehicle. “They’re watching everything. They know where to put a car bomb,” Fadhil said.

    US and Iraqi commanders have said in recent days that they have adjusted to the drone issue as Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul — part of the constant need to adapt between the US-led coalition and ISIS. “By and large the Iraqis are countering it with their tactics,” said Col. Patrick Work, who commands the US Army’s 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is on the ground in Iraq to assist Iraqi forces with the Mosul mission. “The Iraqis are continuing to advance, and they’re standing in the middle of the storm.”

    Work said US troops, as they have throughout the offensive, are providing mortar and heavy artillery support to Iraqi forces in addition to US air support. Helping Iraqi commanders adjust on the fly to ISIS’s changing tactics, he added, is another key part of the mission. “We’re helping them see the enemy — not just what he’s doing but what he wants to do,” he said.

    Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the top commander of US forces in Iraq, said Iraqi forces have made key adjustments in their strategy as the Mosul offensive reaches its last stages. “East Mosul was a tough fight with very complicated terrain and an enemy that prepared [to defend it] for a couple of years. It was defended by an enemy that was creative and reactive — but not good enough in the end,” he said, speaking by phone from Iraq. “We noticed some things that led us to the conclusion collaboratively that the enemy could not handle pressure from multiple directions, could not handle multiple dilemmas. So what you saw [after the reset] is synchronized ground maneuvers that overwhelmed the enemy and forced the enemy to react.”

    He added: “We will continue to watch the enemy evolve, and where he adapts we will also adapt.”

    Mike Giglio is a correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in Istanbul. He has reported on the wars in Syria and Ukraine and unrest around the Middle East. His secure PGP fingerprint is DD2D D9F4 F1B5 204B 8069 3056 D916 4D69 9ED6 04D5
    Contact Mike Giglio at mike.giglio@buzzfeed.com.

  6. #606

    Rivalries among Iraq's Sunni groups likely to hinder efforts to stabilise Ninewa province post-Islamic State

    IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

    17 March 2017


    Iraqi civilians flee their homes during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, on 13 March 2017. Source: PA

    Key Points
    • Current progress by Iraqi forces in Mosul, capital of Ninewa province, indicates that it is likely to be recaptured within three months; however, there is no evidence of a clear plan in place to govern the province in a post-Islamic State scenario.
    • A governance plan is unlikely to emerge until political rivalries between local actors, their respective militias, and regional backers are settled, whether through a political agreement or by force: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's attempts to manage Sunni rivalries will be hindered by the proliferation of armed militias and the lack of a unified Sunni leadership.
    • Local actors who seek to re-establish the positions and privileges they held prior to Islamic State's offensive will face strong opposition from other parties that fought the Islamic State within local Sunni militias affiliated to the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs), which perceive that the fall of Mosul resulted from Sunni leaders' retreat from, if not support for, the Islamic State.

    EVENT

    On 16 March 2017, Reuters reported that Iraqi forces were advancing on the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul's old city, from which Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared the caliphate in July 2014.

    Divided loyalties

    Several contenders are competing to govern Ninewa province after the removal of the Islamic State, including all the parties that have participated in military operations. The two main political players are the former governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who founded the Turkey-backed local militia, Hashd al-Watani (later renamed "Ninawa Guard") and the current governor, Nawfal al-Aaqoub.

    Nujaifi represents the axis advocating the establishment of a Sunni federal region, which includes his brother and Iraqi vice-president Osama al-Nujaifi's Muttahidoun bloc, Sunni business tycoon Khamis al-Khanjar, former minister of finance Rafi al-Issawi, and Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). This group is close to Turkey and the Gulf States, and the most strongly opposed to the participation of the PMUs in Ninewa province operations against the Islamic State.

    (343 of 1103 words)

  7. #607

    Iraqi prime minister joins Trump for meeting focusing on ISIS

    By: Vivian Salama, The Associated Press, March 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP)



    WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Monday held his first meeting with Iraq's prime minister Monday as the American leader shapes his policy for defeating the Islamic State group.

    With Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House, Trump said Iran was one of the issues facing his team and the Iraqi delegation. He took the opportunity to criticize the nuclear deal his predecessor, Barack Obama, pursued with Iran.

    "One of the things I did ask is, 'Why did President Obama sign that agreement with Iran?' because nobody has been able to figure that one out," Trump said. "But maybe someday we'll be able to figure that one out."

    Trump said he hopes to address the "vacuum" that was created when the Islamic State group claimed Iraq and added that "we shouldn't have gone in" to Iraq in the first place.

    Speaking after Trump during the bilateral meeting, al-Abadi said that Iraq has "the strongest counterterrorism forces, but we are looking forward to more cooperation between us and the U.S."

    Trump campaigned on a promise to dramatically ramp up the assault on ISIS and has vowed to eradicate "radical Islamic terrorism." So far, he has not indicated a dramatic change of course.

    Like Obama before him, Trump has not suggested any sharp increases in troop levels or in airstrikes against militant targets, looking to avoid giving off the image of an invading force.

    Earlier Monday, Trump greeted al-Abadi in the Oval Office shortly after FBI Director James Comey said the FBI and Justice Department have no information to substantiate Trump's claims that Obama wiretapped him before the election.

    As reporters were leaving, al-Abadi leaned over to Trump and joked, "We have nothing to do with the wiretap."


    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017.
    Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP


    The Iraqi premier's first visit to Washington since Trump's inauguration came before Trump hosts a 68-nation meeting geared toward advancing the fight against the militant group.

    During al-Abadi's last visit to Washington, the Iraqi premier worked to drum up greater financial and military support as he faced the daunting task of rebuilding cities destroyed in the fight against the Islamic State group. He also sought greater assistance to help the country confront a humanitarian crisis, with more than 4 million people displaced in the fighting.

    As he departed Baghdad for the Monday afternoon meeting at the White House, al-Abadi declared in a video statement, "We are in the last chapter, the final stages to eliminate*ISIS*militarily in Iraq."

    But as Iraqi forces come closer to recapturing the city of Mosul it's militant group's biggest stronghold in Iraq the extent to which the Trump administration is willing to commit to efforts to rebuild Iraqi cities, many of them in ruins from the fighting, remains to be seen.

    Trump's budget proposal would cut by roughly 30 percent funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Both contribute significantly to peacekeeping missions and development programs. How Iraq will be impacted by Trump's approach isn't known. Previous administrations have asserted a need for maintaining assistance to Iraq to counter the influence of neighboring Iran.

    If the proposed budget is approved by Congress, more than $3 billion of the additional money being geared toward defense spending would be allocated to the fight against*ISIS, including $2 billion for a fund that would give the Pentagon the discretion to direct those resources where needed to support the counter-ISIS*strategy.

    Al-Abadi arrived in Washington having already won one concession from the Trump administration. The temporary ban on travelers from seven countries was rewritten to exclude Iraq, after several Iraqi officials and U.S. lawmakers objected to Iraq's inclusion, noting the risks and sacrifices that many Iraqis made assisting U.S. troops during and after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. U.S. courts have blocked the rewritten ban.

    The leaders' public comments did not touch on Trump's remark on the day he took office that the U.S. may get a chance to take Iraq's oil as compensation for its efforts there something al-Abadi, and later, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, rebuffed.

    Al-Abadi assumed power in 2014 after Iraq's longtime prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was pushed out by his party for his failures to cap the surge of*ISIS*fighters. At one point, the radical Sunni Muslim group ruled about a third of Iraq.

    Since then, Iraq's military has seen significant military victories, with the help of an international coalition that has been assisting with airstrikes and weapons as well as a robust advise and assist operation.

    The U.S. has sent about 5,200 U.S. forces in Iraq, but that number doesn't include a few thousand forces who are there on temporary duty or don't count in the military personnel accounting system for other reasons.

    In neighboring Syria, there are nearly 1,000 U.S. forces, although the official authorized level is 503. There, the U.S. is shifting from working quietly behind the scenes on Syria's toxic battlefield, turning instead toward overt displays of U.S. force in an attempt to shape the fight ahead of efforts to recapture the Islamic State's de facto capital, Raqqa.

    Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.

  8. #608

    Iraqi prime minister joins Trump for meeting focusing on ISIS

    By: Vivian Salama, The Associated Press, March 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP)



    WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Monday held his first meeting with Iraq's prime minister Monday as the American leader shapes his policy for defeating the Islamic State group.

    With Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House, Trump said Iran was one of the issues facing his team and the Iraqi delegation. He took the opportunity to criticize the nuclear deal his predecessor, Barack Obama, pursued with Iran.

    "One of the things I did ask is, 'Why did President Obama sign that agreement with Iran?' because nobody has been able to figure that one out," Trump said. "But maybe someday we'll be able to figure that one out."

    Trump said he hopes to address the "vacuum" that was created when the Islamic State group claimed Iraq and added that "we shouldn't have gone in" to Iraq in the first place.

    Speaking after Trump during the bilateral meeting, al-Abadi said that Iraq has "the strongest counterterrorism forces, but we are looking forward to more cooperation between us and the U.S."

    Trump campaigned on a promise to dramatically ramp up the assault on ISIS and has vowed to eradicate "radical Islamic terrorism." So far, he has not indicated a dramatic change of course.

    Like Obama before him, Trump has not suggested any sharp increases in troop levels or in airstrikes against militant targets, looking to avoid giving off the image of an invading force.

    Earlier Monday, Trump greeted al-Abadi in the Oval Office shortly after FBI Director James Comey said the FBI and Justice Department have no information to substantiate Trump's claims that Obama wiretapped him before the election.

    As reporters were leaving, al-Abadi leaned over to Trump and joked, "We have nothing to do with the wiretap."


    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017.
    Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP


    The Iraqi premier's first visit to Washington since Trump's inauguration came before Trump hosts a 68-nation meeting geared toward advancing the fight against the militant group.

    During al-Abadi's last visit to Washington, the Iraqi premier worked to drum up greater financial and military support as he faced the daunting task of rebuilding cities destroyed in the fight against the Islamic State group. He also sought greater assistance to help the country confront a humanitarian crisis, with more than 4 million people displaced in the fighting.

    As he departed Baghdad for the Monday afternoon meeting at the White House, al-Abadi declared in a video statement, "We are in the last chapter, the final stages to eliminate*ISIS*militarily in Iraq."

    But as Iraqi forces come closer to recapturing the city of Mosul it's militant group's biggest stronghold in Iraq the extent to which the Trump administration is willing to commit to efforts to rebuild Iraqi cities, many of them in ruins from the fighting, remains to be seen.

    Trump's budget proposal would cut by roughly 30 percent funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Both contribute significantly to peacekeeping missions and development programs. How Iraq will be impacted by Trump's approach isn't known. Previous administrations have asserted a need for maintaining assistance to Iraq to counter the influence of neighboring Iran.

    If the proposed budget is approved by Congress, more than $3 billion of the additional money being geared toward defense spending would be allocated to the fight against*ISIS, including $2 billion for a fund that would give the Pentagon the discretion to direct those resources where needed to support the counter-ISIS*strategy.

    Al-Abadi arrived in Washington having already won one concession from the Trump administration. The temporary ban on travelers from seven countries was rewritten to exclude Iraq, after several Iraqi officials and U.S. lawmakers objected to Iraq's inclusion, noting the risks and sacrifices that many Iraqis made assisting U.S. troops during and after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. U.S. courts have blocked the rewritten ban.

    The leaders' public comments did not touch on Trump's remark on the day he took office that the U.S. may get a chance to take Iraq's oil as compensation for its efforts there something al-Abadi, and later, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, rebuffed.

    Al-Abadi assumed power in 2014 after Iraq's longtime prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was pushed out by his party for his failures to cap the surge of*ISIS*fighters. At one point, the radical Sunni Muslim group ruled about a third of Iraq.

    Since then, Iraq's military has seen significant military victories, with the help of an international coalition that has been assisting with airstrikes and weapons as well as a robust advise and assist operation.

    The U.S. has sent about 5,200 U.S. forces in Iraq, but that number doesn't include a few thousand forces who are there on temporary duty or don't count in the military personnel accounting system for other reasons.

    In neighboring Syria, there are nearly 1,000 U.S. forces, although the official authorized level is 503. There, the U.S. is shifting from working quietly behind the scenes on Syria's toxic battlefield, turning instead toward overt displays of U.S. force in an attempt to shape the fight ahead of efforts to recapture the Islamic State's de facto capital, Raqqa.

    Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.

  9. #609

    U.S. tells allies to do more to pressure ISIS

    By: Matthew Lee, The Associated Press, March 22, 2017

    WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday urged coalition partners to step up efforts to defeat Islamic State militants as top officials from 68 nations gathered in Washington to assess the fight to retake Iraq's second largest city and advance on the group's self-declared Syrian capital.

    "I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating ISIS is the United States' No. 1 goal in the region," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the coalition's first ministerial gathering since President Trump took office.

    "As we've said before, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand," Tillerson said.

    Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Ababi and foreign ministers from the coalition partners at the State Department in Washington to explore new ideas to expand the fight against ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and ready the operation to push the militants from Raqqa, Syria.

    They also are preparing for the group's defeat by lining up humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.

    "We are at the stage of completely decimating Daesh," al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.


    A federal police officer stands next to unexploded bombs left by ISIS militants on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, on March 22, 2017.
    Photo Credit: Felipe Dana/AP


    The meeting occurred amid the latest manifestation of the accelerating, U.S.-guided military campaign. The Pentagon said it provided an airlift for Syrian fighters taking part in an offensive underway in Tabqa, west of Raqqa. A spokesman said U.S. military advisers are on the ground in the Tabqa area to help coordinate the operation, which aims to block ISIS fighters from western approaches to Raqqa.

    Tillerson alluded to the intensified campaign, but said the Trump administration was still refining its strategy.

    "A more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together," he said. "But I can say that the United States will increase our pressure on ISIS and al-Qaida and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through cease-fires, to allow refugees to return home."

    The reference to "zones of stability" appeared to stop short of "safe zones," which the U.S. military has been extremely reluctant to commit to enforcing in Syria, even as Trump and others have raised the idea at various times.


    A member of the Iraqi counter-terrorism service (CTS) engages in combat with jihadists at al-Dawasah neighborhood in west Mosul, on the outskirts of the old city, on March 21, 2017, during the government forces' ongoing offensive to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters.
    Photo Credit: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images


    Nothing Tillerson outlined departed significantly from the Obama administration's approach, which focused on using local forces to retake territory along with efforts to disrupt ISIS recruitment and financing, and the blueprint of the multilateral effort seemed unchanged. The strategy is complicated in Syria, where a partnership with Kurdish forces has prompted difficult discussions with Turkey, which sees the militants as a national security threat.

    Tillerson said the United States would play its part and pay its fair share of the overall operation. But he said other nations, particularly those which have faced ISIS or ISIS-inspired attacks, must do more. He said increased intelligence and information sharing could overcome traditional rivalries between agencies and governments, and advocated an enhanced online effort to halt the spread of extremist views, especially as ISIS loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Hungary's foreign minister said he liked what he heard.

    "We are enthusiastic about the new U.S. strategy," Peter Szijjarto said, adding that he saw Trump's administration determined "not only to fight against ISIS, but totally eliminate ISIS." He said his country would send 50 more soldiers to Iraq, taking its contribution to 200.

    As the militant organization becomes more encircled, the mission will change. Officials expect in the coming months to see the dissipation of surviving fighters into underground cells that could plan and mount attacks throughout the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Europe, South America, and the United States.

    "As we stabilize areas encompassing ISIS' phony physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere," Tillerson said. "We must ensure ISIS cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world. We must fight ISIS online as aggressively as we would on the ground. A digital caliphate must not flourish in the place of a physical one."

    The officials in Washington also hope to figure out how best to deal with the inevitably messy humanitarian and political aftermath of the anticipated ISIS battlefield defeat. There are widespread fears of chaos, such as what emerged after NATO's intervention in Libya in 2011, that could further fracture the region's deep ethnic and religious splits, and complicate the stated goal of preserving the Syrian and Iraqi states.

    Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.
    Last edited by buglerbilly; Yesterday at 12:59 AM.

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