Archives For: Iraq

Let’s say you wanted to construct a narrative that perfectly fits the definition of mission creep. How could it improve on the following: at first you insist you are not going to be dragged into a new war in Iraq and Syria; then you rush military aid to avoid a humanitarian disaster; then you find that you need to make sure Kobani doesn’t fall; then you commit 1500 troops to “advise” the Iraqi “military”; and then you have the Pentagon announce “that it had received authorization from Obama to send an additional 1,500 U.S. personnel to Iraq over the coming months”, which would double the number of American boots on the ground there. But no worries. Nothing to see here:

The new troops will be placed under the same noncombat restriction as those already deployed, but they will be moved closer to the front lines. … According to a senior administration official, 630 of the new troops will be performing an advise-and-assist mission — similar to the one being conducted today — primarily in Anbar in the west of the country. The Pentagon plans to establish “two expeditionary advise and assist operations centers, in locations outside of Baghdad and Erbil,” to provide support for the Iraqis at the brigade headquarters level and above. The remaining 870 troops will be doing a more traditional training mission at locations across the country, the senior administration official said. Both missions will move U.S. troops out of Iraq’s major cities and closer to where battles are currently being waged and where a likely counteroffensive would begin.

But no combat will be allowed! What if combat comes to them? What if one of them is killed? Are we not to respond and defend ourselves? One US soldier captured by the IS and we have a huge emotional story that could guarantee even more of a commitment. This is exactly how this operation with a few advisers becomes an unstoppable war in an unwinnable desert.

And then, as if to underline the fact that he could easily be ramping up for a third Iraq war (to be continued by the Clintons or by a neocon president), Obama stressed that he would “never say never” to more troops (video above). Juan Cole wants Obama to stop bullshitting about our presence in Iraq:

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A group of Iraqi Yazidi leaders came to Washington last week to meet with officials and plead for assistance in protecting their people and lands from a renewed assault by ISIS. Josh Rogin caught up with the visiting dignitaries and listened to what they had to say:

“Our hostages, children, women, and girls, between 4,000 and 5,000 of them, have been captured by ISIS and sent to other areas. We need help to rescue these hostages,” said Sameer Karto Babasheikh, the son of the Yazidi Supreme Religious Council leader. “In Mosul, they opened a market to sell Yazidi girls. Some of them ended up in Fallujah, some of them were taken to Saudi Arabia and Raqqa in Syria.”

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Our proxy war in Syria suffered a setback over the weekend when two of the main “moderate” rebel groups receiving arms from the West surrendered to the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra following an assault on their strongholds in Idlib province:

The US and its allies were relying on Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front to become part of a ground force that would attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). For the last six months the Hazm movement, and the SRF through them, had been receiving heavy weapons from the US-led coalition, including GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles. But on Saturday night Harakat Hazm surrendered military bases and weapons supplies to Jabhat al-Nusra, when the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria stormed villages they controlled in northern Idlib province. The development came a day after Jabhat al-Nusra dealt a final blow to the SRF, storming and capturing Deir Sinbal, home town of the group’s leader Jamal Marouf.

On top of the American weapons now in the hands of the radical Islamist militia, the defeat of these two groups means that the Free Syrian Army has been almost completely driven out of northern Syria:

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Yezidis trapped in the Sinjar mountains arrive in Syria's Haseki

ISIS militants returned last week to further harass the hundreds of Yazidis who remain on Mount Sinjar. Joel Wing provides an update on the fighting:

During the second week of the month the Kurds said that they were liberating Sinjar, which was taken by the Islamic State in August, but then it was revealed that IS had actually surrounded Mount Sinjar and were trying to take it once again. On October 20 there were clashes in all the surrounding areas such as Khazir, Bartella, Bashiqa, Tilkaif and Mount Sinjar itself. IS was able to seize two towns north of the mountain that day as Yazidi fighters ran out of ammunition. Twenty peshmerga were also killed and 51 wounded. On Mount Sinjar there are two Yazidi militias resisting the IS push. They told Rudaw that they had not received supplies for weeks. There are also YPG, PKK, and peshmerga fighters in the area as well. IS has cut off the supply routes to the mountain and the Yazidi forces are desperate for weapons and ammunition.

With hundreds of thousands of Yazidis displaced from their homes and unable to return, and with international attention having shifted to the battle for Kobani, Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery fear that the Yazidis won’t get the help they need before winter arrives:

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The Caliphate’s Babes In Arms

Oct 28 2014 @ 9:39am

Polly Mosendz highlights ISIS’s use of child soldiers:

As more and more children roam away from schools that are no longer operational, or not safe to attend, fighters offer increasing responsibility to young boys under the guise of a new educational system. In the past, fighters frowned upon to give a boy under 15 a rifle, but now, boys much younger than this carry automatic weapons. One fighter in Aleppo explained in the UN report that, “Often young boys are braver and cleverer than adult fighters.” The boys are trained to use the weapons in makeshift educational programs: recruitment masquerading as a replacement for their schools-turned-military bases.

The kids, some under the age of 8, but most commonly 14 to 15 years old, are sent to training camps where recruitment officers offer religious education alongside weapons training. The children, in turn, are paid for attending. However, when class is over and the camp ends, the children are not allowed to return home. Instead, they are sent into active combat zones and in some cases, on suicide bombing missions.

Kate Brannen takes a closer look at what these children experience:

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A Small Bit Of Justice For Iraqis

Oct 23 2014 @ 2:21pm

Four former Blackwater security contractors were found guilty yesterday in the infamous 2007 Nisour Square massacre, during which they shot 14 Iraqi civilians to death and injured 17 others:

In an overwhelming victory for prosecutors, a jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder. The three other three guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges. The four men had been charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings and the jury was able to reach a verdict on all of them, with the exception of three charges against Heard. The prosecution agreed to drop those charges.

Max Boot approves, calling the verdict “a step forward in holding contractors accountable for their conduct on the battlefield, but only a small step”:

After all, it took seven years to conclude this case–not that it’s concluded now since the defendants are likely to appeal. That is hardly the definition of expeditious justice.

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Map Of The Day

Oct 21 2014 @ 6:15pm

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Amanda Taub highlights the work data journos at The Guardian have been doing with Wikileaks’ Iraq War logs. Each red dot on the above map – the screenshot seen above only shows one corner of Baghdad, but the project covers the whole country – represents one of some 60,000 combat-related fatal incidents (mostly IEDs) between 2004 and 2009, representing more than 100,000 deaths. And that’s not even the whole story, as Taub points out:

[T]he true extent of the violence is much worse: the map likely only shows a small fraction of the attacks from that period. The database the map is drawn from does not include deaths from criminal activity, or those that were initiated by Coalition or Iraqi forces. And many deaths may not have been officially tallied. That means that the real total is almost certainly much higher. But even seeing the number of attacks recorded here shows how devastating this war has been to Baghdad’s civilians, who must now face even more attacks.

Kobani: A Battle In Multiples Wars

Oct 21 2014 @ 2:21pm

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Despite recent gains by Kurdish fighters in and around Kobani, aided by the delivery of small arms and other supplies yesterday, Kiran Nazish reports that the situation in the area remains tenuous:

Firas Kharaba, the leader of a Kurdish group, has been coordinating and managing the return of many wounded fighters from Kobani into Turkey. With the help of spies that, he says, infiltrated ISIS, “we found the power hub. … After the U.S. hit that building, they [ISIS] suffered a full blow.” More than 30 top fighters and commanders were killed, he said. Recently the Islamic State has been bringing in new fighters, but many of themaccording to Firas’s sourcesare not professionally trained fighters, but mere managers, organizers, and account keepers, with little experience in the battle field.

The main concern for YPG fighters now, is their on-the-ground force. What they need even more than manpower, says Kobani government official Idris Nassan, are “weapons on the ground.”

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Kobani: ISIS’s Stalingrad?

Oct 20 2014 @ 1:42pm

Syrian Kurds Battle IS To Retain Control Of Kobani

Last night, American military transport planes delivered weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies to the Kurdish fighters still holding the northern Syrian border town of Kobani against a lengthy siege by ISIS militants:

The supplies were not provided by the U.S., but instead came from other Kurdish forces outside of Kobani, the official told FP. U.S. aircraft merely facilitated the airdrops. American warplanes have been bombing Islamic State targets in and around the city for weeks, but the airdrops escalate that effort and mean that the U.S. is now facilitating direct assistance to the Kurdish fighters defending the city.

The defenders of Kobani welcomed the aid but warned that it would not be enough to decide the battle. Much still depends on how much help Turkey will allow across its border. Obama reportedly gave Erdogan advance notice of the drop on Saturday night, but Juan Cole interprets it as defiant of the Turks’ wishes. Since then, Ankara has been sending its usual mixed signals:

In comments published by Turkish media on Monday, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan equated the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD, with the PKK. “It is also a terrorist organization.

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George Packer checks in with his Yazidi contact “Karim” in northern Iraq, who reports that his community remains on the brink of a humanitarian disaster two months after a much-heralded rescue effort:

Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Karim. He’s still at the top of Mt. Sinjar, living in a military camp with around a hundred fighters, the majority of them Kurdish, the rest Yazidis. They sleep in United Nations tents and eat canned food brought in by humanitarian airdrops. There is no real way out except by airlift—in the past ten or twelve days, according to Karim, ISIS has pushed Yazidi fighters out of villages north and west of Mt. Sinjar, and they now surround the mountain. Karim told me that there are still about a thousand civilians around the mountain, also living in tents. The humanitarian airdrops are not enough, food is running low, and the past few nights have been cold with the approach of winter. The Yazidi resistance fighters want an international ground force to liberate Sinjar—something that they are unlikely to get.

A few hours before we spoke, Karim said, five Yazidi girls arrived at the mountaintop camp. The youngest was nine, the oldest twenty. They had walked several dozen miles from their town to the south of the mountain. They carried nothing with them and were barefoot. The girls said that they had been held prisoner for weeks by ISIS fighters, and were badly beaten, according to Karim. Other Yazidi girls and women have been distributed in slave markets to ISIS fighters, and when I asked Karim if the girls had also been raped, he told me, “I couldn’t bear to ask that question, to be honest.”

Ralf Hoppe interviews a Yazidi woman who was kidnapped by ISIS but managed to escape after nine days in captivity:

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