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The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR (Read 62556 times)
Reply #500 on:
October 16, 2014, 08:20:56 AM »
U.S.-led airstrikes and Kurdish forces are continuing to push back Islamic State militants from the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the border with Turkey. As of Wednesday, coalition forces had conducted over 100 strikes around Kobani, which the Pentagon reported had killed several hundred Islamic State fighters. A Kurdish official reported militants are retreating from parts of the town, though U.S. military officials cautioned Kobani could still fall to the Islamic State group. Additionally, the retired general leading the coalition, General John Allen, noted Islamic State militants have made "substantial gains" in Iraq's western Anbar province, despite U.S.-led airstrikes. He mentioned, however, that coalition forces had pushed militants back in other areas of Iraq.
• Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to nominate a candidate from the Iranian-backed Shiite militia the Badr Corps as interior minister. (Well, that will sure help persuade Sunnis to work with the Govt. of Baghdad)
FSA? Who? Never heard of them , , ,
Reply #501 on:
October 17, 2014, 11:36:10 AM »
Arm the moderate Syrian rebels, they said. Then we'll be able to counter ISIL effectively, they said. Well, say goodbye to the Free Syrian Army as an American ally. "John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition's response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months: that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists," reports Stars and Stripes. The reasons are simple and entirely predictable. The FSA suffered from "a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al-Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front." The Obama administration is going to have a tough time explaining how, without American boots on the ground, we're going to select, form and train an army to oppose ISIL in Syria
Kobani ensnares ISIS
Reply #502 on:
October 21, 2014, 01:18:14 PM »
Kurdish People's Protection Units and Free Syrian Army forces continue to battle Islamic State fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The United States announced Oct. 19 that U.S. Air Force C-130 transport aircraft dropped containers of weapons, ammunition and medical aid to the town’s defenders. Washington reportedly informed Turkey of the move in advance. Now, Ankara has said it will allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross Turkish borders and move into Kobani to bolster the town's defenses.
Given Turkey’s previous reluctance to support Kurdish fighters, Ankara appears to be altering its approach following considerable pressure from Washington and other allies. Turkey is keen to maintain strong ties with the United States and is willing to make compromises, which will also help preserve the integrity of its alliances in Europe and the Middle East. Despite this shift, however, Ankara remains wary of directly aiding the People's Protection Units, commonly viewed by the government as terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK. Regardless, allowing Kurdish fighters to cross the border will only make it harder and costlier for the Islamic State to take Kobani.
The Islamic State arguably accomplished its objectives in Kobani weeks ago when it seized virtually all of the area except for the town itself. This allowed Islamic State fighters to shorten the route between the captured border crossing towns of Jarabulus and Tal Abyad by not having to circumvent Kobani. Stratfor previously noted that Kobani is of very little strategic or even operational value to the Islamic State, and the taking of the town will have extremely little effect on the direction of the conflict in Syria. Numerous Islamic State fighters apparently recognized this fact early on and reportedly sought to prioritize other battlefronts, but were overruled by top Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nevertheless, it is clear by now that the Islamic State -- perhaps for symbolic reasons or because of operational momentum -- has greatly prioritized the seizure of Kobani and has devoted significant resources and manpower to the effort.
Kobani's Fatal Lure
Click to Enlarge
Echoing Germany's disastrous obsession with Stalingrad in 1942, despite having already isolated and reduced the city, the Islamic State's leaders have elected to continue pouring hundreds of fighters into Kobani. They now face a difficult urban battle against determined fighters who are entrenched in prepared positions and supported by coalition air power. By assembling large numbers of fighters and equipment, the Islamic State has created a target-rich environment for the U.S.-led coalition. From the start of the battle, weeks ago, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights have progressively improved the coalition's situational awareness, leading to airstrikes of more damaging accuracy and intensity. Over the last four days alone the United States and its Arab allies executed more than 60 airstrikes in Kobani.
The strikes have been disastrous for the Islamic State, which has lost hundreds of experienced fighters. Reports indicate that the group is doubling down on its flawed strategy by sending further reinforcements from its bastions of Raqaa and Tabqa to continue the assault. Ankara's decision to open a route for Kurdish reinforcements into Kobani further hinders the Islamic State's mission, but it is not as damning for the extremists as a Turkish committal of ground forces. Such a move appears unlikely for the time being. Although Turkey has significant amounts of men and materiel amassed on the border, there is no political will to become embroiled in the Syrian conflict. Ankara will make limited concessions, stopping short of full engagement against the Islamic State. With a coalition willing to maintain air operations and facilitate training for select rebels, Turkey can afford to bide its time for now while dealing with more pressing domestic issues.
A Risky Strategy
The Islamic State has mired itself in a foolhardy frontal assault against a marginal objective, and in doing so it has failed to address ominous developments in more vital Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria. In particular, Syrian forces have capitalized on a weak extremist presence in the critical and far larger city of Deir el-Zour, launching attacks against a reduced enemy. These attacks have enjoyed considerable success, driving Islamic State fighters from several neighborhoods in the city and destroying a number of bridges critical to the jihadists' logistical operations.
The Islamic State continues to make gains in Iraq's Anbar province, mainly because of its superior tactical skill and operational acumen against Iraq's security forces. Had the Islamic State elected to send hundreds or thousands of fighters to Anbar instead of exposing them to the concentrated attacks in Kobani, it is highly likely that the jihadist organization would have been able to achieve considerably more success in a far more vital region.
The battle for Kobani is not yet over, and there remains the possibility that the Islamic State could prevail and seize the town. Were that to happen, however, the damaging truth is that the Islamic State’s obsession with Kobani has already set the group back considerably. With world media focused on the defensive Kurdish and Free Syrian Army fighters holding out against repeated Islamic State attacks, the extremists are handing a propaganda victory to their enemies. Even when the Islamic State does take ground, any success turns into a rallying cry for its opponents. Most important, replacing the severe losses it has already suffered will be difficult for the Islamic State. By devoting disproportionate resources and personnel to seize a town of marginal importance, the Islamic State has distracted itself from more pressing issues in Syria, thereby missing opportunities to achieve further success in Iraq.
Read more: Kobani Ensnares the Islamic State | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
The fog of war at Kobani
Reply #503 on:
October 21, 2014, 11:10:52 PM »
U.S. Cooperated Secretly with Syrian Kurds in Battle Against Islamic State
Kobani Became too Symbolically Important to Lose
Kurds at a cemetery Tuesday mourn three fighters who died in clashes with Islamic State in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. ENLARGE
Kurds at a cemetery Tuesday mourn three fighters who died in clashes with Islamic State in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Joe Parkinson and
Julian E. Barnes
Updated Oct. 21, 2014 9:35 p.m. ET
In public, the Obama administration argued for weeks that Kobani wasn’t strategically vital to the air campaign against Islamic State extremists. Behind the scenes, however, top officials concluded the Syrian city had become too symbolically important to lose and they raced to save it.
As the U.S. role rapidly evolved, U.S. and Syrian Kurdish commanders began to coordinate air and ground operations far more closely than previously disclosed. A Syrian Kurdish general in a joint operations center in northern Iraq delivered daily battlefield intelligence reports to U.S. military planners, and helped spot targets for airstrikes on Islamic State positions.
In contrast to the lengthy legal debate over U.S. aid to rebels fighting the Syrian regime, U.S. airdrops of weapons to Kobani got a swift nod from administration lawyers—a sign of its importance to the administration.
Syrian Kurdish Forces Assess Air-Dropped Supplies
Cost of War Against ISIS So Far: $424 Million
The change in thinking over the fate of one city, described by U.S., Kurdish, Turkish and Syrian opposition officials, shows how dramatically U.S. war aims are shifting. After Islamic State made Kobani a test of its ability to defy U.S. air power, Washington intervened more forcefully than it had initially intended to try to stem the group’s momentum.
In doing so, the U.S. crossed a Rubicon that could herald a more hands-on role in other towns and cities under siege by Islamic State at a time when some U.S. lawmakers question the direction of American strategy and warn of mission creep.
“This is a war of flags. And Kobani was the next place Islamic State wanted to plant its flag,” a senior U.S. official said. “Kobani became strategic.”
The U.S. now is relying on two separate, stateless Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria as ground forces to back up its air campaign against the extremists.
This has strained U.S. relations with another strategically important ally, Turkey. The U.S. has conferred newfound legitimacy on the Syrian Kurdish militia fighting in Kobani, which is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in neighboring Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey both list the PKK as a terrorist group.
Washington’s decision to send in supplies by air to fighters loyal to the Democratic Union Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PYD, followed a U.S. assessment that the Syrian Kurdish defenders would run out of ammunition in as little as three days.
Iraqi Kurdish leaders told American officials they were considering sending reinforcements from their region to Kobani. To reach the town, they would have to pass through other parts of Syria. U.S. defense officials looked at the route and told the Kurds it would be a suicide mission.
The U.S. asked the Turkish government to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross through Turkish territory to reinforce Kobani. U.S. officials said Turkey agreed in principal and that Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, proposed sending a specially trained force of Syrian Kurdish refugees.
But events on the ground forced Washington’s hand. U.S. contacts in Kobani sent out an urgent SOS.
“We needed weaponry and fast,” said Idris Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of the Kobani regional government.
To tide the Kurds over until Turkey opens a land corridor, U.S. Gen. Lloyd Austin, who runs the air campaign against Islamic State, decided on a delicate plan: dropping supplies using C-130 cargo planes.
The U.S. didn’t think Islamic State fighters had sophisticated antiaircraft weapons, but the Pentagon decided out of caution to fly under cover of darkness.
Gen. Austin presented the proposal to the White House on Friday. President Barack Obama approved it immediately, U.S. officials said.
Until recently, the White House wouldn’t even acknowledge U.S. contacts with the PYD because of its close ties to the PKK and the diplomatic sensitivities over that in Turkey.
At the White House, Gen. Austin argued last week for resupplying Kobani without Turkey’s consent, U.S. officials said. He warned that the city’s fall would be a recruitment bonanza for Islamic State, leading to an infusion of fresh fighters and newfound momentum while reinforcing its narrative of inevitable expansion.
Resupplying fighters in Kobani wouldn’t normally be a quick decision, both for logistical and political reasons. But administration officials said they saw few alternatives. The U.S. had long kept the Syrian Kurds at arm’s length out of deference to Turkey.
But officials were desperate for partners on the ground on the Syrian side of the border. In recent days, the Kurdish fighters had made gains.
U.S. contacts with the Syrian Kurdish leadership began as indirect and secret.
Then-U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, during stops in Paris, started meeting in early 2013 with an intermediary there of the PYD. After each contact, U.S. officials briefed Turkish counterparts. Daniel Rubinstein, Mr. Ford’s successor, and other officials expanded the dialogue.
Embattled Kobani DigitalGlobe/UNITAR/UNOSAT
The Syrian Kurdish group’s objective during the talks was to persuade the Americans to provide them with military support to fight Islamic State.
“If there is one moderate force in Syria, that’s us,” said Khaled Saleh, the group’s representative in France who took part in many of the preliminary discussions.
For the Syrian Kurdish leaders, progress at first was frustratingly slow.
The U.S. became more responsive over the summer, after Islamic State seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
U.S. intelligence officers were impressed with the Syrian Kurdish fighters’ track record in combating Islamic State. When the fighters crossed the border into Iraq to help save members of the Yazidi religious minority, policy makers in Washington took note, U.S. officials said. Some Syrian Kurdish commanders are Yazidis by religion.
The Syrian Kurds had other appeal to U.S. policy makers. The fighting force is avowedly secular and pro-Western. It fields female fighters and is committed to combating Islamic State. Kurdish officials say several Americans, including two ex-marines, and dozens of European volunteers, have enlisted to fight alongside the Kurds in Kobani.
Impressed by its military performance, the U.S. decided to invite a representative of the group to sit in the coalition’s joint operations center in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to liaise with special military units in Kobani collecting battlefield intelligence and coordinates for airstrikes.
Kurdish officials said Islamic State turned its sights on Kobani to make an example of the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whose battlefield successes in Iraq had embarrassed the group.
When the U.S. first started bombing Islamic State targets near Kobani, the goal was to kill as many Islamic State fighters as possible.
“When we see them in great numbers, we take them out,” a senior U.S. official said, adding that extremists “kept coming, so we kept hitting them.”
As Islamic State poured resources into the battle, views in Washington of Kobani’s importance began to change.
Mr. Obama’s special envoys in the campaign against Islamic State, Gen. John Allen and Brett McGurk, arrived in Ankara Oct. 9 for talks. By then, the U.S. already had planned to step up the pace of airstrikes in Kobani, but also knew that wouldn’t be enough.
Turkish officials made clear to the U.S. delegation that they didn’t want Kobani to fall—but they didn’t want to inadvertently empower Kurdish fighters close to the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish fighters as one in the same.
The Turkish and American officials agreed broadly that the Iraqi Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga should play a significant role in Kobani’s defense, but the details about how to bring Kurdish reinforcement to Kobani still needed to be worked out.
After the talks in Ankara, Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Barzani, who proposed sending the special security force made up of Syrian Kurdish refugees who had been trained in northern Iraq.
The U.S. and Turkey disagreed about how long Kurdish forces in Kobani could hold out, with the U.S. assessing it would be only a few days while the Turks thought it could be longer.
When Kurdish commanders sent out their urgent appeal, Gen. Austin decided the U.S. couldn’t afford to wait, officials said.
He saw an opportunity, defense officials said.
“By stopping them, and by doing tremendous damage to them, you begin to blunt the sense of momentum, particularly in Syria,” a senior administration official said.
The proposal drew legal scrutiny from lawyers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon. Technically, the Syrian Kurdish leadership wasn’t on the terror list, as was the PKK, they said.
The lawyers also found that the legal bar was lower in this case because the U.S. would be sending Mr. Barzani’s arms, rather than delivering U.S. weapons. There was little debate, meeting participants said.
In the final White House meeting, National Security Adviser Susan Rice laid out the potential diplomatic and legal implications of the airdrop. She didn’t say ‘no’ but she wanted concerns to be raised, a senior U.S. official said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Mr. Obama the operation was urgently needed.
The equipment that was to be delivered beginning on Sunday was shipped from Erbil to Kuwait, the major U.S. logistics hub in the Middle East. There, soldiers prepared packages for the airdrop, defense officials said.
Medical supplies were rigged to drop with high velocity parachutes that are accurate, but that hit the ground with force. Ammunition, however, would be at risk of exploding if dropped with a high velocity chute. So soldiers in Kuwait rigged the ammunition packages with equipment known as the Joint Precision Airdrop System, or JPAD. The JPADs are guided by GPS, making them highly accurate despite the fact they drop slowly from over 10,000 feet.
As planes crossed over Kobani, nearly all of the high velocity parachutes hit their mark.
At least one of the JPADs sustained a malfunction in its parachute, drifting away from its target zone and into an area controlled by Islamic State.
Turkey on Monday confirmed it would allow the Peshmerga to cross its territory but as of Tuesday, no forces had reached Kobani and talks on the parameters of their mission were ongoing, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
U.S. officials said the outcome in Kobani remains far from certain but the operation could have implications for fighters in other towns facing Islamic State.
“Given where we are now, we’re there to help the people who are able to resist,” a senior U.S. official said.
General Nagl: Coming soon Iraq War 4
Reply #504 on:
October 22, 2014, 01:22:56 PM »
One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.
• BY John A. Nagl
• OCTOBER 21, 2014
The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out.
The first Iraq war was necessary and conducted well, as wars go; the second was unnecessary and conducted poorly at first, but ended up in a reasonable place given what a fiasco it had been at the start. This third war was entirely preventable, caused by a premature departure of U.S. troops after the second. Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.
My first Iraq war was Operation Desert Storm, when half a million U.S. troops joined an international coalition to expel Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in 1991.
Although that war appeared to settle some things at the time, within months of the cease-fire it became clear that Saddam had survived the thrashing we had given his army and was not going to fall to indigenous rebel forces as we had hoped. Instead, we began a decade of containment called Operation Southern Watch, with American war planes flying combat missions around the clock to deter Saddam from further adventurism.
Southern Watch continued until March 2003, when the tempo of combat operations increased sharply during the second Iraq war. Operation Iraqi Freedom began in an air of national panic after al Qaeda's attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the unrelated but frightening anthrax attacks on the U.S. capital. Saddam was working to develop weapons of mass destruction, we were told, and the United States did not want to discover that he had completed them only after seeing a mushroom cloud over Washington or New York. Throwing aside generations of deterrence theory -- which predicts correctly that states will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal -- we invaded Iraq again, this time unnecessarily.
(MARC: He is correct that “States will will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal” but this misses the point with regard to NON-state actors to whom chem, radioactive, and bio weapons could be handed off—as we were seeing for example with the anthrax attacks. The author apparently has fallen here into the mistaken meme that Iraq War-2 was purely about WMD. This is not right, the list of reasons was quite wrong; WMD was simply the one of them used to seek legal cover/approval from the UN)
Not just unnecessarily, but also poorly. Iraq was three nations inside a single state, held together by a brutal dictatorship. Although there were prewar warnings that hundreds of thousands of troops would be required to police Iraq after the government collapsed, we invaded with a fraction of that number. We had no plan to create a new order in postwar Iraq or even to secure the weapons-storage depots that were the supposed reason we were invading. Decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to disband the Iraqi Army and forbid any former members of the ruling Baath Party from again holding positions of influence poured fuel on the embers of a Sunni insurgency that burst into flames.
(MARC: True enough, but completely fails to address the concerns of the Shia—whom along with the Kurds Bush-1 had left to be brutalized by Saddam after encouraging them to rise up. Understandably the Shia wondered as to our intentions this time around—seeing that the Sunnis would not continue to oppress them in a new form was a logical concern on their part and one which we had to address.)
Rather than coming home by Christmas, the invasion force called for reinforcements, including my tank battalion.
We arrived in Anbar province in September 2003, right in the heart of the insurgency, and immediately discovered that our prewar training to fight other armies would be of little help. We were fighting insurgents who, in Mao's clever phrase, were fish swimming among the sea of the people -- Sunnis who hated us and their new Shiite overlords in Baghdad, whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers.
It got worse. We had been told that Saddam was collaborating with al Qaeda, which was not true, but in the power vacuum that followed his demise, radical Islamists found a toehold. They named themselves al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and increased the sophistication of the weapons they deployed against U.S. troops. Simple improvised explosive devices made of the artillery rounds that literally littered the desert were replaced by sophisticated AQI car bombs like the one that destroyed the Khalidiya police station one Sunday morning, killing 34 Iraqi police officers we had trained and equipped. When my tank battalion left Anbar after a year of fighting, we made coffee cups that said "Iraq 2003-2004: We Were Winning When I Left."
We weren't, and we knew it. I went to work in the Pentagon and became reacquainted with my former West Point professor David Petraeus, who was then a lieutenant general returning from his own second combat tour in Iraq. In 2006, I helped him write an Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that suggested fighting a very different kind of war from the one we were then waging. Appointed to command the whole Iraq war effort shortly thereafter, General Petraeus put the new counterinsurgency doctrine into practice, building an Iraqi Army and eventually persuading the Sunnis who had been our enemies to switch sides and fight with us against the increasingly brutal AQI. Within 18 months, violence dropped by two-thirds, and we put Iraq on a path to stability (if not perfect democracy).
We seized defeat from the jaws of not-quite victory by not leaving behind a force of some 20,000 American advisors to stiffen the spine of the Iraqi Army and, perhaps more importantly, moderate the anti-Sunni tendencies of the Shiite politicians. But once he came into office, U.S. President Barack Obama overruled the advice of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Petraeus, who had since become director of the CIA. Obama's advisors urged him to keep troops in Iraq. Instead, the president chose to fulfill a campaign promise that he would end the war in Iraq during his first term. He abandoned a country in which Americans had been working and fighting continuously for more than 20 years in an effort to build a stable state.
In our absence, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave in to his worst sectarian tendencies, firing Sunni leaders of the Iraqi Army and replacing them with incompetent Shiite cronies. Al Qaeda in Iraq staged a comeback across the border in Syria, where another civil war raged without American involvement to moderate it. And this year, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham came roaring to life, seizing most of the Sunni territory in Iraq. Maliki's stooges abandoned their units under fire, and the Iraqi Army, built with billions of U.S. dollars and at the cost of many American soldiers' lives and limbs, crumbled in the absence of American air power and advisory support. Two years without Americans engaged in combat in Iraq ended in tragedy, and last month the president announced that U.S. combat troops were returning to Iraq to fight yet another war there, this time against the Islamic State.
With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic.
Reply #505 on:
October 22, 2014, 01:31:40 PM »
Before we get to today's news, KP's Kate Brannen has an interesting tidbit on how the air campaign against the Islamic State is being fought. When the Obama administration announced the start of a U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria last month, much was made of the five Arab states recruited to confront the group. According to Kate, the role these nations are playing in the coalition is now less transparent.
"In fact, the Pentagon won't be talking about allied contributions anymore at all: On Tuesday, in a quiet change, the Defense Department said it would no longer provide daily information on what its coalition partners were doing in the fight against the Islamic State.
"U.S. Central Command announced the shift Tuesday in its daily update about airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. 'Beginning with this news release, out of respect for participating nations, U.S. Central Command will defer to partner nations to publicly comment on their airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq,' the release said.
"The policy change comes after a week's gone by without any mention of participation by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Bahrain in airstrikes in Syria. The last day it noted help from coalition partners was Oct. 14."
Now, on to the news.
A report in the Washington Post indicates that the United States and Iraq are planning an offensive to take back territory won by the Islamic State. From WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "The plan, described as methodical and time-consuming, will not begin in earnest for several months and is designed to ensure that Iraqi forces¬ do not overextend themselves before they are capable of taking and holding territory controlled by the militants." More here.
The devil is in the details. According to the Post, this new campaign might require "U.S. advisers in the field with the Iraqis, should that be recommended by American military commanders." This could represent an escalation of the American role in the conflict, as well as a potentially explosive political issue for the White House; President Obama has consistently maintained that no American boots would be on the ground in Iraq. But there is growing doubt that this promise will be kept: a new survey of Militarytimes.com readers show that 54 percent believe American troops will return to Iraq.
Iraq's new defense minister has strong words for the Islamic State. Al Awsat's story: "In his first televised speech following his appointment on Saturday, Iraq's new Defense Minister Khalid Al-Obeidi pledged that Iraqi forces would retake all areas of the country that have been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 'We are committed to the liberation of the provinces that have fallen under ISIS control and securing the return of refugees to their homes, securing peace and stability for our country,' the new defense minister pledged on Tuesday." More here.
Meanwhile, the fallout from the Arab spring continues. Four year ago, the Arab Spring was celebrated in the west as the potential birth of new democracies across the Middle East. Now, it's clear that the protests-and the issues that drove them-are much more complex that Western media made them out to be at the time. Tunisia is the latest example.
Tunisia is among the Arab world's most educated countries, but militants are recruiting heavily there. The NYT's David Kirkpatrick: "Nearly four years after the Arab Spring revolt, Tunisia remains its lone success as chaos engulfs much of the region. But that is not its only distinction: Tunisia has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State.
nstead of sapping the appeal of militant extremism, the new freedom that came with the Arab Spring revolt has allowed militants to preach and recruit more openly than ever before. At the same time, many young Tunisians say that the new freedoms and elections have done little to improve their daily lives, create jobs or rein in a brutal police force that many here still refer to as 'the ruler,' or, among ultraconservative Islamists, 'the tyrant.'" More here.
Not only is it wrong to blame the Islamic State's rise on the U.S. failure to secure a two-state solution-it's also flat-out dangerous. Aaron David Miller for FP: "In any conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian problem, I'd be the first to concede that failure to resolve it damages U.S. interests in the Middle East and undermines American credibility. But what has become even more stunningly clear in recent years is that even if the United States could fix the Palestinian issue and produce a two-state solution, that accomplishment alone would not stabilize the angry, broken and dysfunctional Middle East. The region is already in the process of melting down for a tsunami of reasons that have nothing to do with the Palestinians. But talking about the consequences of not fixing the Palestinian issue, particularly in Chicken Little the 'sky is falling' terms, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been wont to do, doesn't help matters-it makes them worse." More here.
One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. For FP, John Nagl reflects on his experiences during the 2003 Iraq War: "The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out...Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.
"...With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic." More here.
Kobani has become the focal point of the fight against the Islamic State. This Syrian border town has emerged as the most important battle of the American campaign. Whether or not it's strategically important-and DOD officials insist it isn't-the optics of the fight have elevated it in the eyes of the international press.
If Kobani wasn't strategically important to begin with, it is now. FP's Brannen and Gopal Ratnam: "The Obama administration's rapidly intensifying efforts to prevent Kobani from falling into the hands of the Islamic State have backed the United States into a corner. While Pentagon officials maintain that the town isn't strategically significant, the United States has invested so much in saving Kobani that its fall would hand the Islamic State a publicity win and deal a symbolic blow to the U.S.-led war effort.
Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London to FP: "I think the U.S. was caught between trying to discount the significance of Kobani and then realizing that it had no choice but to be drawn in, because Kobani has become a token for the campaign's ability to succeed with airpower alone... I think against their better judgment the U.S. found itself compelled to provide greater and greater airpower, even when that came at the expense of more consequential areas like Anbar province." More here.
From WSJ, U.S. Cooperated Secretly with Syrian Kurds in Battle For Kobani. More here.
Turkey has been a reluctant participant in the fight against the Islamic State. But with Kobani on the brink, there are new signs that Ankara might be forced to do more. Here's the latest evidence: A kidnapping in Turkey shows the Islamic State's broad reach. More from WaPo here.
Reply #506 on:
October 23, 2014, 10:39:55 PM »
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