Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 9, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, a US general testifies to Congress and alludes to more US troops going into Iraq, the denial of human rights abuses in Iraq continues, and much more.

Drew Brooks (FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER) reports, "After nine months in Iraq, the 82nd Airborne Division headquarters will officially end their deployment Wednesday.  The final 160 paratroopers are scheduled to be reunited with the families at Fort Bragg's Green Ramp."

But while good for them, don't mistake that news for less US troops in Iraq.

Ray Howze (LEAF-CHRONICLE) explains, "After casing its colors two weeks ago at Fort Campbell to mark its deployment to Iraq, the 101st Airborne Division has officially assumed command of forces in the country.  In a transfer-of-authority ceremony Tuesday in Baghdad, the 82nd Airborne Division relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commanding general of the 101st, and the rest of the division headquarters."

The White House keeps insisting things are going well in Iraq.  The President's Special Envoy Brett McGurk keeps blathering on about success -- though he's really not citing any examples that haven't been cited for months now.

As a general rule, if you're having success in combat, the departing troops are departing without being replaced by new troops.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced/claimed:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 17 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache, an ISIL staging area and an ISIL rocket position.

-- Near Beiji, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

-- Near Fallujah, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb.

-- Near Habbaniya, a strike destroyed an ISIL tunnel.

-- Near Haditha, a strike destroyed an ISIL supply cache.

-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area.

-- Near Mosul, three strikes struck two ISIL headquarters and destroyed an ISIL assembly area.

-- Near Qayyarah, a strike struck an ISIL-used bridge.

-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL mortar position and two ISIL supply caches.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL artillery piece.

-- Near Waleed, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL supply cache.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

If things are going so well, would the US government have to bomb Iraq daily?

And if things are going so well, why was a Senate Committee told today that more US troops would be needed in Iraq to take back Mosul from the Islamic State?

Three generals appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today:  Gen Joseph Vogel (Special Operations Command), Gen David Rodriguez (US Africa Command) and Gen Lloyd Austin (CENTCOM).  The Chair of the Committee is Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member is Senator Jack Reed.

Here's the key exchange.

Senator Mike Rounds:  General Austin with regards to the challenges surrounding the retaking Mosul and Raqqa by December of this year coming up.  You've currently got about 4,000 ground forces, if I'm correct.  Is that enough?  Do you have enough to assist in your plans to retake Mosul and Raqqa?

Gen Lloyd Austin:  The, uh, the approach that we have used -- and continue to use, as you know, Senator, to use the indigenous forces in the operations on the ground and enable those forces with out aieral fires and other enablers.  As we look towards Raqqa and other and Mosul clearly there will be things that we want to do to, uh, increase the capability a bit to, uh -- to, uh increase the pace of operations and that will require some additional capability and we've gone through and done some analysis to see what types of -- what types of things we need to provide and that's, uh, we've made those recommendations.

Senator Mike Rounds:  Could you share those recommendations with this Committee?

Gen Lloyd Austin:  Uh, no, sir.  I would not care to do so because I have just provided those to my -- to my leadership.

Senator Mike Rounds:  But you have -- you have made those recommendations and you're waiting on a response to your recommendations at this time?

Gen Lloyd Austin:  Yes, sir, it's -- it'll work its way up the chain here.

Senator Mike Rounds:  If you were allowed to have, uh, more ground troops what would be the capabilities that you could accomplish?  Or what could you accomplish if you had more individuals on the ground there

Gen Lloyd Austin:  We could, uh, develop more, better human intelligence.  We could, uh, we could perhaps provide, uh, uh, more advise and assist teams at various levels.  We could, uh, we could increase, uh, our assistance in terms of providing help with some logistical issues and, uh, we could increase some elements of the special operations footprint.

Senator Mike Rounds:  Assuming we were successful in retaking both of those two towns, what then? Clearly, it's broken.  So you come back in and reestablish order and so forth -- when we take them back do we have a plan in place -- a plan that we want to execute to bring back in a sense of order to those communities?  What does it look like right now and what part would we play?

Gen Lloyd Austin:  Uhm, the short answer is "yes," Senator. First of all, we will -- the Iraqis will take back uh, uh, Mosul and we will take back -- we will work with the Syrian indigenous forces to take back Raqqa as well.  Uh, as you've seen us do, as they've taken back towns in Iraq, that includes, uh, Ramadi, Baiji, Tikrit, uh, Sinjar and other places the effort has been to reestablish order in those places and then immediately try to uh, uh, do what's necessary to repair damage and make sure that, uh, that we're taking care of the people and the people are able to move back in and resume their lives.

So that's Gen Lloyd Austin playing coy and hinting about his recommendation to send more US troops to Iraq while insisting he can't really talk about it because it's going up the chain of command.

He's also telling fantasies of liberation where Ramadi and Tikrit were peacefully liberated, where the homes weren't trashed, the stores and homes looted and civilians harmed or killed.

He leaves that part out, doesn't he?

He's not the only one in denial.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) reports on the continued denial by the Iraqi government of documented human rights abuses in Iraq:

In its annual report on the situation of human rights in the world in 2015, HRW wrote, “Iraqi security forces and pro-government militias committed possible war crimes during 2015 in their fight against the extremist group Islamic State … by unlawfully demolishing buildings in recaptured areas and forcibly disappearing residents.”
HRW added, “Mostly [Shiite] militias fighting [IS] with the support of the Iraqi government, such as the Badr Brigades, League of the Righteous, and Hezbollah Brigades, carried out widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular by demolishing homes and shops in recaptured Sunni areas.”
National Coalition member of parliament Ahmed al-Asadi, who is Shiite and the spokesman for the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units that is considered part of the Iraqi state, criticized the HRW report, which claimed that the Iraqi security forces and the Popular Mobilization Units committed war crimes.
Asadi said, “The information in the HRW report is erroneous and aims at tarnishing the victories of these factions and acts hypocritically by accusing the Popular Mobilization Units and avoiding speaking about IS violations.”


All this time later, we're still supposed to pretend like the Iraqi government (and its Popular Mobilization Forces) are not committing human rights abuses?

They are what led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, please remember.

Also don't forget that journalist Ned Parker was targeted -- on Iraqi television -- for death after he and colleagues at REUTERS reported on some of the abuses taking place.

He had to leave Iraq for the safety of his colleagues and himself.

And Haider's response to that?

To giggle and mock Ned Parker.

Not to address the threats, not to address the human rights abuses, not even to issue an apology.

Just to giggle and mock.

Not that the White House did a damn thing.

Or the US State Dept.  (Again, "Well look who the State Dept woke up in bed with this time.")

They have repeatedly looked the other way.

Last week, FORBES published  Anders Corr, "U.S. Needs A Moral Compass Leading Out Of Syria And Iraq:"

The war in Syria and Iraq is no place for the U.S. We have no clear allies there, leading us to bargain with bad actors who besmirch our good name. In our single-minded fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), we look desperate and ineffective, because we are. Our tunnel vision targeting ISIS has made us blind to the dangers from our allies of convenience there, and the likelihood that they will turn on us in future.

The human rights abuses in Iraq will not be paved over by history.

They will be owned by Barack Obama who chose to ignore them under not one, but two prime ministers.  He let Nouri al-Maliki get away with them and that gave rise to the Islamic State.  Then, when even Barack tired of Nouri, Haider was pushed into the spot as the compliant replacement.

And instead of demanding that Haider address these abuses, the US government has supplied him with weapons, with training, with financial support.

And all the while, the Sunnis have remained persecuted.

Barack is on the wrong side of history.

He's also on the wrong side of a huge demographic bulge worldwide.

There will be no happy in the historical review of his two terms.

  • Iraqi army destroyed historical Sunni mosque (Saladin) in

  • Again, the US government backs the attacks on the Sunni population.

    In other news under-reported, a plane crashed in Iraq last week.  At THIRD this week, we noted:

    A US Army jet crashed in Iraq.
    Thomas Gibbons-Neff (WASHINGTON POST) reported the crash on Saturday.
    He even noted that the US military issued a statement saying the crash was under investigation.
    But a US Army jet crashed in Iraq.
    And did it get the kind of coverage that should merit? 

    It didn't.  But it did get a little more coverage today with YAHOO NEWS, THE DAILY MAIL and THE JERUSALEM POST all carrying a REUTERS report on the crash.

    Meanwhile, the White House issued the following today:

    The White House
    Office of the Vice President

    For Immediate Release

    Readout of Vice President Biden’s Call with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi of Iraq

    The Vice President spoke today with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. The Vice President offered his condolences for Sunday's brutal attack in al-Hillah, and both leaders reaffirmed their joint commitment to defeat the scourge of ISIL. The Vice President also reviewed U.S. efforts to help Iraq secure additional regional and international assistance for stabilization and reconstruction in Ramadi and other areas liberated from ISIL.