Iraq

More American troops headed to Iraq, US general says

More U.S. troops will be going to Iraq in the months ahead to help local forces defeat ISIS, the top American military commander in charge of operations in the Middle East told Fox News in Baghdad Thursday. This is in addition to the 560 U.S. forces President Obama ordered to Iraq this week. “There will probably be some additional capabilities we will need to bring in to complete our objectives,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads the U.S. Central Command. “As the leadership has told me, if we need something, we need additional capabilities, we need additional people, we should ask for those things and I’ve been encouraged to do that,” Votel added. The 560 troops deploying to Iraq will help secure an air base 40 miles south of Mosul, recently captured by Iraqi forces supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. American military logistics personnel, engineers and force protection units will compose the bulk of the troops. The British government said this week they would send 250 more troops to Iraq as well. The base will be used to stage Iraqi forces making the assault on Mosul, defense officials say. Iraqi forces want to build on their momentum following their victory over ISIS in Fallujah, backed by hundreds of coalition airstrikes. Gen. Votel traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as well as top Iraqi defense officials to discuss upcoming operations against ISIS. Votel previously made stops in Afghanistan and Bahrain to visit a U.S. Navy warship transiting the Strait of Hormuz, and Jordan before arriving in Iraq for the final leg of his visit to the region. It is not immediately clear what type of forces will be headed to Iraq to help prepare for the long awaited ground operation to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city located more than 250 miles north of Baghdad. The majority of ISIS fighters in Iraq are located in Mosul since conquering the city more than two years ago.

US Navy SEAL killed by ISIS during intense Iraq firefight

Islamic State fighters shot and killed a Navy SEAL during an “extremely heavy, extremely intense” firefight with U.S. forces and Kurdish Peshmerga troops in northern Iraq Tuesday, military officials and a trainer who witnessed the fighting told Fox News. The unnamed service member was advising Peshmerga forces but was less than 2 miles behind the front lines in the town of Tel Askuf, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. A defense official told Fox News the service member was killed by small arms fire, likely from an AK-47 rifle. “The Peshmerga were trying to hold the line, but Navy SEALS – at least 20 – came in and pounded the s— out of ISIS,” military trainer Matthew Van Dyke told Fox News, saying that “scores” of Islamic State militants died. Van Dyke and three U.S. veterans were training Assyrian Christian forces battling ISIS in the region. “ISIS kept sending in suicide bombers, SEALs pounded them and the [U.S.] airstrikes did a lot to help. Bullets flying everywhere, machine gun fire from ISIS, really intense firefight,” Van Dyke added. He said three Christian fighters and several Peshmerga were also hurt. Navy SEALs joined the fight roughly an hour after it started, “heroically” beating back ISIS, according to Van Dyke. He said the SEALs kept fighting until ammunition ran low. “It is a combat death, of course. And a very sad loss,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, referring to the Navy SEAL. Carter was speaking in Stuttgart, Germany, where he was attending a ceremony installing a new commander of U.S. European Command. “It shows you the serious fight that we have to wage in Iraq.” The town of Tel Askuf is located about 20 miles north of ISIS’ Iraqi hub of Mosul. Despite a push from the Obama administration to accelerate the fight against ISIS, senior defense officials say they do not believe Mosul will fall this year. Still, Van Dyke says he believes ISIS “won’t be able to sustain continued losses like that.” Three U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq as part of the ground fight against the ISIS terror group. The last American death happened in March, when U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed in a rocket attack on a firebase in northern Iraq. This past October, Delta Force Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler was killed during a rescue mission that freed as many as 70 ISIS hostages. The latest death came following the deployment of a 200-person special operations task force to Irbil, southeast of Mosul, which Carter first announced in December. Last week, President Obama approved the deployment of 450 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria. Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad last week to exhort leaders of the government in Iraq to resolve internal political strife and concentrate on the effort to defeat ISIS. Carter, likewise, visited Baghdad recently. The Obama administration has been pressing the effort against ISIS, which has been slowed down in its quest to overrun Iraq. There are now roughly 5,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq.

Very sad news..  As of this reporting we don’t have a name for this brave warrior.  But, our prayers are with his family, and loved ones.  Thank you for your service, sailor.  R.I.P.

Bible bonfire: ISIS video shows Christian books being destroyed, adds fuel to genocide debate

Having driven the last Christian out of Mosul, ISIS has now released a chilling video showing a bonfire consuming a huge pile of Bibles and other Christian literature. The video, entitled “Diwan of education destroys Christian instruction books in Mosul,” was made by ISIS’ “morality police,” the infamous Diwan Al-Hisbah, according to Christian Today. It comes as the U.S. is deliberating over whether to label the terrorist group’s actions in Iraq as genocide, a term that has important ramifications under international law. “It’s another example that ISIS means what they say,” David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, told FoxNews.com. “That’s what makes the debate so powerful. They want elimination and they are very serious.” While ISIS has killed, enslaved and displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians, the destruction of religious materials could also be part of a genocide determination. The House voted unanimously Monday to approve a resolution branding ISIS’ actions as genocide, which the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines in part as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The State Department is under pressure to reach the same conclusion, which could obligate the U.S. to take action. The video first surfaced last week and shows ISIS militants piling hundreds of books with crosses printed on the cover into a large fire at an unknown location in the northern Iraqi city. “This video is the first specifically showing the burning of Christian books,” officials for the Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor team for the Middle East Media Research Institute said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “It is in line with ISIS’ treatment of Christians, which MEMRI regularly monitors in ISIS publications. There is not any particularly new or recent trend in regard to ISIS’s treatment of Christians, which has been consistent in its statements and actions since ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014.” Mosul, long considered a haven for Iraq’s Christian population, was overrun by militants in 2014. After the takeover, ISIS demanded that Christians convert to Islam, pay a tax known as a jizya, or flee the city. Although Mosul was once considered a center of Christianity in the region, all Christians are believed to be gone from the city. The Christian population of Iraq has dropped from 1.5 million to 275,000 since ISIS established its caliphate. “The stated purpose [of ISIS] to eliminate and force the Christians and Yazidi people out of the region,” Curry said. “They are succeeding. The Christian population in the region has greatly diminished.” If U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry determines their actions amount to genocide, the UN could be forced to address the issue. “This has always been genocide,” Curry told FoxNews.com. “The West has realized that they cannot deny it any longer.”

This article is about a month old, and since this article came out, Sec. of State John Kerry (D) DID make the “genocide” determination.  Unfortunately, the UN hasn’t done a darn thing.  Anyway, to see this horrific video, click on the text above.

US to send 200 more troops, Apache helicopters, to Iraq

The U.S. has agreed to deploy more than 200 additional troops to Iraq and to send Apache helicopters for the first time into the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq, U.S. defense officials said Monday. The decisions reflect weeks of discussions with commanders and Iraqi leaders, and a decision by President Barack Obama to increase the authorized troop level in Iraq by 217 forces — or from 3,870 to 4,087. The new plan, expected for weeks, would mark the first major increase in U.S. forces in nearly a year. Last June the Obama administration announced that hundreds of troops would be deployed to help the Iraqis retake Ramadi — a goal they accomplished at the end of the year. Of the additional troops, most would be Army special forces, who have been used all along to advise and assist the Iraqis. The remainder would include some trainers, security forces for the advisers, and more maintenance teams for the Apaches. The increased military support comes as the U.S.-led coalition looks to better enable local Iraqi and Syrian forces to retake the key cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. The advise-and-assist teams — made up of about a dozen troops each — would embed with Iraqi brigades and battalions, putting them closer to the fight, and at greater risk from mortars and rocket fire. They would have security forces with them. Putting the U.S. teams with Iraqi forces closer to the battlefront will allow them to provide more tactical combat advice as the Iraqi units move toward Mosul, the country’s second-largest city. Until now, U.S. advisers have worked with the Iraqis at the headquarters level, well back from the front lines. The Apaches are considered a significant aid to any attack on Mosul, providing precision fires in the fight. Last December, U.S. officials were trying to carefully negotiate new American assistance with Iraqi leaders who often have a different idea of how to wage war. At that time, the Iraqis turned down a U.S. offer to provide Apache helicopters for the battle to retake Ramadi. Speaking to U.S. troops at the airport in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Ash Carter also said that he will send an additional rocket-assisted artillery system to Iraq. The system is likely to be used by Army soldiers who replace the Marines current stationed at a small outpost outside of the Iraqi base of Mohkmour. U.S. officials have also said previously that the number of special operations forces in Syria would be increased at some point, but Carter did not mention that in his comments.

Peshmerga troops running on empty in fight against ISIS

Kurdish Peshmerga forces – arguably the most effective ground troops battling the Islamic State terror group in Iraq – have been fighting for the past three months without a paycheck, according to experts and a top official from the region. “Unless we get direct [financial] support, we will not be able to continue the way we are currently doing so,” Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said at a forum held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington on Wednesday. A lack of direct financial support isn’t the only problem, according to Talabani. The Kurdish-controlled area of Northern Iraq also has been forced to absorb a loss of more than $100 million a month in declining oil revenues and diminished support from the central Iraqi government in Baghdad. “The situation is dire. People are not getting paid. Including their frontline troops,” said John Hannah, a senior counselor with the FDD and former national security advisor for former Vice President Dick Cheney, told Foxnews.com. Hannah said the Kurds “have a lot of issues,” including a bloated government that was built on the expectation of a $100 per barrel of oil. The KRG has also taken on almost two million refugees, on top of a population of only five million Kurds, which has put an incredible strain on their finances. “They’re facing incredible burdens with few good options for relief. They have been cut off from any of their budget from Baghdad, and have no easy access to international debt markets or to the international donor community since they are not a sovereign state,” Hannah said. This shortfall has affected not just Peshmerga fighters, but public service like teachers and healthcare workers. But sources familiar with the KRG’s current financial issues say it’s likely they are actually losing hundreds of millions more than officials say. And the lack of payments to Kurdish forces is becoming more of a problem. Some fighters have reportedly gone home to visit their families without returning to the combat zone. Many have begun to look for work elsewhere. Some have pulled double duty, refusing to quit the battle by day but moonlighting as cab drivers or laborers at night. “When I come [home] from the frontlines, I have to work because of my family’s needs. It is my responsibility,” Haval Muhammed, 28, a Peshmerga fighter from the Sulimani area, told Foxnews.com. Muhammed says he has two disabled daughters, leaving his wife unable to get a job. Along with his Peshmerga work, he said he often finds work in home construction when he’s back from the fighting – if the work is available. “There are not a lot of jobs,” he said. “Most of the days I can’t find work, people don’t have money to build houses.” KRG officials say that despite the lack of payment, a majority of the Peshmerga have not given up the fight. “We are facing many challenges. International community has helped us but we need more,” Farhan Jawhar, head of the KRG’s Cultural Committee, recently told FoxNews.com. “We need more money… two years ago [this] started, we are fighting the same enemy as Baghdad, but they cut our funds. “The salaries for the Peshmerga haven’t been paid. How do we stay here fighting?”

Indeed..  It is beyond outrageous that our administration has allowed this to happen.  Shame on them.  The Peshmerga forces are the most effective fighting force fighting ISIS in Iraq. THEY are the “boots on the ground” that we should be supporting, as they fight to take back their homeland.  And all they need is some cash to pay their forces and maybe some small arms (i.e. rifles, ammo, etc.).  That’s a drop in the bucket when you think that our idiot-in-chief has been spending our hard-earned tax dollars by the BILLIONS on an ineffective and inefficient air campaign for YEARS.  Each time a missile is fired from an F-16, that’s millions of dollars.  Just think how many salaries and bullets for a rifle that one missile could pay for.  It’s simple math.  Email your member of Congress, and both of your U.S. Senators, and urge them to support, financially, the Peshmerga forces in Iraq.  It is in our national security interests to support these proud warriors fighting the good fight.

Obama’s competence as commander in chief challenged in Senate hearing

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain on Tuesday directly questioned President Obama’s competence as the nation’s commander in chief. At a hearing to examine the White House’s Middle East strategy, Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, cited Mr. Obama’s failed train-and equip program for moderate Syria rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad. The senator referred to Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS “60 Minutes” in which he said he was proven right because he never thought the $500 million program would work in the first place. The White House asked for the legislation. “Harry Truman must be spinning in his grave,” Mr. McCain said of the president whose motto was “the buck stops here.” “If there is an opposite for Commander in Chief, this is it,” Mr. McCain said. His statement came as a prelude to testimony from Mr. Obama’s war cabinet, Defense Secretary Aston Carter and Marine Corps. Gen. Joseph Dunford, Joint Chiefs chairman. Gen. Dunford recently toured Iraq to assess the U.S.’s two-prong war policy of bombing the Islamic State terror army while preparing Iraqi ground forces to take back territory. Mr. Carter told the committee he has changed the counter-Islamic State war under what he calls the three Rs––Raqqa, Ramadi and Raids. The Syrian city of Raqqa is the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” stretching from Syria into northern and western Iraq. He said the coalition is conducting more air strikes on Raqqa and is beginning to ship arms to proven Syrian Arab fighters trying to retake the city. Some are just 30 miles away. Ramadi is the key western Iraq city held by the Islamic State. Iraq government forces have had little luck so far in retaking the town despite U.S. arms, military advisers and overt urging from senior officials to begin an offensive. Mr. Carter suggested that the Shiite-dominated Iraq government is still withholding arms from Sunni tribes who were successful in fighting with the U.S. in 2007-08 to evict al Qaeda in Iraq. Raids are the use of more direct ground actions against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS, by special operations forces, such as the Delta Force team that joined with Kurdish fighters to free prisoners picked for another ISIL mass murder. The three Rs, Mr. Carter said, “Should help shrink ISIL territory into smaller and smaller areas.” Gen. Dunford, whose predecessor termed the war against ISIL a “stalemate,” agreed. “No one is satisfied with our progress to date,” he testified. He said the U.S. is now “accelerating” attacks on ISIL’s economic means, referring specifically to a recent strike on an oil facility which had help the group rake in millions of dollars a month. On future war plans, he said, the White House wants “all options.” Mr. McCain pressed Mr. Carter to provide his position on creating safe zones inside Syria to try to stem the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Mr. Carter refused, except to say he has not yet submitted a plan to the White House. Mr. McCain also asked the defense secretary if he planned to try to protect pro-U.S. Syrian rebels now being bombed by Russia and Syria with barrel and cluster bombs. Mr. Carter asserted no rebel group directly supported by the Defense Department under the law has been attacked. Mr. McCain acted incredulous. Many on-the-ground sources have told monitoring groups that all rebel groups are being hit by Russian air power since it began strikes Sept. 30. “I promise you they have,” Mr. McCain told Mr. Carter. “You will have to correct the record.” Mr. Carter was making a fine distinction between groups the Pentagon is designated to back and groups supported by the broader coalitions. The latter are being attacked, he said.

Rowan Scarborough is the author of that piece… As many of you know, I’m no big fan of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). But, lately he has been saying things that need to be said. That’s probably because he knows he’ll never run again for public office. So, he doesn’t have to be as reserved and politically correct in what he says. Either way, glad to see someone finally having the stones to call Obama’s competence into question in such a public arena. It’s about time!!

Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

In January the U.S. Central Command announced that U.S. and coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria destroyed some 184 Humvees, 58 tanks and nearly 700 other vehicles. The number of ISIS military vehicles destroyed may seem significant, but is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the militants’ overall firepower. While specific numbers are difficult to come by, reports suggest that ISIS has a huge fleet of vehicles – including tanks – its possession. Last year, for example, the jihadists captured 2,300 Humvees from Iraqi forces when they captured the city of Mosul, some of which were then converted to armored vehicles. Unlike traditional nation states ISIS doesn’t produce tanks or other weapons in factories, and unlike past insurgent forces that were supported by a nation state ISIS isn’t being armed or equipped by a major power either. Yet the group’s fleet of vehicles continues to grow. In May ISIS captured U.S.-built equipment, including M1A1 tanks after the group took control of the town of Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. The militants’ haul reportedly included about 100 wheeled vehicles and dozens of tracked vehicles. There should be concern that ISIS has become so well armed, experts warn. In addition to modern military hardware, militants have also captured Cold War-era weaponry from Syrian forces. The nation was supported throughout the Cold War by the Soviet Union and built up vast quantities of Warsaw Pact armaments. Today those weapons – everything from AK-47 assault rifles to T-72 main battle tanks – are being utilized by all sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. “Syrian rebel groups probably make the most extensive use of heavy equipment at the moment, thanks largely to battlefield successes,” Jeremy Binnie, Middle East/Africa Editor for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, told FoxNews.com. “But that is also a product of the Syrian military’s vast inventory of Soviet-era weapons and equipment, (as well as) its inability to destroy this materiel after it has been captured.” Many of these Syrian rebels likely served in the military at some point and this may provide them with the knowledge to operate and, more importantly, maintain the equipment. There is a growing concern that these weapons have allowed groups to operate more like an actual army than merely as insurgents. This has enabled them to take and actually hold ground. ISIS has not only tanks but towed field guns and artillery pieces, which allow the group to conduct shelling against Iraqi military targets from a great distance; as well as fixed anti-aircraft guns and even shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons. Each of these presents serious problems. While the fixed anti-aircraft guns threaten coalition aircraft, shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons could take down a commercial airliner. “Rocket-fired grenades and shoulder-launched missiles have long been available in black markets in the Middle East and Africa, but this higher-end stuff is coming from other sources,” Seth Jones, director of international security and defense policy center at the RAND Corp. said. “This really shows that conventional weapons are a reason for concern. In many ways we’re largely past the stage of nuclear proliferation unless it was provided by a state, and that isn’t likely to happen. However, these anti-aircraft weapon systems of all sizes are still a reason for concern.” Armored vehicles are increasingly a problem as well, and one factor is that tanks – especially Soviet era ones – aren’t that difficult to maintain and are difficult to destroy.

About that whole air campaign thing… FAIL!! It is WAY past time we actually had a coherent, logical, and effective military strategy (just having a random air campaign is NOT a strategy) to deal with the complete and total destruction of ISIS/ISIL. If you break it, you buy it. Obama “broke it” by unilaterally pulling all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq back in 2010. That was breathtakingly foolish thing to do, and went against the advice of, well, everyone…including virtually every “flag” (i.e. General) officer both on active duty, and recently retired. But, he did it anyway. And, it lead to the emergence of ISIS which has committed genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria, and has thrown the middle east into chaos. Obama’s response thus far has been a gazillion dollar air campaign that has done nothing to stop ISIS from growing in size, money, and armament. So, bottom line.. We’re blowing BILLIONS of dollars just randomly blowing up this tank or that vehicle. What is needed is a coordinated ground campaign, with air support, to wipe out ISIS and reclaim all of their hardware. Targeting a tank or two from 35,000 feet with a multi-million dollar missile just isn’t cutting it.