US deployed 3 more A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to Incirlik airbase, Turkey

 

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A-10 cockpit

US deployed 3 more A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to Incirlik airbase, Turkey from Georgia. The total number rises from 12 to 15. “With the U2 we’re able to get out there, find those guys and track them,” said another pilot, Maj. Matt. “Then we get that information back to the fighters and bombers, so that way when they go out there they’ve got the best intel, the best information about where they are and can do what needs to be done.” Drones also play a major role. From the massive Global Hawk that can stay in the air for well over 24 hours to the smaller predator and reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, all these platforms contribute to what is a gigantic airborne surveillance

 

[July 19 U.S. to Turks: “very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would” …release sensitive information.” ]

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Anadolu Agency published a map Wednesday July 19 showing 10 locations where it says U.S. troops are located. The posts span a stretch of northern Syria controlled by Syrian Kurdish forces that the U.S. supports but Turkey considers terrorists.
The U.S. doesn’t disclose where U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria are, for security reasons. The Pentagon says it can’t independently determine where Anadolu got the information. But spokesman Eric Pahon says the U.S. would be “very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information.”
Pahon says that can disrupt efforts to defeat the Islamic State group.

[July 20} The news article that contained the map was based on the agency’s “own newsgathering network,” insisting that the government had not given “the information or directed the agency.”
Kalin says Turkey has no “thought or intention that would endanger the lives of our allies’ soldiers.”

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IS insurgents have infiltrated south of Q-West Airfield from from Hawija

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Q=West July 19

* Centcom July 20: “Near Qayyarah, four strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units, destroyed a boat, damaged an ISIS-held building and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.”

Nineveh – 9:20 PM Wednesday 19 07 2017

1- [Iraqi] Military source: Our powerful troops cleansed the village of Imam, west of the south of Al-Qayyarah and took it back from the control of IS forces.

 

 

On July 16,near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two ISIS-held buildings.

 

[July 12 ]

 

[Centcom July 12] Near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two mortar systems and two vehicles.[Turkish} Five Iraqi soldiers were killed July 11 in clashes with the Daesh terrorist group in Qayyarah district, south of Mosul, according to a military officer.
Army Captain Mohannad al-Shewili said the clashes continued overnight in the Daesh-held Imam Gharbi village. The Islamic State executed on July 11 three fighters belonging to al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) in the Imam Gharbi village in al-Qayara neighborhood, southern Mosul, a local source told Shafaaq News. Militants, armed with machine guns and mortars, have now seized more than 75 percent of Imam Gharbi, a village on the western bank of the Tigris river some 70 km (44 miles) south of Mosul, and reinforcements are expected, the Iraqi army officer said.[Reuters].

[July 10]

 

 

al-Qayara imam gharbi

Reports continue to come in of an ISIS diversionary offensive in a small town south , near Mosul, where the U.S. has a set up Qayyarah Airfield West. The assault on Imam Gharbi village appeared to be the sort of diversionary, guerrilla-style strike Security sources said IS insurgents had infiltrated , some 70 km (44 miles) south of Mosul on the western bank of the Tigris river, on July 5 evening from a pocket of territory still under their control on the eastern bank.

Two Iraqi journalists were reported killed and two others wounded as they covered the security forces’ counter-attack to take back the village on July 7. Islamic State still controls 60% of the Imam Gharbi village in al-Qayara neighborhood located in southern Mosul, which was liberated several months ago.

“Joint military units have managed to liberate 40% only of the Imam Gharbi village after six days from the IS seizure of the village,” the source said.An unknown number of civilians and military were also killed or wounded.

The fighting forced the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration to suspend relief operations at two sites where it houses nearly 80,000 people near Qayyara, just north of Imam Gharbi, a U.N. statement said.

With water trucks no longer able to reach the sites, the displaced people could run short of water at a time of midsummer temperatures well over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), it said.

The insurgents were still in control of half the village by July 7 evening, security sources said. The offensive was launched from Hawija. Hawija, a backwater to be sure but one encircled by canals which offer some formidable natural defences.

There is also the countryside around Hawija and the open desert along the Syrian border, dotted with villages on the banks of the Euphrates river leading to al Qa’im, a city as big as Hawija and Tal Afar combined, all under ISIS control

 

[June 21 Next Year, in Mosul ]

 

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Q-West airbase

Additional forces from the 82nd Airborne Division will head to the Qayyarah Airfield West, or “Q-West” as the soldiers call it, the official said. U.S. forces have occupied the former Iraqi military base since the summer. Currently, Apache gunships and GPS-guided rocket systems called HIMARS are based there roughly 40 miles south of Mosul to support the ongoing battle for Iraq’s second largest city.

In Hamam al-Alil, 15 miles south of Mosul, a U.S. Army artillery battery has also been supporting the Iraqi-led operation into West Mosul in recent months.

[August 24 2016 Next Year, in Mosul ]

image

Lt. Gen. Townsend

August 22, 2016 @ 12:14 pm WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. commander for the fight against the Islamic State group said August 21 that he is skeptical of any additional military cooperation with Russia in Syria. And he said he believes he can get the mission done without it, outlining new plans to accelerate the pace and scope of the U.S.-led coalition operations to retake the key Islamic State-held cities of Raqqa and Mosul within the next year.

Iraqi officials have suggested they plan to begin the effort to retake Mosul later this fall, and the fight for Raqqa could also start within that timeline. Now they’re just a couple of kilometers away from the town center and about 60 kilometers from Mosul. By the end of the year, they say, they will liberate Iraq’s second-largest metropolitan area seized by ISIS two years ago. Townsend’s vow to have both retaken in the next year only underscores how difficult U.S. commanders believe it will be to drive Islamic State insurgents from those larger, heavily populated strongholds. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,

[April 12 Nothing more from U.S. for Mosul, no,no,no
sunni-shia-kurd_state_crop

United States will not send additional troops and equipment to help the Iraqi Security Forces retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State without Iraq first addressing sectarian divisions that could threaten to divide the country into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite territories. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, speaking to press April 11 during a visit to the Goa state in India. Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the international operation against Islamic State, has said that Iraqi generals do not think they will be able to recapture Mosul until the end of 2016 or early 2017 at the earliest.

Too dum hot

 

[March 16 Equipment moving from Camp Taji in Baghdad towards Mosul ]

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Iraqi security forces ride in vehicles travelling to Mosul to fight against militants of Islamic State at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, February 21, 2016.

 

[March 6 Northern Iraq is littered with U.S. special operation units ]

March 5
An advanced U.S. Army reconnaissance aircraft crash-landed in a field outside of Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on morning of March 4.

. Pictures posted to social media show the downed aircraft surrounded by what appears to be well-armed special operations forces. It is outfitted with the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, or EMARSS.

The Army flies a small fleet of fixed-wing aircraft that is broken down into three categories: Special Electronic Mission Aircraft, or SEMA, transport aircraft and mission support aircraft. EMARSS-equipped aircraft fall under SEMA.

The EMARSS system consists of a King Air 350ER aircraft equipped with an electro-optic/infra-red (EO/IR) sensor, communications intelligence collection system, an aerial precision geolocation system, line-of-site tactical and beyond line-of-site communications suites, two Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) workstations and a self-protection suite.

It is unclear what the EMARSS-equipped aircraft was doing before the crash. However, northern Iraq is littered with U.S. special operation units, including the Expeditionary Targeting Force, an elite commando unit dispatched to the region to capture and kill Islamic State fighters. While unable to stay in the air as long as drones, manned surveillance aircraft like the MC-12 are integral for missions, such as special operations raids, that require rapid intelligence gathering.

March 1 IS in Iraq “drawing to a close”? ]

 

 U.S.-led coalition instructors monitor as they train Iraqi soldiers from the army's 72nd infantry brigade while participating in a joint live ammunition exercise at Besmaya military base in south of Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 27, 2016.


U.S.-led coalition instructors monitor as they train Iraqi soldiers from the army’s 72nd infantry brigade while participating in a joint live ammunition exercise at Besmaya military base in south of Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 27, 2016.

 

The Islamic State group’s existence in Iraq looks to be drawing to a close as Pentagon officials confirmed February 29 that U.S.-led coalition forces had commenced operations aimed at driving the terror organization out of its last remaining stronghold in Mosul.
CHRISTOPHER HARRESS @CHARRESS ON 03/01/16

Around 200 U.S. Delta Force troops, in coordination with the Iraqi military, are said to be conducting raids, seizing territory and plotting to rescue hostages and prisoners.
The CIA and other intelligence agencies still use contractors like the former Blackwater or $2.2 billion firm DynCorp and other for paramilitary services. That number of military contractors represents just a fraction of the contractors employed by the U.S. in Iraq. In addition to the 2,028 Pentagon contractors, another 5,800 are employed by other agencies, including the State Department. Many of the contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries are from well known warzone companies like KBR and Fluor Corporation,

Even though Mosul is the final stronghold, the Islamic terror group continues to have small pockets of its fighters dotted across the country, but will no longer have a main base of operations if U.S Special Forces are successful in their current operations. IS currently occupies the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, only 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Baghdad. However, the group is under siege by local Sunni tribesmen who enlisted to help push the group out of the city. United States Defense Department statistics released earlier this month indicate that the number of IS militants in Iraq and Syria had fallen to between 19,000 and 25,000, down from earlier estimates of up to more than 30,000 fighters. It is suspected that IS, commanders especially, are seeking safety in Libya.

[June 10 2015 Extreme summer heat makes retaking Mosul before the fall unlikely ]

[April 16]


IRAQ AND SYRIA: ISIL’S REDUCED OPERATING AREAS AS OF APRIL 2015

Hot in Mosul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near Bayji, nine airstrikes struck two large and six smaller tactical units, destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun. A U.S. military official said recently the extreme summer heat after Ramadan made any effort to retake Mosul before the fall unlikely.

[April 4 Assault on Tikrit without U.S. planning participation, officials admit]

A vehicle belonging to Shi’ite militia fighters pulls the body of an Islamic State fighter, who was killed during clashes with Iraqi forces, in Tikrit April 1, 2015.

A vehicle belonging to Shi’ite militia fighters pulls the body of an Islamic State fighter, who was killed during clashes with Iraqi forces, in Tikrit April 1, 2015.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi ordered the arrest of looters and for the Shi’ite paramilitaries to withdraw to positions outside of Tikrit Saturday after meeting with officials from Salahuddin province. Government officials have reportedly blamed the looting and violence on local Sunni tribal fighters.
The U.S. military has publicly earmarked Mosul as the next target of the offensive against Islamic State in Iraq. Pentagon officials in February predicted the assault would begin by April or May – a disclosure that should not have been made, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter later said.
Sunni lawmakers who visited Tikrit complained that events have spun out of control since the security forces and militias retook the city. Parliamentarian Mutashar al-Samarrai credited the government with orchestrating a smooth entrance into Tikrit. But he said that some Shi’ite paramilitary factions had exploited the situation. “I believe this happened on purpose to disrupt the government’s achievement in Tikrit,” Samarrai said. “This is a struggle between the (paramilitaries) and the government for control.” The assault on Tikrit was launched without any planning participation by Washington, U.S. officials have admitted.

[March 30 Tikrit: U.S. denies airstrikes March 22-24]

US soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, ride on a military vehicle as they leave their base on a mission in Tikrit, 180 Kilometers north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, 30 December 2003.

US soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, ride on a military vehicle as they leave their base on a mission in Tikrit, 180 Kilometers north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, 30 December 2003.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says a U.S. drone strike killed two of its advisers near the Iraqi city of Tikrit, where a major offensive is underway against the Islamic State group, but the U.S. said March 30 its coalition conducted no airstrikes in the area during the time of the incident.

[March 27 Washington demanded the withdrawal of Shi’ite militias]
Iraqi special forces advanced on central Tikrit on March 26 as U.S.-led coalition planes joined the largest offensive yet against Islamic State militants holding out in Saddam Hussein’s home city. Coalition jets launched their first air strikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit on March 25, coming off the sidelines to aid Iraqi forces against the Sunni Islamist militants.
Underlying the complex web of loyalties behind the conflict, a senior U.S. general said Washington had demanded the withdrawal of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias fighting alongside Iraq’s government before agreeing to take part.

List of former U.S bases near Tikrit 2093 -2006
Camp Buffalo (Tikrit)
Camp Cougar (Tikrit)
Camp Ironhorse / FOB Danger (Tikrit)
Camp Raider / FOB Dagger (Tikrit)
FOB Omaha Tikrit
FOB Packhorse Tikrit
OB Remagen Tikrit Tikrit South Air Base
COB Speicher, located near Tikrit, Iraq

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Isis recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations gone from Raqqa

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July 14 — Near Dayr Az Zawr, two strikes destroyed five oil tanks, a front-end loader and a wellhead

 

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Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) stand in a house in Raqqa, Syria, June 21, 2017. While welcoming the ouster of jihadist from the city, local Arabs are suspicious of the advancing Kurds’ long-term intentions.

About one week ago, with coalition assistance, “our Syrian Democratic Force partners, mostly Arabs”, the SDF, breached into the ancient citadel of Old Raqqa in the central part of the city. We should not forget that ISIS has had more than three years to prepare the defense of Raqqa. While SDF operations are off to a good start, resistance has been stiffening, and we know this is not going to be an easy fight. Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, July 11, 2017,    [VOA July 11] In the 1970s, Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, displaced tens of thousands of Kurds in the province of Raqqa in order to resettle Arab families. Raqqa’s Arabs fear the Kurds now may seize the opportunity to even the score and engineer a Kurdish expansion, which would result in an upending of current demographics. If the Kurdish-led SDF fails to oversee the city and its outlying villages evenhandedly and within traditional Arab and tribal power structures, the odds of future sectarian conflict will increase, providing an opening for the jihadists.

[July 11]

On July 8, 2017, the Already Happened Twitter account, which bills itself as “independent media,” pointed out satellite imagery from June 2017 that appears to show a small airstrip in southern Syria a few miles from the trinational border where Jordan, Iraq, and Syria meet.

 

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Pictures of the military base of Serrin in Raqqa western countryside.

 

July 10]

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IS still controls territory in three areas of Iraq – around Hawija, 130km (80 miles) south-east of Mosul; around Tal Afar, 65km west; and from Ana to Al-Qaim in the Euphrates river valley, 250km to the south-west.
IS also holds a string of towns along the Euphrates in Syria, including Albu Kamal and Mayadin, but its stronghold of Raqqa is besieged by US-backed fighters.

[July 8]

al mayadiin

Many have relocated to Mayadeen, a town 110 miles southeast of Raqqa near oil facilities and with supply lines through the surrounding desert. They have taken with them the group’s most important recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations functions, American officials said. Other leaders have been spirited out of Raqqa by a trusted network of aides to a string of towns from Deir al-Zour to Abu Kamal.

40 min (46.6 km) via Route 4

[July 5 Isis melts into desert in Syria? ]

zenobia

Zenobia, Arab rebel against Rome

After Raqqa, from a military perspective,  many of ISIS’s fighters, including its commanders, will simply melt away into the desert.   The northern Palmyrene mountain range ts said to be new base to transfer its first and second line commanders, who are considered its fighting, political, and security elite, and to transfer its military and financial stocks to that region located in the desert, east of Raqqa.   The rugged mountainous region that is of desert nature and void of villages and population groups portends a long-standing guerrilla war, making the restoration of stability very difficult.

 

This region extends to the villages of the eastern countryside of Salmiya, at the end of Bala’as mountain range to the west, and is connected in the south to the northern Palmyrene mountain range that reaches al-Qalamoun mountains.

 

This region is a central point between three countries: Jordan, Iraq and Syria, through which ISIS can reach most of the Syrian regions; from the predominantly Druze Sweida, adjacent to Israel in the far south, to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor in the east.

 

From this mountain range, ISIS can easily cross the international road between Homs and Damascus and can have easy access to the countryside of Homs and Hama, which include Alawis and Christian villages, to the countryside of the Ismaili-majority Salamiyah and Idlib, a stronghold of the Nusra Front in al-Tamanah town, and can enter Damascus countryside from Dumair.

[June 25 Iran not Russia: Deir al-Zour hit by Iranian missiles ]

IS has moved most of its leaders to al-Mayadin in Syria’s Euphrates Valley, southeast of the group’s besieged capital there, Raqqa. Among the operations moved to al-Mayadin, about 80 km (50 miles) west of the Iraqi border, were its online propaganda operation and its limited command and control of attacks in Europe and elsewhere, they said.

 

“A number of mid-range surface-to-surface missiles” were launched from bases in Iran’s western border provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan, delivering “fatal and crushing blows” to targets in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor area, according to a statement from the IRGC’s office of public affairs, published by Tasnim.   U.S. and Coalition jets around Sept. 17, 2016 hit oil pipelines, fuel trucks and other parts of the Islamic State’s oil infrastructure in the vicinity of Deir al-Zour, according to daily statements from Centcom.   Some Trump appointees saw Iran’s missile strike as an illustration of Tehran’s regional ambitions, making it an existential enemy. Blaming enemies for unpredictable bad things restores their sense of personal control. A situational threat to control over an external hazard strengthens the belief in the conspiratorial power of a political enemy. Basically, turning enemies into scapegoats makes them feel more in control. Political Existentialism. Some remarks on Schmitt’s enemy reflections in the light of Heidegger .
These Iran hawks are pushing for a Syria strategy that calls for concentrating first on defeating Islamic State, then turning on Iran and its allies, including Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to three U.S. officials.

U.S.-led coalition forces killed Turki al-Bin’ali, a top cleric of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in an airstrike. The cleric and self-proclaimed “Grand Mufti” was killed in an airstrike on May 31 in Mayadeen, Syria It is the capital of the Mayadin District, part of the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. Mayadin is located about 44 kilometers southeast of Deir ez-Zor. The Euphrates River flows through the town.

[May 15 Qaboun, on the northeastern edge of Damascus, in evacuation deal. ]

About 1,500 rebels and civilians have been evacuated from the Qaboun district of Damascus after enduring months of bombing attacks. The discovery of a network of tunnels forced their hand.

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The rebels were cornered overnight in a small section of Qaboun, on the northeastern edge of the Syrian capital, and agreed to the evacuation deal. After a nearly three-month-long bombing campaign, which included air strikes and artillery shelling, much of the area has been reduced to rubble.

[May 19 2014 Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, the general in charge of Syria’s air defense, dies of wounds ]

Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, the general in charge of Syria’s air defense

Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, the general in charge of Syria’s air defense

Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, the general in charge of Syria’s air defense has been killed in fighting near Damascus. The officer, , one of the highest-ranking officers to die during the country’s three-year conflict, commanded 60,000 troops in Syria’s air defense forces. But it was unclear what impact General Ishaq’s death would have on the battlefield, given that Syrian opposition fighters possess no aircraft. Rebel fighters fired toward what they said was a government helicopter dropping supplies to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad last week in the Idlib countryside.
He died of injuries sustained on May 17 in Mleha, a district on the outskirts of Damascus where there have been intense battles in recent weeks. Iit was unclear how General Ishaq had been wounded.

[September 5 2012]

Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli

Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli

Brigadier General Dr, Issa al-Khouli

Brigadier General Dr, Issa al-Khouli

In Beijing September 5, talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese leaders failed to narrow gaps on how to end the crisis in Syria. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said his country backs a “political transition” in Syria to end worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, but repeated China’s opposition to forceful foreign intervention in the crisis.

Clinton acknowledged it is “no secret” the U.S. government is disappointed by Chinese and Russian policy on Syria and repeated that the best course of action remains tough U.N. Security Council measures.
more

February 12]The Revolution Leadership Council, an anti-Assad group in Damascus, alleged that the government had carried out the killing itself.
Tunisia will host a “Friends of Syria” meeting on February 24 to attempt to build an international consensus on how to end the violence. Tunisia’s foreign minister said the meeting will include Arab, regional and international states, and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who is also the country’s foreign minister, said he backed the proposal.The Arab League will ask the United Nations to form a joint peacekeeping force and appoint a special Arab envoy to try to halt the violence in Syria, members have agreed.The request for a peacekeeping force raised a number of questions, including whether Syria would agree and which Arab countries might contribute troops.

Arab foreign ministers have been engaging in “intensive talks” with Russia and China and are hoping they can help encourage Assad to accept a peacekeeping force as an alternative to escalating conflict,
The league also agreed to step up economic sanctions and provide the Syrian opposition with political and financial support, though it again refrained from recognising the Syrian National Council – the most prominent of anti-Assad groups.

“Its a very difficult process to recognise the SNC – the Arab League made it clear to the opposition that the body as a whole cannot do it, but rather the individual countries will need to do that on their own,”
[February 11: Issa] came from an Alawite family with close ties inside the Assad government and believed to have been the nephew of Mohamed al-Khouli, the former head of the widely feared Air Force Intelligence Directorate, the most powerful of the multiple security agencies that cement the government’s power. The elder Mr. Khouli was a security adviser to President Hafez al-Assad until the president died in 2000.
In the first killing of a high ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March. Capt. Ammar al-Wawi of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that wants to bring down the regime by force, denied involvement in the assassination, which came a day after two suicide car bombers struck security compounds in Aleppo. Western and Arab countries are considering forming a coalition to help Syria’s opposition, though so far there is no sign they intend to give direct aid to the FSA. Director of Hamish Hospital in Damascus Brigadier General, Dr. Issa al-Kholi,was assassinated before his house at Rukn Eddin Neighborhood. Three gunmen awaited al-Kholi till he got out of his home and shot him dead. Brigadier General al-Kholi held a Bachelor’s Degree of Medicine in the Joints from the Romanian universities and is a specialist from Parisian Universities and Hospitals.

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Erik Prince & Bannon on the use of mercenaries for US soldiers in Afghanistan

ap_-_pakistan_-_muhammad_sajjad_0

Afghan Pakistan border

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and another senior advisor, Steve Bannon, asked two military contractors, including the founder of Blackwater, to help form an alternative defense strategy in Afghanistan.
Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon asked Stephen Feinberg, the owner of DynCorp International, and Erik Prince, of Blackwater fame, to submit proposals on the use of contractors in place of US soldiers in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon is known to be considering a troop surge in the country where the US battled the Taliban for 16 years.
Bannon brought up the contractor approach to Defense Secretary James Mattis July 8 but the Pentagon chief was not interested. Mattis and Lt. Gen. HR McMaster both support a troop surge in Afghanistan. Late last month, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan left the post of Special Representative – commonly known as SRAP – along with her deputy, triggering speculations that Trump might eliminate the post altogether.

Eliminating the post created in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama to monitor and handle the volatile situations in Kabul and Islamabad would go in line with Trump’s announced pledge to cut the State Department’s budget.
Senator John McCain during his visit to Rawalpindi on July 5.“We have made it very clear that we expect they (Pakistan) will cooperate with us, particularly against the Haqqani network and against terrorist organizations.”

[April 3 Prince met with Putin aide ]

web-1484683812-article-header

 

 

Trump supporter Erik Prince reportedly met Russian close to Putin in meeting coordinated with United Arab Emirates officials

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4377426/Did-Trump-Russia-connection-run-Seychelles.html#ixzz4dEOZ5lbk

[February 17 Prince’s Frontier Services contracting with Chinese]

Erik Prince — founder of the private military company Blackwater, financial backer of President Donald Trump, brother to the new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been offering his military expertise to support Chinese government objectives and setting up Blackwater-style training camps in two Chinese provinces

Frontier Services Group said all of its security services were unarmed and therefore not regulated. “FSG’s services do not involve armed personnel or training armed personnel.” The training at the Chinese bases would “help non-military personnel provide close protection security, without the use of arms.”
Asked about Frontier’s claim that Prince was planning “unarmed” security projects, both sources dismissed it, and emphasized that was not their understanding. It is “ridiculous,” said one.
“Are they using sonic weapons,” joked the other. “Is it psychic powers?”

[January 17]

Erik Prince, the chairman of Hong Kong stock exchange-listed Frontier Services Group (FSG) and ex-CEO of Blackwater, private security firm which gained notoriety during the invasion of Iraq and who now leads FSG,a Hong Kong company aiming to play a key role in China’s “new Silk Road” initiative , received a “personal invitation” to the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.  Prince has described his relationship with the newly installed 45th president as one of “mutual respect” but rejected suggestions that he is offering advice on intelligence matters to Trump.

[January 18 ]

Erik Prince has been advising the Trump team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments says a former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition. . Prince sold Blackwater and now heads up a Hong Kong-based company known as Frontier Services Group.

[June 7 2011 Reflex Responses: State refuses to say whether licensed ]

R2 president, Michael Roumi

R2 president, Michael Roumi

A State Department spokesman said the Obama administration was aware of R2’s operations, but would not say whether the company was operating with licenses from the department.
In letters sent to lawmakers and Obama administration officials, the head of Reflex Responses, a company based in Abu Dhabi, said that Mr. Prince “has no ownership stake whatsoever” in the business.

“He is not an officer, director, shareholder, or even an employee of R2,” wrote the company’s president, Michael Roumi, referring to the company by its common name.
Five former employees, speaking on condition of anonymity because they had signed confidentiality agreements, said Mr. Prince had overseen the hiring of American military and law enforcement veterans for the project, as well as European and South African contractors. They said he made occasional trips to the desert camp where the foreign troops, many of them Colombians, were being trained. And some of R2’s top managers had worked with Mr. Prince at Blackwater.

The former employees said that Mr. Prince took pains to mask his role in the operation, and that his name did not appear on contract documents between R2 and the U.A.E. that were provided to The Times. R2’s origins and affiliations are unclear; most corporate records are not public in Abu Dhabi. R2’s commercial license lists two other companies as partners, and the name of a third business was posted outside the office suite R2 had been using in the last year.

American laws governing the export of defense technology are murky, but American citizens involved in training foreign troops run legal risks if the State Department does not grant permits for the training. A State Department spokesman said the Obama administration was aware of R2’s operations, but would not say whether the company was operating with licenses from the department.
NYT Corrections
An article on May 15 about efforts to build a battalion of foreign mercenary troops in the United Arab Emirates referred imprecisely to the role played by Erik Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit troops. But Mr. Prince does not run or own the company Reflex Responses, which has a contract with the government of the U.A.E. to train and deliver the troops, according to the company president, Michael Roumi. An article on May 16 repeated the error.

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Pakistan not Russia…Pakistan not an ally?

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Naveed Mukhtar appointed as DG ISI: possesses a vast experience in the field of intelligence. He had also headed the counterterrorism wing of the ISI in Islamabad.

 

The Trump administration may withhold at least some assistance to Pakistan.The potential U.S. pivot to a more assertive approach would be sharply different than the approach taken at the start of the Obama administration, when U.S. officials sought to court Pakistani leaders, including Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, U.S. officials said.   Lisa Curtis, senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, co-authored a report with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, in which they recommended the Trump administration warn Pakistan the status could be revoked in six months.   “Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” said the February report.   Pakistan fiercely denies allowing any militants safe haven on its territory. It bristles at U.S. claims that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, has ties to Haqqani network militants blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.   Without more pressure on militants within Pakistan who target Afghanistan, experts say additional U.S. troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.

Another option under review is broadening a drone campaign to penetrate deeper into Pakistan to target Haqqani fighters and other militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, U.S. officials and a Pakistan expert said.   “Now the Americans (will be) saying, you aren’t taking out our enemies, so therefore we are taking them out ourselves,” the Pakistan expert, who declined to be identified, said.   Blaming enemies for unpredictable bad things  restores sense of personal control.  A situational threat to control over an external hazard strengthens the belief in the conspiratorial power of a political enemy.   Basically, turning enemies into scapegoats makes them feel more in control.   Political Existentialism. Some remarks on Schmitt’s enemy reflections in the light of Heidegger .

 

In its latest Afghan report, the first under the Trump administration, the Defence Department states:

“India is providing significant training opportunities for Afghan officers and enlisted personnel. Approximately 130 Afghans travel to India each year to attend various military academy and commissioning programs,” it said in the six- monthly report to the US Congress.
“India is Afghanistan’s most reliable regional partner and the largest contributor of development assistance in the region, including civil development projects such as the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam and the Afghan parliament building,” the Pentagon added.

https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Enhancing-Security-and-Stability-in-Afghanistan-June-2017.pdf

[February 2 2012 The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are Islamabad: Nato report leaked ]


Pakistan’s foreign minister said February 2 that the country would be willing to push the Taliban and their allies to make peace if asked to do so by the Afghan government, an action seen as key to the reconciliation process.

Pakistan’s role is vital because it has strong historical ties with the militant group, which many believe continue to this day, and insurgent leaders are thought to be based in the country. But there are also limits to what Islamabad can accomplish since the Taliban have been notoriously difficult to control and are wary of Pakistani influence.
[February 1]The semi-comforting belief that only “rogue elements” in the ISI have close connections to the Taliban never had much basis in fact and it has less so now. A senior al-Qaeda commander in Kunar province (in the wild north-east of the country) says: “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching. The Taliban are not Islam. The Taliban are Islamabad.” BBC

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F-15E downs Shaheed-129 UAV

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Iranian-made drone shot down

 

The Shaheed-129 drone was armed and displayed hostile intent when it was intercepted by an F-15E Strike Eagle around 12:30 a.m. local time near the Syrian city of Tanf, according to U.S. Central Command. It was observed heading toward coalition forces, who were outside the outpost, officials said.   Squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagles are routinely deployed to al Udeid Base in Qatar.

 

[June 30 2016 Al Bukimal drive withdraws with Western special forces ]

thalab

Thalab patrol vehicle near al-Tanf

 

The U.S.-backed New Syrian Army said it was forced to withdraw its forces to its base at Tanf near the Jordanian border after launching what appears to have been a poorly conceived offensive aimed at capturing the strategically important eastern Syrian town of Abu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

 

[June 29 2016]

An operation aiming to capture the eastern Syrian town of Al-Bukamal, has began on June 28, adding to the pressure facing Islamic State as it faces a separate, U.S.-backed offensive in northern Syria aimed at driving it away from the Turkish border.

Syrian rebel sources say the rebel force has received military training in U.S.-run camps in Jordan, but most of their training was now being conducted in a main base at al-Tanf, a Syrian town southwest of Al-Bukamal at the border with Iraq.

The New Syria Army’s base in al-Tanf was hit twice earlier this month by Russian air strikes, even after the U.S. military used emergency channels to ask Moscow to stop after the first strike, U.S. officials say.

The rebel commander and the Observatory said the rebels had also captured an air base from Islamic State militants near Al-Bukamal. Heavy clashes were underway, with militants dug in at the Hamadan air base, 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Al-Bukamal.

“The clashes are inside the (town) and matters are not yet settled,” said the rebel commander of the Asala wa-al-Tanmiya Front, one of the Marin elements of the New Syria Army. The rebel forces entered the town at dawn, he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the offensive was being mounted with backing of Western special forces and U.S.-led air strikes. A DIFFERENT THALAB PATROL VEHICLE NEAR AL-TANF BORDER CROSSING, SYRIA IN EARLY MARCH. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE VEHICLE IS OPERATED BY FOREIGN SPECIAL FORCES.

Tthe Jordanian Thalab Long Range Patrol Vehicle has been spotted with the New Syrian Army on two separate occasions. The Thalab LRPV is used by Jordanian Special Forces and is designed for long multi-day patrols in harsh terrain. A Thalab is rather expensive compared to the cheap Toyota Hilux pick-ups supplied to the New Syrian Army by the US. It’s possible that foreign special forces are operating this vehicle, the lack of footage of the Thalab in official New Syrian Army videos further supports this theory.

[January 16 2014 U.S. Special Forces to select moderate Syrian recruits for six-to-eight week training.
American military forces, particularly Special Forces, have decades of experience screening foreign military forces for training, Pentagon officials said.But identifying rebel fighters who don’t have ties to Jabhat al-Nusra, the main al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, is extremely difficult for a Pentagon with limited resources on the ground. “We also know the Syrian opposition better now than we did two years ago through the programs we’ve had providing non-lethal assistance,” said Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson. The Pentagon, the State Department and other nations are using a number of sources to screen moderate Syrian recruits, and it will be an ongoing process,
A training program could begin as early as March in the three countries that have agreed to host the training: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. At least four training sites in those countries are being identified and the plan is to split the approximately 400 U.S. trainers and their accompanying support forces evenly across those sites for what is expected to be a six- to eight-week training cycle

8 March 2013 : The planning cell, which was housed at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre in the north of the capital, Amman is now in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, and has since been expanded to co-ordinate a more ambitious training programme, with recent US reports saying it was being led by the CIA. A Jordanian source familiar with the training operations said: “It’s the Americans, Brits and French with some of the Syrian generals who defected. But we’re not talking about a huge operation.”

06/17/2014: Syrian rebels who would later join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

[June 23 2012 No excuse to do nothing about Syria]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari

No country is immune from this spillover because of the composition of the societies, the extensions, the connections, the sectarian, ethnic dimensions,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said June 23 in Baghdad. “This is not an excuse to do nothing about Syria, no. But there will be an impact.”

Hoshyar Zebari is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. A Kurd originally from Aqrah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, Zebari holds a masters degree in sociology from the University of Essex, England and studied political science in Jordan.

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Warning after Bush F/A-18E shoots down Syrian SU-22 near Raqqa

tabqa-dam

 

Russia announces it will target any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria after the US military shot down a Syrian air force SU-22.   The U.S.-led coalition conducts missions in areas west of the Euphrates River near Manbij and Al Bab, two towns retaken from ISIS by U.S.-backed rebel forces.   

 

 

[June 18

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SU-22

US Central Command said the SU-22 dropped bombs near the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are being supported by the US-led coalition as they advance on the terrorist stronghold of Raqqa.  “In accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces, it was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet,” a statement said.

 

[March 17 1000 more U.S. to Syria

usrangers2014 Rangers training

The Pentagon has considered increasing the U.S. military presence in Syria by up to 1,000 troops as the international battle to oust the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, from their de facto capital of Raqqa heats up.

The U.S. has already deployed about 500 U.S. Special Operations forces, 250 Rangers and 200 Marines to Syria.

.[March 15 U.S. Rangers near Raqqa]

The U.S. is looking for options to ease the tensions with Turkey over the plan to use U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds in the fight to oust Islamic State fighters from Raqqa but has offered no details on what those options could be.

The U.S. is considering arming the Syrian Kurdish forces, which the Pentagon considers the most effective fighters against IS militants in northern and eastern Syria. But Turkey, a key NATO ally, considers the Syrian force, known as the YPG, a terrorist organization. Turkey wants to work with other Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.

Paentagon leaders sent a new plan to defeat IS to the White House late last month that included a variety of options for the ongoing fight in Iraq and Syria.

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Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk with their weapons during an offensive against Islamic State militants in northern Raqqa province

SDF Forces in Rakkah February 2017

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3rd Ranger Battalion March 8

MARCH 6, a separate force of elite US army Rangers was deployed near a town north-west of Raqqa in heavily armoured vehicles, in an attempt to end clashes between SDF fighters and a Turkish-backed rebel force.   http://bigstory.ap.org/article/former-trump-security-adviser-flynn-admits-turkey-lobbying

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-09/turkey-kurd-tension-in-syria-war-a-train-wreck-mccain-warns

“Just days ago, fighting broke out between the Manbij Military Council (SDF), who had Green Berets embedded within their ranks, and Turkish-backed forces in the Manbij area. The movement of more US troops in the area will signify to our allies that they have our support, and show the Turkish forces and pro-Assad fighters that they’re messing with the wrong dudes.”

]February 16 Trump not insisting on Kurds in Raqqah Assault]

U. S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG, has caused tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the Kurdish militia as an extension of militants fighting on its own soil.

“If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful, then it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region and not the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in Brussels.

“The new U.S. administration has a different approach to the issue. They are not insisting anymore that the operation should definitely be carried out with the YPG. They haven’t yet made up their minds,” he said in comments broadcast live.

The SDF alliance, which includes Arab and other groups in Syria’s north as well as the YPG, has taken territory along the Syria-Turkey border as they push back Islamic State.

With air strikes and special ground forces from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF is in the middle of a multi-phased operation to encircle Raqqa, Islamic State’s base of operations in Syria.

A key decision for the Trump administration will be whether to provide weapons to the YPG despite Turkish objections. The U.S. says weapons provided to the SDF are so far limited to its Arab elements.

“We are working with the U.S. on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij by the time the al-Bab operation is completed,” Isik said, referring to a town currently under SDF control.

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Mahmud al-Isawi, a Syrian-based ISIL leader and facilitator, was struck and killed by a Coalition precision airstrike Dec. 31, 2016, in Raqqah, Syria.   CJTF-OIR does 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.  Coalition nations which have conducted strikes in Syria include Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

[July 3 2015 U.S. kills IS leader in airstrike in  al-Hasakah area of Syria]

Tariq Bin al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-Awni al-Harzi, a senior Islamic State leader, in Syria was killed June 16 in Shaddadi, Syria. He was the subject of a $3 million reward offered by the U.S. State Department.
The military reported conducting two airstrikes in the al-Hasakah area of Syria, which includes the town of al-Shaddadi, on June 16. It said at the time that those strikes hit an Islamic State tactical unit, two antenna arrays and a vehicle, but made no mention of enemy casualties.
Al-Harzi’s death came one day after that of his brother, Ali Awni al-Harzi, a key suspect in the 2012 Benghazi U.S. Consulate attack and also a member of IS. He was killed June 15 in a U.S. drone strike in Mosul, Iraq.

June 11 2011 Syria: Rifaat Assad Redux?]

Rifaat Assad

Assad Dynasty

Rifaat Assad

Rifaat Assad

In 1983, Hafez’ younger brother Rifaat, who drew a significant amount of support from the military, attempted a coup against Hafez Assad
In 1992 he returned to Syria following the death of his mother. However, in 1998, as Bashar Assad was being groomed for the presidency, Rifaat was denied the title of vice-president and left the country one again.

For years he has been deemed a potential threat to Bashar’s inheritance of his father’s regime, but when Hafez Assad died in June 2000, Rifaat refrained from taking any major steps to prevent Bashar from assuming power.
Rifaat is considered close, by some observers, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah is married to a sister of Rifaat’s wife, and Rifaat has on occasions—even after his public estrangement from the rulers in Syria—been invited to Saudi Arabia, with pictures of him and the royal family displayed in the state-controlled press.
After the Iraq war, there were press reports that he had started talks with US government representatives on helping to form a coalition with other anti-Assad groups to provide an alternative Syrian leadership, on the model of the Iraqi National Congress. Rifaat has held a meeting with the former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Yossef Bodansky, the director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, has stated that Rifaat enjoys support from both America and Saudi Arabia; he has been featured in the Saudi press as visiting the royal family in 2007. The Bashar regime remains wary of his intentions and carefully monitors his activities.

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