Situation Report: Iraqi forces pushing into Ramadi; more sanctions slapped on Russia; a look into the day-to-day of U.S. troops in Iraq; Army gets a new leader; Afghan intel problems; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Going in. The push for Ramadi continues, as Iraqi Security Forces have moved across the Euphrates and are fighting their way to the center of Anbar Province’s capital. Officials, unsurprisingly, are relatively upbeat about prospects for retaking the city from the Islamic State, which stands as a major prize ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Going in. The push for Ramadi continues, as Iraqi Security Forces have moved across the Euphrates and are fighting their way to the center of Anbar Province’s capital. Officials, unsurprisingly, are relatively upbeat about prospects for retaking the city from the Islamic State, which stands as a major prize for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Iraqi forces have ringed the city for months, but only kicked off their assault over the past several days after clearing rings of buried bombs before making the push.
There’s no indication that the thousands of Iraqi troops will take the city soon, however. The bloody fights to retake the much smaller towns of Tikrit and Baiji earlier this year lasted months, and both required a scorched earth campaign to push the last ISIS holdouts out. Ramadi is a much bigger city, and carries much more symbolic weight, for both the Islamic State and Baghdad as either of those two towns, which only increases the prospects of a long, bitter struggle.
Cash strapped. Days after European countries voted to extend sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the U.S. is imposing financial restrictions on more people and entities for violating existing sanctions.
The action marks the first time that Washington has stepped up sanctions related to ongoing aggression in Ukraine since Moscow began its bombing campaign against the Islamic State in September, FP’s David Francis notes. When it comes to the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, a new cease-fire between Ukraine and the separatists took effect Tuesday evening. Past lulls in fighting have yet to endure, however.
The American way of war. Despite the deployment of 3,500 American soldiers and Marines to Iraq to help train the country’s security forces, we don’t usually get much of a peek into what they do on a day-to-day basis. But a short piece by the Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff offers a vignette about what occupies the daily thoughts of the Marines of Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines while they’re deployed to the Taqaddum airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Mostly — in between running internal security patrols and guarding the gates of the sprawling base — they pass the time carefully avoiding Star Wars spoilers, debating whether or not to unplug the coffee machine to use the power strip for christmas lights, and getting into long discussions over what the source of far off “booms” might be.
It’s a heartfelt look at the minutia that has always occupied young men and women deployed far from home. There’s no suggestion here that the Marines are wasting time or shirking duties, and your SitRep correspondent has seen plenty of similar scenes play out at small combat outposts throughout Iraq and Afghanistan as bored troops pass the time. It’s what grunts do when they’re waiting for orders, and while it’s undoubtedly tedious, it can also be hilarious.
Goes boom. One thing we noticed in the piece is that some Marines in Anbar province have been “helping with indirect fire from Camp Havoc’s 155mm self-propelled howitzers and GPS-guided rockets, also known as High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS.” It was a rare indication that U.S. troops are providing artillery and rocket fire against Islamic State targets. A U.S. defense official told SitRep Tuesday that U.S. forces have fired rocket and artillery missions over the past six months in Anbar, and if you want to see what the accurate and deadly HIMARS rocket launcher can do, check out this video of Marines using it in Afghanistan.
He’s in. In case you missed it, Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq combat vet to be elected to Congress has been confirmed as the next undersecretary of the Army, the branch’s second-ranking civilian post. Murphy, a Democrat, represented Pennsylvania’s eighth district from 2007 to 2011. Murphy will one day — we assume — be joined by Eric Fanning, former chief of staff for Defense Secretary Ash Carter and undersecretary of the Air Force, who was nominated to be Army secretary in September.
Fanning has yet to be scheduled for a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, however, one of at least a dozen Pentagon officials nominated by President Barack Obama this year who have been blocked by Republicans in Congress looking for leverage against the White House. But the issue can be a bipartisan one. Just this week, we saw the nomination of Janine Davidson to be under secretary of the Navy held up by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is demanding the service reopen an investigation into a SEAL leader accused of wrongdoing. If confirmed, Fanning would take over from John McHugh, who retired last month after more than six years on the job.
We’ve almost made it to the long weekend, folks, and glad to have had you along. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ! Best way is to send them to email@example.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley
Russian warplanes have killed at least 200 civilians in Syria between September 30 and November 29, according to a new report from Amnesty International. The report profiles six attacks carried out by the Russian military on towns and cities, five of which targeted residential areas and killed 119 civilians. The report also says that the attacks took place in areas with no military targets nearby, and Amnesty suggests that the Russian military deliberately targeted the civilian areas.
The Islamic State has gained popular support in the city of Mosul since it was overrun by the group last year, according to a new poll by IIACCS. Support for the group jumped from 30 to 40 percent since the Islamic State captured the city. Mosul residents also widely reported a belief in the conspiracy theory that the U.S. is secretly supporting the Islamic State, with 60 percent of respondents buying into it, up from 40 in June 2014.
During the height of the fighting between American and NATO forces and the Taliban, hundreds of small combat outposts dotted far-flung districts throughout Afghanistan, providing the coalition the eyes and ears to monitor insurgent activity. Now that those outposts are gone, and NATO forces are buttoned up on a few large bases training the Afghan army and police, the Taliban have regained some of their former freedom of movement, and are using it to solidify recent gains. Adding to the problem, as one former intel official told the Wall Street Journal, is that once the massive American intel gathering machine began to pull out of Afghanistan, officials refused to share their network of informants with Afghan authorities. It’s “the stupid culture of intelligence,” the official said. “Countries don’t share their assets with each other.”
French authorities say they’ve arrested two French citizens on charges that they planned to carry out a terrorist attacks in the city of Orléans. French intelligence reportedly uncovered the plot, which involved two men originally from Morocco and Benin who had communicated with another French jihadist living in Syria. The two are said to have planned to target police, soldiers, and government officials.
India and Russia may have made some progress on the complicated deal the two have been working on to get India to buy Russia’s PAK FA fifth generation stealth fighter. Russia has recently come back to the table with a new offer, proposing to slash the price from $6 billion down to $3.7 billion for technology transfer and three PAK FA prototypes. The price cut is reportedly born of Russia’s recent cash crunch due to declining oil prices and sanctions.
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