The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Update for Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Well, you could see it coming. Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, says he wants to keep troops there "as long as possible." [I wonder how long that is?] "In 2016, Campbell said, Afghan forces will need to devise a better system to drive down attrition rates, take to the fight to the Taliban instead of manning checkpoints, root out bad commanders and do a better jobs of recruiting." [Well, they've had 12 years to work on this.]

NATO air strike hits two Afghan army positions in Logar, killng 7 Afghan soldiers. District governor says the incident is likely a mistake due to "bad coordination."

Afghan minister of public health says 40% of children in the country are malnourished. He specifically blames imported foods which are unfortified with micronutrients. [The back story here is that diets heavily dependent on grain are incomplete. Wheat flour in the U.S. is routinely fortified with folic acid and iron.]

Security forces in Helmand province have said negligence on the part of senior security force members in Sangin resulted in the fall of parts of the district to the Taliban.

U.S. soldiers took bribes to award trucking contracts worth millions. Two have plead guilty. An Afghan business owner has now been charged in the case.

Russia will provide weapons to Afghan security forces.

IS holds hundreds of civilians in captivity in Nangarhar, their fate unknown. The motive is principally ransom. It appears that those who are not ransomed are killed. [Note: Obviously this means the group also controls territory.]

In Iraq, the defense minister says Ramadi is 80% destroyed. The devastation includes 260 schools, which would require half a billion dollars to rebuild.

UNICEF says an entire generation in Iraq is at risk due to lack of education and health care. Malnutrition is also widespread and water supplies are deteriorating. "More than 2 million children in Iraq are out of school, up to 3 million more have had their education disrupted by the war, and nearly one in five schools have been damaged, destroyed or used for other purposes, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF says. Of the schools that are still in use, classes are often overcrowded and lessons taught in shifts."

Mass grave with 120 bodies, mostly Iraqi security forces, is found in Nineveh province

The dispute between Iraq and Turkey over the presence of Turkish troops near Mosul continues, with Iraq now threatening unspecified military action. [This is really about the antagonism between Russia and Turkey, with Iraq as a proxy. -- C]

Pentagon claims to have killed an IS leader in Syria who had ties to a planner of the Paris massacre.






Monday, December 28, 2015

Update for Monday, December 28, 2015

Suicide attack near Kabul airport kills 1, injures 33, including 18 children. All of the victims are reportedly civilians. The intended target was apparently a minibus that transports foreigner troops to and from the airport, but NATO says none of its personnel were affected. Most of the injured children were students at a religious school.

A woman administering polio vaccine is murdered in Kandahar, and a second public health worker is seriously injured.

New Ministry of Defense complex, built by the U.S. at a cost of $160 million, is formally opened. The U.S. spent an additional $33 million on furniture and $12 million on information technology.

NYT reports U.S. plans to maintain a special operations base in Afghanistan for "years to come."

Meetings are scheduled among Afghan, Pakistani, U.S. and Chinese officials to try to revive the peace talks with the Taliban. [This will be difficult because at present there is no such thing as "the Taliban." -- C]

In Iraq, video shows the recaptured city of Ramadi essentially destroyed. It will be a long time before people can move back.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Update for Sunday, December 27, 2015


In a disturbing case of mimicry, members of the militia of warlord Haji Zahir, who is also deputy speaker of parliament, decapitate 4 captured fighters who claim loyalty to the Islamic State in Nangarhar. (Again, these are a former Taliban faction who have adopted the brand name. Whether they have any real operational relationship with the entity in Syria and Iraq is unclear.) This was apparently in retaliation for a similar action by the IS militants. It is also a reminder that Afghanistan is not really a unified nation state as normally understood in modern terms, but more of a feudal society with the Kabul government replacing the role of the king.

Despite being expelIed from Kunduz city, Taliban remain active nearby and resident remain frightened among continued food shortages.

Militants kill 6 members of a family in eastern Kunar in a home invasion. The motive is not explained.

Bomb targeting a police patrol in Lashkar Gah kills 2 police and a bystander.

A meeting of elders in Nangarhar decries insecurity and warns of protests if the government does not respond. Schools and hospitals in some districts are closed.

Al Jazeera reports that 21 government soldiers have been killed in Helmand in the past 48 hours as fighting remains intense near Sangin.

In Iraq government forces and allied militias finally claim victory in Ramadi,  seizing control of the government complex, although apparently some IS fighters remain in the city. The Iraqi army also claims advances near Fallujah, while peshmerga raid an IS base in Hawija and claim to have killed several fighters, although it is unclear whether their mission to free prisoners was successful. There are reports, that the U.S. denies, that U.S special forces were involved.







Saturday, December 26, 2015

Update for Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fighting continues in Sangin where, according to troops in the field, the situation continues to be perilous. Elsewhere in Helmand -- Musa Qala and Nawzad -- the Taliban control substantial territory and  possess heavy weapons. Afghan troops are unable to advance. A TOLO correspondent embedded with troops in Sangin says fierce fighting is going on with Taliban ensconced in residential areas.

Government forces have launched an offensive in Gormach, Faryab, and claim substantial gains. As usual, a spokesman does not provide information about Afghan government casualties.

NYT's Alissa J. Rubin reports that the people responsible for the mob murder of Farkhunda in Kabul have for the most escaped justice.

Indian PM Narendra Modi meets with president Ghani to discuss security cooperation among other issues. The PM's statement is implicitly,  critical of Pakistan. "Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut and, their patrons are no longer in business."

In Iraq,  government and allied Sunni tribal forces continue to make slow, difficult advances in the center of Ramadi. According to a U.S. military spokesman, they have advanced several hundred meters toward the government complex. The attackers have had to change their plan of advance due to mines.

The UN reports more than 11,000 Iraqis killed, and more than 18,000 injured in 2015 by violence including IEDs and car bombs. 

Turkey has apparently acceded to Iraq complaints and has withdrawn most of its forces from Bashiqa,
but says that trainers will remain.

Shafaq reports fighting between PKK and Turkish forces in Turkey, further dimming hopes for a renewed truce. However, the relationship between the KRG and Turkey continues to develop positively as Kurdistan prime minister Nechirvan Barzani will visit Ankara.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Update for Thursday, December 24, 2015


After U.S. airstrikes, and re-supply of defenders by helicopter, Sangin withstands Taliban siege. British forces have also moved into the area, which they previously occupied during the height of NATO combat operations in the country.

There are conflicting claims about the overall security situation in Helmand.

Large scale Taliban attack on security posts in Zabul is successfully resisted, with apparently 3 ANA soldiers killed. A local commander claims 14 Taliban dead. As always, claims about casualties conflict.

U.S. drone strike said to kill 3 Taliban in Nangarhar. (Note that this sort of activity goes largely unreported in the U.S.)

In Iraq, the advance of government forces into Ramadi continues but is slowed by booby traps, snipers and suicide bombers. Some 50 civilian families have managed to flee to safety but that is a fraction of those believed to be present. U.S. led coalition is providing intense close air support.

Coalition air strike hits a meeting of IS leaders near Mosul, with a claim of 30 killed. The attack is said to have been based on intelligence provided by peshmerga. But the bombs aren't that smart. Reports and video footage of civilian casualties from U.S. air strikes in Mosul.

Iraqi forces also claim gains near Tikrit.

Bombs in Khalis and Baghdad kill 15 civilians.

Report finds that IS has lost about 10% of its territory in 2015. If you look at the map you will see that most of the gains were by Kurdish forces.






Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Update for Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Casualties in the suicide attack near Bagram are being identified.

Air Force Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen is the first openly gay woman to be killed in action. "Facebook postings on Tuesday by Vorderbruggen’s loved ones mourned her death and sent condolences to her wife Heather and son Jacob. The family lives near Washington DC, where the couple was married in June 2012, the year after the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay service members was repealed"

Reuters lists the remaining dead  as:

  • New York City Detective Joseph Lemm, a 15-year veteran of the NYPD who also volunteered in the U.S. Air National Guard and was on his third deployment to war zones.
  • Serviceman Chester McBride Jr., who was remembered by the principal of Statesboro High School as "a young man of high character with a great smile." 
  • Serviceman Michael Anthony Cinco of Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
  • Staff Sergeant Peter Taub, whose family lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
  • Staff Sergeant Louis Bonacasa from New York.
 Remember that the much larger number of Afghan casualties generally remain anonymous.

The siege of Sangin continues, with U.S. and British forces reportedly in the area. However, the situation appears desperate with hold-out government forces outnumbered and poorly equipped. "Helmand province’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, has resorted to attempting to contact President Ghani on Facebook to beg for help. “The command and control system is a mess,” he wrote. He later told the Associated Press: “I can’t hold my tongue any more.”

In Iraq, Iraqi forces are advancing in Ramadi in a push to eliminate the IS holdouts in the city center. In an important change in policy, no Shiite militias are participating in the operation. Some 4-10,000 civilians remain trapped in the city along with the IS forces. It is unclear how many of them will be able to escape.

 
 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Update for Monday, December 21, 2015


A suicide attack on a patrol near Bagram air base has killed 6 NATO troops and injured 3. NATO, in accordance with policy, has not stated the nationality of the casualties but a spokesman for the governor of Parwan province has suggested that they were Americans. There was apparently also an unstated number of Afghan troops injured or killed. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

Update: Reuters is reporting that all 6 killed were American, although there is as yet no official announcement as of 12:45 ET.

An Afghan-American woman is killed in Kabul. Lisa Akbari, who had worked for the U.S. army and was apparently currently working for an NGO, was attacked by someone who is said to have "ties to terrorism."

Update: The killer is identified as a cleric, Sayed Ahmad, who was later shot and injured by police, under unclear circumstances. He is said to have lived in the same apartment building as the victim. She was apparently an army veteran, not a civilian contractor, but currently working for a Japanese NGO.

Taliban overrun Sangin district in Helmand. Deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar has posted on social media that "Helmand stands on the brink [of falling to the Taliban] … Ninety men have been killed in Gereshk and Sangin districts in the last two days," claiming that president Ghani's office has not communicated with local leadership and appears unaware of the gravity of the situation. About 170 people are trapped in the police compound and will not be able to hold out much longer.

In Iraq, Turkey is withdrawing troops from the Mosul area in an effort appease the Baghdad government, although some apparently remain and it is not clear that the dispute is entirely over.

IS is said to be preventing civilians from leaving the area of Ramadi it still controls as Iraqi forces prepare an assault.

In what may be a big deal, Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani has called on the two major parties in the region to organize a referendum on independence. (It would certainly pass.) As I have noted before, the rapprochement of the KRG with Ankara and its repudiation of the PKK are best seen as steps toward this goal.








Friday, December 18, 2015

Update for Friday, December 18, 2015


I delayed posting today, waiting for greater clarity on what appear to have been some friendly fire casualties of Iraqi forces resulting from U.S. close air support. Earlier reports claimed much larger numbers of casualties. We'll see how this sorts out.

Some reports have spun this as indicating strength on the part of IS, but in fact it appears that a wide-front assault on peshmerga territory near Mosul failed badly. The story I've linked to emphasizes the role of Canadian forces in the battle, which clearly places them as ground combatants. However, air strikes appear to have accounted for 180 IS dead, along with an unknown number killed by peshmerga fighters. The Kurds claim to have killed 42 IS fighters near Khazar. The attack on the Turkish base appears to have been the first volley in this attempted IS offensive. It appears that IS has no hope of prevailing in an open battlefield operation such as this given allied air power.

The Pentagon will give more arms and equipment to the peshmerga. I'm not sure about the politics of this as peshmerga forces have already advanced well beyond the borders of the KRG and it is obvious the Baghdad is getting nervous about the U.S.-Kurdish alliance which is independent of the Baghdad government.




Thursday, December 17, 2015

Update for Thursday, December 17, 2015


A new development in the dispute between Ankara and Baghdad over the Turkish troop presence at the Bashiqa training base near Mosul as an IS rocket hits the base, injuring four Turkish soldiers and killing two Iraqis, presumably Kurds. The Turks say they counterattacked, destroying IS targets, and state that this event shows that their presence there is justified.

Meanwhile, an Italian company has won the contract to repair the Mosul dam, and Italy is sending 450 troops to protect the operation. For those who do not know, IS briefly seized the dam as Iraqi forces in the area collapsed, and it was retaken by peshmerga. The dam is considered dangerous because it is built on gypsum which is continually dissolving and undermining the structure. If it were to tail, Baghdad would be inundated.

Peshmerga claim continuing gains in the Sinjar area, while Iraqi forces claim gains near Fallujah. IS does appear to be gradually losing ground in Iraq, but the discord among Baghdad, Irbil, and Ankara (with Tehran and Moscow also in the mix)  is concerning for the ultimate outcome.

In Afghanistan,  a Pentagon report to congress says violence is on the rise and that security is fragile.

Heavy fighting continues in Helmand with reported Taliban gains.

IS launches a radio station in Nangarhar, "Voice of the Caliphate." [Hmm. You'd think that would be easy enough to take out with a drone. -- C]

I'm not quite sure I get the logic of this but a report says USAID development programs in Afghanistan actually increase support for the Taliban in places where there is a Taliban presence. Apparently the Taliban gets credit for them.

Brother of Afghan ambassador to India killed in a mosque in Kandahar while praying.

Navy SEALs are accused of beating a detainee to death in 2012, and their commanders of a cover-up. More broadly, U.S. special forces have tolerated and enabled abuse of civilians by Afghan Local Police, driving people into the arms of the Taliban.






Monday, December 14, 2015

Update for Monday, December 14, 2015


In case you were wondering, no, the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan has not ended, and the deteriorating situation in Helmand province, according to the New York Times, is drawing in the U.S. more deeply.

A Western diplomat said last week that United States Special Operations forces had been engaged in combat in Helmand for weeks, and that there were more American forces fighting there than at any time since President Obama last year announced a formal end to combat operations in Afghanistan. The extent of the American role has been kept largely secret, with senior Afghan officials in the area saying they are under orders not to divulge the level of cooperation, especially by Special Operations forces on the ground.
Right. And exactly who are they keeping the secret from?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Update for Saturday, December 12, 2015


Doctors without borders concludes that the death toll from the U.S. assault on its hospital in Kunduz was at least 42, after an investigation that included looking through the rubble for human remains. They have identified the dead as 14 staff, 24 patients, and four relatives of patients. At the same time, the United Nations Assistance Mission has concluded that the total civilian death toll in the battle for Kunduz was 289. The statement said “The vast majority of these casualties resulted from ground fighting that could not be attributed solely to one party.” The U.S. has yet to release its internal investigation of the hospital attack, and has provided no information about responsible parties or possible disciplinary action. The explanation offered publicly has not seemed credible to many observers, but an independent investigation cannot take place without U.S  and Afghan permission.

Taliban attack a guest house near the Spanish embassy, resulting in a 9-hour siege in which 10 people are killed including 2 Spanish police tasked with embassy protection. Normally U.S. soldiers are housed in the building but apparently that was not the case at the time.

District governor assassinated in Baghlan.

Security forces capture 9 foreign nationals in Jalalabad, one of whom then detonates a suicide vest killing herself, 3 children among the detainees, and an intelligence officer. "Out of respect, the woman was not searched by intelligence staff after her capture." The foreigners are said to speak Russian.

In Iraq, 6 border guards are killed by a suicide bombers at a post on the Saudi border. IS takes responsibility.

The dispute with Turkey continues, with Iraq asking the UN Security Council to intervene to demand that Turkey withdraw its troops from northern Iraq. Turkish president Erdogan continues to insist that Abadi asked for the troops.

“During a visit to Turkey in 2014, [Iraqi PM Haider al-] Abadi demanded [Turkish troops] for training," he said. "After these demands, we set up the Bashiqa camp. They are aware of all of this.”
“They [Turkish troops] are more a training team rather than a combative force,” said Erdogan, adding that the training program was part of the fight against Daesh.
“I believe this [Iraq’s complaint to the UN] is based on Russia and Iran’s moves in the region," he added.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Update for Thursday, December 10, 2015


Omar Al Saleh, in al Jazeera, discusses the row over the Turkish troop presence in Iraq .in the context of Iraq's overall sovereignty. He notes that the complaint by Abadi is somewhat disingenuous given the presence of Iranian and U.S. troops, which do not answer to Iraqi command, and Turkeys long campaign within Iraq against the PKK. The weakness of the Iraqi state is the real story here.

More clarity about the campaign in Ramadi as Iraqi force display a huge haul of weapons captured from IS in the city. There now appear to be only about 300 IS fighters trapped in one part of the city and cut off from reinforcement or resupply. An  additional, and important piece of information, is that some 8,500 Sunni Arab fighters from Anbar participated in the campaign.

[Muhannad Haimour, the spokesman for the Anbar governor's office] said the decision to arm Sunni tribal fighters from Ramadi against ISIS - which claims to be a Sunni group - was a key factor that changed the sluggish pace of the battle. He said: 'They didn't feel like they had enough support from the coalition and the central government, but all of that changed a few months ago.' There are now 8,500 members from Anbar organised, trained, armed and receiving salaries.

KRG president Barzani returns from Turkey and urges Turkey to continue negotiations with its own Kurdish parties to reach an accord.



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Update for Wednesday, December 9, 2015


After apparently trying unsuccessfully to enter Kandhar airport, Taliban seize a nearby residential neighborhood, with fighting resulting in the death of 37 civilians and scores more injuries. Militants are still holed up and fighting continues, with the airport largely closed as a precaution.

In Iraq meanwhile, in a further sign of improving relations between Kurdistan and Turkey, Kurdish president Massoud Barzani is in Ankara for an official visit. At the same time, however, Turkey has bombed PKK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan. Although I can find no immediate comment on this from the KRG, the KRG has previously repudiated the PKK and it is conceivable that this happened with the tacit consent of the KRG.

This essay in Business Insider essentially concurs with my conclusion that the spat between Turkey and Iraq over Turkish forces presence near Mosul is really a surrogate for the Turkish quarrel with Russia. Here's a key excerpt:

Russia has been sharing "security and intelligence" information about the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) with Iraq since September — when Russian, Syrian, and Iranian military advisers began building a coordination cell in Baghdad in an effort to bolster the Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting ISIS in northern Iraq.

With Iran's implicit blessing, Russian president Vladimir Putin has therefore taken on a greater role in Iraq — a role that comes with certain political and military expectations.
Note that this leaves the U.S. on the outside looking in, even as additional U.S. special forces enter Iraq and the U.S. continues the air campaign against IS. I don't normally link to Iranian state news outlets because they are unreliable, but they are reporting that a member of the Iraqi parliament is demanding that the security agreement with the U.S. be cancelled. It doesn't seem likely that Abadi can be best buddies with Iran, Russia, and the U.S. all at the same time, especially if he's allied with Russia in confronting NATO member Turkey. This is a big mess.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Update for Tuesday, December 8, 2015


The row between Turkey and Iraq continues over the presence of Turkish troops near Mosul, where they are supporting Kurdish fighters. Turkey has stopped deploying additional forces to the area but says the 100 or so troops there now will remain. It's hard to sort out what this is really all about but it seems to go back to the hostility between Russia and Turkey. (Russian news services are all over the story, taking the Iraqi side, as here.) Recall that Iran is a main supporter of the Assad regime. Under Shiite government, Iraq is also now allied with Assad, and Russia's intervention on Assad's behalf now draws the three powers closer. Nobody likes IS, but that is not enough to overcome the split over Assad. One more sign that any remaining U.S. influence in Iraq is pretty much done for. (And we still have the billion dollar embassy with the swimming pools.)

Iraq claims major gains in Ramadi and predicts expelling IS from the city "very soon," without giving any specific time frame. It is not clear to what extent this was accomplished by the Iraqi army vs. Shiite militias, or how many Sunni Arab forces are involved.

Amnesty International crashes through an open door to observe that IS has largely armed itself with weapons captured from Iraqi military stockpiles, which AI thinks were excessive, blaming Iraq's international suppliers including the U.S.

In AfghanistanTaliban attack Kandahar airport, apparently with little result. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Update for Monday, December 7, 2015


Here is story with two interesting dimensions. Iraqi PM Abadi has ordered Turkish troops out of Iraq, with the Turks claiming they were there by invitation all along, and all they have done is rotate in a new unit. I'm not sure what this is all about between Abadi and the Turks, but what is most interesting is why the Turkish troops are there. They are in the Mosul area, training and equipping peshmerga. As the linked article says,

The Turkish military recently released details of a training program for Kurdish Peshmerga fighters that it has been operating in Iraq. The army statement came after Friday's deployment of around 150 Turkish troops to replace training forces already in Mosul. Along with the troops, 20 to 25 tanks were also dispatched to the area.

Turkish army sources said Saturday that they had been training fighters in four provinces of northern Iraq with the ultimate aim of fighting Daesh . . .
According to the Turkish military, Peshmerga forces have received training in the use of heavy machine guns, mortars and artillery. They have also received first-aid training.
More than 2,500 Peshmerga fighters, including officers, have participated in the Turkish training program, the military added.
I have said before that there appears to have been a significant rapprochement between Turkey and the KRG, but this is really a dramatic development. It should also put an end to claims that Turkey isn't really interested in fighting IS. On the other hand, Turkey's attitude toward the Kurds in Syria appears to be considerably less friendly.

 Syria has also complained about the Turkish troop presence in Iraq, I'm guessing because they don't want to see a more militarily capable Kurdistan, as well as just having hostile relations with Ankara. However, Damascus is never going to get its Kurdish region back. Again, the regional and global politics of this situation are hugely complex and make confronting IS very difficult.

Are the U.S. troops in Iraq "non-combat"? I'm not sure what that means since they are in a hostile place. Marines in Iraq get new mortars.

Four new M252A2 81mm mortars were fielded to Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines just prior to their deployment to al Asad air base, enabling them to move faster, see farther and better carry out their force protection mission. The Marines arrived there in October as part of the new rotation of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force — Crisis Response — Central Command. They're tasked with protecting the air base in Iraq’s Anbar province as local troops take on the Islamic State group. . . .

Other than one illumination mission required to light up the Iraqi night, they’ve yet to engage enemy forces, but Schafer said they remain prepared. “We do gun drills for about two to three hours every day, just keeping ourselves sharp and getting ready for whatever missions we have coming down,” he said.








Friday, December 4, 2015

Update for Friday, December 4, 2015


U.S. special forces participate in a raid on a Taliban prison in Helmand province which frees 40 members of Afghan security forces. The U.S. announcement gives main credit to Afghan forces and does not specify the role of U.S. forces. However, this is a reminder that U.S. special forces do continue to have a combat role in Afghanistan.

There are unconfirmed reports that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was killed in a factional fight in Pakistan. Regardless of whether this turns out to be true, infighting within the Taliban seems to be growing more intense.

A mortar round fired by the Afghan National Army hits a mosque in Maidan Wardak, killing 14 people.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, this is kind of interesting. Following the U.S. announcement that it will deploy 100 special forces to combat IS in Iraq and Syria, Prime Minister Abadi says he did not request any such "foreign forces" and considers their deployment a "hostile act." (The sentiment evidently does not apply to Iranians.)

The statement, issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, also said that “the Iraqi government completely rejects such action and would deal with the presence of foreign ground troops to Iraq as though their presence were a hostile act and a violation of Iraq's national sovereignty.”
Al-Abadi also said: “The Iraqi government is committed to not allowing ground troops on Iraqi land, and it did not ask any party, neither regional or from the coalition forces, to deploy ground forces in Iraq.”

The PM's sentiments aside, there is a widespread belief among both Sunni and Shiite Iraqis that the U.S. secretly backs IS. "The perception among Iraqis that the United States is somehow in cahoots with the militants it claims to be fighting appears, however, to be widespread across the country’s Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, and it speaks to more than just the troubling legacy of mistrust that has clouded the United States’ relationship with Iraq since the 2003 invasion and the subsequent withdrawal eight years later."

Shiite and Kurdish forces that recapture territory from IS continue to abuse the local Sunni Arab population. This is a basic structural problem in the fight against IS which cannot be fixed unless the Iraqi government wants to fix it, by equipping and empowering Sunni Arab fighters and giving fair treatment to its Sunni Arab population. (I fear it may be too late for that.)