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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update for Thursday, June 22, 2017


In what is widely viewed as a concession of defeat, IS destroys the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul. The historic mosque, from which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself Caliph in 2014, was 850 years old.

UNICEF says that more than 5 million Iraqi children are in urgent need of aid.

More than 5 million children are in urgent need of aid in Iraq, the United Nations said on Thursday, describing the war on Islamic State as "one of the most brutal" in modern history. "Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence," the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement. "They have been killed, injured, abducted and forced to shoot and kill in one of the most brutal wars in recent history." In Mosul, children are being deliberately targeted and killed by Islamic State militants to punish families and deter them from fleeing, it said.
In Afghanistana suicide car bombing at a bank in Laskar Gah kills at least 29 people including troops and government workers who were waiting to collect their pay. TOLO puts the death toll at 34.




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Update for Sunday, June 18, 2017

Afghan soldier opens fire on American troops in Mazar-i-Sharif, injuring 7, before he is shot dead by return fire. (Earlier reports erroneously stated that 4 U.S. troops were dead.) This is the same base where Taliban killed 100 or more Afghan soldiers in a brazen assault in April, also believed to be an inside job.

A U.S. citizen working for the World Bank is abducted in Kabul.

Two Pakistani diplomats are missing in Jalalabad, possibly abducted.

Taliban attack a police HQ in Paktia, killing 5 and injuring 9. The attackers are said to be dead as well.

Update: Ahmed Rashid, in New York Review of Books, tells it like it is. As the U.S. prepares to send yet more troops into America's longest war, there is no possibility of a military solution. Read the whole thing, but I'll give you this:

No matter how many troops Mattis decides to send this summer, it will not rectify the political crisis in Kabul. In the absence of clear engagement with the Afghan government, or demands that Ghani create a more inclusive coalition government and yield some of his powers, more US troops will only make things worse.
Nobody in Washington appears interested in exerting more political pressure on the Kabul regime, Pakistan, and the Taliban to begin negotiations that could lead to a ceasefire and a political agreement. To continue seeing the conflict only through the prism of war and troop numbers as the US does will only lead to continuing erosion of the government’s legitimacy. and loss of territory. Taliban attacks will increase, there will be continued loss of territory, and the government may collapse. This is a recipe for failure.
Is anybody listening?

Iraq

We've heard this before, but this time it seems for real. Last of IS-held territory in Mosul on verge of capture by Iraqi forces as they capture civil defense building, medical school and medical complex, and begin invasion of the Old City. More on the assault here.

I'll keep on top of this and provide updates as information becomes available. For obvious reasons, we aren't getting much specific information about the assault as yet.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Update for Friday, June 16, 2017


Russians claim they killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike but U.S. and Iraqi officials are skeptical. He's been killed several times before.

UN now says 100,000 civilians remain in IS controlled territory in Mosul, under increasingly desperate circumstances. IS snipers shoot at anyone who tries to leave.

Iraqi Shiite militias enter Syria.

Latest map from the Institute for the Study of War shows current territorial control in Iraq. Note that the Mosul region is controlled by Kurdish forces to the east and north, and Shiite militias to the west. The regular Iraqi army occupies only a small corridor between the Mosul dam and the city proper. The Kurdish held territory is largely divided between the KDP and the PUK; they have still not unified the KRG army.

Planning for the Kurdish independence referendum continues. The KRG wants to include people in territory disputed between Arabs and Kurds, specifically Kirkuk. At the same time, negotiations between the KDP and PUK are still ongoing.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Update for Tuesday, June 13, 2017


To lead off, a good overview of the issues of Kurdish secession from AFP. Some key points:

  • Iraqi Kurdistan faces some serious challenges, including an oil-dependent economy at a time of low oil prices, and about 1 million refugees within its borders.
  • While Baghdad might tolerate secession, the question of the border between Kurdistan and Iraq is extremely contentious. (The main problems would be the Kirkuk area, which once had a large Kurdish majority, which Saddam Hussein displaced and moved in Arab residents; Sinjar, and the area east and north of Mosul including ownership of the Mosul dam.)
  • Kurdistan would require strong security guarantees from the U.S. for viability.
  • Kurdistan would also require Turkish forbearance. This might be forthcoming if it wins an end to irredentism among  the Turkish Kurdish population, which the Kurdish Regional Government has been angling for by repudiating the PKK.
Regarding the latter point, I had a long conversation with a Kurdish-American man from Turkey, and he is to say the least not happy about it. He opposes the referendum because he sees it as abandonment of the Turkish Kurds, and notes that the 6 million or so Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan are only a  fraction of the total Kurdish population of 25-35 million. He might accept a state including the Syrian Kurdish region, called Rojava in federation with Iraqi Kurdistan as an adequate Kurdish homeland, but Turkey is unlikely ever to accede to that. We'll see how this ends but I doubt the PKK will go away in the foreseeable future.

Britain opposes the referendum.

Food poisoning strikes the Khazer refugee camp east of Mosul, killing 2 and sickening hundreds. Just a reminder of the burden the KRG bears for refugees.

IS control is reduced to the old city center and "medical city" in Mosul. Still, about 200,000 civilians remain trapped in IS-held territory.

Syrian state TV reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a U.S. airstrike. However, this is an unreliable source (to say the least), and previous reports of his demise have been, as they say, greatly exaggerated. We shall see.

Afghanistan

 U.S. soldiers killed on June 10 are identified as Army Sergeant Eric M. Houck, 25, Sergeant William M. Bays, 29, and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, all of the 101st Airborne based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. CNN provides photographs and capsule biographies of the dead.

Mad Dog says he will propose an Afghanistan strategy to the President "very soon."  There are indications this will include deploying additional troops to the country.

Several Afghan army personnel are sentenced to prison in relation to the disastrous Taliban attack on an army base in Balkh in April. Here is some information from TOLO about the Shaheen 29 army corps.

U.S. troops accused of killing 3 civilians by "indiscriminate fire"  in Nangarhar after an IED attack on their vehicle, in which no U.S. personnel were injured.



















Sunday, June 11, 2017

Update for Sunday, June 11, 2017

A third U.S. soldier has died of his injuries after an attack by an Afghan soldier in Achin, Nangarhar.

The U.S. president has yet to speak with his commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan after five months in office, delegating all responsibility to the SecDef, including setting troop levels. This has caused problems including embarrassing miscommunication with the public. Also:

Another incident, according to Military.com, that saw Trump's approach questioned was when he refused to take any of the blame for the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens. Owens was killed during a botched raid in Yemen on January 29 - along with more than a dozen civilians, including women and children. . . .

In the wake of the death, Bill Owens - the soldier's father - told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with the president and his daughter Ivanka when they both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son. 'I'm sorry, I don't want to see him,' Owens recalled telling the chaplain of Trump. 'I told them I don't want to meet the President.'. . . 'Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why?

'For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. 'Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?' The upset father, who is also a military veteran, shared that he was also troubled by the attack Trump leveled at Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, an American Muslim family whose Army officer son died in Iraq in 2004.
In Iraqairstrike by U.S.-led coalition on a house in Mosul occupied by 20 civilians who are left buried in the rubble. No information on survivors. Witnesses claim numerous civilians casualties recently as the assault on the old city continues.

The UN says that 50-80 civilians died in air strikes on May 31. "Heavy ordnance, such as 227 kilogramme air-delivered bombs, are causing excessive and disproportionate damage to civilian life and property, organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict warned in a report published on Thursday. The groups said the use of such weaponry — and the bombing of densely populated areas where civilians are used as human shields — could amount to war crimes."  The number of civilian casualties attributed to IS is larger.



Saturday, June 10, 2017

Update for Saturday, June 10, 2017

In breaking news, 2 U.S. soldiers reported killed, 2 injured, when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in eastern Afghanistan. I'll have further information once it becomes available.

U.S. air strike kills 3 Afghan border police and injures 2 in Helmand province. U.S. military confirms the "friendly fire" incident. Another report gives a much higher toll of 6 dead and 14 injured.

Shooting at a mosque in Paktia kills 3.

In Iraq, Kurdistan has scheduled a referendum on independence for September, with strong opposition from Baghdad, Turkey and Iran.

Suicide bomber kills at least 31 people in the town of Musayab, south of Baghdad.

Syrian army reaches the Iraq border, threatening clashes with U.S. forces. It has been little noted in the U.S., but U.S. warplanes have already attacked Syrian government forces in the area.

U.S.-led coalition is reported to be using white phosphorus munitions in populated areas of Iraq and Syria.

Many civilian casualties in Mosul as pro-government forces are relying on heavy weapons to dislodge IS from its remaining strongholds. "Heavy ordnance, such as 500-pound air-delivered bombs, are causing excessive and disproportionate damage to civilian life and property, which is prohibited under international humanitarian law, organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Center for Civilians in Conflict warned." Many of the recently recaptured areas of Mosul are rubble.



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Update for Sunday, June 4, 2017


Tack on another mini-Friedman unit in Mosul. Iraqi forces slow effort to retake old city due to the difficulty of protecting civilians.

“We are fighting a very difficult battle,” Iraqi Major General Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri told VOA. “It will take at least another month before we liberate the Old City because IS is using civilians as human shields.” Al-Jubouri said his forces halted their offensive temporarily to open new safe passage routes for civilians fleeing their homes to cross government lines.
IS is shooting people who try to escape. Bodies litter the ground near the front lines. 

Iranian-backed militia takes the town of Baaj near the Syrian border.

Dozens of civilians found in underground prison in western Mosul. The captives appear to be largely from cities in Anbar that were recaptured by Iraqi forces some time ago.

Speaking of which, the city of Fallujah has received little support from the Baghdad government and has depended on international assistance for such rebuilding as it has accomplished.

In  Afghanistan,  continued violence and political chaos following the massive truck bombing on Wednesday. On Friday, police shot dead 5 protesters demanding improved security, and on Saturday attackers killed 20 people at the funeral of a senator's son who was among the dead protesters.

His party, Jamiat-e-Islami, holds an emergency meeting and appears to  hold the government responsible. [This is a largely Tajik Islamist party, which includes Abdullah Abdullah among its adherents. The implication is that this incident reflects the antagonism between Abdullah and president Ghani. In other words the National Unity Government may be in peril. -- C)






Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Update for Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Huge truck bomb explosion in Kabul's diplomatic district kills 80 people and wounds hundreds. The death toll is expected to rise. The explosion happened close to the German embassy, but it is not clear what the intended target was, or if there was a more specific target. No credible claim of responsibility as yet.

There is a report from a Lebanese television station that IS has claimed responsibility, but it is too soon to  evaluate this.

Taliban deny involvement and condemn the attack.

New York Times covers the emergency response and also says Afghan intelligence blames the Haqqani Network, which is a Taliban faction. (It is not clear what their motive would be, however. -- C)

The Turkish embassy was also nearby. Turkey says it will evacuate some diplomatic personnel from the country.

Egyptian embassy also damaged.

Afghan security personnel at the German embassy among the dead.

Bombings in Iraq as well:

 Suicide bomb in Heet (also spelled Hit) kills 17.

Two bombings in Baghdad, one at an ice cream parlor, kill a total of 31. Among the dead was a 12 year old Australian girl who was in the city to visit her grandfather.

Air strikes by Iraqi forces in Mosul continue to kill civilians by the dozens.

This certainly clarifies the situation. Iranian backed Iraqi militia proposes entering Syria to support Assad regime.

So, the U.S. is increasing its arms shipments to allied forces on the Syrian side of the border to block them. What could possibly go wrong?


Monday, May 29, 2017

Update for Monday, May 29, 2017


On Memorial Day, the NYT editorial board contemplates the "Groundhog Day" war in Afghanistan, as the administration contemplates a request from the Pentagon for an additional 5,000 troops. Excerpt:

The United States has spent 16 years fighting the longest war in its history at a cost of more than $800 billion and 2,000 American lives. Where there is still no peace, and where everything seems to be going backward. Where the Taliban has regained the initiative, attacking as it pleases and expanding its territorial reach, and where other extremists — Al Qaeda and the Islamic State — also have a foothold.
There are now about 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan. Military commanders have asked for reinforcements of up to 5,000 more. Just a modest increase, they argue, a “mini” surge of troops. But 5,000 troops would boost the American commitment by roughly 60 percent, a sizable reinvestment in a conflict that President Barack Obama had promised was drawing to a close.
It is not unusual for American military commanders to ask for more troops and weapons in pursuit of victory. But can they make a decisive difference? How can 3,000 or even 5,000 more American troops ensure victory when the United States at one point had a force of nearly 100,000 in Afghanistan and was unable to defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country? And what would victory look like anyway?
Regardless of whether the generals get their 5,000 additional U.S. troops, the White House is pressuring allies including Canada to send troops, and Australia has already modestly increased its contingent, though some are asking "What's the point?"

In IraqPM Abadi is said to expect the battle for Mosul to conclude within a week, after the death or injury of more than 30,000 civilians.

Oil well fire in Kirkuk, apparently result of sabotage.

UN warns of water and food shortages for the 200,000 civilians still trapped in IS held territory in Mosul.

Mad Dog announces "annhilation tactics" against IS, says that civilian casualties are "a fact of life."

Iran-backed militia advances toward the Syrian border.

Poet Archibald MacLeish wrote this for his brother, who died in World War I.

Ambassador Puser the ambassador
Reminds himself in French, felicitous tongue,
What these (young men no longer) lie here for
In rows that once, and somewhere else, were young . . .
All night in Brussels the wind had tugged at my door:
I had heard the wind at my door and the trees strung
Taut, and to me who had never been before
In that country it was a strange wind, blowing
Steadily, stiffening the walls, the floor,
The roof of my room. I had not slept for knowing
He too, dead, was a stranger in that land
And felt beneath the earth in the wind’s flowing
A tightening of roots and would not understand,
Remembering lake winds in Illinois,
That strange wind. I had felt his bones in the sand
Listening.
. . . Reflects that these enjoy
Their country’s gratitude, that deep repose,
That peace no pain can break, no hurt destroy,
That rest, that sleep . . .

At Ghent the wind rose.
There was a smell of rain and a heavy drag
Of wind in the hedges but not as the wind blows
Over fresh water when the waves lag
Foaming and the willows huddle and it will rain:
I felt him waiting.
. . . Indicates the flag
Which (may he say) enisles in Flanders plain
This little field these happy, happy dead
Have made America . . .

In the ripe grain
The wind coiled glistening, darted, fled,
Dragging its heavy body: at Waereghem
The wind coiled in the grass above his head:
Waiting—listening . . .
. . . Dedicates to them
This earth their bones have hallowed, this last gift
A grateful country . . .

Under the dry grass stem
The words are blurred, are thickened, the words sift
Confused by the rasp of the wind, by the thin grating
Of ants under the grass, the minute shift
And tumble of dusty sand separating
From dusty sand. The roots of the grass strain,
Tighten, the earth is rigid, waits—he is waiting—
And suddenly, and all at once, the rain!



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Update for Saturday, May 27, 2017

Linda Bilmes in Common Dreams discusses our forgotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do we largely ignore them, Congress has put the whole thing on the tab.

Yet the nation’s longest and most expensive war is the one that is still going on. In addition to nearly 7,000 troops killed, the 16-year conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost an estimated US$6 trillion due to its prolonged length, rapidly increasing veterans health care and disability costs and interest on war borrowing. On this Memorial Day, we should begin to confront the staggering cost and the challenge of paying for this war. . . .
The high rates of injuries and increased survival rates in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that over half the 2.5 million who served there suffered some degree of disability. Their health care and disability benefits alone will easily cost $1 trillion in coming decades.
But instead of facing up to these huge costs, we have charged them to the national credit card. This means that our children will be forced to pay the bill for the wars started by our generation. Unless we set aside money today, it is likely that young people now fighting in Afghanistan will be shortchanged in the future just when they most need medical care and benefits.

Attack on militia backed by the CIA kills 13 in Khost, Afghanistan. "provincial police chief Faizullah Ghairat said the victims were civilians and members of the elite Khost Provincial Force (KPF) -- known to be paid and equipped by the American CIA. "The bombing took place early morning when KPF members were heading to work," Ghairat told AFP. The KPF, estimated to have around 4,000 fighters, are known to operate a shadow war against the Taliban in a province that borders Pakistan and are accused of torture and extrajudicial killings."

Taliban kill 15 soldiers in attack on army base in Kandahar.


Remember candidates Trump's "secret plan" to defeat IS? Obviously, there wasn't one.

For what I believe is the 17th time (I've lost count) Iraqi forces launch the final assault to complete the capture of Mosul. Will this time be for real? Iranian-backed militia also said to seize two villages.

Toronto Star documents horrific torture perpetrated by U.S.-backed Shiite militia in Iraq.

The images are merciless: Iraqi detainees slung from ceilings by their wrists like rag dolls; a blindfold to hide the next torturous blow, a gag to muffle the screams.
A glance jolts the sickening memory of Abu Ghraib prison, circa 2003, when the United States army and the CIA let their humanity slip away.

Yet here they are again, 14 years later — damning images from the ongoing battle of Mosul that incinerate the fog of war, revealing physical abuse, torture and the murder of Sunni Arab Iraqis perpetrated by a unit of American-trained, coalition-equipped Iraqi commandos on the front lines in the war against Daesh.
Among “trophy” images the soldiers gave to Arkady: a shocking 12-second clip of an execution in which a barefoot suspect tries to flee, arms bound behind him, as two Iraqi officers shoot him in the back, firing nine shots in all; a 20-second clip showing an Iraqi special forces interrogator looming over the lifeless bodies of two Sunni Muslim brothers after a night of torture, snarling, “We crushed them” in revenge for sins against Iraq’s Shiite community.

Oh by the way -- have you seen any reference to this in U.S. media? 
 


Friday, May 26, 2017

Update for Friday, May 26, 2017

Sorry I haven't posted for a while. The U.S. and Iraqi military have been claiming almost every day that the battle for Mosul is nearly over -- predicting maybe two or three more weeks of fighting, which  has become a kind of mini-Friedman unit. So here is what appears to be the true state of affairs.

France, as well as the U.S., is supporting the Iraqi forces with troops on the ground. This French TV program sent reporter to Mosul. They summarize the situation:

[T]he battle is extremely difficult. The fanatics are putting up stiff resistance in Mosul’s criss-crossing of narrow streets, which are conducive to urban warfare and difficult for armoured vehicles to enter. . . .

As our team was able to witness on the ground, the battle to retake Mosul is progressing, but it is laborious - even chaotic. Soldiers are killed by friendly fire, the flow of refugees shows no sign of easing up, and the fate of prisoners is unknown - while reports are circulating of torture, rape and summary executions as many Iraqi soldiers are filled with revenge.
Additional allegations of abuse of civilians by Iraqi forces.

Rod Norland for the NYT find U.S. military leaders are no longer making predictions.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Col. Ryan S. Dillon, the American coalition spokesman for Iraq and Syria, would not predict a timeline for the Iraqi military, supported by American advisers and air power, to finally oust the extremists. “I am confident they will retake Mosul,” he said. “This is inevitable. It will happen.” . . .Colonel Dillon declined to predict whether the Iraqis would retake the city within a year of the start of their offensive.

Pentagon issues report on U.S. air strike in March that killed more than 100 civilians. They claim that IS had placed explosives in the building which caused most of the damage; and that neither U.S. nor Iraqi forces knew that there were civilians present.

U.S. service member dies in Syria in vehicle rollover.

Foreign Policy reports that U.S. coaliation allies do not publicly admit to civilians casualties.

The United States’ coalition partners in the war against the Islamic State are responsible for at least 80 confirmed civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. military officials. Yet none of their 12 allies will publicly concede any role in those casualties. These dozen partner nations have launched more than 4,000 airstrikes combined, the vast majority of which were undertaken by the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. However, they have so far claimed a perfect record in avoiding civilian casualties. An Airwars investigation for Foreign Policy has now uncovered evidence that disproves that assertion.

U.S. lost track of $1 billion worth of arms and equpiment in Iraq, which may have ended up in hands of IS.

I will try to post more regularly in the days ahead.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Update for Tuesday, May 9, 2017


When you're in a hole . . . U.S. military leaders will ask for an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. "The new military strategy would also give the Pentagon, not the White House, the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan. It would also give the military more authority to use airstrikes against the Taliban, and lift Obama-era restrictions that limited the mobility of US military advisers on the ground."

Paul Szoldra does not think this is a good idea.

Sending in 3,000 more troops, as the Trump administration is reportedly debating, will do little, especially when the 100,000 boots on the ground during Obama’s “surge” didn’t result in “winning.” . . .
The US military can train a complete civilian off the street and turn them into a highly-capable soldier or Marine over a period of about three months. But we still can’t claim Afghan security forces are a “strong, sustainable force” after training them for 15 years.


Heavy fighting reported near Kunduz city.




Monday, May 8, 2017

Update for Monday, May 8, 2017

A border skirmish between Pakistani and Afghan forces on Friday resulted in the death of 50 Afghan soldiers, according to the Pakistani military. Afghan sources deny that, saying there were only two military and one civilian death. The conflict erupted as Pakistan took a census in villages that are apparently in disputed territory.

The U.S. military says it has confirmed that Abdul Hasib, commander of IS in Afghanistan, was killed in the raid in Nangarhar in which two U.S. soldiers died. Hasib was successor to Hafiz Saeed Khan, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike last year. However, some commentators argue that killing senior leadership of the group has little effect.

A provincial official is assassinated in Kandarhar.

Taliban take control of a district in Kunduz, Afghan forces are counterattacking in an attempt to reclaim the territory.

Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar comes in from the cold and signs a peace accord with the government. The linked essay speculates that the U.S. viewed him as a potential asset and so refrained from droning him. He also has ties with the Pakistan ISI.

Iraq

It gets little attention, but many U.S. mercenaries are working for the Iraqi government.

Iraq's interior minister was once accused of providing weapons to Shiite militias attacking U.S. troops and involvement with the Iranian al Quds militia. He was imprisoned by the U.S. for nearly two years.

IS attacks a Kurdish base where U.S. advisers are stationed, but the attack is thwarted by peshmerga.

Civilians fleeing Mosul continue to tell horrific tales:

Iraqi officials say they hope to liberate the city completely within three weeks. But civilians fleeing on Friday report that the renewed push has been accompanied by mounting civilian deaths. "My uncle died yesterday," said Mrs Ibrahim. "His house collapsed in a strike." The housewife had fled her own home earlier that day with her husband and their two young children and new-born baby.

Life under Isil had grown increasingly difficult in recent months, she said, but it was only when soldiers approached that they deemed it safe enough to flee. When she gave birth at home two weeks ago, there was no doctor available to assist the delivery or prescribe medicine when her baby became ill. "Look, my baby's face is blue," she said.
The family hoped to receive medical care but no medics were immediately available at the muster point, which was being managed by the Iraqi army. Over 1500 civilians arrived at the site on Friday and there were chaotic scenes as soldiers distributed food from the back of trucks.

As civilians scrambled among rain-soaked cardboard boxes for cans of food and bottles of fruit drink, many reported it was their first food other than bread that they had eaten in weeks.

The slow advance into Mosul continues, with troops hoping to open more escape routes for civilians.

Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, of Falmouth, Maine, is killed in action in Somalia. (The SEALs are now officially called "special warfare operators.")

Monday, May 1, 2017

Update for Monday, May 1, 2017

U.S. soldier killed by IED near Mosul on Saturday is identified as army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee, 25, of Bluffton, Georgia. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi says the humanitarian situation in Mosul is catastrophic. He cites famine among the hundreds of thousands who remain in the city.

The Pentagon says U.S. air strikes have killed at least 352 civilians during Operation Inherent Resolve. Others say the total is much higher, by an order of magnitude.

Here's an analysis of the problem of civilian casualties from an AP reporter.

Iraqi army chief of staff Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi expects the battle for Mosul to be over before the end of May. However, we have heard some overly optimistic projections in the past.




Read more here: http://www.macon.com/news/local/article147764159.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Update for Thursday, April 27,2017

Two U.S. service members killed, 1 injured in Achin province, Afghanistan. This is the same area where the U.S. has been engaged with IS fighters, where the GBU-34 bomb was dropped earlier this month. Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar was killed in action in the same area April 8.

Update:  U.S. troops killed in action are identified as army rangers Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Illinois, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio — both assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, Georgia.  The operation was attempting to capture an IS-K leader. He was not captured but it is unknown whether he was killed.

The UN reports a 54% increase in war-related deaths of Afghan women in  the first quarter of this year compared with last year, and a 17% rise in child deaths. Most resulted from ground fighting. The majority are blamed on the Taliban but there has also been an increase in civilian casualties resulting from aerial operations. Nevertheless, the total number of civilian casualties has declined slightyl due to people fleeing areas of fighting.

Increasing numbers of children are suffering from malnutrition in Kandahar province.

The Afghan government has still not released a definitive casualty total from the April 21 attack  on the army base at Mazar-e-Sharif. Tolo News has reported that a total of 256 soldiers died, and the number may be higher. The defense minister and army chief of staff resigned  on Monday because of the incident. The Ministry of Defense has announced that "at least" 135 were killed but apparently this is not considered a credible total. Members of parliament call for the prosecution of responsible officials.

Authorities have detained 35 soldiers from the base under suspicion that they may have provided inside help to the attackers.





Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Update for Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NYT's Michael Gordon goes to the front lines in Mosul, ducks fire as he gives  close-up view of the fighting.

A commenter asked how to find casualty reports. Go here, it's searchable by name.

Turkish air strikes on PKK positions in Shingal accidentally kill peshmerga, leading to protests by Kurdistan. Turkish air strikes on PKK have previously been confined to the border region, and tolerated by the Kurdish Regional Government, as well as the Baghdad government and U.S. However, the KRG decries the presence of the PKK in the area and calls on them to leave.

Adult men fleeing Mosul are detained and interrogated. Human rights activists say that some accusations are unwarranted.

An oil pipeline is blown up in Kirkuk.

Residents of the refugee camp near Qayyarah continue to suffer from nearby oil fires.










Saturday, April 22, 2017

Update for Saturday, April 22, 2017

Some 24 hours after attack on Afghan National Army’s 209 Shaheen Corps Headquarters in Balkh, the Afghan government has yet to provide information. Reported casualty counts range from 135 to 180 dead, with some saying the number could be higher.

It appears the attack was perpetrated by only about 10 Taliban fighters dressed in Afghan army uniforms, who attacked soldiers who were unarmed during prayer and lunch. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says four of the attackers were infiltrators who had been army members for some time. This has not been confirmed.

We will provide an update once we know more.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Update for Friday, April 21, 2017


This is a complicated story, an iceberg of which we can only see the tip -- but it's still revealing.

Here's al Jazeera with the bare facts. A Qatari hunting party was abducted by an armed group in southern Iraq in December 2015. They weren't heard from until today when they were released and handed over to the Qatar embassy in Baghdad. Somehow the negotiations for their release involved a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate formerly named Jabhat al-Nusra, now called Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Iranian-backed militia that had kidnapped them. The deal is part of  a larger deal involving a population exchange in Syria in which Alawite and Sunni communities are being moved from besieged areas.

Tim Arango in the New York Times has additional details, including naming the abductors as Kita’ib Hezbollah, and stating that Qatar paid them millions of dollars in ransom. He describes the population exchange:

The Iraqi Shiite official said the release of the Qatari prisoners was linked to the safe evacuation — and delivery of humanitarian aid — of residents of two Shiite villages in Idlib Province, Fouaa and Kfarya, that have been under government control but besieged by Sunni Islamist rebel groups backed by Turkey and Qatar.

As part of the Syrian deal, which was negotiated separately before the fate of the hostages became entwined with the talks, residents of two predominantly Sunni villages, Madaya and Zabadani, that have been held by rebels but besieged by forces loyal to the Syrian government, including Hezbollah, are to be bused to safety. Many of them, about 2,000 people, have already been evacuated from Madaya.
Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi is not happy about this insult to Iraqi sovereignty. On the other hand, he has no choice but to put up with it because he is dependent on the Shiite militias in the battle with IS. In Syria, this is a step toward what is likely to be the de facto breakup of the country, as the precedent is established that the solution to the conflict is sectarian cleansing.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to provide military aid to the peshmerga, and bombing Islamic state positions in Syria and Iraq, with attendant civilian casualties. Danny Sjursen in TomDispatch wargames it for you, assuming that what you want to do is lose. Excerpt:

 As a start, you would drop an enlarged, conventional army into Iraq and/or Syria. This would offer a giant red, white, and blue target for all those angry, young radicalized men just dying (pardon the pun) to extinguish some new “crusader” force.  It would serve as an effective religious-nationalist rallying cry (and target) throughout the region.

Then you would create a news-magnet of a ban (or at least the appearance of one) on immigrants and visitors of every sort from predominantly Muslim countries coming to the United States.  It’s hardly an accident that ISIS has taken to calling the president’s proposed executive order to do just that “the blessed ban” and praising Donald Trump as the “best caller to Islam.”  Such actions only confirm the extremist narrative: that Muslims are unwelcome in and incompatible with the West, that liberal plurality is a neo-imperial scam.

Finally, you would feed the common perception in the region that Washington’s support for Israel and assorted Arab autocrats is unconditional.  To do so, you would go out of your way to hold fawning public meetings with military strongmen like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and suggest that, when it came to Israel, you were considering changing American policy when it comes to a two-state solution and the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.  Such policies would feed another ISIS narrative: U.S. support for illiberal despots and the failure of the Arab Spring is proof that practicing Muslims and peaceful Islamists will never successfully gain power through the democratic process.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Update for Friday, April 14, 2017

Mother of all BS department.

General Daulat Waziri, of the Afghanistan Ministry of Defence, said 36 IS fighters were killed by the U.S. attack in a remote area of Nangarhar using the GBU-43B, or massive ordnance air blast weapon,  which contains 11 tons of high explosives. (It is not clear how an Afghan general knows the death toll from this event.)

U.S. General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, calls the targeted militants "animals." They are said to belong to the so-called ISIS-K, or Khorasan group, which is a provincial organization using the IS brand in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Peter Beaumont, in The Guardian, notes that using the $16 million device to kill 36 people (or animals) amounts to $450,000 per individual. Note that these were lightly armed guerillas.

Although there are no reports of non-combatant deaths from the attack, civilian property was damaged.

Some observers, however, questioned the necessity of deploying a weapon of that scale against a group whose estimated 600 to 800 fighters pose only a limited threat to the Afghan state. “There is no doubt that Isis are brutal and that they have committed atrocities against our people. But I don’t see why the bomb was dropped,” said the mayor of Achin, Naweed Shinwari. “It terrorised our people. My relatives thought the end of the world had come. Every day fighter jets, helicopters and drones are in the area.”

The US had sustained an air campaign to eradicate Isis in eastern Afghanistan for more than a year, and according to Borhan Osman, an Isis expert with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, it had already been effective. “Isis was on the brink of losing their stronghold. It didn’t seem like there was a need for such a dramatic military measure,” he said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has declined an invitation to talks in Moscow to facilitate the peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.





Sunday, April 9, 2017

Update for Sunday, April 9, 2017

A U.S. soldier is killed in action in Nangarhar in an operation against the so-called Khorasan group. No further information as of now.

In what appears to be the same operation, local officials claim that 25 militants were killed in air strikes and ground operations. The majority of the dead are said to have been foreigners. No information is given on government casualties.

Twelve Taliban are said to be killed by a "foreign troops" drone strike in Kunduz. (Presumably that means U.S.)

Nine Afghan soldiers killed by IED in Balkh, four others are killed in an ambush as they more to relieve a besieged district headquarters in Jawzjan province.

Iraq/Syria

Muqtada al-Sadr calls for Bashar al Assad to resign, for the good of Syria, and for the U.S. and "all external forces" to withdraw. This seems to represent a sharp break with Iran.

Real estate heir Jared Kushner's recent trip to Iraq draws widespread ridicule.

IS is said to have killed dozens of civilians attempting to flee Mosul in recent days.




Thursday, April 6, 2017

Update for Thursday, April 6,2017

IS shoots down an Iraqi helicopter over Mosul, killing 2 crew members.

Currently 260,000 civilians are displaced from western Mosul, and the government expects another 150,000 refugees as the battle for the city continues. Accounts of the total number displaced from the city vary, but are as high as 430,000.

The town of Hamdaniya, between Mosul and Irbil, remains nearly deserted  after IS was driven out, pointing to the immense task of reconstruction. The fighting left the town without water or electricity, and much of it is rubble.

Kurdistan's two main political parties have agreed to hold a referendum on independence this year.

As Iraqi forces battle to retake Mosul, IS remains in control of Hawija, where it has executed civilians accused of collaboration.

Civilian death toll from U.S. airstrike on March 17 is now estimated at 300, as 278 bodies have been recovered but more remain buried beneath the rubble.

Reuters reporters describe the harrowing journey from Mosul to refugee camps. The particular camp from which they report has sufficient resources, but people are of course hoping to return home.

IS suicide attackers disguised as police kill 31 people in Tikrit on Wednesday.

Kurdish delegation to Baghdad meets with offiicals to discuss the independence referendum and their refusal to stop flying the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk.

Bomb attack in Baghdad kills 31.

Kurdistan hospitals are overwhelmed by refugees.

Son-in-law of U.S. president visits Irbil. The heir to a real estate fortune, with no foreign policy credentials or experience, is also charged with negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine, U.S. relations with China and Mexico, and reinventing U.S. government according to business principles. Good luck to him.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Update for Saturday, April 1, 2017

A reader sent in this article by an Australian soldier about the loss of Uruzgan to the Taliban. Australian troops, who were mostly deployed to the province, left Afghanistan in 2013. Excerpt:

My home was a remote outpost in a farming valley where a handful of Australian and Afghan soldiers lived, worked and fought the Taliban together. Despite the hardships and numerous casualties, we achieved some modest successes. . . .

But any sense of accomplishment was tempered by the knowledge that Australia would soon be withdrawing from the base, leaving the Afghans to provide security on their own. I was not optimistic about their chances. These concerns are now justified.

Taliban fighters overran the outpost last October and dozens of Afghan soldiers defending it reportedly defected. A video published on the Taliban’s news website, Al Emarah, shows soldiers surrendering the base and handing over weapons and armoured vehicles. Nearby bases fell in a similar manner and the Taliban now control the valley. Despite years of commitment and the loss of at least eight soldiers, Australian forces left little lasting impact.
We are suddenly hearing somewhat mysterious noises from U.S. officials about the Russian role in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense James Mattis  says "we have seen Russian activity vis a vis the Taliban," although he does not go so far as to say Russia is providing them with any material support and he does not explain what he means. The Russian ambassador to NATO says that Russia communicates with the Taliban, in cooperation with the Afghan government, as do many nations, in an effort to promote reconciliation, but denies providing them with any aid.

Indeed, Moscow has scheduled a multinational meeting on Afghanistan for April 14 but the U.S. has declined to take part.

An investigation by SIGAR finds that U.S. AID-funded schools in Balkh have greatly overstated their enrollment.

IRAQ

Well, it's happening. The UN will oversee a referendum on Kurdish independence, according to the Secretary General of the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party. [He may be jumping the gun on this, but with or without international support I expect the referendum will happen. -- C]

Iraqi jets bomb IS positions in Baaj, a remote town near the Syrian border. Iraq claims the militants had crossed over from Syria.

An Iraqi journalist who criticized government corruption dies in a house fire, and many wonder if it was really an accident.

Canadian special forces are participating in the battle for Mosul. The Canadian mission in Iraq has been extended at least until June.

The U.S. will no longer tell its own citizens how many troops are in Iraq and Syria. [Democracy dies in the dark. -- C]






Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Update for Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ivor Prickett for the NYT reports from Mosul on the desperate circumstances of civilians, with photographs. There are no safe routes for people to flee but they flee anyway, amid constant explosions and shortages of food and water.

Lt. General Stephen Townsend acknowledges that the U.S. "probably had a role" in the March 17 deaths of more than 100 civilians in an explosion al-Jadida, but is investigating to determine exactly what happened. There are accounts that IS fighters herded civilians into the buildings, and placed snipers on the roofs. It is possible that Iraqi soldiers who called in the strike were unaware of the presence of the civilians.

The U.S. denies it has changed the rules of engagement for these strikes. However, this may be a semantic quibble. It appears that authorization has been delegated to forces in the field and approval is now given more quickly.

Amnesty International says the U.S. is not taking sufficient precautions to protect civilians.

Coalition forces are dropping more than 500 bombs a week on the city.

As Iraqi forces advance toward the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, U.S. helicopter gunships are strafing IS positions in the city.

Kirkuk Provincial Council votes to raise the flag of Kurdistan over government buildings alongside the Iraqi flag, as Arabs and Turkmen protest and the Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi also objects. (Kirkuk was historically an ethnically diverse though predominantly Kurdish city. Saddam Hussein expelled Kurds and settled Arabs in the area, although it is believed that Kurds remained in the majority. The city and its environs are now disputed territory between Erbil and Baghdad.)




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Update for Sunday, March 26, 2017


As Iraqi forces recapture more of western Mosul, past incidents of civilian deaths in airstrikes are revealed. Here, al Jazeera reports on a neighborhood where three air strikes killed at least 37 civilians on January 11. The target, a single IS leader, escaped.

Another air strike on March 17 may have killed 200 civilians. (Watch out for autoplay video in this link.) U.S. military acknowledges it did carry out strikes in that area on that date.

IS shelling also kills civilians.

Air strikes targeting IS leaders continue.

Iraq pauses offensive over concern for civilian casualties.

With little public notice, U.S. has deployed an additional 500 troops to Syria.

New York Times calls on Congress to reclaim its constitutional power over war and peace and to pass legislation authorizing, and presumably limiting, the war against IS.

More than just a political endorsement of the troops, however, a new authorization of force could make Congress seriously debate how the rest of the war against ISIS will be fought, and to consider a crucial decision the administration must make soon on whether to arm Syrian Kurds for the Raqqa fight and risk alienating Turkey, a NATO ally.
Congressional inaction may invite an even bigger problem. The Trump administration intends to bring future ISIS detainees to the Guantánamo Bay prison. Once that happens, as the former Bush administration lawyer Jack Goldsmith wrote on the Lawfare blog, court challenges could lead to findings that the war against ISIS is unlawful.





Thursday, March 23, 2017

Update for Thursday, March 23, 2017

UN High Commissioner for Refugees say 400,000 civilians are trapped in Mosul, facing food shortages and growing panic. Some 157,00 have managed to flee, and about 10,000 per day are currently escaping. The UN fears a sudden outflow for which relief agencies are not prepared.

Doctors Without Borders says medical resources for those fleeing are critically inadequate. Many have bullet wounds and blast injuries.


"The need for emergency medical care has risen drastically," said Dr. Isabelle Defourny, MSF director of operations. "We have teams working around the clock treating men, women and children injured by bullets, blasts and shells. Other life-threatening emergencies also need a rapid medical response, such as for pregnant women in need of a C-section."
MSF medical teams in a field trauma hospital, set up when the new push in western Mosul began, have received more than 915 patients, according to the statement. Of those, 763 suffered war-related trauma, 190 of whom needed urgent lifesaving surgery.
More than half of the wounded were women or children under the age of 15, it said.

An emergency field hospital 15 miles east of the city is filled with child victims.

Iraqi forces continue to make slow territorial gains.

Air strikes by U.S. coalition forces in support of the Iraqi offensive are said to have killed dozens of civilians. "The bombardment began at 01:00 and continued for four hours, ending at around 05:00 local time, with local sources confirming that no less than 50 civilians were killed, most of them women and children. Dozens more were wounded by the strikes."

Afghanistan

 Taliban capture the city of Sangin, Helmand, where 114 British troops died before handing it over to Afghan security forces.

One third of Afghan children are out of school as violence and corruption degrade the educational system.

A police officer kills 9 of his fellow officers in Kunduz, and flees with weapons.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Update for Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ishaan Taroor in WaPo discusses the current state of affairs in Iraq, and the new administration's conflicting and unclear policy intentions, in the context of PM Abadi's visit. The visit was overshadowed by FBI Director Comey's appearance on Capitol Hill -- just one more sign that the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are largely forgotten in the U.S.

Andrew Bacevich, in TomDispatch, discusses the vast U.S. Centcom operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere; and the obliviousness of commander Gen. Joseph Votel. TL;DR

Meanwhile, the grinding battle for Mosul continues with the Iraqi army's efforts to evacuate civilians hampered by sniper fire.  Reuters also reports that Abadi claims to have won assurances of increased U.S. support, although it is not clear precisely what that means.

Car bombs are still exploding in Baghdad, with the latest killing 23 people.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Update for Sunday, March 19, 2017

Afghanistan

 Three U.S. soldiers wounded by an Afghan soldier at a base in Helmand. No further details as of now.

Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce says Pakistan has lost $3 billion in exports due to the Torkham border crossing. While they give no basis for the calculation certainly the action is costly.

Hundreds of schools around the country are closed due to security concerns. Bhaktar puts the count at over 1,000.

Iraq

 Civilian toll of death and wounded in battle for west Mosul now more than 750.

Civilians continue to flee. More  than 100,00 displaced since start of assault on west Mosul, more than 225,000 altogether since Mosul battle began.

The anniversary is being largely ignored here in the U.S., but 24 years ago today George W. Bush announced the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, saying “Helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.” No comment.

Reuters reports on slow progress by Iraqi forces seizing territory in Mosul. They are close to the symbolically important al-Nuri Mosque. Commanders claim IS forces are weakening.




Monday, March 13, 2017

Update for Monday, March 13, 2017

Today I want to offer some analysis and perspective. First, in a lengthy essay that I hope you'll take the time to read, Nafeez Ahmed discusses the Iraqi catastrophe as the intersection of oppression of the Sunni majority by the U.S. supported government following the 2003 invasion; U.S. counterinsurgency strategy that effectively fueled the Sunni-Shiite conflict and fomented Sunni extremism; climate change which is destroying the agricultural potential of Syria and Iraq and creating social and political instability in the process; and the depletion of the region's fossil fuel reserves. Eliminating IS control of territory will just mean moving on to the next stage of chaos.

At the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, Charlie Winter has been tracking the evolution of IS propaganda as it suffers defeat.

Middle East Eye provides a detailed update no the battle for Mosul, where Iraqi forces continue to make slow progress against determined resistance.

The city is now fully besieged and there is no escape route for IS fighters.

Civilians continue to flee the city but hundreds of thousands remain trapped.

Shia militia uncovers a mass grave of some 600 civilians who were massacred in 2014 when IS seized control of a prison and took all of the Shiite inmates into the desert to murder them. A total of 1,500 are believed to have been killed in the incident.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Update for Thursday, March 9, 2017

Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials say IS leader Baghdadi has left Mosul and is hiding in the desert, although they offer no direct evidence for this.

Suicide bomb attack on a wedding near Tikrit kills 26. While there is as yet no claim of responsibility, the wedding party consisted of displaced people from an Anbar tribe which has opposed IS.

Tom Westcott for IRIN describes the plight of civilians fleeing Mosul.

Unveiling of British memorial for Iraq and Afghanistan dead provokes fury over Tony Blair's presence. [I wonder what will happen if GW Bush attends such an event in the U.S.? Actually I expect it will be a very long time before we see any official memorial.-- C]

Afghanistan 
 
Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel testifies before Senate Armed Services Committee saying he believes more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan to break the "stalemate."

Border crossings with Pakistan are again closed, indefinitely.

Death toll in attack on Kabul hospital now stands at more than 40. IS claim of responsibility is doubted.



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Update for Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Three attackers dressed as physicians attack a military hospital in Kabul, killing 30 and injuring 50 before the assailants were killed by ANA commandos. Apparently a suicide bomber first blew open a gate allowing the other attackers to enter. The hospital is in a secure, gated area of the capital. Another version has four attackers entering the hospital, two of them wearing suicide vests. IS claimed responsibility.

The Pakistan - Afghanistan border was closed for several days at Torkham and Chaman after Pakistan claimed that a bombing in Sehwan that killed 80 people originated in Afghanistan. It has been temporarily reopened to allow stranded people to pass. [That's rich since Pakistan openly harbors the Afghan Taliban. -- C]

IRAQ

The assault on Mosul seems to be proceeding as planned, with Iraqi forces gaining control of the main government complex in the city along with the central bank and museum. However, the buildings were not currently in use by IS.

Iraqi forces also claim control of some additional residential areas in the city.

However, resistance continues and Iraqi forces are facing counterattacks.

Civilians describe huddling in their homes amid the fighting. A photo album from SBS shows the destruction and displaced civilians, of whom there are now about 40,000.

At the same time, thousands of previously displaced people are returning to eastern Mosul, but hundreds of thousands are still displaced.

PM Abadi will visit the White House this month, now that the U.S. administration has removed Iraq from its travel ban.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Update for Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The assault on western Mosul has been progressing, apparently according to plan. The Iraqi army says it now controls all major roads out of Mosul including the road to Tal Afar, effectively isolating the city. Twenty six thousand civilians are said to have fled since the operation began, but hundreds of thousands remain. Snipe fire is a hazard to people fleeing.

There are reports, of uncertain credibility, that IS leaders have fled the city and even that IS leader Baghdadi has conceded defeat. Here is more on the purported message calling on fighters to flee Mosul. However, as of now, fierce resistance continues.

Iraqi forces take Badush prison, the site of a massacre of Shiites by IS in 2014. Iraqi forces also capture additional villages on the western outskirts of the city, and are within a kilometer of the main government complex, having captured the southernmost bridge over the Tigris. However, local repors say that IS fighters remain entrenched and that Iraqi forces were able to advance only after days of artillery and aerial bombardment.

Iraqi military reiterates that foreign partners, including U.S. forces, are not taking part in ground combat. However, there are reports that U.S. forces are very close to the front lines.






Thursday, February 23, 2017

Update for Thursday, February 23, 2017

Iraqi forces have captured the Mosul airport, although some sources are suggesting that parts of the complex are not yet under government control. KUNA says that half the airport has been captured, along with portions of a nearby military base. (Note that the government commonly makes premature claims of complete control of territory. Many reports are saying the government has control of the entire airport but as of now I am skeptical. -- C)

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dunford says the military is preparing to present the president with a plan to defeat IS of "global scope". No specifics are available as of now.

The Pentagon acknowledges that U.S. troops have come under fire in the battle for Mosul and that some have been wounded and evacuated, but declines to say how many. (This has gotten so little publicity in the U.S. that I had to track it down from RT, which I normally stay away from. -- C)

UNHCR reports on progress toward accommodating civilians displaced from the Mosul battle. They are still well short of anticipated need, even as conditions in IS held territory grow increasingly desperate.

There are shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine. Half of all food shops have closed and most people can only access untreated water. Food prices are rocketing and there are reports of families burning furniture, clothing and plastic to stay warm. Conditions will deteriorate if civilians are not able to flee the fighting.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Update for Sunday, February 19, 2017

Iraqi PM Abadi announces start of offensive to recapture western Mosul. Iraqi federal police are attacking from the south, attempting to capture the airport. Planes dropped millions of leaflets on the city announcing the offensive and calling on Jihadis to surrender.

They claim to have taken several villages to the south and west of the city.

People in areas retaken from IS are purging every remaining vestige of their presence, including destroying the homes of IS members and digging up their graves.

A British general predicts the fight for Mosul will take 3 months.

An Iraqi human rights organization says that people in western Mosul are starving and that they know of 25 children who starved to death in January.




Thursday, February 16, 2017

Update for Thursday, February 16, 2017

Car bomb attack on a used car market in Baghdad kills dozens. The linked report gives the death toll as 48, but reported casualty totals, as usual, have tended to rise over time. IS claims credit. This is the third car bomb attack in Baghdad in as many days, but by far the most deadly.

More than 46,000 people have returned to eastern Mosul, despite continuing attacks from IS by mortars and drones launched from areas still under IS control. (Apparently mostly meaning across the river.) However, due to the security situation the UN has temporarily suspended aid to government-held parts of the city. Rations for displaced people still in camps have also been cut due to a lack of international donations.

Iraqi government claims to have killed several IS leaders near Mosul in an air strike. However, other accounts attribute the action to the U.S.-led coalition.

Human Rights Watch accuses government-allied militias of destroying homes  and looting in villages bear Mosul.

In other news (sigh) the U.S. may enter ground combat in Syria, although the Pentagon has not presented as formal proposal as yet.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update for Saturday, February 11, 2017

AFGHANISTAN

 Two U.S. soldiers are injured in a firefight in Helmand. An airstrike called in to support the action may have killed up to 25 civilians, according to local officials. One of the U.S. soldiers suffered a gunshot wound and has been transported out of the country. The other was lightly wounded by shrapnel and has returned to duty.

Suicide attack on an Afghan army vehicle in Lashkar Gah kills several soldiers and injures 15 people. Reported death totals vary, from 3 to 8. Seven is the most commonly cited number.

Gunmen kill a "counterterrorism officer" and his bodyguard in Badakhshan.

IRAQ

Sadrist rally in the capital results in deadly clashes between protesters and police. One police officer and four protesters are reported killed, as police fire tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. 

Suicide bombings, 1 in Mosul and 2 in Baghdad, kill 10 and injure 33. Other reports give higher casualty totals. Note that if this happened in a European country or the U.S., it would be a huge story. It is completely ignored by U.S. media.

U.S. drone attack targets IS operative Rachid Kassim near Mosul. Results are unknown.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Update for Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Afghanistan

Six Red Cross staffers are killed and 2 missing in Jowzjan , which has been affected by heavy snowfall. Provincial police chief Rahmatullah Turkistani attributes the attack to IS (DAESH). A Red Cross spokesperson says it is too early to say how the incident will affect operations.

IS claims responsibility for a suicide bomb attack Tuesday on the Supreme Court which killed 21 people and injured 41. This direct attack against the state is a new development for IS. The Taliban have been responsible for previous attacks on the court system.

Suicide bomber in Paktia kills two civilians in a failed attack on a police station.