Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Insert your own Irish-related drinking joke here.
Posts Tagged ‘Mosul’
Here’s a video of French Special Forces operating against the Islamic State, including some mopping up operations in Mosul:
A few points of interest:
The twists and turns of the election, Hillary’s corruption, liberal derangement over Trump’s triumph, etc. have pushed a lot of other news stories onto the back-burner.
One of the big ones being: What the hell is happening in the war against the Islamic State?
It looks like I’m not the only one to have taken my eye off the ball. Back when Bush was President, there was heavy mainstream media reporting on conflicts in the Middle East. But ever since Obama’s Iraq pullout engendered the rise of the Islamic State, American reporting on the conflict has been (at best) sporadic.
Which is why I was surprised to see reports that Kurdish-led fighters were closing in on the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa:
As the Mosul offensive drags into its second month, another fight is raging 450km to the west around Islamic State’s de facto capital at Raqqa, on the Euphrates River in northern Syria. The battle is already a tragedy for Raqqa’s 320,000 civilians, who’ve suffered under brutal Islamic State occupation for more than three years. Many have fled, with thousands crowding into already overflowing refugee camps since the latest fighting began, and others fleeing across the hills towards the Iraqi border even as night-time temperatures plunge below freezing. Their lives, like those of families still in the city, are about to get even harder.
The battle for Raqqa will shape the Syrian war throughout the coming year. Though smaller than the vast offensive around Mosul, it will be even more significant. It may decide the fate of Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and will set the tone for the incoming Trump administration’s dealings with Turkey and Russia, two critical relationships that will drive events in the region and beyond.
During a visit to the Middle East last week, I spoke to Syrian, Kurdish, Iraqi and American leaders involved in the campaign. They told me that while the military offensive is progressing about as well as anyone expected, the politics are proving characteristically complex.
The troops fighting Islamic State in Raqqa come from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel coalition backed by the US, among other countries. SDF units have received a stream of weapons, training and advisers since last year. Supported by coalition airstrikes, they attacked Raqqa early last month, timing the offensive (known as Operation Euphrates Wrath) to coincide with the Mosul assault, to stop Islamic State shifting reinforcements between fronts.
The SDF has achieved considerable battlefield success. In the past month it has cleared 600sq km of rural terrain in Raqqa province, recapturing 45 villages and expelling hundreds of Islamic State fighters. Many recovered settlements are ruined, however, their populations massacred or driven off by Islamic State, or bombed out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in previous fighting.
The frontline sits just north of Raqqa city, in Ayn Issa district, where heavy combat (including coalition airstrikes called in by observers on the ground) has killed as many as 200 Islamic State fighters in the past two weeks.
In the same timeframe, SDF spokesmen announced the recapture of the towns of Hazima, al-Taweelah and Tel al-Samman, north and west of Raqqa, bringing the SDF main force within 25km of the city’s outskirts, with reconnaissance teams pushing forward to the edge of town.
Islamic State resistance is increasing as SDF advances, and most commanders expect a ferocious fight against a determined enemy once they reach the fortified downtown area.
As the investment of Mosul has been going on for weeks, the battle for Raqqa will probably be at least equally slow and grinding, especially given the difficulties inherent in managing a diverse force of various factions:
More than 25,000 SDF members — by far the largest faction in a force of about 30,000 — come from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the affiliated Women’s Protection Units (YPJ, an all-female combat brigade of 7000 troops). SDF also includes a few hundred Arab fighters from the Shammari tribal confederation, plus an Assyrian Christian militia and a small ethnic Turkmen force. The Shammari have a longstanding blood feud with Islamic State, which has massacred their men and boys and enslaved women and girls as it seeks to intimidate tribes in its region of influence. Christians and Turkmen are fighting for survival against Islamic State, which has engaged in genocidal slaughter against both groups wherever it has gained control. There also is a small secular nationalist force drawn from regime military defectors, the Free Officers Union. But these are minorities, perhaps 15 per cent altogether, in an alliance that is overwhelmingly Kurdish.
Evidently the fighting is going poorly enough for the Islamic State that their spokesman urged their own soldiers not to flee Raqqa and Mosul. (That would be their new spokesman, the old one having been removed from office by a Hellfire missle.)
Some have suggested that the Islamic State is preparing to retreat to a desert stronghold, in Wilayat al-Furat near the Iraq-Syrian border if it’s ejected from both Raqqa and Mosul. (This, as far as I can figure, is about where it is.)
More far afield, Libyan militias backed by American airstrikes said they have cleared Sirte, the stronghold of the Islamic State in Libya.
One thing that may be making battlefield progress against the Islamic State possible: Cheap oil prices. Without excess petrodollars to spend, the Islamic State’s backers on the Arabian peninsula (not to mention Anatolia) may not have the spare cash to prop up their miniature caliphate.
That said, the war against the Islamic State is far from over, and expected it to drag on into the Trump Presidency.
Here we are, a week after one of the biggest political upsets in American history, and the reverberations are still being felt. Democrats seem to be stuck in the anger and denial phases of the Kubler-Ross grieving cycle, and probably won’t get to bargaining until the 2017 legislative session opens with Republicans in charge of the White House, Senate, and House.
(Note: You can skip the last 30 seconds of conservative cruise line ads.)
I will say this for West: He knows where to steal his riffs:
How many piece of Gnostic symbolism can you spot in that video?
Enjoy your weekend! Sometime next week I hope to tackle the DNC leadership race.
Believe it or not, there is some non-Presidential race news. But yeah, I’m starting with that:
Trump will win because:
- The polls pervasively understate his support (the “shy Trump voter”).
- Enthusiasm for Clinton is low, enthusiasm for Trump is high. Early voting is showing a pattern closer to 2008 than 2012 (high turnout). Given the enthusiasm gap, this is bad news for Clinton and supports the Shy Trump Voter hypothesis.
- This (like 2008) is a “Change Election”. Three quarters or more of voters think that the country is on the wrong track. Clinton is the insider, Trump is the outsider. Advantage: Trump.
- The Clinton camp is paralyzed by the emerging scandals. It’s been 5 days [post is from 11/2 – LP] and there’s no coherent reply to the FBI reopening the email investigation. The paralysis says that Clinton’s inner circle is divided on what to do, and she has poor leadership skills – and so the campaign twists in the wind. This is a very, very bad sign for her.
- The Marc Rich announcement today is almost inexplicable. There’s no reason that a FOIA request announcement couldn’t wait until after the election. Instead, it came out 4 days after the previous FBI announcement. My take is that Obama has polling showing that she’s going to lose, and lose big. It’s no secret that the Obamas and the Clintons despise each other – this is his chance to dismantle the Clinton machine in the Democratic party (and hill the resulting power vacuum with his people).
- The UK betting markets are showing the same pattern as before the Brexit vote – a few big money bets on Clinton (as with Remain), but a huge number of small bets on Trump (Leave).
- Independents are leaving Gary Johnson and breaking hard for Trump. The latest poll from North Carolina has Johnson down 5 and Trump up 5. This feels like more confirmation of the Shy Trump Voter hypothesis.
- There is very little or no equivalent data pointing to a strengthening by Clinton. If she were actually as far ahead as we’ve been told, there would be evidence dropping from the trees. There isn’t.