Talking Proud - The American withdrawal from Iraq 2011, with a watch on 2014

The US has agreed to withdraw all military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. I intend to start tracking this withdrawal in a serial article updated as I get new information. I began my effort on May 3, 2011. You will see how complex a military withdrawal and its aftermath can be. AFP said, “The country was torn by Sunni-Shiite fighting in 2007-2008 in which thousands of people were killed each month. The US withdrawal from Iraq was completed on December 31, 2011. US Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said recently, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan has been decimated.” That does not brief too well these days in Iraq. (042613)

Most air attacks against ISIS launched from ground bases

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Stars & Stripes reported on August 26, 2014 that most air attacks against ISIS in Iraq are being launched by the USAF from ground bases, not from the carrier USS Bush and other ships in the Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The main bases being employed include al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Ali al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, and al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. Predator drones and possibly other U.S. aircraft are flying from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The Air Force’s Command Post is located at al Udeid, Qatar. The main flying unit there is the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW). It is the largest expeditionary wing in the world. It appears the main aircraft being employed are the F-15E Strike Eagle (such as shown here) and F-16 Fighting Falcons, though CENTCOM has said bombers are being used but we do not know yet what kind and from where. This report comes as a bit of a surprise to this editor, who thought most of the attacks were being conducted from the USS Bush. So the question arises as to why that is not the case. It is well known that Naval fighters cannot fly as far as USAF fighters, nor for as long without refueling, and cannot carry as much ordnance. (082714)

Carl Vinson Strike Group deploys for Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf

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The USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group (CSG) left San Diego on August 22, 014 bound for the Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf region. We expect it will replace the USS Bush CSG which is currently there, but there could be an overlap given the situation in Iraq and Syria with ISIS. The Vinson CSG includes Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, and embarked Destroyer Squadron 1 deployed with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS Dewey (DDG 105). Some 2,000 Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), mainly 1-6 Marines, are embarked the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) sitting in the Persian Gulf along with the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG).

Military leaders pressing for greater action against ISIS

The CJCS, other active duty military leaders, and retired military leaders all seem to be pushing SecDef Hagel and Obama to allow them to go after ISIS with far greater gusto, in Syria and Iraq. Right now they are pressing for greater authorities in the air, but one can sense movement toward ground force introduction at some level, perhaps mainly special forces working with indigenous ground forces, hard to tell. In any event, appears they want to destroy ISIS first, then worry about Assad later. Some 2,000 Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), mainly 1-6 Marines, are embarked the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) sitting in the Persian Gulf along with the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG). Stay tuned. (082214)

CENTCOM planning to build larger ISIS target list

Stars & Stripes reported on August 21, 2014 that US military planners are asking the DoD for permission to expand the ISIS target list in Iraq. Planners see that ISIS forces are often out in the open, very vulnerable to attack. US reconnaissance aircraft, manned and unmanned, are flying 24-7 to support building a larger target list. (082114)

State Dept. wants more US troops to protect diplomatic sites in Iraq

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Stars & Stripes reported on August 20, 2014 that the State Department has asked DoD to send more troops to Iraq to protect diplomatic sites in and around Baghdad. The request reportedly was for something less than 300 more. There are currently about 850 US forces in Iraq, of whom 100 are part of the Office of Security Cooperation. DoD sent about 450 troops in June 2014 to protect diplomatic facilities and the Baghdad airport. It is also worth noting that aircraft supporting humanitarian missions to Mount Sinjar required ground forces to protect them when on the ground in Iraq. For example, the photo shows a member of the 1-6 Marines guarding three MV-22 Osprey aircraft used in those missions. I have not been able to identify the airfield. It is important to note this because each time we send help, almost always US ground forces are needed for security at a minimum. It can therefore be a bit misleading to say we have no boots on the ground. This Marine is prepared to fight, and is prepared to call for reinforcements to fight as well. The 1-6 Marines are part of the 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and are combat troops. The 22 MEU is embarked on the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) sitting in the Persian Gulf along with the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG). (082114)

DoD says no mission creep

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Rear Admiral John Kirby USN, DoD press secretary, said on August 19, 2014 the attacks against ISIS to free the Mosul Dam did not represent mission creep. he said, “Mission creep refers to the growth or expansion of the goals and objectives of a military operation -- that the goals and objectives change, morph into something bigger than they were at the outset ... Nothing has changed about the missions that we're conducting inside Iraq. ... Airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas -- humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities ... We believed that, should the dam remain in control of ISIL -- whose intentions are obviously not perfectly clear and certainly not in the best interests of the people of Iraq -- if that dam was to blow or they were to open and flood the gates, that it could have an effect as far south as Baghdad.” So DoD says these attacks were within the scope of the two original missions: Protect American citizens in Iraq and protect civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar, Iraq. DoD is emphasizing the latter mission. (082114)

ISIS must retain Mosul

Jessica Lewis, a former active duty Army intelligence officer, now with the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), has said that ISIS must maintain control of Mosul, Iraq in order to establish its caliphate. She has said it is arguable how well ISIS can fight in a defensive mode; that is, can it defend against an all out assault? Thus far, it has defended a major Iraqi Army operation against Tikrit. The Iraqi Army was forced to withdraw, and perhaps try again. (081814)

Appears US already expanding mission - Expansion Step #1

On August 15, 2014 I reported that US attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq are being executed by USAF and USN aircraft to fulfill two missions: protect American citizens in Iraq and protect civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar, Iraq. It now appears we have Mission Expansion #1: US aircraft have been attacking ISIS targets to protect the Mosul Dam. The DoD reported on August 17, 2014, “These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces as they work together to combat ISIL, as well as to protect critical infrastructure ...” USCENTCOM has said more than half of the 68 US air attacks conducted over Iraq since President Obama authorized them on August 7 have been around the Mosul Dam in support of Iraqi forces. Twenty-eight were conducted on August 17 and 18 alone. The US is now using sea and land-based aircraft including fighters, bombers and drones. The White House issued a statement on August 17, 2014 linking the latest attacks to the aforementioned two missions: “The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, threaten U.S. personnel and facilities - including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad - and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.” (081814)

US attacks against ISIS in Iraq are executing two missions

The current US attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq are being executed by USAF and USN aircraft to fulfill two missions: protect American citizens in Iraq and protect civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar, Iraq. Keep these in mind should mission efforts exceed those parameters. The US attacks began on August 8, 2014 and continue. (081514)

US military attacking ISIS in Iraq, naval forces formidable, UK may jump in

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The Marine Times has reported this on the situation in the Persian Gulf for the US military should stepped up attacks against ISIS be approved:

“The U.S. has a massive force of ships and aircraft in the Persian Gulf for the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq. The first airstrikes against the Islamic State were carried out by two aircraft from the aircraft carrier
George H.W. Bush, which is in the Persian Gulf along with the amphibious assault ship Bataan; the amphibious dock landing ship Gunston Hall; the cruiser Philippine Sea; and the destroyers Arleigh Burke, O’Kane and Roosevelt, according to the Defense Department. The amphibious transport dock Mesa Verde is elsewhere in the region, according to 5th Fleet. The Bush is coming to the end of what would be a normal six-month deployment. The carrier Carl Vinson is preparing to deploy to 5th Fleet at the end of August, but is on ready standby as the surge carrier.”

It is worth noting that amphibious assault and dock landing ships are there should the US decide to put Marines ashore The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Group of about 2,000 Marines is embarked on several ships. The
Marine Times discussed this as follows:

“The aircraft taking part in the air campaign come from Carrier Wing 8, embarked about the carrier Bush, said Navy Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a 5th Fleet spokesman. The wing has 24 F/A-18E and F Super Hornets; 20 F/A-18C Hornets; five EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft; four E2-C Hawkeye all-weather airborne early-warning aircraft; two C-2A Greyhound logistics aircraft, which operate from shore and go to and from the ship; and eight MH-60S and four MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. A total of six other MH-60R Seahawk helicopters are on three other ships. Marines from the
Bataan Amphibious Ready Group are prepared to recover aircraft and personnel on short notice in a hostile environment should that become necessary, Stephens said in an email. More than 2,000 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are aboard the ships in the Bataan’s group along with 12 MV-22B Ospreys; eight AV-8B Harriers; four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters; three UH-1Y Venom helicopters and four AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters.”

One job for there Marines is to recover downed aircrew in Iraq should that happen But one cannot dismiss the option of employing them against ISIS ground forces as well.

Britain has already agreed to help air drop supplies to beleaguered civilians and to provide the US with surveillance support Its leadership is also considering joint in the air attacks. Thus far, at least two rounds of USN air attacks have occurred, and reports form the area indicate a third round occurred as well. That said, PM David Cameron has said “no.” (080814)


Looks grim in Iraq

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is painting a grim picture of the Iraq situation. ISIS holds most of the key cities in northwestern Iraq, while Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are working to block ISIS entry into Baghdad, fighting mostly just north of the capital. ISF is holding most of southeastern Iraq. The Kurds remain in charge in the northeast and are moving toward declaring independence. (073014)

Maliki could be out

Politics is in full swing in Iraq and there is speculation that PM Maliki could be out of office, replaced by someone Iran likes better Iran has disavowed Maliki. The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group has suggested that as Iraq struggles to form a government, Iran has moved to support one one of four PM candidates. Stratfor says that a problem confronting Iraqi politicians is that Maliki and his party represent much of Iraq’s political establishment, ad Iran does not want to toy with that. The US has indicated it would like to see Maliki leave. (072314)

825 troops in Iraq, seven Navy ships in Persian Gulf

Greta Van Susteren of Fox News has reported that there are now 825 troops in Iraq along with seven Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. I have previously reported, “As of July 9, 2014 the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked are both in the Persian Gulf.” Each of these ships is accompanied by others. I had also reported, “The US has deployed three military teams to Iraq: six special forces assessment teams (total of 200 people) working to ascertain state of Iraqi military in the field; security team to protect US people and and embassy, and to set up combined operations center wit Iraqi forces; helicopter and unmanned vehicle team working at Baghdad airport.” (072314)

Warning!
ISIS closing in on Baghdad, from outside and within

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The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has issued a warning that ISIS is now pursuing a campaign against Baghdad from the Baghdad belt areas and from within the city. An ISIS spokesperson on June 11 said it was the ISIS intent to attack Baghdad and take down the current government. ISIS is employing multiple means against the city, including Suicide Vest Attack (SVEST), coordinated Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) attacks, and indirect fire along several approaches to the city. The ISW map above shows the recent attack activity. Speculation now abounds as to whether Iraq can withstand the ISIS onslaught. (072314)

ISIS forces closing in on western side of Baghdad

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is reporting ISIS forces to control much of northwestern Iraq and closing in on the western side of Baghdad, but still outside Baghdad. (072114)

Congress might pull plug on US advisers in Iraq

The House of Representatives is said to be considering legislation to withdraw US military advisers from Iraq, and may vote on it next week. The legislation is designed to debate the merits of US military involvement in the current Iraqi conflict with ISIS. The State Department is lobbying against this legislation.

Iraqi forces fail to retake Tikrit

ISIS forces took Tikrit in northern Iraq on June 12, 2014. Iraqi forces attempted to take it back, but were forced to retreat after heavy mortar shelling and sniper fire. Tikrit has long been a stronghold for loyalists to Saddam. The Iraqi forces were able to get into the southern part of the city, but were unable to push north. There are indications ISIS is now seeking a presence in Kirkuk, just to the north of Tikrit, and held by Kurds. (071614)

Kurds take over two oil fields

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Kurdish peshmerga (meaning Kurdish armed fighters) have seized two oilfields near Kirkuk, the Kirkuk (shown here) and Bai Hassan fields. Recall that Kurdish political leaders have withdrawn from the Iraqi parliament. (071114)

USS
Bush and Bataan in Persian Gulf

As of July 9, 2014 the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked are both in the Persian Gulf. The Bataan had been in the Mediterranean and then transited the Red Sea to the Arabian Gulf to the Persian Gulf. As a general rule, one cannot for sure conclude this to be a reaction to the Iraq crisis as these kinds of groups transit into and out of the Persian Gulf frequently, but it is worth noting they are both there. (071014)

ISIS has access to nuclear materials in Mosul

ISIS has gained access to nuclear material at a scientific research university at the University of Mosul. The UN atomic agency has said it believes the nuclear material there is “low grade.” Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a July 8, 2014 letter that nearly 40 kg (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at the university. Alakim wrote, “Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state ... can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts." It was the responsibility of the Government of Iraq to protect these materials. (071014)

Warning! ISIS forces capture former chemical weapons facility near Baghdad

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Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim has told the UN ISIS forces took control of the large Muthanna former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad on June 11, 2014. Alhakim told the UN that as a result, Iraq cannot continue destroying its chemical weapons, implying there are still some or many there. Sarin gas and mustard agent weapons and munitions were stored there. The last UN report on the facility is dated March 2003 and reported one bunker, Bunker 13, contained contained 2,500 sarin-filled 122-mm chemical rockets produced and filled before 1991, and about 180 tons of sodium cyanide, "a very toxic chemical and a precursor for the warfare agent tabun." It is arguable whether any of the materiel there remains functional. The aerial photo shows the facility following the first Iraq War, Desert Storm to give you a sense for size and what was at one time made there. (070914)

Warning! ISIS might launch offensive against Baghdad --- rumors of coup attempt rife

The Institute of the Study of War (ISW), Jessica Lewis, reported on June 27, 2014, “There are indications that ISIS is about to launch into a new offensive in Iraq.” There have been sporadic ISIS attacks into Baghdad, and these seem to confirm speculation that ISIS has people inside Baghdad ready to rise up. AS the possibility of ISIS invasion grow, so do rumors of a coup to oust PM Maliki (070814)

Situation as of July 2, 2014 --- grim

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This map was prepared by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and presents its assessment of the situation on the ground as of July 2, 2014. The black dots reflect what ISIS holds, the green dot what the government holds, and the red dots contested territory. Broadly speaking, ISIS is attempting to surround Baghdad and the government is holding Baghdad and the southeast. There are reports that some 2,500 Sunni attackers are in position within Baghdad, ready to attack at an appointed time. It remains arguable whether they could take the city. Such might be unsupportable logistically. (070314)

Saudi Arabia said to have sent 30,000 troops to Iraqi border

There are many reports that Saudi Arabia has deployed or is deploying 30,000 troops to the Iraqi border to defend against any attempt by ISIS to cross over. Saudi Arabia has accused Iraqi forces of abandoning their posts, an allegation denied by Iraq. The two countries share a 497 mile border.

US has three military teams in Iraq

The US has deployed three military teams to Iraq: six special forces assessment teams (total of 200 people) working to ascertain state of Iraqi military in the field; security team to protect US people and and embassy, and to set up combined operations center wit Iraqi forces; helicopter and unmanned vehicle team working at Baghdad airport. CJCS General Dempsey, USA said will decide on future support once the first team gets back. However, he told Pentagon reporters on July 3, 2014 the US would only put forces in Iraq again if the ISIS threat were to pose a threat to homeland security He said “we’re not there yet. While he feels Iraqi forces are not capable of launching offensive operations, they are capable of defending Baghdad. Their problem, he said, with launching offensive operations is they lack the logistics capability. (070314)

NOTE BENE: On vacation June 19-July 1, 2014. Will resile reporting on July 2, 2014.

ISIS continues replicating US Iraq invasion strategy

ISIS has been employing a strategy much like the US employed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, speed and a run through the western desert to Baghdad. Thus far, the speed of ISIS military movements trough Iraq has been impressive. Now ISIS has torn through the western desert, which is largely uninhabited, much like the US 3rd Infantry Division did in its race from Kuwait to Baghdad. In the desert, ISIS has have a few small villages and some outposts. As was the case during the US invasion, Iraqi government forces are loathe to go into the desert to fight, so ISIS has won an easy hold. This is a problem now for Jordan, which borders on this desert region. The Langley Intelligence Group (LIGNET) has reported, “Gaining control of the border posts will allow the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to easily move weapons and fighters between Syria and Iraq and possibly stage an invasion of Jordan.” The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has demonstrated that ISIS now controls regions on three sides of Baghdad, all sides but the south. (062414)

US Special Forces going to Iraq

President Obama is sending US Special Forces to Iraq, ostensibly to train Iraqi forces. Two points. First, I have always said that in order to train forces, one must at least on occasion go out into the field, potentially into combat with them to observe how they do and guide them if needed. Second, I have contended that special forces will be required on the ground in country to locate and identify enemy forces, and to call in their locations for air attack and to guide those air attacks. Most often, USAF air controllers attached to special forces units do this, though Army controllers can do it as well. In any event, they would be able to do these things if out in the field training Iraqis. Obama said he was sending 300 “advisers.” One might recall that President JFK sent in about 16,000 “advisers” to Vietnam. (062014)

US intelligence agencies step up efforts to close intelligence gaps in Iraq

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Ken Dilanian and Julie Pace reported for AP on June 18, 2014, “The CIA and other spy agencies are scrambling to close intelligence gaps as they seek ways to support possible military or covert action against the leaders of the al-Qaida-inspired militant group that has seized parts of Iraq and threatens Baghdad's government.” I suspect the US might well covertly insert special forces to Iraq to assess their ability to find and target enemy forces there. I believe this is essential before air attacks could commence. For now, the feeling is air attacks are being held in abeyance because of this issue, though I am sure Naval Air Forces in the Persian Gulf and their support mechanisms are all focused on the potential for their attacking. As a former career military intelligence officer, I would comment here that this situation is what has worried ,military commanders for decades --- that they would be too dependent on national intelligence agencies instead of having sufficient intelligence gathering resources of their own to respond to their immediate needs. (061814)

Iraqis ask for US air

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General Martin Dempsey, USA, CJCS, told Congress on June 18, 2014 that Iraq has asked for US air support because of the current crisis. He said he is worried because the enemy is intermingled with the population, implying targeting will be very hard. Dempsey clearly is angry at the Maliki government telling Congress the US military leadership had been warning Maliki that he was alienating ethnic groups other than the Shia and that this was going to bite them some day. He said many in the Iraqi military have lost faith in their government and their leaders.

Turkish forces said to be in Iraqi Kurdistan

The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group has reported something I did not know, which is that Turkey has been keeping 1,500-2,000 military troops in Iraqi Kurdistan and has suggested that Turkey is likely to increase that number. The Kurds have taken Kirkuk, the largest oil field in northern Iraq, and Turkey has been shipping that oil out for sale. (061714)

VOA graphic displays ISIS intent for Islamic State

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Voice of America (VOA) has published a map that it says displays ISIS’ vision for an Islamic State in the Mideast. It encompasses far more territory than I had previously seen postulated. That said, I have also seen expert reports that suggest ISIS will want to expand to take Jordan and Israel as well. PM Maliki has been blaming Saudi Arabia for supporting ISIS because it is largely a Sunni state. Individual Saudis might be doing that, but as a nation, Saudi Arabia has come down hard against ISIS and is very worried about its expansionist drive. You can see why; Saudi Arabia is adjacent to Iraq and the kingdom would be gravely threatened by ISIS, Sunnis or no Sunnis. (061714)

ISIS reported within 37 miles of Baghdad

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AFP reported on June 17, 2014 that ISIS forces are within 37 miles of Baghdad, to the north of the city. They apparently briefly held Baquba, a short drive from Baghdad, but were pushed back by security forces. That’s the closest they have come to the capital.

US to deploy military to help secure embassy

The US is building up its security force at US Embassy Baghdad. Politico exported on June 17, 2014 that the number is 275, we believe a mix of Marines and Army but must confirm when information is available. AP has reported that the US is considering sending in special forces and conducting air attacks. (061714)

US deploys USS
Mesa Verde to Persian Gulf

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The US has sent the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) to the Persian Gulf. She is part of USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) which is in the region. USS Mesa Verde is capable of conducting a variety of quick-reaction and crisis response operations and has a complement of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft embarked. It also has about 55 Marines embarked. USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) already in the Gulf. Mesa Verde is in the Gulf now.

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Enemy forces have captured Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq, close to Syria, though fighting is said to continue. Iraq’s military plan had been to mass forces there and conduct counterattack in Mosul. Turkey is getting anxious and considering intervention due to threats to ethnic Turkmens. Iraqi forces are said to be digging trenches outside northern Baghdad. Dominant view appears to be ISIS cannot take Baghdad; our position is anything is possible. (061614)


Warning!
Iraq: a scrambled egg of reports of impending doom

It is hard to filter through all the reports coming from Iraq, truth or fiction or rumor, but it looks bad for the Government of Iraq. There are Twitter reports that ISIS members have entered the outskirts of Baghdad, in the Amariya neighborhood in Baghdad’s southwest, between the city center and the airport. These cannot be validated as of yet and if true, we cannot yet get a handle on severity of the fighting. There have been multiple explosions in Baghdad, though this can be am Iraqi kind of “normal.” The New York Times reported the US Embassy in the “Green Zone,” which is where Iraqi government offices are as well, will be partly evacuated this week, though as of this date, the embassy says 5,500 will stay. This is a massive embassy. Contractors training Iraqi military forces have been evacuating. US commanders say they can conduct air attacks within 24 hors of notification. Will launch out of Turkey and from USS Bush in the Persian Gulf. US military almost certainly already has targets selected and weapons uploaded just in case. Iraqi military forces did push back ISIS attacks just north of Baghdad, USA Today says 30 miles north. These Iraqi forces are said to be grouping in Samarra, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, and intend to attack Tikrit. ISIS holds Mosul tightly and the city is quiet. The problem for ISIS will be that it does not have a large army, it is fighting in Syria, and it is trying to hold cities. But it has acquired some lethal weapons. (061514)

US suffers from intelligence and policy preparation failures in Iraq

The Langley Intelligence Group (LIGNET) has correctly highlighted that the US has now demonstrated “a complete failure of intelligence and policy preparation for the new civilian stewards of Iraq. You will recall how President G. Bush was criticized by Obama et al for having no post-Iraq invasion plan. Now the Obama administration finds it has precious little good intelligence on Iraq’s situation and has no policy plan for what to do. Nice going lads! One wonders why we have these people on the payroll. (061314)

USS
Bush in Persian Gulf to respond to Iraq crisis if required

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On June 12, 2014 we reported that the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) had moved out of the Arabian Sea and into the Persian Gulf. At that time we were not sure whether the move was related to Iraq, since US CSGs operating in this region have being doing this for some time. We also reported a White House official had said the US will not provide airpower to help Iraq and remarked a bit sarcastically, “That’s today.” A US official has told CNN News that the Bush is in the Gulf to respond to the Iraq crisis if required. CNN has said the major problem for the US at present is a lack of good intelligence to enable precision attacks. Covert action will probably be required, either by CIA or US special forces on the ground, to locate and identity targets for attack.The Bush has about 90 fixed wing and helicopter aircraft embarked. Carrier Air Wing 8 is embarked, with four F/A-18 fighter squadrons, an airborne early warning squadron, electronic attack squadron, a logistics support squadron and two helicopter squadrons. We believe the CSG deployed with the USS Truxtun and USS Philippine Sea, the former a Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer while the latter is a Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser. (061314)

US is considering air attacks against enemy forces in Iraq

President Obama has said all options are on the table in Iraq Apparently DoD has been tasked to outline the military options. Air attacks seem to dominate the thinking at present, likely close-air support. That said, Obama is reluctant to get involved. The Iraqis have asked for air. (061214)

Kurdish forces have taken control of Kirkuk

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While ISIS is threatening western and central Iraq, Kurdish forces have now taken the northern city of Kirkuk, a provincial capital in an oil-rich area. Once again, Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts and fled. Parts of the Kirkuk province are also being held by ISIS forces. One would have to say the Iraqi government is now in deep trouble, though it is possible that the Kurds simply wanted to guarantee the security of their important city, Kirkuk. (061214)

Iran says it has deployed Revolutionary Guards to help Iraq

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Iranian security sources have said that Iran has deployed two battalions of its Quds Forces of the Revolutionary Guards to Iraq to help the Maliki government. Apparently they have gone to Tikrit for starters, and together with Iraqi forces they say they have taken 85 percent of Tikrit back. Iranian forces reportedly have also gone to Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala. Iran has also sent forces to its borders with Iraq and has announced it will attack if enemy forces approach to within 100 km of the border. These sources have also said Iran is prepared to go into Syria to attack ISIS forces as well. (061214)

Stratfor Intelligence Group provides graphic of Irasq situation

The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group has prepared this graphic to show “The Jihadist resurgence across Iraq.” (061214)

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ISIS speed of attack same strategy as used by US in Operation Iraqi Freedom

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The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is conducting a “blitzkrieg” in its Iraq offensive. This is the exact kind of strategy employed by General Tommy Franks and his commanders when US and British forces invaded Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003. For that operation, Allied forces were told that speed of attack was the most important asset. They had a need for speed. The question facing ISIS now is whether to attack Samarra, or do as US forces did, by-pass some cities in order to maintain momentum. The US strategy was to get to Baghdad as quickly as possible, and when they got to the outskirts, they slammed through Baghdad rapidly in two Thunder Runs; for the last Thunder Run they remained inside the city center to the surprise of many. The Saddam regime fled sand the government fled as well. We’ll have to see how ISIS handles this. As an aside, and it might not be related, the USS Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has moved out of the Arabian Sea and into the Persian Gulf. The CSGs operating in this region have being doing this for some time, in part, to assure Iran they can and will do it, to familiarize themselves with the transit, and to collect intelligence about how Iran reacts. Nonetheless, this action does put USN attack aircraft closer to Iraq. A White House official has said the US will not provide airpower to help Iraq. That’s today. (061214)

Enemy seizes Baiji, nation’s largest refinery, moving toward Baghdad

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Reports today are that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has taken control of Iraq’s largest refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad. Iraq trying to conduct air attacks against ISIS but Air Force really has no clout, only helicopters and some prop driven fixed wing aircraft. This is the price of kicking out USAF. There are credible rumors Iraq has asked US for air power support and that Obama is mulling the idea. (061214)

Enemy takes control of Tikrit

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Reports today are that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has captured Tikrit. These are initial reports. More to follow. This appears to be part of an overall strategy to establish a Suni Islamic state in eastern Syria and western and central Iraq. The US State Department has promised to help but it is not clear what that help might entail. The US is working with Turkey and Iraq. Dozens of Turkish consular diplomats were kidnapped in Mosul by ISIS and Turkey has asked for an emergency meeting of NATO. Turkey has threatened to take retaliatory action. Estimates are that ISID now controls 10-15 percent of Iraqi territory less Kurdistan, and may have its sights on Baghdad. (061114)

Enemy takes Mosul, now in control on at least two fronts

Reports today are that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The speaker of parliament said "terrorists" now controlled not just Mosul but the whole of Nineveh province. PM Maliki has asked Parliament to declare a state of emergency. In the mean time, he has declared a State of High Alert. As many as 150,000 people are now fleeing. It is possible that other Sunni are involved in addition to ISIS. Mosul is largely a Sunni city. It is not yet clear why Iraqi forces could not - did not hold. They have been fighting for days. Stars & Stripes has reported, “Insurgents overran the Ninevah provincial government building in the city — a key symbol of state control — in the evening, and security forces fled many of their posts. The fighters stormed police stations, bases and prisons, capturing weapons and freeing prisoners.” I have seen reports that ISIS has captured a lot of equipment and weapons provided by the US to the Iraqis. I have also read some reports that say some of this equipment is already in Syria. So now we have major ISIS offensives in northern Iraq (Mosul region) and Anbar Province. (061014)

Anbar Province in meltdown

The security situation in Anbar Province is deteriorating rapidly. Iraqi militants attacked Anbar University on June 7, 2014, students taken hostage. This followed raids on Ramadi, Mosul and Samarra. Heavy fighting reported in Mosul. Iraqis fleeing in large numbers. Fallujah has been on constant shelling with enemy saying it is in charge in Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. Furthermore, a series of car bombings killed some 60 people in Baghdad on June 7 as well. (060914)

ISIS launches country-wide offensive

ISISTroops


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), specifically Aaron Reese, has reported, “The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has undertaken major attacks across multiple fronts between June 5 and June 7, including attempts to seize neighborhoods and buildings in Samarra, Mosul, Baquba, and Salman Beg; an assault against Anbar University in Ramadi; and large-scale VBIED wave targeting Shi'a neighborhoods of Baghdad. In Samarra, ISIS attempted to storm the al-Askari shrine, the Shi'a mosque the golden dome of which al Qaeda in Iraq destroyed in February 2006, provoking the sectarian civil war that followed. The ISF forced ISIS to withdraw in all of the locations after significant clashes except Anbar University, from which the militants withdrew of their own accord.” It is arguable whether the Iraqi security forces can handle this threat. ISIS is also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The photo shows some of them marching in Syria. (060814)

Violence in Iraq escalating

At least eight explosions hit Baghdad on May 13, 2014 as the violence throughout Iraq is the worst since 2008. Multiple car bombs in the Shi’ite areas of Baghdad killed at least 25, injured 75. (051314)

Islamist enemy stronger than Iraqi Army?

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on April 28, 2014 that the Iraqi Army is overwhelmed by Islamist enemies roaming the country and may not be able to cope with the threat. These enemies are now attacking across the nation. There are reports that police and army forces are leaving their posts, that they are demoralized and under equipped and that their enemies are better armed, trained and motivated. Many have been fighting in Syria and are battle hardened. The WSJ report, written by Matt Bradley and Ali Nabhan, “Fledgling Iraqi Military Outmatched on Battlefield,” wrote, “Even the most basic maneuvers can stymie the Iraqi military. Regional commanders who lack basic knowledge of military logistics often are clumsy when transporting food for soldiers on the move, leaving many enlistees to scrounge for themselves or go hungry, say officers and observers.” The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ahmed Ali, has written, “The Iraqi state does not hold control of territory in some of Iraq’s key political provinces, such as Anbar, Ninewa, and Diyala.” (042814)

Iraqi helicopters attack convoy in Syria

BBC reported on Aril 27, 2014 that Iraqi Air Force helicopters attacked a convoy of jidhadists in Syria headed to Iraq’s Anbar provide. This has been a major supply route for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). (042714)

Murder in Iraq on large scales before elections

Parliamentary elections are scheduled in Iraq for April 30, 2014, and the blood is flowing most notably in Baghdad. Two separate attacks in Baghdad on April 26, 2014 killed about 15, six in one place, 9 or 10 in another. Worse yet, 33 people were killed in bombings on April 24 at a campaign rally for a Shi’ite political organization. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for these. Violence has been spreading as the Shi’te-led government holds parliamentary elections. President Maliki’s coalition is expected to win. (042714)

Islamic militants hold Fallujah, part of Ramadi

Islamic militants and enemies of the Iraqi State hold all of Fallujah and half of Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar province, both sites of enormous fighting by US forces during the Iraq War. The militants took control of both in late December and have held up through this writing. This is a heartland area for Iraq’s Sunni minority. Iraq military leaders say most of the enemy force is foreign. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, operating as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) has a hold on these two cities and has established a governorate in Diyala in eastern Iraq. (040114)

Al-Qaeda said to be leading threat to Iraq

ISILFLag
Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that suicide attacks in Iraq are nearly completely attributable to al-Qaeda in Iraq, to a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Levant includes Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus and Hatay (southern province in Turkey). He said the group is attacking mainly Sh’ite and Kurd areas to create chaos but is also attacking Sunnni ares to capture land. ISIL’s leader is believed to be in Syria. ISIL was once known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, AQI. The graphic is of ISIL’s flag. (020614)

Iraq wants US help --- and may get troops on the ground

Iraqi PM Maliki has asked the US for a list of weapons and may soon request counterterrorism training from US forces. Maliki said the training could be done in Iraq or Jordan. The Navy Times reported on January 17 that senior Pentagon officials are indicating that planning is underway to get ground forces over to the area to help train Iraqis, either in-country or in Jordan. SecState Kerry has said the US is not willing to send troops to Iraq. The US is willing to send some of the weaponry on Maliki’s list, but not all. Apache helicopters for example are apparently out of the question. Iraq’s requests requires congressional approval. (011914)

The problems in Anbar

AnbarandCities


The number one problem in Anbar is that it is the centerpiece of a long time Sunni insurgency In Iraq. PM Maliki, a Shia, has aggravated the Sunni about as much as he can, so the insurgency is now rekindling to dangerous proportions. Added to this is the war in Syria, where al-Qaeda is not only fighting Assad but is also fighting against other rebels. Anbar borders Syria in a long border impossible to protect. AS a result, al-Qaeda is drifting in and out and exacerbating the problems in Anbar. This looks bad. Baghdad is only 40 miles away from Fallujah. (011014)

General Odierno does not rule out US troops back to Iraq

OdiernoRay
General Raymond Odierno, USA, CSA, spoke to the National Press Club on January 7, 2014 and said he was disappointed to see the violence rage in Iraq, said the Iraqis need to work this one on their own, but he would not rule out sending US ground forces back to Iraq, “If it becomes part of our national security interest to put people on the ground.” SecState Kerry has ruled that out, saying, “This fight belongs to the Iraqis.” That said, the US is sending surveillance drones and air-to-ground missiles to Iraq, probably Hellfires which can be launched by the drones. It is unclear who will fly the drones and launch the missiles. (010814)

Al Qaeda now controls Fallujah, declares an Islamic State there

Liz Sly reported for the Washington Post on January 3, 2014 that an al Qaeda affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has captured all of Fallujah, taken down all Iraqi state flags, and raised their own over buildings including those of the government. The police and army are said to have abandoned the city. In Ramadi, authorities say the ISIS has failed there, defeated by tribal loyalists. US forces shed a great deal of blood in Fallujah. You may wish to read our story on the subject, “Battle for Fallujah, our warfighters towered in maturity and guts.” SecState Keery was quoted by Voice of America on Jauary 5, 2014 that the battle inside Iraq is “their fight” and the US is “not contemplating putting boots on the ground.” The word “contemplating” is interesting. As an aside, there is also an affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which lately has been fighting in North Syria near the border with Turkey. The Levant today consists of Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, and part of southern Turkey.

The Institute for the Study of war issued this report on January 5, 2014:

“Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) announced an Islamic state in Fallujah and detained 75 members of the Iraqi Army on Friday, January 3, 2014. Clashes continue in Ramadi between tribal militias working with Iraqi Security Forces and AQI. However, AQI is increasing its presence in Fallujah while the Iraqi Army calls up reinforcements outside the city and begin a bombardment of suspected enemy positions. The contest for control of Fallujah will almost certainly be a violent struggle. These events have produced a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah with at least hundreds of families fleeing the city. Meanwhile, a political standoff has renewed between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR), Osama al-Nujaifi.”

Perhaps the most important point to take home here is that in Anbar Province, PM Maliki has incited the Sunnis and the Sunnis are rising up against the government as a result. But second, al-Qaeda, quite separately from this, resurged in the north of the country and is now in Anbar taking advantage of the chaos. One of the great lessons learned by the US while in Iraq was to get along with the Sunnis, and indeed many Sunnis joined the fight on the American side. Maliki has done just the opposite --- he has antagonized the Sunnis to such an extent that rising up was inevitable. Just as inevitable, especially with Syria going on, is that al-Qaeda would come in and take advantage. What is a bit surprising here is that the US is so strongly supporting Maliki and sending him weapons to use against the Sunnis, and al-Qaeda. Okay on the latter, not so brilliant on the former. (010714)


Militants have seized half of Fallujah, parts of Ramadi

Iraqi special forces have launched attacks against enemy forces who have claimed to control half of Fallujah, a major battleground in the past for US forces. We did a story on the battle for Fallujah back in 2005, “Battle for Fallujah, our warfighters towered in maturity and guts.” The enemy also says it has a hold on parts of Ramadi. Voice of America reported on January 2, 2014, “2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008, according to the United Nations, with some 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces killed in unrest.” (010214)

US sending Hellfire missiles to Iraq, and drones

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Stars & Stripes repaired on December 26, 2013 that the US is sending Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and low tech surveillance drones to Iraq. An al Qaeda insurgency is gaining territory in western Iraq and Syria. Iraqi President Maliki is said to have asked for the help. While Maliki has resisted, some in the foreign ministry have suggested US forces operate drones over Iraq. CIA is said to be providing targeting data for the Hellfires. This photo shows an Iraqi air force pilot firing an AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missile from an Iraqi air force Cessna AC-208 above a test fire range in Iraq back in 2010.

al-Qaeda the strongest in Iraq since 2006

Matt Olsen, head of the national counterterrorism center told a Senate committee on November 14, 2013 that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is the strongest it has been since 2006. It has found the environment in Iraq to be permissive, enabling it to raise money and train. It is operating in Syria from bases in Iraq. (111413)

Six thousand killed in Iraq thus far this year

CNN has reported that more than 6,000 people have been killed in violence thus far this year in Iraq. Worse yet, al-Qaeda Iraq (AQI) has grown and become sufficiently sophisticated such that they are attaching names to their operations and they are planning these operations in detail. (110113)

Petraeus says Iraq in worse shape now than in 2006

petraeus-4
David Petraeus, General, USA (Ret.) wrote an opinion piece published by Stars & Stripes on October 31, 2013 that says, “The news out of Iraq is, once again, exceedingly grim.” Al-Qaeda has resurged. The war in Syria has increased violence in Iraq. Iran is gaining a greater foothold in Iraq. The Iraqi government has failed to bring about reconciliation. He wrote, “Iraqi politics are now mired in mistrust and dysfunction.” Iraqi President Maliki is in Washington and met on October 30, 2013 with Vice President Biden and wants attack helicopters and other offensive weapons “to combat terrorism and nut armed groups.” There is, as yet, no evidence he wants US trainers to return. Iraq is on contract for F-16 fighters and will start receiving them during fall 2014. VP Biden said, "We're committed to strengthening the security in Iraq as well as an enduring partnership.” However, Senator McCain (R-AZ), aligned with a bipartisan group of senators, has essentially said “not so fast Joe.” They have accused the Maliki regime of pursuing a “sectarian and authoritarian agenda” and have complained in a letter to President Obama that demands Maliki sterilize the country through inclusiveness. (103113)

20 dead, 130 wounded in October 13 attacks

The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group reported on October 14, 201. “More than 20 Iraqis were killed Oct. 13 in bombings in central and southern Iraq, officials said, AFP reported Oct. 14. The 21 blasts, including 10 car bombs and two suicide bombings, also injured 130 people.” The situation in Iraq grows more and more grim each day. (101413)

Al-Qaeda Iraq surging ahead

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on October 3, 2013, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq is resurgent. The organization is no longer a small cadre based around a single leader, but rather an extremely vigorous, resilient, and capable group that can operate from Basra to coastal Syria.” AQI as it is known has named a one year long surge, “The Break Walls Campaign;” it began on July 13, 2013. It has named its current combat operations, “The Soldiers’ Harvest.” AQI is tying its operations in Iraq with those in Syria, which will give it regional strength if it succeeds. With regard to Afghanistan, President Obama said in May 2013, “Core Al Qaeda is a shell of itself.” Senator Schumer (D-NY) said the terrorists are afraid of President Obama.” (100313)

Financial Times
fears prospects of civil war in Iraq increasing

In an article by Borzou Daragahi, “Surge in Iraq violence raises fear of return to sectarian war,” published on October 1, 2013 by the Financial Times of London, Daragahi suggests that the war in Syria is fueling the already violent upsurge in Iraq and could send Iraq itself into a Sunni vs. Sh’ia civil war. Daragahi quotes Ahmed Ali, Iraq research director at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), saying, “You have had attacks on prisons, you have had a persistent wave of car bombs and you have targeting of Iraqi Shia civilians in addition to Iraqi Sunnis close to the Iraqi government,” said Ahmed Ali, Iraq research director at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think-tank that has studied the conflict.You’ve had the appearance of false checkpoints, inspecting the identity papers of travellers; we’ve seen the re-emergence of bodies discovered in Baghdad, shot in the head or chest, blindfolded and handcuffed.” (100113)

Sixty dead in one day’s violence

Voice of America (VOA) reported on September 21, 2013 that car bombings at a funeral in a Shi’ite area of Baghdad on that date left 50 dead, about 70 wounded. Other attacks around the country killed 10 security forces. Six police officers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack at a police station in Bajii, north of Baghdad. Fifteen more were killed on September 20 from an explosion inside a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad. Earlier in the week, car bomb explosions in Baghdad and across Iraq left 31 more dead. Violence has been on the rise since US forces left in 2011. (092113)

Al-Qaeda making a comeback in Iraq

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Jessica D. Lewis, has advised, “Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is resurgent.” She said it reached its height in 2006-2007, after which the surge tamed it down. However, she argues, “As of August 2013, AQI has regrouped, regained capabilities, and expanded into areas from which it was expelled during the Surge … AQI is no longer a small cadre based around a single leader, but rather an effective reconstituted military organization operating in Iraq and Syria.“ (091013)

Keep an eye on Kuwaiti politics and stability

No cause for alarm, but keep an eye on Kuwaiti politics and stability. The upheavals throughout the Mideast are impacting Kuwait. The political situation in Kuwait is growing more divisive and Kuwaitis are beginning to challenge authority. The king is Sunni, but he has had the support of the Sh’ia population. The Kuwaiti parliament was recently dissolved on some kind of technicality. The Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) is a weak opposition associated with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Syria is impacting Kuwaiti politics along secular lines. Thus far, the government has found ways to work with both sides, but given the overall Mideast situation and the fact that US forces are located there, the country’s situation is worth watching at least periodically. Take nothing for granted. (082113)

Iraq seeking US help

HoshyarZebari
You will recall the Iraqis could not come to an agreement to retain some US military forces in Iraq after 2011, so they all left. Since then, US foreign policy has generally looked away from Iraq to other regional problems. However, given the mounting violence and insecurity in Iraq, Iraqi Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has asked the US for help, and apparently the US is listening. He is reported to have said a U.S. assistance package could include a limited number of advisers, intelligence analysis and surveillance assets - including lethal drones. He told reporters on August 16, 2013 while in Washington, "There is greater realization in the Iraq government that we should not shy away from coming and asking for some help and assistance.” (081913)

Al-Qaeda in Iraq takes hold, calling the shots

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) appears to have taken hold in Iraq, creating havoc and chaos across the country. AQI has been able to take advantage of a growing Sunni rebellion and according to Jessica ewes, a research director at the Institute for the Study of War, is now setting the terms of battle in Iraq for the first time since 2008.” It appears that the US program to build an Iraqi military has failed. (080913)

July 2013 deadliest month in Iraq since 2008

About 1,000 people were killed or wounded in violence in Iraq in July 2013, the highest since 2008. The violence is sectarian, it reelects the political deadlock in Baghdad, and the spill-over of al-Qaeda from Syria. Most attacks have targeted Shi’ite settlements in Baghdad and across the southern part of the country, though most parts of the country have been affected. The UN says the death count for July was 1,057. The political system appears broken and unable or unwilling to act. The year 2007 was the worst, when about 3,000 people were being killed each month. (080713)

Violence continues, but Sunnis may lack the clout

Violence continues throughout Iraq, with Sunnis pitted against Shi’a. The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group has opined, “The ongoing Sunni unrest in Iraq is unlikely to fundamentally destabilize the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad this quarter.” Stratfor says, “Sunni militant groups have been trying to remilitarize the Sunni political and tribal landscape in Iraq.” They inference is the Sunnis are finding this difficult. (071113)

Heads up, military trainers back to Iraq?


Military.com reported on June 27, 2013 that the US military is examining sending US military trainers to Iraq and Jordan, ostensibly because of the threats posed by the Syrian civil war. You will recall that Iraq refused to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US at the end of the Iraq War, and as a result the US removed all military forces except those attached to the embassy. Now it appears like we may be going back in. If this apes, it will happen during a period of significant political discord in Iraq and the possibility of a civil war erupting there. At first glance, Iraqi officials appear receptive to the idea of bringing back US military trainers. Everyone emphasizes that the trainers would not be combatants. But, I have opined that to property train your people, you have to go out on missions with them. (062713)

Iraq moves 8,000 troops toward borders with Syria and Jordan

Al Monitor reported on June 18, 2013 that Iraq is moving 8,000 troops toward its borders with Syria and Jordan. The rationale is said to be to secure Iraq’s borders. (061913)

PM Maliki playing some dangerous games --- Syria a growing problem as well

We have been reporting on the growing violence between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq. Now we seem to have intra-Shi’a violence building between the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr’s “Sadirists” and the Shi’a group known as the Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH). On June 2, 2013, there was a violent shoot-out between the two Shi’a groups in Baghdad when members of the AAH attempted to assassinate a Sadirist leader. Without going into all the details of the attack, it is known that PM Maliki opposes Sadr’s influence and may have aligned himself in some way with the AAH, and indeed may be allowing even encouraging this intra-Shi’a violence to proceed. Add this to the existing sectarian violence between the Shi’a major it and the Sunni minority and the possibility of PM Maliki involvement in both, and a negative outlook for Iraq continues to grow with the likelihood of civil war also growing. This is all complicated by the fact that Iraq is getting sucked into the Syrian civil war with Iraqi border posts coming under attack, Syrians being killed inside Iraq, Iraqi combatants going to Syria to fight, and smuggling of weapons and supplies on the increases across the Iraqi border into Syria. Adam Schreck wrote in for AP on June 12, 2013 suggests that nearly 3,000 lives have been lost in Iraq as the result of the Syrian war. Iraq has said it remains neutral on Syria, but it has been letting Iranian aircraft fly over Iraqi territory delivering weapons etc. to the Assad government. (061213)

Getting very nasty in Iraq

Another 60 killed across the country on June 10

The violence spreading throughout Iraq is getting very nasty indeed. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has launched attacks against Shi’a targets in and around Baghdad, and Shi’a militias are mobilizing to counter attack AQI and the Suni population. These militias are simply executing civilians, some found with their hands bound behind them, with bullet holes in their heads and chests. The executions include home invasions and wide-open shootings with silencers on the streets. An estimated 220 people have died in violent attacks since May 20, 2013, with another 624 injured. Many of the killings are by suicide bombers and vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, called VBIEDs, but there are also many gruesome extrajudicial killings. AQI seems to be acting at will. (060413)

Iraqi commercial sector worried about civil war ---- moving to Kurdistan

It is very hard to get a good read on what Iraq’s future holds. Right now, the naysayers seem to be holding the cards, and talk of all out civil war seems to inch up the ladder each day. Many are prone, understandably so, to explain Iraq in sectarian terms, Sunni vs. Sh’ia, but life is not that simple. I would say no where in the world is any such large group of any kind monolithic. But set that aside for a moment. Omar al-Shaher reported for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse Posted on May 30, 2013 that the commercial community is very worried about the outbreak of civil war. Many businesses, especially in the wholesale arena, are moving out of the Baghdad area to Kurdistan where things are more stable and secure. Al-Shaher pinpoints the examples in his article, “Fears of Civil War Cripple Baghdad Commerce.” (053113)

PM Maliki overhauls his leadership structure

Maliki
PM Maliki has made major changes to his leadership structure in the wake of increasing nationwide violence. He removed the ground forces commander, Baghdad Operations Command Center commander, and the commanders of the Anbar-based 7th IA Division, 5th IA Division and 11th IA Division. However, the changes must be approved by the Iraqi government. These are the most widespread changes since December 2009. It is hard to tell what Maliki’s plan is, but for sure the security situation in Iraq is deteriorating. One effect is that Maliki will have increased the centralization of security control by commanders loyal to him. Two concerns have now become more prominent: improved conditions for increased Al-Qaeda in Iraq activity, and an increased likelihood that Shi’a militias will become more active. (052513)

Over 450 dead and wounded in week of bomb explosions across Iraq

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Al-Monitor reported on May 21, 2013 that bomb explosions in Sunni and Shiite areas the previous week resulted in 450 killed. and wounded. Explosions occurred in the majority-Shiite neighborhoods of Sadr City, Al-Husayniyyah, Al-Mualif, Al-Kazimiyah and Al-Muhstal in Baghdad on May 16 and in Sunni-dominated al-Ghazaliya, al-Amiriyah and Al-Madin in addition to Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, and Fallujah to the west on May 17. There had been somewhat of a truce, but these bombings broke that apart. Al-Monitor said, “Abdul Malak al-Saadi, a prominent Sunni cleric, accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of blocking the dialogue initiative” and suggested thuds to be the cause of the bombings. The photo, by Ahmad Mousa of reuters, shows mourners standing beside coffins of four members of a family killed in Basra bomb attacks, during a funeral in Najaf, May 20, 2013. (052213)

Iraq scenario possibility: toward a failed state

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Narav Salahaddin reported for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse on May 7, 2013 that Iraq could be on a track to become a failed state, mainly because PM Maliki has concentrated all power in the Sh’ia and has excluded the Sunnis and Kurds. The UN has said more than 700 were killed in April alone because of fighting between Sunni (minority) and Sh’ia (majority). Salahaddin said, “Iraq has a major problem associated with the central government, making the post-invasion state-building process a failed experiment.” There is a danger that the Sunni uprising in Syria will spread to Iraq --- or has already spread --- and that civil war will result. Without question, there has been a gradual rise in Sunni militancy in Iraq and that appears to be proceeding, though the Sunni camp is not yet united on he notion of militancy. All this said, there are dangers of a civil war or a division n the country territorially between the Sunnis and Sh’ia, which would come with bloodshed. he photo, attributed to Getty Images, shows antigovernment Sunni militia in Ramadi, Anbar province. (051413)

Internal Iraqi turmoil evolving rapidly, hard to say where she is headed

Violence in Iraq is growing. Anti-government protesters killed five Iraqi soldiers in Ramadi, Anbar recently, Kurdish forces are deploying into disputed areas in and around Kirkuk, and more than 200 people have been killed in five days of fighting in Hawijah. Sunni Arabs are leading the fight against the government, and the Kurds do not trust the capabilities of the Iraqi military in Kirkuk to handle Kurd-Arab tensions there. PM Maliki is trying to settle the troubles, but he is also taking a hard line. In addition, the war in Syria is spilling into Iraq. Projecting an outcome is impossible. (050613)

Iraq buys more F-16s

Iraq has just let a contract with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Ft. Worth, Texas, for 18 more F-16 fighter aircraft. This is the second group of fighters slated to go to the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF). The IqAF ordered 18 in December 2011. If Iraq uses USAF organizational standards, this will mean Iraq will have two F-16 fighter squadrons, enough to form a fighter wing. Saddam’s Air Force relied on Russian-Soviet aircraft. (050213)

Maliki declares “majoritarian government”

The Institute for the Study of War reported on May 1, 2013 that Iraqi PM Maliki has declared a “majoritarian government” as the only political solution for Iraq. Members of the Sunni minority have been protesting around the country, and Maliki has been sending his security forces to suppress hose protests. Complicating this, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) continues to attack government forces. Maliki has issued a statement saying, in part, “There is no solution to the political process in Iraq but to resort to the national political majority.” While security forces have been deploying in response to protest efforts, there is a sense that neither side really wants to have a major fight, but would far prefer to achieve some kind of political settlement. AQI is trying to ignite tensions and violence as a result. The tensions in country are at a high, but it could be worse. Somehow, AQI’s efforts have to be removed from the equation. There have been calls for Maliki to resign. Maliki may lose provincial seats and he has been trying to appeal to the Kurds to join with him in establishing a majoritarian government. It is not entirely clear what he means by that. The paper Al-Hayat has said, “In Iraq, hardly a day goes by without somebody suggesting that a majoritarian government should be formed to replace the successive governments of ‘participation,’ ‘partnership,’ and ‘quotas’ that have been ruling Iraq recently. The paper said this option has no chance of succeeding. (050213)

Violence growing

Addendum
: The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group reported on May 1, 2013 that at least 460 people were killed in Iraqi violence in April. The group argues that Sunni militant are attempting to revert authority. (050113)

AFP reported on April 26, 2013 that United Nations envoy Martin Kobler warned on that day that Iraq is at a "crossroads," calling for restraint as a wave of violence killed more than 190 people in four days. Kobler said, “I call on the conscience of all religious and political leaders not to let anger win over peace, and to use their wisdom, because the country is at a crossroads.” Sectarian clashes began on April 23, 2013 when 195 people were killed, a number which could rise as others injured pass. (042613)


Iraqi government very worried about Syrian war impact on it

The Financial Times has reported that Iraqi officials are very worried the Syrian civil war will spread into Iraq. Iraqi Sunnis along the border are increasingly joining the rebellion against Assad, and that in turn could easily cause foment within Iraq, as the Assad government, run mostly by Alawites, is also led by Shia, the dominant party in Iraq. (032813)

Cause to be pessimistic about Iraq?

Doug Bandow, writing for the CATO Institute, “Death, Misery and Debt: Iraq’s Unintended Conquest of America,” highlights his views about how things have gone wrong for the US in Iraq. The US paid a high price, 4,488 troops dead, 35,000 troops injured, perhaps as many as 200,000 suffering PTSD, and a price tag that could be as high as $6 trillion. PM Maliki gets more authoritarian each day. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is growing every day, and its attacks have increased. The Shia rulers have leaned to Iran and they prefer Syria’s Assad over his largely Sunni opponents. Interestingly, in other reports we have learned that the DoD had been training an “elite” Iraqi force and now the CIA has taken that over. (032613)

Anbar-Ninewa Provincial elections postponed --- security problems

On March 19, the Iraqi Council of Ministers, headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, announced that the provincial elections in Anbar and Ninewa will be postponed for a maximum of 6 months. While some considered this to be a violation of democratic principles, many felt the security situation in the two provinces was too fragile to hold the elections and actually requested they be postponed. On March 15, 2013, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that violent attacks had been targeted against at least 10 candidates and that it appeared there was al-Qaeda in Iraq involvement. (032313)

Syrian civil war spills into Iraq

Addendum: Michael Kobler, the UN special representative to Iraq, has warned the UN Security Council (UNSC) about the effects of a spillover of the Syrian civil war into Iraq. Not many details about his warning are available yet. What caught my eye were these numbers: Iraq already hosts about 120,000 Syrians, mainly in Kurdistan. About 8,000 Syrians are entering Iraq every day. There are about 80,000 Iraqis who were living in Syria but have now returned to Iraq, essentially now displaced Iraqis in Iraq. All together, given the hate that remains among just about every ethnic and social group in Iraq, this makes for a potentially volatile situation in a country that is already politically fragile. (032213)

IraqiSyriaBorderClashes


Stephen Wicken and Ahmed Ali reported for the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on March 8, 2013 that the Syrian civil war had spilled into Iraq. Since February 28, action has crossed the border. On that day, four mortar shells fired from Syria landed on Iraq at the Yaarabiya-Rabia border crossing in Ninewa province (Map #1). Then on March 1, a Scud missile fired from Syria landed near the Iraqi village of Yos Tapa (Map #2). After three days of fighting, the rebels seized half the border town on March 2. Iraqi troops fired warning shots, but more mortar shells fell and residents of the village were forced to flee. Syrian rebels looted the border crossing town and told Iraqi forces to stay away. The local hospital reported six Iraqi troops had been killed during the clashes (Map #3). The Iraqi government closed the border post, but a number of Syrian troops fled into Iraq and were escorted to another border crossing, where they were ambushed, killing 48 Syrians and 9 Iraqis (Map #4). (031613)

Iraq’s fledgling democracy is somehow holding together

The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group has assessed the situation in Iraq, and my read of the assessment is that by hook and by crook, the Iraqi democracy is functioning and holding together. The Shia, many of whom are aligned with or favor Iran, dominate the landscape at 60 percent of the population. Maliki is Shia. Maliki angered the Kurds and the Sunnis and created a lot of problems for himself. Somehow he seems to have calmed down both entities, so for the moment restlessness has declined. If there is a near term worry, it has to do with the problems in Syria, where the Sunni-led civil war against the government there could spill into Iraq which would cause a strong Shia reaction, not only against the Syrian Sunnis but also against the Iraqi Sunnis. For example, there is a late breaking report on March 11, 2013 that says an al-Qaeda related group claimed responsibility for a March 4 attack in Iraq’s Anbar province that killed 48 Syrian soldiers and one Iraqi security people. Apparently the Syrian soldiers were being transported through Anbar back to Syria when the attack occurred against their convoy --- one wonders why Iraq was allowing them to be in Iraq. Complicated stuff, but for the moment, Iraq is holding. (031113)

Iraq closes border with Syria

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The Iraqi government closed a border crossing between eastern Syria and the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh after cross-border fire killed an Iraqi soldier, the Defense Ministry said March 7, 2013. The Free Syrian Army has seized control al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border. The Iraqi border police confirmed the seizure of al-Bukamal, with a police lieutenant colonel saying fighting started at noon and in the evening the Syrian flag was taken down and replaced with the Free Syrian Army flag. (030813)

Protests in Iraq continue, across the country

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) exported on February 8, 2013, “Anti-government protests continued for the sixth week in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah ad-Din, with major protests in Fallajuh, Ramadi, Mosul, Samarra, and Tikrit. Protests also took place in Hawija in Kirkuk, Baquba in Diyala, and in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Doura and Ghazaliyah.” People are calling PM Maliki a dictator and demanding a return of their rights. While there have been car bomb attacks, interestingly many tribal leaders are calling for calm, are condemning violence, and are seeking to work their issues though legitimate and legal mechanisms. (021113)

Iraq bombs kill 36 in Iraq, wound 100

Car bombs struck twi markets and a group of of taxi vans in Shiite areas across Iraq on February 8, 2012. At least 36 are dead, about 100 wounded. The attacks appear Sunni inspired, though there are indications of ties to an al Qaeda group. (020813)

US Embassy Baghdad issues security warning to Americans

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The US Embassy Baghdad issued a security warning to Americans on December 28, 2012. The message warned, “terrorist elements may target U.S. interests in Baghdad, including the United States Embassy, as well as churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk, on or around December 31, 2012.” I do not recall such targeting to have occurred. There has been considerable social and political upheaval lately in Iraq, mostly in Fallauja, Ramadi, Mosul and even the smaller cities of Samarra and Tikrit. Thus far, PM Maliki has been calling for dialog, but he has continued to raise hell with his opponents. But now the Shi’a are starting to get in the act. And, one of their targets is Turkey and Turkish people living in Iraq. The accusation is that Turkey has been meddling in Iraqi affairs and in Syrian affairs. Iran, a Syrian supporter, of course has its finger in the Shi’a pie. Iran is pressuring Maliki to defuse the situation. The recent Israeli attack against a convoy in Syria simply adds to the furor and complexities, as Iran has warned Israel it will pay the consequences of its attack. So now Iranian-back Shia’ militants are taking advantage of the nationwide political fragility. Thus far, except for a few incidents, the Iraqi military has kept its distance. At the moment, Maliki’s main problems appear to be with the Sunnis and Kurds,, and even with his own Shi’a allies. Concerns center on whether the opposition will become significant enough to force Maliki to be more authoritarian. Graphic courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War. (020413)

Iraqi Army showing restraint against protests, but for how long?

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is facing a serious problem with the expanding protests throughout Iraq. While the Iraqi Army did kill some people in a recent Fallujah protest, thus far the Army has been generally restrained. But it is unsure how long this can last, as Maliki’s options for satisfying the protesters are very narrow. Civil war is most certainly in the radar screen. The Institute for the Study of war (ISW) has suggested the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) was responsible for attaching government forces in Fallujah over the weekend. ISW worries that ISI will attract disaffected Sunnis who once held power under Saddam. Maliki has a tinder box on his hands. (012813)

Crisis in Iraq escalating

The political and security situation in Iraq, especially in the area of Falllujah, is worsening and escalating. On January 25, 2013, Iraqi security forces fired on anti-government protesters in Fallujah. The security forces first died warning shots, but then fired directly at the crowd. In turn, the protestors torched several military and civilian vehicles. There were deaths and injuries. Sunnis in Anbar province are threatening to return to violence and abandon politics. Overall, the volume and lethality of terrorists attacks has risen in Iraq in January 2013. (012613)

US delivers three helicopters to Iraqi Army Aviation

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The US delivered three Bell 407 Scout helicopters to Iraqi Army Aviation on January 14, 2013. An USAF C-17 airlifted them to Iraq. The helicopters will b used for patrol and security operations. The delivery includes spares parts, ground support equipment and tools, and logistical aircraft maintenance support. (011813)

Political situation in Iraq deteriorating

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The political situation is deteriorating as political demonstrations are spreading across Iraq, largely along sectarian lines. It appears that the arrest of Iraqi Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi’s (shown here) security detail on December 20, 2012 sparked anti-government protests in his native Anbar province, which quickly spread to Salah ad-Din and Ninewa. The protests began on December 21, 2012 and continue. Ramadi has been a focal point. The protests then spread to the north, in villages and towns on the road to Mosul. The Sh’ia, who live mostly in the south, had been careful to avoid the protests. However, that changed on January 4, 2013 as Sh’ia political parties began to organize. So now there is raised Sunni-Sh’ia tension. Violent clashes have occurred in Mosul. The open question at the moment is how PM Maliki reacts. If he employs security forces, anti-government sentiment is likely to worsen. It is unclear whether he will able to contain the anti-government demonstrations. (011213)

Maliki missteps have reduced Iranian influence

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has been consolidating Shiite power to such an extent that now the Sunni minority has taken to the streets and threatens the Maliki regime. In turn, this has disrupted Iran’s plans to influence how Iraq operates. Furthermore, there has been a Sunni revival in Syria, which also runs counter to Iranian plans. Iran is largely a Shiite state. (011113)

Rising turbulence in Iraq expected for 2013

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The Langley Intelligence Group Network (LIGNET) has forecast sectarian violence to escalate in 2013. Expectations are the war in Syria will spill into Iraq and Sunni concerns about increasing Iranian influence over Iraq will cause serious problems for Iraq. LIGNET said, “About 60,000 protesters from Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority poured into the streets last week in a show of defiance against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, keeping up a week-long blockade of a highway in Anbar province … New sectarian tensions threaten to plunge Iraq back into chaos, just one year after the last U.S. troops left the country. Iraq has since struggled to define itself as its government stumbles from one political crisis to another.” (010313)

Protests against Maliki on the rise

Iraqis are protesting against President Maliki throughout the country. Thousands in Fallujah on December 28, 2012, many denouncing Iranian influence on the Maliki government. A large number in Ramadi supporting Turkish PM Erdogan’s recent criticisms of Maliki. Mock funeral in Ramadi mourning the loss of independence for the Iraqi judiciary. Smaller protests in other cities. One Sunni politician has called for a vote of no confidence against Maliki. (123112)

Kuwait allocating land for NATO training site

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Kuwait is allocating land for a NATO training site. Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said on December 19, 2012, "We are interested in regional security and stability, and we want to be partners with everyone having interest to achieve that.” For those of us who have forgotten our geography, the mmap shows Kuwait’s strategic location. As an aside, please note the location of Azerbaijan on Iran’s northwest boundary. It is forging closer ties with Israel and its relationship with Iran has been deteriorating for some time. IT has supported US sanctions against Iran. It does not possess a significant military, but it does offer allies, of which the US is one, a very strategic location from which to operate if required. If you were at believe that Iraq remains an ally of the US, and if you were to believe that Afghanistan on Iran’s eastern boundary might remain an ally of the US, and then note US power in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, you might conclude Iran is surrounded. Lots of “ifs” there but an interesting perspective nonetheless. (122012)

Iraqi Navy receives offshore support vessels

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The Navy reported on December 20, 2012, “The Iraqi Navy and the U.S. Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command marked the delivery of two 60-meter Offshore Support Vessels (OSV 1/ OSV 2), such as shown here, to the Iraqi navy in a ceremony at the Umm Qasr naval facility, Dec. 19. The two OSVs, procured as part U.S. Navy's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program, will help reconstitute Iraq's ability to enforce maritime sovereignty and security in the Northern Arabian Gulf … OSVs are multi-function vessels providing a wide range of capabilities to support Iraq's oil production platforms. The vessels will provide transport support for crew changes and resupply to the platforms. Each OSV is equipped with a 30mm gun weapon system and outfitted with fast attack boats to defend it and the offshore platforms. The vessels each include a vertical replenishment deck to facilitate the transfer of supplies as needed.”

The problem with al Qaeda in Iraq

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) see evidence that al Qaeda in Iraq, AQI, is gaining strength as an exporter of terrorism in an area known as the Levant, or the eastern Mediterranean. The ISW analysts suggest that regional developments in Syria, Libya and the US withdrawal from Iraq open up doors to AQI activities outside Iraq. (121912)

US people in Iraq in decline

AP reported on December 17, 2012, “The number of U.S. government employees and contractors working at diplomatic outposts around the country has fallen below 14,000, according to figures provided by the embassy in Baghdad. That is down from about 16,000 earlier this year. It is expected to shrink to about 12,000 in 2013.” There are some 200 military people there attached to the embassy, but even that number looks like it will be drawn down as well. Not sure why, though the embassy might have been overstaffed to begin with. Officials say the US-Iraqi relationship is improving. (121812)

Iraqi Air Force gets three C-130J aircraft

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The Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) received its third C-130J transport aircraft on December 12, 2012. The IqAF recently graduated seven pilots, sixteen maintenance people, and one loadmaster, all US trained. The program's goal is for Iraq to train 18 pilots, 18 loadmasters, and a minimum of 50 maintainers over a period of three years. (121712)

US operates a “Mega Embassy” in Iraq

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The US embassy in Iraq is now the largest diplomatic mission in the world. It employs 13,000 government officials and contract workers. The State Department says it is trying to reduce this to 8,000. The embassy has been trying to take on some of the duties performed by the military but they have to do so with no US military combat presence. (120612)

US-Iraq sign deal

The US and Iraq have signed a memorandum of understanding, an MOU, that addresses security cooperation. The US will enhance Iraq’s security capabilities and modernize Iraq’s military forces. Iraq will bu US F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters and M-1 Abrams tanks. Jim Garamone, reporting for American Forces Press service on December 6, 2012, said, “The memorandum of understanding -- signed by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and (Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-) Dlimi -- covers the range of U.S.-Iraqi defense cooperation and covers the next five years. This includes high-level military-to-military visits, professional military education cooperation, counterterrorism cooperation and the development of defense intelligence capabilities. The two nations committed to joint exercises including exchanges of information dealing with humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, officials said.” (120612)

Kurdish military forces moving toward Kirkuk

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The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group reported on December 3, 2012, “A large force of Peshmerga (such as shown in photo) is moving toward Kirkuk province on December 3 with heavy and medium weapons, NINA reported, citing an unnamed source. The force is moving from Arbil with tanks, armored vehicles and other military vehicles.” Peshmerga is a term used by Kurds to refer to Kurdish fighters.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq re-merging, threatens to become regional endeavor

Al Qaeda in Iraq, AQI, is supporting Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and Jordan. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA counterterrorism expert who is with the Brookings Institution, said, “What we’re now seeing is al-Qaida in Iraq’s revival, not only as a movement in that country but as a regional movement.” Joby Warrick reported for The Washington Post on December 3, 2012, “The reemergence of AQI comes at a time when U.S. officials and analysts are expressing growing concern about other al-Qaida affiliates, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa. U.S. intelligence officials have said that some of the fighters involved in the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, were associated with the North Africa branch.” On the surface, it appears AQI is able to operate rather freely in Iraq, and is able to support these other movements elsewhere. (120312)

Iraq experiencing wave of lethal attacks

Forty-three people were killed nationwide in Iraq on November 29, 2012 mostly as the result of roadside bombing, mostly targeted at Shiites: 29 dead, more than 90 wounded in a roadside bomb followed by a car bomb against emergency responders in Hillah; six killed in Karbala from car bomb explosion, 20 wounded; three police killed by car bomb in Fallujah, 11 wounded; two dead and two wounded in parked car bomb in Mosul. an Iraqi soldier killed by roadside bomb in Taji, five wounded; one civilian killed and 12 wounded by car bomb strike at restaurant in Madain. A total of 166 people were killed in attacks in November -- 101 civilians, 35 police and 30 soldiers, while 252 -- 129 civilians, 68 police and 55 soldiers -- were wounded.Attacks are said to be lower than in the past, but remain frequent. (120312)

Exiled Iraqi VP says Iran trucking weapons-ammo to Syria through Iraq

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Foreign Policy reported on October 23, 2012 that exiled Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has alleged that Iran is convoying weapons, ammo and other military supplies to the Assad government through Iraq. He said, “The transit is not only aerial using Iraqi airspace, but the ground transit is becoming a phenomenon. Munitions, heavy arms, and even militias are passing checkpoints without any sort of obstruction … I am very afraid the U.S. and the international community is only focused on the aerial transit and leaving behind the ground transit. Everything should be checked now … The convoys from Iran continue on this route without any checking. A huge number of busses and trucks are passing the checkpoints all the way from the Iranian border to the Syrian border, passing through al-Anbar [province] without stopping at the checkpoints … If these convoys are carrying ordinary passengers, they should stop at least to stamp their passports. If they are carrying food and medicine, why are they not stopping at the checkpoints?" Hashimi is living in Turkey following his indictment for participating in acts of terror against his political opponents. He has been sentenced to death.(102412)

Deputy SecDef Carter explains need for US forces in Kuwait

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Deputy SecDef Ashton Carter visited US forces in Kuwait on October 17, 2012 and outlined why US forces are still there. He said it is not because of Iraq --- “We know that’s over.” But he did say, “We paid a big price in blood and treasure to get (the Iraqi) outcome, and we need to consolidate it now.” He added, “We have a need for an enduring presence in this region (even after Afghanistan) … You see it in the Arab Spring, and its consequences which are still unfolding … So for all of these reasons, you're needed here and our presence is needed here. So you're doing something that's extremely important to the security of the great nation that we all serve.” (101812)

Deadly times in Iraq

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on September 12, 2012, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI) front group, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), claimed responsibility for a massive wave of attacks across Iraq on September 9, 2012. On one of the bloodiest days since the withdrawal of U.S. forces last year, nearly 100 people were killed in over 30 attacks that spanned the length of the country. In a seemingly coordinated string of car bomb and IED detonations, at least 18 separate locations were struck from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south with a strong concentration around the Baghdad belts … As noted, violence in Iraq has risen in recent months as the ISI has been able effectively to orchestrate high-profile assassinations and widespread bombing campaigns.” In addition, tension on the Iraq-Syria border is rising and there has been a spillover of fighting from Syria. And, of course, there is the continuous conflict between Iraq and the Kurds in the north. (100312)

Wave of bombings plaguing Iraq

Sectarian violence has risen rapidly in Iraq since the US left. On the last day of September 2012, a wave of bombings took place across Iraq, with insurgents striking Shiite neighborhoods and security forces, killing at least 26 people and wounding 94. the attacks were coordinated and occurred in multiple cities. It is not clear the Iraqi government can handle the situation. Civil war is not out of the question. (100212)

NATO signs accord with Iraq

NATO signed a cooperation agreement with Iraq on September 24, 2012, called by NATO, the “Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP).” NATO says, “The Alliance is committed to assisting Iraq as it builds a modern security sector which can cooperate with international partners. The partnership will promote dialogue and address shared threats. NATO and Iraq intend to work together to develop the capacity of Iraq’s security institutions and to cultivate the expertise of its national defence academies. The agreement also creates a framework for regular political dialogue and for training cooperation in areas such as counter- terrorism, crisis management, disaster relief and logistics.” (092512)

Insurgents strike at Baghdad, kill 9

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Iraqi insurgents killed nine and wounded 19 during a group of coordinated attacks against Iraqi security forces around Baghdad on September 25, 2012. They employed car bombs, RPGs, and assault rifles. AFP reported, “While insurgents opposed to the Baghdad government are regarded as weaker than in past years, they have shown they can strike at even the most highly-secured sites in the country. Targets in recent months included a military base, the anti-terrorism directorate in Baghdad, a prison, and an entrance to Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, where the Iraqi government is headquartered. Violence in Iraq is down from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but deadly attacks are still carried out almost every day.” Some 187 people have been killed and 685 wounded in attacks thus far in September 2012. (092512)

Insurgent attacks on the rise

Iraqi insurgents killed at least 44 people in a wave of attacks against Iraqi security forces on September 9, 2012. The insurgents engaged soldiers at an Army post and bombed police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs. The total death till rose to 64 when three evening bombings and a shooting near Baghdad left 20 more dead. For the day, some 285 were wounded. (090912)

Iraqis to get F-16s in 2014, starting training now

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The USAF reported on September 1, 2012 that the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) is scheduled to received F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters in September 2014. Two IqAF pilots have already started training along with pilots from other countries with F-16s. The Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing (FW) at Tucson International Airport is where the USAF trains international pilots on the F-16. Brig. Genneral Abdulhussein Lafta Ali, IqAF, a former Iraqi pilot flying the Soviet-made MiG-21 pilot, flew aboard a F-16 while visiting Tucson. The photo shows Col. Andrew MacDonald, USAF, showing IqAF General Lafta Ali Ali how to pre-flight an F-16D before an orientation flight at Tucson International Airport, August 30, 2012. This effort to acquire and fly the F-16 is crucial to a free Iraq, as at present it is unable to protect its air sovereignty. I was surprised to see the Iraqis telling the USAF to leave thinking the USAF would provide that service until the Iraqis were ready. On the other hand, I am surprised and pleased to see the IqAF moving so quickly to receive the F-16s and train to fly them. (090412)

Dempsey thinks US still has important role in Iraq

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General Martin Dempsey, USA, CJCS, arrived in Baghdad on August 21, 2012, the highest-ranking US military officer to visit there since December 2011, said, "We still retain significant investment and significant influence. But now it's on the basis of a partnership and not on the basis of ownership.” AFP reported that Dempsey said he came to build a dialogue with his Iraqi counterparts and explore expanding military ties. AFP said he wanted to discuss Iraq's interest in training and military exercises with U.S. forces as well as the possibility of arms sales. There are some 200 military people attached to the US Embassy Baghdad. The photo shows Iraqi army Gen. Zebari Babakir, left, chief of defense, meting with Dempsey in Baghdad, August 21, 2012. (082212)

US forces continue training in Kuwait

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This simply is meant to serve as a reminder that the US plans to station a significant force in Kuwait and the Mideast region, as many as 40,000 total, following the Afghan withdrawal. As of January 2012, the US had moved 15,000 troops to Kuwait. It has now been announced that as many as 13,500 are to be stationed in Kuwait following the Afghan withdrawal. I cannot yet tell if these are additive or whether this will be the total stationed there. The US forces are rotating in and out conducting intense training there in case sudden fighting should break out in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, or should problems arise with Iran. This photo, for example, shows soldiers of A/4-118th Infantry from the South Carolina National Guard engaging targets during a platoon live-fire exercise at the Udairi Range Complex in northern Kuwait, July 31, 2012. The Soldiers also cleared buildings and a trench system during the exercise. (082112)

Value of US training of Iraqi police now in doubt

The US State Department launched a major Police Development Program which was to be a five year program to train security forces, especially police, after the US military withdrawal. The Iraqis have not signed up to the program and do not like it. US auditors led by the Special Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction are scheduled to put out a critical report soon. (073012)

Al Qaeda stepping up work in Iraq

The New York Times reported on July 27, 2012 that 15 neighborhood officials in Baquba, Iraq have quit because they say the government is not doing enough to stop the growth and activities of Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI). Rod Norland sai in his report, “Eight mukhtars neighborhood officials) had been assassinated in Baquba this year in Al Qaeda’s effort to gain control of neighborhoods, particularly in the west of the city.” (073012)

Talk of civil war in Iraq

Susan Crabtree reported for The Washington Times on July 8, 2012 that Iraq is headed toward civil war. She cites power struggles between ethnic and sectarian forces. Sunni militants have been attacking government facilities and Shiite pilgrims. You will recall that the Sunnis, a minority, were in charge of Iraq under Saddam. They no longer are. Iranian influence is said to be increasing. This bears watching. There are reports of tensions between the US and the Government of Iraq. (070912)

Army Corps of Engineers continues construction in Iraq

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The US Army Corps of Engineers is managing $350 million in projects in Iraq building facilities for a variety of uses. It is part of the Foreign Military Assistance Program (FMS) conducted by the US DoD in many countries throughout the world. In Iraq, it is managed by the Office of Security Cooperation Iraq (OSC-I) which is part of US Embassy Baghdad. The Air Force Materiel Command is also involved in projects supporting the Iraqi Air Force. At the moment, it is providing facilities for yet-to-be-delivered F-16s and is also building facilities for Iraqi C-130 aircraft. (062512)

Troop levels in Kuwait 15,000

It has been a while since I checked, but to my knowledge the US remains at about 15,000 troops in Kuwait. An Army Times report of January 14, 2012 said the forces included two brigade combat teams and a combat aviation brigade. The Times said, “As of January 5 (2012), soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, of Fort Hood, Texas, and 1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, of the Minnesota National Guard were the two primary brigade-sized units deployed to Kuwait. In addition, the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) from the Maryland National Guard also is in Kuwait, moving there after serving as the last CAB in Iraq.” It is my understanding that the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) (1st TSC), a major support unit of Army Central Command (ARCENT), has a Forward Headquarters at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. It is an element of the 3rd US Army which is dual-hatted as ARCENT. (040612)

Al-Qaeda stepping up activity in Anbar and Baghdad, Syria as well

General Ray Odierno, CSA, has said, “There are reports that there has been some increase, especially in Anbar providence, of al-Queda, and also in Baghdad. I am still confident that Iraqi security forces can handle the violence. The issue becomes that we need the people of Iraq to continue to reject al-Queda and not allow them to get back in and form groups." He also expressed concern that al Qaeda is active in Syria. He reminded lawmakers of the remaining US Army forces in the region: "We have a brigade combat team that came out of Iraq and is now inside of Kuwait, we have some aviation elements that are also inside of Kuwait. “We have people in Kuwait that also support Afghanistan. The current number is somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000. It will come down over time, probably to something less than 10,000 in Kuwait." (031412)

387th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron truckers inactivate

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The 387th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron truckers inactivated on March 6, 2012, in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The 387th’s mission began in 2003 and throughout the Iraqi War they conducted thousands of supply runs into Iraq, about 1,925 missions over 95 million miles. Heat, cold, sand and sit storms, vehicle issues and enemy ambushes were their main challenges. (031012)

US re-thinking Baghdad embassy size, missions

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The New York Times reported on February 7, 2012 that the State Department is rethinking the size and missions of the US Embassy Baghdad, and Iraqi government officials are bewildered by American intentions with this embassy and say there is no agreement for its many missions. The embassy has already found it cannot take on all the missions left behind by the US military departure. The main problems at the moment have to do with the numbers of contractors, the numbers of embassy staff, and the Iraqi government’s claims that it has no agreements with the US to justify a 16,000 person embassy. Many in the government see the embassy as trying to infringe on national sovereignty and for using it as a base for Mideast-wide operations. The government is making it hard for the embassy to get supplies and to bring people in. The Times said State could cut the size in half. (020812)

Hard-line Islamists gain power in Kuwait

Opposition groups that include hard-line Islamists have gained control over Kuwait’s parliament. The ruling family retains control, but the parliament can cause it trouble. This must be watched closely because of the large US military presence there and around the Persian Gulf region. (020312)

1st Cav’s BCT drawing combat equipment in Kuwait

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The 1st Brigade “Ironhorses” of the 1st Cav Division has about 4,500 troops in Kuwait and, according to the Army, has begun drawing combat gear. An Army report of January 30, 2012 said, “The Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, began the issue here of brigade combat team equipment to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division's Ironhorse Brigade, January 3, 2012. When the equipment draw is completed in mid-February, the unit will be properly equipped to conduct security cooperation, training and joint exercises with Kuwaiti forces, said officials.” (013112)

US force buildup in Kuwait well underway

It is hard to tell whether this is related to Iraq or Iran or both. But there is certainly a buildup of US forces in Kuwaig and the Arabian Sea. The USS Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has left the Arabian Sea, relieved by the USS Vinson CSG and the USS Abraham Lincoln CSG is in the Indian Ocean on its way to the area as well. Washington said this was not in reaction to issues with Iran or Iraq. The Washington Tribune reported on January 13, 2011 that such may not be true. The two CSGs will remain in the Arabian Sea, and there are build-ups in train elsewhere, all in response to CINCENTCOM’s requirement for more forces to respond to any contingency with Iran or, less likely, in Iraq. The 1st Brigade “Ironhorses” of the 1st Cav Division has about 4,500 troops in Kuwait, moved there from Iraq with artillery and tanks. It has been designated a “Mobile Response Force.” A National Guard Brigade from Minnesota has been in Kuwait since August 2011. A combat aviation brigade arrived in December. And reports are another major unit is preparing to deploy there soon. Experts I have heard on TV say there is no chance US forces will go back into Iraq. I am not so sure as the Iranian controlled Shia militia in Iraq is creating havoc there. It does not sound plausible that US ground forces would go into Iran, especially at the levels in Kuwait. That said, a scenario can be envisioned where they went in to overtake a nuclear facility and destroy it. SecDef Panetta did say that we would keep 40,000 troops in the region, so perhaps this is part of that contingency plan --- what we are unsure of is what contingency they might be preparing for. (011312)

1st BLT “Ironhorses” take on APS and MRF missions in Kuwait

The 1st Battalion Landing Team (BLT) “Ironhorses” of the 1st Cavalry Division moved from Iraq to Kuwait and will serve out their tour of duty there. Their missions are to serve as Army Prepositioned Stock 5 (APS-5) managers and as a Mobile Response Force (MRF) for regional contingencies. The APS mission is designed to reduce the initial amount of equipment transportation required to sustain operational units until the main supply systems can turn on. It’s worth noting that the 1st Battalion 82nd Field Artillery Regiment howitzers is part of the 1st BLT, along with the 2-5 Cav. (011012)

Tennessee Guard unit transfers authority for logistics mission in Kuwait

The Tennessee Army National Guard’s 230th Sustainment Brigade transferred its logistics mission in Kuwait on December 27, 2011 to the North Carolina Army National Guard’s 113th Sustainment Brigade. The 230th had been in Kuwait side January 2011, and at the time of its arrival, was the only Army sustainment brigade in Kuwait. It played a key role in the Iraqi withdrawal. The 230th has returned home to various locations in Tennessee. (010612)

CTF Iraqi Maritime disestablishes

Combined Task Force Iraqi Maritime (CTF IM) declared mission complete and was official disestablished on December 31, 2011. The Navy reported, “CTF IM was established in 2003 as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom to support the government of Iraq in maintaining the integrity of Iraqi territorial waters and the defense of the Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya oil terminals. It consisted of naval assets from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, the Royal Australian navy and the British Royal navy working alongside elements of the Iraqi navy and the Iraqi marines.” (010412)

1st Cav Division’s “Ironhorse” Brigade not coming home

Iron-Horse
As I had warned earlier, not all US forces in Iraq would be coming home for Christmas. The 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade will fill out its tour in Kuwait.

This change has been reported as abrupt, catching many officers and troops by surprise. They had been stationed at Camp Echo, Iraq. It is not yet clear how many of the Ironhorse soldiers will remain.

They are currently at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, which is not equipped for 4,000 of them. (123111)

What if the US Embassy Baghdad has to withdraw?

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Baghdad bombing, December 22, 2011


On the surface, Iraq’s stability is falling apart at a rapid pace. We’ll not go into everything that is going poorly, but the ones that should be highlighted are the coordinated, lethal bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere and the massive political turmoil inside and outside the government. The US Embassy Baghdad has or will soon have some 16,000 people attached to it. It is a massive structure and compound. It is worth asking, “What if Iraq descends into a failed and volatile state and the embassy people must be withdrawn? Most experts agree that US forces will not return to Iraq to bail out the Iraqi Army should Iraq disintegrate. But they might have to return if the staff at the embassy is gravely threatened. I sat in the CINPAC Command Post when we evacuated the embassy in Saigon. I can assure you evacuating a large embassy is an extremely difficult operation. (122611)

Four USAF air expeditionary units part of USF-I deactivate

Four USAF air expeditionary units that were part of US Forces Iraq (USF-I) deactivated on December 18, 2011. They are the 467th Air Expeditionary Group, 368th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, 321st Air Expeditionary Wing and 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq. They were formally deactivated shortly after the last ARmy convoy crossed into Kuwait. (122311)

State Department and CIA now have “the deck and the con” in Iraq, but US forces stand by in Kuwait

USEmbassyAirport

The State Department and to a lesser degree the CIA now have responsibility for US interests in Iraq. The staff is said to number 16,000, five thousand of whom are security contractors. The majority of security contractors are third party nationals. About 500-700 are American security contractors. There are about 200 Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) people there, whereas with most embassies there are just a few. Another team of security officers from CIA will protect CIA officers when they leave the compound. All this said, the 1st Cavalry Division has a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) at the ready in Kuwait, there is a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked on the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) which is currently located offshore Somalia. Such a MEU will likely remain in the area for some time to come. It has about 2,000 Marines with aircraft. And there is the USS Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG) located in the Arabian Sea supporting Afghan operations but available to support operations in Iraq if required. The Navy will rotate the CSG and ARG with others over time. I believe the USS Carl Vinson CSG to replace the Stennis, for example, is on its way to the area. It presently is in the western Pacific. The graphic provide by Stratfor Intelligence Group shows the Green Zone upper right, the location of the US embassy in dark green at the bottom center of the Green Zone, and the Baghdad International Airport to the left a short distance away. (122211)

Spc David Hickman last US military to die in Iraq

HickmanDavid


Spc. David E. Hickman of Greensboro, NC was the last American military killed in Iraq. He died on November 14, 2011 as the result of an IED explosion. He was with the 2-325 Airborne. He was scheduled t return to the US on December 1, 2011. He is shown in this photo wearing the rank of private first class. he had since been promoted to specialist. (122211)

The gate to-from Iraq is closed

KhabariGateClosed

Soldiers from the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, Third Ary, and Kuwaiti border military police closed the gate at the Khabari crossing into Iraq following the arrival of the last US convoy out on December 19, 2011. (122211)

Last US military covey has left Iraq

LastConvoyIraq

The last vehicles in a convoy of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait, Sunday, December 18, 2011. The brigade's special troops battalion were the last American soldiers to leave Iraq. Now only diplomatic-related military personnel remain in Iraq. (121811)

Navy flies last mission over Iraq

E2CLastUSNIraqMission

An E-2C Hawkeye from Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112, Carrier Air Wing 9, USS Stennis flew the final Naval mission over Iraq on December 18, 2011. The mission lasted about 3.5 hours. The Stennis Carrier Strike Gorup remains in the Arabian Sea in support of Afghan operations.(122211)

US turns over Camp Adder, last base to be returned to Iraqis --- still 4,000 GIs left

The US turned over Camp Adder on December 16, 2011, the last base to be turned over to Iraq. It is now called Imam Ali Base and will be used by the Iraqi Air Force. The US command cased its colors on December 15, 2011 and the US commander in Iraq departed Iraq. All this said, there still are about 4,000 soldiers in country. I am not sure where they are, but believe they are still at Camp Adder packing up the final stuff for the final convoys out. Camp Adder served as the final stop for our departing equipment and the Camp Adder leaders said they would take the final convoys out. It is my understanding that some of the 4,000, probably most, will leave by tightly scheduled flights while the others drive out the final convoys. I should note that an Army report of December 15 said there are still 5,500 soldiers left. The Stratfor Global INtelligence Group has said the last of US forces are slated to leave Iraq next week, ahead of schedule. (121611)

US military mission in Iraq terminated, December 15, 2011

RetireColorsEndIraqWar

General Lloyd Austin, USA, commander, US Forces Iraq, cased the USF-I colors during a ceremony in Baghdad marking the end of the US military mission in Iraq, December 15, 2011. This is, of course, the end of the military’s non-diplomatic mission. This photo shows the color guard departing with the cased colors to end the ceremony. It is my understanding that General Austin departed Iraq on this date as well. (121511)

US Embassy Baghdad to have a “few thousand” on staff

USEMbassyBaghdad

The US Embassy Baghdad will be the new American face in Iraq after December 31, 2011. It will have a “few thousand” on its staff, most of whom will be civilian. Embassy staff has said it will take over the US military mission, which is confusing since the embassy staff will not fight. It will do military equipping, training, police training, and executive level training. The Office of International Narcotics will have people there. There will be an Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I), led by Lt. General Robert Casien who has been in the job since October 1, 2011. OSC-I will deliver foreign military sales (FMS) and provide international military education and training. The OSC-I will have a mix of 157 military and civilian people. It’s number one job will be to modernize three Iraqi army divisions by December 31, 2014. The photo shows part of the embassy and does not do justice to the massive embassy complex which is located very close to the Tigris River. It has over 20 buildings and occupies 104 acres. (121411)

Iraqi F-16 pilots to be trained in US, acquisition and logistics maters to be handled by embassy

Iraq has ordered 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons, also known as the Viper, and expects to have a fighter squadron operational by 2015-2016. Unfortunately, the USAF training effort in Iraq terminates on December 31, 2011. So Iraqi pilots are coming to the US for flight training. Ten are said to be in the system now. The US Embassy Baghdad’s Office of Security Cooperation Iraq (OSC-I) will handle acquisition and logistics matters and refrain from deep involvement in training the pilots. Iraq is said to want another squadron of 18 F-16s and will probably get them. Between now and 2015-2016, Iraq will be unable to maintain air sovereignty without foreign intervention. (121311)

NATO has decided to withdraw from Iraq by December 31 as well

A NATO statement said the North Atlantic Council decided on December 12, 2011 to withdraw all trainers from Iraq by year’s end. Iraq had asked the NATO trainers to remain until the end of 2013, but, as was the case with the US, Iraq refused to grant NATO forces legal immunity. NATO has about 130 trainers there now from 13 member states and the Ukraine.

Troop count at about 4,000 throughout Iraq --- Camp Adder will be among last to close

We have been reporting about all the traffic flowing through Camp Adder, Iraq on its way to Kuwait. It will be among the last outposts to close, and might be actually the last. There are about 2,000 soldiers left there. Voice of America said on December 7, 2011 there are now only about 4,000 total left in Iraq. It is expected the trips at Camp Adder will take the last convoys out of Iraq. They had been handling about 1,000 vehicles per day, but that number has dropped to about 500. About $220 million worth of equipment will be left at Camp Adder, mostly containerized housing units, and civilian vehicles in a state of disrepair, though they can be repaired, and the Iraqis will do that. The Iraqis intend to rename the base Imam Ali Air Base. (120911)

Eight thousand US troops left in Iraq as of December 7, 2011

Lt. General Frank Helmick, deputy commander US Forces, Iraq, told reporters on December 7, 2011 that there were only 8,000 US troops left in Iraq as of December 7, 2011.

General warns to watch for kidnapping attempts as we leave Iraq

Lt. General Frank Helmick, deputy commander US Forces, Iraq, told reporters on December 7, 2011 to beware of enemy attempts to kidnap American embassy people as US forces withdraw from Iraq. Once US forces have left, there will be about 16,000 people left working for the State Department. It is hard to understand why such a large number, but that’s the way it is. Given the small number of US military people who will be left at the embassy to protect it and its people, the job of defending them will be in the hands of the Iraqi security forces. General Helmick acknowledged that this is going to be a tough job for the Iraqis. (120811)

Convoys moving out of Camp Victory, route clearance a top priority

I reported earlier that the US turned over Camp Victory in Baghdad to the Iraqis on December 2, 2011. US convoys are now moving out at a hectic pace. This has required a great deal of route clearance support operations. The MPs assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, had been conducting daily missions in the area since moving to Camp Taji from Al-Asad Air Base in early October. Their specialty is route clearance. Similar efforts are underway with 2-5 Cav, which has been conducting night patrols from Contingency Operating Station Kalsu near Hilla, Babil Province. The 2-5 is conducting frequent patrols to assure the safety of departing convoys and troops. The 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division will be the last to occupy Kalsu and efforts are underway to transition it to Iraq soon. So far, so good. (120711)

Virginia Army National Guard leaves Iraq

VirginiaGuardLeavesIraq


The last elements of the Virginia National Guard conducted their final convoy out of Iraq on December 2, 2011. A/2-183 Cavalry provided an escort team for a convoy. They successfully entered Kuwait and turned in their gear. The unit had to run a few extra missions beyond what had been originally planned but they are now all out. The photo shows them leaving Camp Adder, Iraq headed for Kuwait. (120611)

US turns over Joint Base Balad

Brigadier General Kurt Neubauer, commander 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and commander, Joint Base Balad, Iraq, relinquished command on December 4, 2011 and turned over the base to the Iraqi Air Force. (120511)

Sections of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade will remain in Iraq past 2011 to support State Department

Portions of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade will among those who remain in Iraq past the 2011 withdrawal date. They will provide maintenance sport to the State Department and the Office of Security Cooperation. They will deploy to all State Department sites in Iraq and set up hubs at three bases: Basrah, Kirkuk and Taji. It is not yet clear how many will be military, Army civilian and contractors. (120511)

Transporting equipment out by convoy no cake walk

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The November edition of Airman Magazine has a nice story about transporting equipment and supplies out of Iraq by convoy, entitled, “Rounding the bases.” The USAF and Army have joined forces to conduct many convoys out. The USAF has been doing trucking missions since 2005, which required a whole new set of combat training for the Airmen in case they were ambushed or hit by an IED. SSgt. David Salanitir, who wrote the article, said, “Convoying from base to base is no stroll through the park.” Prior to each leg of the trip, the Airmen must gather their contracted drivers, make sure the vehicles are ready, get their gun trucks mounted with weapons and conduct a series of radio checks. Then the gun truck and convoy commanders, usually senior NCOs, brief the troops on what they can expect during the day-long ride. A normal mission might last six nights and seven days as they they drive through 1,100 miles of desert, city roads and highways. Ambushes and IEDs are the main threats. Trucks frequently breakdown, requiring the area to be secured while the truck is repaired. Maintenance trucks travel with the convoy. One mission might move 250,000 lbs. of cargo. The photo shows Airmen from the 70th Medium Truck Detachment leading a convoy through Iraq. The convoy of 43 vehicles traveled 1,100 miles in seven days, hauling equipment out of the country. (120211)

US turns over Camp Victory to Iraq

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The US turned over Camp Victory in Baghdad to the Iraqis on December 2, 2011. The base is no longer under US control. The complex, which surrounds Baghdad International Airport, was once Saddam Hussein’s country club for the elite, palace and all the trimmings. Camp Victory ceased being a major logistics point in August 2011 as troops started packing up to prepare to move out. The photo shows equipment lined up ad ready to leave back in August. It gives you a sense for the enormity of the logistics effort to pack up and go. This is why one would find it very hard to order all our forces out of a place like Iraq or Afghanistan “immediately,” as many politicians have recommended in the past. (120211)

USS
Carl Vinson CSG on its way to Arabian Sea

The USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group left San Diego on November 30, 2011 on its way to the western Pacific and then the Arabian Sea. At present the USS Stennis CSG is the only CSG in the Arabian Sea. (120111)

COB Adder RPAT preparing to shut down

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Soldiers at the Redistribution Property Assistance Team (RPAT) yard at Contingency Operating Base (COB) Adder are in the final stages of packing up the last pallets of excess equipment left by departing US forces and intend to ship these pallets out on November 27, 2011. Staff Sgt. Gene Taylor, RPAT Yard non-commissioned officer in charge, 227th Quartermaster Company, commented, “Our mission here was to take all the units’ equipment … send them to Afghanistan or send them back to the States to get remanufactured.” Mobile RPAT teams have left to get to units which have not been able to get to COB Adder to pick up their stuff. Once done at Adder, the RPAT troops will move to Kuwait to continue operations from there. (120111)

VP Biden in Iraq “to mark end of the Iraq War”

Vice President Biden arrived in Baghdad on November 29, 2011 in a surprise visit to mark the end of the Iraq War. In its report about Biden’s eighth visit to Iraq, Politico said there are now only 14,000 US troops left in Iraq, which is a new number. Biden will meet with PM Maliki and PM Maliki is due to visit Washington on December 12, 2011 to discuss the US-Iraq strategic partnership. Politico used the words “to mark the end of the Iraq War.” I believe what Politico meant to say is the end of US participation in the Iraq War started by the US. There is no doubt in this editor’s mind that warfare will continue in some form in Iraq after then end of the year. How the US will react to that is unclear. For example, Stars & Stripes reported on November 29, 2011 that violence in Baghdad is rising. There were two bombs detonated and a rocket attack on November 28. One of these was a car bomb attack inside the Green Zone near the parliament, killing five. Some 100 citizens have been killed in November alone. (112911)

Kuwait government collapses

Kuwait’s prime minister has resigned and so has his cabinet. The Emir of Kuwait has accepted the resignations but has asked everyone to stay put as a caretaker government, for how long is not yet known. Protesters and opposition leaders had been demanding they step down because of allegations of corruption. A new prime minister is to be appointed, and then the parliament will be dissolved. This kind of political turmoil seems to be the norm in Kuwait. There does not appear to be any impact on the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and positioning of those forces in Kuwait at this time, but one needs to be watchful. Kuwaiti officials have complained in the recent past that they do not want the US to think it can station 4,000 troops in Kuwait permanently. (112811)

Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Forward leaving Iraq

SailorsKuwait


Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Forward, a Navy unit that falls under the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, is leaving Iraq where it has been serving with Marines and Army forces, and providing each logistics support and help in headquarters, hospitals and provincial reconstruction teams. Some of the Sailors left behind will be among the last to leave. But they are starting to arrive at Camp Arifan, Kuwait to turn in equipment and get a ride home. The photo, credited to James Robinson and presented by Stars & Stripes, shows Lt. Cmdr. Geraldo Padilla removing plates from his body armor while turning in his gear at at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait on November 25, 2011.

2-319th Field Artillery leaves Ramadi

2_319FACampVirginia


The 2-319th (Airborne) Field Artillery Regiment “Black Falcons” has left Ramadi and arrived at Camp Virginia, Kuwait son or about November 24, 2011 after stops at Camp Kalsu to clean out their vehicles and another stop at Camp Adder to check their vehicles for the final run. Camp Ramadi has been turned over to the Iraqis. The final group left in a convoy of 40 vehicles and it took two days to reach Camp Virginia. The photo shows the paratroopers at Camp Virginia working on their equipment and preparing to turn in their ammo and other supplies. (112611)

Black Jacks transfer Contingency Operating Site Kaufman in Samarra

Soldiers from Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Advise and Assist) “Black Jack”, 1st Cavalry Division, transitioned Contingency Operating Site Kauffman as part of Operation New Dawn, in Samarra, October 21, 2011. This was the sixth base transitioned by Black Jack since their arrival in May 2011. Samarra was once a Sunni insurgent stronghold and had been the center of civil unrest for more than a decade. (112611)

CNN reports military has been told to speed troops home from Kuwait

CNN has reported that US military authorities have been told to speed up the return of US forces in Kuwait back home. One issue is that there is a bit of a bottleneck of forces in Kuwait. Camp Virginia, west of Kuwait City, is hosting most of them and is having to expand dining hours, activate more showers and latrines, and open a second base exchange to handle them. Furthermore, too many troops have nothing to do, and that is not good. The question is whether air can be made available sooner than planned. (112511)

Iraq withdrawal progress --- it’s moving along, but some wrenches in the plan are rising to the surface

On November 22, 2011, Brigadier General Bradley Becker, commanding general for US Division Center, Baghdad, and responsible for oversight, support and sustainment for US forces withdrawing from Iraq gave a brief update on the status of the US withdrawal from Iraq. The US has less than 20,000 troops in Iraq at seven bases. All seven bases are in the process of transferring to Iraq. The Iraqi defense minister says there are only 17,000 US troops left providing, in the main, logistics support for the withdrawal. An Iraqi newspaper said about 700 Americans, mostly civilian trainers, will remain to help train Iraqi forces.

I am confused on whether we have any combat brigade units left in Iraq. The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 2nd Division left in August 2010 and was said to be the last combat unit in Iraq. However, I now find reports that say the 4th BCT, 1st Armored Division, was sent to Iraq in August 2011 to replace two withdrawing brigades. Its area of responsibility was northern Iraq. It was expected to be an advise and assist brigade. The 4th BCT expected to serve a 12 month deployment. But on October 9, 2011, families were informed the BCT would be coming home early. I believe its main elements are returning home now.

Effective January 1, 2012, the State Department will lead all US efforts in Iraq. US forces have loaned some equipment to the State Department, including surveillance systems, radar systems and mine protected vehicles. Most equipment loaned or given to the Iraqis is to enable them to operate their bases. You can expect the following US military to remain until the last moment: medical people, logistics, and whatever combat power is left to have covered the withdrawal. The USS
Bush Carrier Support Group has left the Arabian Sea and is in the Mediterranean. This leaves one CSG, the USS Stennis CSG, and one Amphibious Ready Group with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, the USS Battan, in the area. VP Biden plans to visit Iraq in early December to commemorate the US withdrawal.

But there are issues now coming to the surface. Two have to do with defense of airspace and the seas, and issues up in Kirkuk.

President Talibani was interviewed by Iraqi state TV and said he is concerned about Iraq’s ability to defend its airspace and the seas. He indicated Iraqi military leaders want more US forces to remain behind. Ar present, Iraq has no capability to defend its airspace. Its capabilities to defend its seaport is limited, and it certainly cannot venture into the Persian Gulf with any significant force. Talibani is Kurd and agrees that the northern Iraq needs continued US support, which leads us to Kirkuk.

Kirkuk

Kirkuk city center

An adviser to PM Maliki said on November 17, 2011 that some 1,500 US troops will remain in Kirkuk after the end of 2011 to protect the US consulate and the US forces regional center. They reportedly are to be based near the airport. I have not been able to confirm this from US officials. US officials long ago marked this area as a flashpoint. Iraqi military leaders have said they are unsure they can protect the area. The provincial governor has urged, some say demanded, that US forces remain. An Iraqi news outlet said that a source at the US consulate there has reported only eight US troops remaining, that the others have left, so this is a curious twist. My instinct is that US forces beyond what are needed at the consulate will not remain. (112511)


Camp Virginia, Kuwait getting mighty busy

Military vehicles and convoys moving out of Iraq into Kuwait stop at Camp Virginia just west of Kuwait City, now at an accelerated pace. The stop at Camp Virginia is end of mission for many, but only the beginning for those stationed there who must prepare to move the equipment elsewhere in theater or back to the US. Estimates are that between October and December 2011 some 19,000 tactical vehicles will come through. Nothing has changed in the Army --- if the convoy leader does not have all the paperwork in order, he-she gets their return home delayed until it is right! (112311)

Base Exchange outlets closing, but trying to serve to the end

IraqBX


This is probably not a thing too many people think about as we withdraw from Iraq, but you can bet the troops think about it --- how long will they have access to the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) Base Exchanges, the good ol’ “BX.” They came to Iraq shortly after the invasion of 2003, and they intend to remain open right up until the end, at least some of them. Many of them have been closed or are in the process of being closed, and it is a challenge to keep the shelves stocked for those that remain open, but remain stocked they are doing. It appears the Exchange at Camp Adder, which is the final point of departure inside Iraq for most US forces, will remain open until the very end. The photo shows an AAFES employee restocking the shelves on Contingency Operating Base Adder, November 14, 2011. The shelves are kept full of common items to support service members coming to COB Adder on their way out of Iraq. (112311)

“Black Jack” Brigade turns over COB warhorse to Iraq

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Advise and Assist), 1st Cavalry Division, turned over the division’s fourth and largest base, Contingency Operating Base (COB) Warhorse, to Iraq in October 2011. The COB is located in Diyala province. The Cb was transferred to the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Only 20,000 trips left in Iraq

The DoD said on November 21, 2011 that there were only about 20,000 US troops left in Iraq. (112111)

General Austin warns of al Qaeda and Shiite militia as US forces withdraw from Iraq

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Stars & Stripes reported on November 21, 2011 that General Lloyd Austin, USA, the American commander in Iraq, warned on that date that al-Qaeda could create problems as US forces withdraw from Iraq. He used the word “turbulence,” saying,“"As we leave, you can expect to see some turbulence in security initially, and that's because you'll see various elements try to increase their freedom of movement and freedom of action. Al-Qaida will be one of those elements.” Generally it is thought that al Qaeda has shifted its focus against the Iraqi government, but it has long attacked US forces so that is not out of the question. Furthermore, Austin warned the Shiite militias could threaten the Iraqi government as US forces leave. In both instances, the warning raises questions about what the remaining US forces might do, and more important, might even be capable of doing. Austin is worried about what the Shiite militias will do to US diplomats once US forces have left. General Austin has told the troops as they leave, “Challenging days remain as we complete our mission and work to get all of our troops home safely. Look after your battle buddy -- each and every one of you is critical to our team.” This editor has long been concerned about whether US forces may have to fight their way out, and what their capabilities might be to even do that. Two US Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) and one Amphibious Ready Group with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked remain in the Arabian Sea. (112111)

Panetta on US commitments to Iraq post withdrawal

PanettaDempseySASC


SecDef Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Service s Committee on November 15, 2011 and addressed in broad terms the US commitment to Iraq post withdrawal, to wit, post 2011. The State department will lead US efforts. That departments Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) will continue to assist the Iraqi government. A limited number of US military people are assigned to it, through the US embassy. The US-Iraqi strategic framework agreement, he said, will provide "a platform for future cooperation in counterterrorism, in naval and air defense, and in joint exercises." He did not elaborate. He repeated what he has said before, "We have more than 40,000 American troops who remain in the Gulf region. We're not going anywhere … And we will continue to reassure our partners, deter aggressors and counter those seeking to create instability." I do not believe this is a done deal, though we will have to see how the secretary calculated that number and where they will be. Franmly, the secretary’s public comments provide very little new information. Senator McCain (R-AZ) argued aggressively that the Obama administration failed to deal well with the Iraqi government with regard to maintaining forces in Iraq, in part because the administration did not want to leave any forces there. Panetta denied that, McCain did not accept his denial.

As an editorial note, it does well to do some scenario thinking here, a what if kind of thing. What if US air forces, whether fixed or rotary, are requested by Iraq to support some kind of operation in Iraq post withdrawal? And then what if an aircraft is shot down and a pararescue mission must be launched? Where are the forces coming from, how long will it take for them to get there, and what will their rules of engagement be? (111611)


Enemy still attacking US forces in Iraq

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Camp Victory in Baghdad, part of which is shown in this photo, continues to receive indirect fire, usually rockets and mortars. The most recent attacks occurred on the night of November 14-15, 2011, and attacks resumed on November 16. Lt. Col. James McFadyen, commander of the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, said, "It's been the norm for the last two weeks … We don't know why, exactly … Baghdad is just a dangerous place, and it's always hard to tell what drives the enemy." There were no injuries from these attacks, but the troops have plenty to say about them. This report reinforces my thesis that our forces have to be prepared to fight their way out of Iraq, and it is my hope that our response would be very aggressive and very lethal. I reported recently that a US soldier was killed in an attack on November 3, 2011 in northern Iraq.(111611)

CJCS wants to rotate all services in and out of Kuwait

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General Martin Dempsey, USA, CJCS, told the Senate on November 15, 2011 he wants to rotate Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force units in and out of Kuwait following the withdrawal from Iraq, at about the 4,000 force level. An Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) will be operating out of Baghdad, including combat forces. The OSC is planning to operate from 10 Iraqi bases to provide equipping and training, especially for the F-16 when it arrives and for tank training. Current plans apparently also call for a sizable number of civilian contractors attached to the US embassy. There will be about 16,000 US embassy people in country. That is a lot; one can only assume they will be to help in areas such agriculture and governance. The contractors will probably be involved in equipment maintenance and training on the use of equipment. What is not totally clear is “how” the US might counter an Iranian move in Iraq. (111511)

Joint Base Balad has transitioned to Iraq

BaladABGoogle

The USAF has reported, “Joint Base Balad was transitioned to the government of Iraq and the U.S. military presence has vanished.” This air base was once the center of Allied air power in Iraq. My reading of the USAF report is that American aircraft have left and the emphasis recently has been to get everything else out of there. I had predicted this incorrectly. Since Iraq has no air power to protect its air sovereignty, I was sure the USAF would leave a sizable force at Balad to take care of that. Not so. I confess I am dumbfounded by the Iraqi decision. While USAF and USN aviation forces might be stationed in nearby countries and in the Persian Gulf, transit times will be extended which will jack up the need to refuel in the air. Now the question becomes, “What would the US do if Iran were to attack Iraq by air?” Given that US air forces are not stationed there under the regulations of a security agreement, the US does not have to respond. Assume for the moment the US chooses not to respond, what then? If the US were to choose to respond, how and from where? (111411)

Iran the target of US troop basing planners

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There is considerable debate in Washington about whether and how Iran would try to fill the vacuum left in Iraq by the US withdrawal next month. Iran’s president has said in the past that Iran is ready to fill the vacuum. Army Major General Karl R. Horst, chief of staff at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), asked in an interview, “Why in the world would we abdicate presence and stability in the (region) to a malign Iran? I’m just not sure those are good outcomes, from the U.S. perspective.” Military planners are now trying to figure out how best to cordon off Iran. CENTCOM planners would like to leave a battalion (700-900) or even a brigade (3,500-5,000) in Kuwait, but Kuwait is balking. The US is said to be planning to beef up its naval presence in the Persian Gulf area. For the past many months there have been two USN Carrier Strike Groups and one USN Amphibious Ready Group with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (2,200) embarked in the region. No US forces will be left in Iraq beyond those 100-150 assigned to the US Embassy Baghdad. Many of those are Marine security guards while the rest are attached to the Defense Attaché Office, normal procedure. SecDef Panetta has said the US would keep 40,000 troops in the region. The naval forces might add up to 15,000 so right now it is unknown where the rest might go. Certainly Saudi Arabia is a candidate, especially for US Air Forces. There are a lot of rumors floating around, including positioning a US sponsored mercenary army in the United Arab Emirates. We’ll have to wait and see how this unfolds. Right now, we know of no firm deals and time is running out. (111411)

Not all troops in Iraq are coming home by year’s end

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As I have suggested in opening comments above, not all US forces in Iraq will be coming home for the holidays. Units are being “remissioned.” Stars & Stripes reported on November 10, 2011 that the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) “Ironhorses,” 1st Cavalry Division will finish its 12 month tour in Kuwait. This came from the brigade commander in a Facebook entry. He said, "This force will function as a reserve in the region to provide maximum flexibility for response to contingencies … It also demonstrates our lasting commitment to regional stability and security, and the robust security relationships we maintain with our regional partners." You can expect more units to follow suit. The 1st BCT deployed to Iraq in July 2011. (111111)

1452nd Combat Heavy Transportation Company busting buns to move heavy equipment out of Iraq

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The 1452nd Combat Heavy Transportation Company of the North Carolina National Guard was mobilized in July 2011 to support the US withdrawal from Iraq. It deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait and runs convoy missions, mostly up to Camp Adder, Iraq about 100 miles away to pick up and move out heavy equipment. They are moving some pretty heavy stuff, including 60-ton M1 Abrams tanks. In the case of this photo, they loaded two M1s aboard the transporter for convoy to Kuwait. (111011)

Only 20 US bases left in Iraq

AFP reported on November 7, 2011 that an Iraqi spokesman said there are only 20 US bases left in Iraq as compared to 505 at the peak. (110711)

Soldier killed in Iraq after withdrawal announcement - enemy remains a threat

I have said over and over that a military withdrawal as large as the one underway in Iraq is a military operation. We have been watching the logistics movements closely. Now we learn that a US soldier was killed in an attack on November 3, 2011 in northern Iraq. No further details are yet available, but the announcement did say he was killed in an attack. He is the first American service member to be killed since President Obama announced a complete US withdrawal from Iraq on October 21, 2011. His death brings to 4,478 the number of US forces killed in Iraq since 2003.

It is too early to tell, but the US may have to consider reinforcing in Iraq to cover the withdrawal. The US currently has two Carrier Strike Groups and one Amphibious Ready Group in the Arabian Sea, the later with a 2,200 Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. To my knowledge, there is only one Army aviation unit left in Iraq. I do not know how many USAF attack aircraft are still there.

I must comment, however, that reports from official US military sources continue to refer to the enemy and actions they are taking against the enemy. For example, US Army electronic warfare people are blocking radio frequencies intended to detonate improvised explosive devices targeting US convoys and soldiers. This means that IEDs remain a significant threat to our deputing forces.

Major General Thomas Spoehr, deputy commanding general for support for the U.S. force in Iraq, told reporters on November 3, 2011, “What we’re executing is a deliberate plan to safely and responsibly withdraw from Iraq by December 31. This plan is flexible enough to account for change -- no plan should be so rigid that it cannot account for adverse weather or enemy activity -- but it’s a methodical and measured plan.”

Karen Parrish reported for the American Forces Press Service about General Spoehr’s comments, reporting this: “As redeployment efforts ramp up, the general said, some 55 U.S. military logistics convoys involving up to 1,650 trucks crisscross Iraq at any given time, funneling military equipment to Kuwait for shipment. The military and contracted drivers on those convoys are backed up by U.S. forces that have searched the roads for bombs and gathered intelligence on security threats, the general said. ‘If they get in any trouble, of course, the U.S. Forces Iraq stand behind them with all kinds of combat power and medical care, should they need it,’ Spoehr added.” Spoehr has said our convoys are being hit by IEDs. He lamented that the US has now begun to announce its closures and which units will leave when, valuable intelligence to the enemy.

I confess I do not like the smell of this KIA, and these continued attacks. Not at all. (110411)

Transfer of Anbar installations underway

US forces have begun to transfer installations in the once volatile Anbar Province of Iraq to Iraqi authorities. Anbar is Iraq’s largest province. Currently, the 2nd “Falcon” Brigade of the 82nd Airborne is in charge there. B/1-325th Airborne Infantry signed over the Anbar Operations Center and the Anbar Police Directorate to Iraq on October 30, 2011. This begins the process of turning over all installations in Anbar. (110411)

Most troops to be out of Iraq by mid-December

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Major General Thomas Spoehr, deputy commanding general for support for the U.S. force in Iraq, told reporters on November 3, 2011 that the “vast majority” of US troops in Iraq will be out by mid-December. There are about 33,000 still there. Only 12 American bases are still operating. Troop levels have declined by about 7,000 in the last three weeks. He said,“As I look at the plan, I think it's clear to me that by the time we get to about mid-December or so, the vast majority of the U.S. forces in Iraq -- we plan to have them withdrawn from Iraq by that time … I will tell you that right now, as we sit here, we are deep in the midst of this. So there are trucks and planes and people moving very quickly at a high rate of speed throughout Iraq to execute our commitments.” He said force protection is the number one priority. For the most part, the troops are leaving by air while their equipment goes to Kuwait by convoy. They will either take military flights to Kuwait and return to the US from there, or take direct flights to the US out of Iraq. What we do not yet know, however, is where all these troops will be going. Many will come home, but my guess is many will be re-positioned in the Persian Gulf region, Kuwait to start, and then to other nations in the Gulf area as agreements are set up. SecDef Panetta has said 40,000 troops will be positioned in the region, many on land, some at sea. (110411)

Camp Adder hosts troops packing up to leave every day

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Camp Adder is the main check-out-of-Iraq base, located near Nasiriyah, in southeastern Iraq. Those at the camp witness our forces leaving every day, whether handling logistics movements or handling troops getting ready to leave. For example, oldiers from Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, packed their belongings and loaded them into a cargo container on Contingency Operating Base Adder, October 28, 2011. The 3-8 Cavalry loaded themselves up some days ago and departed on October 26, 2011. They initially went to Kuwait, where they are finishing their redeployment from Camp Garry Owen and then returning to the States. The photo shows members of the 3-8 Cav lining up at the passenger terminal at COB Adder waiting to board their aircraft out. (110211)

Here’s what a convoy looks like departing Iraq

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This is an October 25, 2011 handout photo, flatbed trucks carrying U.S. military vehicles and other cargo are lined up and ready for departure from Iraq on Contingency Operating Base Adder, south of Baghdad. Please recognize there was an enormous amount of work done preparing this convoy, ready the loads, getting the equipment, cleaning it, fixing it, inventorying it, etc. A lot of work. That work will continue right up until the end. This editor would not be surprised if the work were continuing a bit beyond year’s end --- the troops are working as fast as they can, but remember, there still has to be force protection for those who leave at the 11th hour and 59th minute, and perhaps beyond. Muqtadr Sadr and is Mahdi militia have threatened to attack US forces outside those in the embassy after December 31. The logistics realities of moving out our forces may mean we just can’t make it. So then there is a threat thereafter. (110111)


1-149 Infantry just about out of Joint Base Balad, Iraq

By October 22, 2011, the 1-149 Infantry, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, had just about completely vacated Joint Base Balad, Iraq headed for Kuwait. Many of the troops and most of the equipment have already arrived in Kuwait to set up a new tactical operations center, the TOC. (103111)

Task Force 1-82nd Field Artillery turning in equipment as fast as it can

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Task Force 1-82nd Artillery, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division turned in over 133 combat-test vehicles during the period October 15-31, 2011, at COS Echo, Iraq, southeast of Karbala. They turn these in to what’s known as a Mobile-Repatriation Property Assistance Team (M-RPAT) Yard. Capt. Robert Key said, “The Mobile-RPAT Yard is an area on the base where units take their equipment that they are ready to have inspected and cleared for turn-in so that U.S. forces can leave Iraq upon the accomplishment of their mission.” Major J.D. Williuams said, “Here, at COS Echo, we have years of rolling stock and non-rolling stock items that have been the difference maker in achieving mission success for the opportunity to rapidly get these key platforms and technologies to soldiers still in the fight in Afghanistan or back to the United States for upgrades and refit.” The troops have to do a lion’s share of the work on their vehicles before bringing them into the M-RPAT. Some are turned away as not being ready, but most do make it through. (103111)

US forces to reposition from Iraq and buildup in Persian Gulf region

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The Iraqis said no deal to maintaining US forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year. SecDef Panetta meant what he said, however, when commenting that the US would have 40,000 military forces in the region beyond 2011. The New York Times has reported that the US will re-position forces from Iraq and build up forces all in the Persian Gulf region, among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the GCC, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain (already home to the US 5th Fleet), Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. furthermore, the US will seek to structure a new kind of military alliance among the GCC nations, not a NATO, but something on that order. At the moment, a great deal of equipment is being moved out of Iraq into Kuwait. My guess is much of it may well be stored in Kuwait for use later as required. I also believe US ground forces will remain in Kuwait at some significant level, and will probably involve m,any special forces. I also believe that we might see the USAF re-locate many of its fighter, bomber and tanker forces to the GCC region. Furthermore, the US Navy and Marines will maintain forces aboard Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups in the Arabian Sea. The worry is that Iran considers the US withdrawal from Iraq an Iranian victory, and may well try to move into the vacuum created. The Iraqi military's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari, in a report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), “Estimated that it will take several more years before Iraq can provide for its external defense without assistance from international partners.” He specifically cited 2020. So the target is Iran. (103111)

Pace of convoys departing Iraq picking up

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October 2011 has been a busy month moving US military convoys out of Iraq, especially at COB Adder, where the packing sending of equipment back to the US has been among the busiest. Spc Anthony Zane reported for USF-I, “Each truck carrying military vehicles, including High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and tanks is backed up to a ramp and the vehicles are carefully loaded onto the flatbeds.Once the cargo is loaded onto the trucks and the paperwork is complete, the convoy is then lined up at a designated staging area to await departure … Part of being the convoy commander is identifying vehicles and equipment by serial number and matching them against the unit rosters before they are shipped … Each convoy is assigned a security team to escort the cargo from COB Adder to their final destination.” The photo shows the first truck of a large convoy departing COB Adder on October 25, 2011. In the gee whiz department, imagine how many of this Humvees we had in Iraq, and a convoy truck can only carry two out at a time! (102711)

Interesting twist in “how to” have US forces be in Iraq

Now that President Obama and PM Maliki have agreed all US military forces except about 150 attached to the US Embassy Baghdad will leave Iraq by years’s end, both Iraq and the US are pressing ahead to conclude their bilateral agreement on future military ties. While all US forces will leave, it now appears that the US and Iraq will conduct combined military exercises in Iraq throughout the years as the US does with many other nations. How many is not yet known. (102611)

US mail service to and from Iraq terminates November 17, 2011


The US Postal service announced on October 26, 2011 that it will stop accepting mail addressed to military post offices in Iraq on November 17, 2011/ Military post offices in Iraq will also stop processing mail that same date. (102611)

640th Aviation Support Battalion splitting operations before returning home

There is only one aviation support battalion (ASB) left in Iraq to provide aviation support to all Army aviation elements left in Iraq, the 640th ASB. Bravo company has recently left Iraq for Kuwait to support the withdrawal from there. The rest of the battalion is at Camp Taji to support aviation operations form there before leaving for the US by year’s end. (102611)

Some 40,000 US forces will be stationed in the Mideast after Iraqi withdrawal

When SecDef Panetta was in Indonesia recently, he said an estimated 40,000 troops will remain across the Mideast after the withdrawal, including 23,000 in Kuwait. He said, "So we will always have a force that will be present and that will deal with any threats from Iran.” I am certain this will include a sizable USAF air attack segment. Furthermore, two US Navy carrier strike groups (CSG) remain in the Arabian Sea, as doe one Navy-Marine Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). They are led by the USS Bush CSG, USS Stennis CSG and USS Boxer (ARG). (102411)

Iraqi Sunnis nervous over US withdrawal

The speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Muslim, voiced concern on October 24, 2011 about outside interference in Iraq once US forces leave. He said, "Iraq now suffers from points of weakness … If neighboring countries see that Iraq is weak and incapable of protecting its borders and internal security, then definitely there will be interference. This interference does exist now." Incredibly, the US Embassy Baghdad will take over training responsibility for Iraqi forces after the US force withdraws. Lots of luck. How will the State Department do that? CIA? Air America revisited? (102411)

Khabari (Navistar) Crossing major US withdrawal point into Kuwait

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The Khabari Crossing, about 30 miles spout of Basra, Iraq, is the main cross point for US force leaving Iraq. It is close to Safwan which is just inside Iraqi territory. US forces call the location the Navistar crossing, circled in red on this map of Kuwait. You can see the other US camps in Kuwait on this map as well. Hundreds of vehicles are now rolling through this crossing every day, including heavy equipment transporters. This is a 24-7 operation. One of the more difficult responsibilities here is as US forces roll out their equipment on a set timetable to have all US forces out by year’s end, at present there are still about 39,000 US forces in Iraq who have to be supplied, so traffic through here is two way, an incredible accounting and inventory and coordination challenge. The 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command is in charge and is receiving a lot of help from other units such as the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. (102411)

4th ID completes its mission in Iraq

The 4th “Ivy” and “Iron Horse” Infantry Division cased its colors at Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher on October 20, 2011. COB Speicher is located near Tikrit in northern Iraq. The 4th ID has been responsible for seven provinces in northern Iraq for the past 13 months. To my knowledge, no US forces will replace it, though I will watch future reports closely and amend that if required. I will also watch for the progress of the division’s departure. (101411)

Moqtadr al Sadr threatens to target oversized US forces hidden under embassy cover

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The Wall Street Journal reported on October 23, 2011 he would order his Mahdi Shiite Militia to target any US forces kept behind after the December and hidden under embassy cover. He is not talking about the Marine guards or Defense Attaché staff, but those larger numbers that might remain to help train Iraqi security forces. He said, “We are awaiting full withdrawal which will come as a result of the efforts and strength of resistance fighters … They are all occupiers and must be resisted after the end of the [withdrawal] period.” al Sadr’s militia has killed many US forces in Iraq over the years and I have long advocated that we arrest him and send him to Gitmo. The problem has been that PM Maliki gets much of his support from al Sadr and has great support in the majority Shiite population. al Sadr is reportedly now wearing combat fatigues and sporting a weapon having shed his cleric’s outfit.(102411)

Logistics activity at Camp Liberty steps up the pace

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The Redsirtibution Property Assistance Team (RPAT) working under the banner of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade is working feverishly at Camp Liberty, Iraq to receive convoys and equipment and move them out of Iraq. Pamepa Proper reported for the Army, “The Redistribution Property Assistance Team is working hard for the long haul out of Iraq. Convoy after convoy, container upon container, tactical vehicles and combat equipment get sorted, documented and pushed out as fast as they come in from the forward operating bases around Baghdad.” There are seven REPATS operating now in Iraq. This is the largest, averaging about 327 vehicle turn-ins and 10,000 other items weekly. (102111)

Obama confirms all US forces out of Iraq by year’s end

President Obama has confirmed that all US forces will be out of Iraq by year’s end. He made the announcement on october 21, 2011 after speaking with Iraqi PM Maliki. Obama said, “Today, I can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over. The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.” While I applaud the action, I am still worried about how Iraq will protect its airspace. I had for a long time felt USAF fighter units would be based in Iraq to take care of that, but that looks like it will not happen. I now suspect that US fighter units will be positioned close by, in other nations like Kuwait and perhaps one or more Gulf states, and of course at least one or perhaps even two USN carrier strike groups will be stationed offshore for the foreseeable future. (102111)

Oklahoma F-16s arrive in Iraq to provide top cover for withdrawal

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The 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron of the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing arrived in Iraq over the past few weeks and is operationally ready to provide top cover for US forces as they withdrawal from Iraq. Elements of the Ohio Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing are integrated with the 125th. Both units fly the F-16C “Fighting Falcon” and will provide close air support to ground forces as they leave and as required. Aircraft will sit on alert status, ready to launch as needed. I have been waiting for something like this, just in case our forces have to fight their way out. (102111)

Contingency Operating Station Gary Owen turned over to Iraq

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The 3-8 Cavalry “Warhorses” cased their colors at Contingency Operating Station Gary Owen on October 15, 2011 in preparation to turn it over to the 10th Iraqi Army Division. (102111)

US turns over Camp Fallujah

The 1-325 Airborne Infantry turned over Camp Fallujah, Iraq to the Iraqi 1st Army Division on October 12, 2011. The 1-325 was the last US unit to leave the camp. The Iraqis now have full control of the base and its surrounding areas. (102111)

US hands over COP Marez in Mosul

US forces have been in Mosul for a decade, but US forces have moved out of COP Marez and handed that installation over to the Iraqis on October 11, 2011. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Armored Division arrived in August to close the base, and that’s what they have done. They left the base as a functional “move in ready” base. (101911)

1-8 Cavalry on its way out of Iraq

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The 1-8 Cavalry of 2 brigade, 1st Cavalry Division are on their way out of Iraq. They stopped on October 7, 2011 at COB Adder Iraq, which is responsible for moving convoys through and out of Iraq. It is operated by the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Commanded. I believe the 108 is headed for Kuwait. The photo shows the first convoy of the 1-8 Cav arriving at COP Adder on October 7, 2011. (101911)

Army outfit leaves Habur Gate, Iraq

Fourteen soldiers of the 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310 Expeditionary Sustainment Command concluded their logistics mission at Habur Gate, Iraq on September 30, 2011. Their mission was to help Kurdish workers move supplies from Turkey into Iraq and onward. (101911)

Last Marine Team leaves Iraq

US Marines assigned to Iraq Marine Training Team 03 completed their mission on October 13, 2011 and will be the last Marine Team training Iraqi marines to leave Iraq. They were assigned to the I MEF in May and have conducted their final mounted patrol to Kuwait. The Marines reported that the last to leave was a group of 12, departing Umm Qasr, Iraq to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. It is my understanding that except for those attached to the US Embassy Baghdad, there are no more Marines in Iraq. (101911)

414th Civil Affairs Battalion leaves Basrah to State Department

The 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, 352nd Civil Affairs Command, a reserve outfit support the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Basrah Province, Iraq has redeployed out. In July 2011, the PRT was transferred to the US Consulate General. The 414th was, among other things, providing security to the PRT. The State Department, through its Consulate General, will conduct reconstruction programs in the province there. (101911)

Panetta leans toward remaining in Iraq to offset Iran

The Obama administration is still clinging to a hope to leave US forces behind after year’s end. SecDef Panetta’s spokesman George Little said on October 17, 2011, "Regardless of the question of troop presence, we are going to be working closely with the government of Iraq because we remain very concerned that Iran is meddling, not just in the affairs of Iraq but of other countries in the region. And that's unacceptable.” (101811)

Senior Obama official says all US forces will be out of Iraq by year’s end, period

AP reported on October 15, 2011, “a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed on October 15, 2011 that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.” The report further said, “The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline.” The negotiations over whether and how many troops to keep in Iraq beyond the year’s end has centered on our insistence that our forces have immunity from Iraqi prosecution. The Iraqis refuse to agree to that. Our diplomats have been stalling our withdrawal planning as a result, which has made such planning more difficult. If the AP report holds, then the withdrawal can proceed without delay. We’ll have to wait and see. I say forget remaining, let’s get out by the deadline, and that will be the end of that. Then, let the chips fall where they may. Official Washington is denying the AP report, asserting negotiations are still underway. The leak to AP could be a ruse to pressure the Iraqis, but I don’t think it will work. They are adamant on refusing immunity and we are insistent on having it. (101711)

US troop levels in Iraq being kept high to provide flexibility

Stars & Stripes reported on October 12, 2011 that US forces are being kept high to maintain flexibility should Iraq ask for some to remain beyond the end of 2011. At the same time, the US is is trying to withdraw and prepare for them all to be withdrawn by year’s end. Major General Jeffrey Buchanan said on October 12, 2011, “Based on that (flexibility) we kept our troop numbers high, or steady at least through the bulk of this year.” (101311)

Iraq now controls all its airspace

On October 1, 2011, the USAF transferred management of the Baghdad-Balad airspace sector to the Iraqis, which means that Iraq now controls all its airspace, the first time since 2003. (101311)

Tennessee Army National Guard selected to move stuff out of Iraq

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The Tennessee Army National Guard's 230th Sustainment Brigade, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been chosen as one of several units responsible for the task of a complete US military withdrawal from Iraq by year’s end. Lt. Colonel Martin Basham, commander, Joint Task Force Hickory, and executive officer of the 230th, said, "We're hauling everything from armored vehicles, to parts, to shipping containers full of office supplies. Everything.” The 230th is working out of Joint Base Balad. Colonel William Hart, the 230th commander, said, "We are collapsing the northern sector of Iraq, in to the center, and then withdrawing the equipment through the southern route.” Moving out convoys is a laborious and time consuming process, tons of paperwork, numerous Iraqi checkpoints, roadside bombs and ambushes, and encounter equipment breakdowns. Those in the convoy, whether driving a truck or providing security, must be prepared to go into combat at a moment’s notice. The photo shows a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical truck being loaded onto a Heavy Equipment Transport assigned to the 129th Transportation Co. in September 2011, at FOB Marez, Iraq.(101211)

US forces have met all obligations in Iraq

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Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, USA, the chief spokesman for US Forces-Iraq, said on October 12, 2011 that USA forces “have met all our obligations” in Iraq and are “completely on track” for a full withdrawal by December 31, 2011. About 43,500 troops remain. He added that 13,900 trucks in 399 convoys moved equipment, fuel and food in and out of Iraq in just the last week. The military had 505 bases in Iraq in 2008, and now is down to 23, according to the general. (101211)

Panetta will not budge: No immunity, no troops

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SecDef Paetta, while in Brussels, repeated yet again on October 6, 2011 that no US forces will be kept in Iraq beyond 2011 if they are not granted immunity. He said, "I can say very clearly that any kind of U.S. presence (in Iraq) demands that we protect and provide the appropriate immunity for our soldiers.” It is hard to say what his feelings are about PM Maliki’s idea of attaching the troops left for training to the US Embassy where they would have immunity. The historic problem with doing that is they would likely fall under State Department-ambassadorial control rather than Defense Department control, which might not be acceptable to Panetta either. (101211)

PM Maliki seeks way to keep trainers in Iraq and avoid immunity issue

Iraqi PM Malaki has told Reuters that he can envision US forces remaining in Iraq beyond 2011 by attaching them to the US Embassy or join a broader NATO training group where they would have diplomatic immunity. This would mean the Iraqi parliament would not have to grant immunity to those who stay, which it opposes. (101011)

US turns over Joint Security Station Deason

D/1-63 Armor “Dragons” recently turned over Joint Security Station Deason to the 17th Iraqi Armor Division. Deason was used many to teach Iraqi Security Forces, Army and Police, sophisticated investigation techniques for use against terrorists and criminals. (101011)

US turns over FOB Diamondback in Mosul, redeploys to Camp Taji

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The 6-17 Cav, an attack reconnaissance squadron employing OH-58 Kiowa Warriors, working with the 4th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, closed Forward Operating Base (FOB) Diamondback in Mosul, Iraq in October as the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade repostures for its upcoming departure from Iraq. The reposting of forces all over Iraq to accommodate the current withdrawal from Iraq is eating up a lot of man hours and causing a lot of force movements. This is to be expected as US forces want to make sure they leave safely and maintain the required combat power to thwart any threats to a safe withdrawal. Route clearance is among the highest priority actions to deliver a safe withdrawal. As an aside, two USN Carrier Strike Groups (Stennis and Bush) remain on station in the Arabian Sea, though the Stennis seems to be moving and may possibly leave. The US Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked remains in the area. FOB Diamondback serves as Mosul International Airport. The 6-17 Cav also closed its base at Tal Afar, and constructed new landing pads at Camp Taji so it can get in the fight if required. The photo shows an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior flying over the newly graded, fresh graveled air strip and prepares to park in one of the new stalls on Camp Taji. The US has turned over 400 installations in Iraq but the Diamondback transfer was the first for an aviation unit. (100611)

Iraqi parliamentary leader says negotiations with US to retain forces beyond 2011 are over, and that is final, no deal

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The US has continued to negotiate with Iraq for troops to remain in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline. The main sticking point has been and continues to be that the Iraqis want judicial and legal jurisdiction over those forces that remain. Knight Ridder/Tribune reported in October 6, 2011, reported, ”Iskander Witwit (shown here as deputy governor Babil province), the ranking member of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee, has said negotiations are now over, and that US trainers will be invited to remain beyond 2011 only if US officials drop their instance that the Iraqi parliament grant them immunity from prosecution in Iraq.” Witwit is quoted saying, “This is the finish. It is final.”

The US has always refused to grant that right to a host country and refuses to do so for Iraq. The fear at the extreme end of the spectrum of fears has always been that a host nation will arrest our troops for no good reason, give them an unfair trial, and punish them unfairly. The US has always demanded to handle judicial and legal issues itself through its military judicial system. A US spokesman has said that if we cannot get that for Iraq, no one will remain. Iraq apparently plans to turn to other countries for training. This Iraqi decision will most likely cause the cancellation of the F-16 fighter aircraft sale which will lengthen the time Iraq will use before it has any capacity to protect its air sovereignty. This would make it very vulnerable to Iranian intrusion. (100611)


USAF 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron (EFTS) concludes Iraq training operations

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The U.S. Air Force's 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron (EFTS) concluded its Iraqi Air Force training operations on the T-6A Texas on September 5, 2011. It has been training Iraqi pilots for the past 21 months. The Iraq AF now has 11 instructor rated pilots and will continue on its own. Iraqi pilots continue in the pipeline. (092811)

Camp Virginia, Kuwait, ready for Iraq withdrawal

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Camp Virginia, Kuwait, also known as “Four Corners,” is ready for the Iraq withdrawal. For the moment, the 553rd Sustainment Support Battalion “Leopard World” is in charge of the site. The unit has set up a step by step process for forces and equipment leaving Iraq. Vehicles will stop by each station and troops will download and store their equipment by class. Once Virginia is full, it will ship the equipment to Camp Arifjan, where it will be sent back to the theater or redistributed into the supply system, which will include to Afghanistan. The unit is expecting about a dozen vehicles to be processed each hour the meet the end of year withdrawal deadline. This station took 30 days to set up. It is fully operational and ready to go 24-7. (092811)

AFN-Iraq terminates broadcasts to troops in Baghdad

The Armed Forces Network Iraq (AFN-Iraq) terminated its broadcasts to troops in Baghdad with its last show on September 23, 2011. (092811)

US will sell squadron of F-16s to Iraq, clinches continued USAF presence

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The Wall Street Journal reported on September 26, 2011 that Iraq has agreed to buy 18 Lockheed F-16s and the US has received the initial $1.5 billion payment. I have always maintained that the USAF will have to stay in Iraq for some time to come to provide air sovereignty until the Iraqis can handle that job themselves. Right now they have no fighter aircraft. The Iraqis will need more than 18, which is usually a squadron, and there is a chance they will eventually buy 36, which could comprise three squadrons or a wing. Their aircraft will be newly produced. I believe the USAF will be asked to remain with F-16s at the least to protect Iraqi airspace and train the Iraqis to fly these “Vipers.” Trainers for sure will remain, but they’ll need aircraft on which to train, so aircraft will likely remain as well. If that is done, Iraq might as well agree to a squadron or two of USAF F-16s for training and air sovereignty purposes. We’ll have to wait and see. I also believe a sizable USAF ground force will have to stay to handle logistics flights in and out from the US to support the Iraqi military. (092611)

Logistics movements out of Iraq becoming a commander’s nightmare

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Much equipment is being removed from Iraq along the main north south highway to Kuwait. The movement of equipment and supplies is creating severe headaches --- Stars and Stripes says “nightmares” --- for US commanders. First, the route is dangerous, and the convoys, which can be four miles long, are vulnerable to IEDs. Troops driving the vehicles worry even about having a flat tire that forces them off the road for repair, while the convoy moves forward. Rollovers are also a great concern. All troops involved in the convoy must be combat ready at all times. Air patrols are tasked to support the convoys, but they do get cancelled for one reason or another. In addition, the convoys often make frequent stops to download and upload equipment, while the troops at various locations try to sell some or all of it. Second, some 1.5 million pieces of equipment form tanks to TVs have already been shipped with close to a million more items in need of shipment. But units are reluctant to turn their gear in, because of the uncertainties associated with what the enemy might do to them as the pack and due to the uncertainties regarding how many and who might remain beyond year’s end. Maj. Gen. Ed Cardon, USA, has the task of overseeing the logistics movement out, and he has said, “For us the enemy is time.” (092311)

US withdrawals continue, though Iraqis do say they’ll need residual training support

SecDef Panetta told the Senate Armed services Committee on September 22, 2011 that withdrawals continue in Iraq with a view toward having everyone out by years end, but did say the Iraqis have expressed a need for residual training thereafter and such is being negotiated. Panetta said, “We are seriously considering this request, and I want to make clear that no final decisions have been made … We’ll continue to consult extensively with the Iraqis, but we will also consult with the Congress before such decisions are made as to what a post-2011 training presence will look like.” The CJCS favors such an effort. A challenge here for US trainers, should they remain, is that it is normal for them to go with their trainees out on combat missions. This can get tricky if there is no US air support to help them should they get into trouble. The Iraqi AF has not serious capability to do that. (092311)

Iraqi air traffic controllers likely to control last departing US aircraft

USAF air traffic controllers will be among those leaving Iraq by year’s end. They are working tirelessly to train their Iraqi counterparts. The likelihood is high that Iraqis will control the last US aircraft departing Iraqi airfields with troops and equipment aboard. (092311)

Joint Base Balad major logistics withdrawal hub

MoveShipContainersIraq


Joint base Balad outside Baghdad set up a Central Receiving and Shipping Point (CSRP) a few months ago at Joint Base Balad near Baghdad. At the moment, the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, "Black Jack," 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North, is in charge of moving equipment form the north and then onward. It has already assisted in the transition of Contingency Operationg Site Conbra, a small base in Salah ad-Din province. It will start supporting many other similar base transitions. The CRSP is also helping to reposition equipment as forces start their withdrawal. (092211)

US force levels in Iraq to drop to 40,000 by month’s end

A JCS representative told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on September 20, 2011 that US force levels in Iraq will drop to 40,000 by month’s end. Admiral Mullen, CJCS, had said earlier it would be to 30,000, but had erred and the rep corrected the error. There are presently 44,500 US troops in Iraq. We had 50,000 there on September 1, 2010. (092211)

Secretary of Army tells troops in Iraq this is time of uncertainty

MchughJohn
Secretary of the Army John McHugh visited soldiers of U.S. Division – North during a brief visit to Contingency Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq, September 14, 2011. He told them, “I urge you to stay attentive to your mission … This is a time of some uncertainty, not just here in Iraq, but back home as well … Budget challenges — I can’t tell you to the extent at this point, but obviously it’s going to have some effect, perhaps some significant effect, on the military and obviously on the Army.” I read this to mean that he has warned the troops in Iraq, who are presently withdrawing, to be very careful during the withdrawal and then he warns them that budget challenges may well hurt them during and after the withdrawal. I would say it is an honest appraisal, and not very uplifting. (092011)

Only a little over 100 days left, and our troops are still fighting

Throughout Iraq, US forces are packing up, many reluctant to turn in their gear fearing they will need it. Down south, where the Shia are strong, our forces are still in a big fight. We have only one Contingency Operating Base (COB) left in Maysan province, COB Garry Owen. There our troops are packing and fighting at the same time. Owen sits close to Iran, and the Shia come back and forth as they please. Our forces there are responsible for protecting US convoys moving stuff out on their way home. IEDs, 107 mm rockets and a very lethal type of RPG are the main enemy weapons. The governor of Maysan is a buddy to Muqtada al Sadr, the Mahdi Shia militia honcho, who I believe should be captured or killed. US patrols are now going father and farther out away from their COB searching and destroying enemy. I am anxious that our forces will have to fight their way out of Iraq, and look for reinforcements to be at the ready to pound the enemy hindering our departure. I also believe our focus need to prepare for cross border operations into Iran should the enemy be doing damage to us from that safe haven. (091711)

“Longknives” turn over last enclave at Rustamiyah


Blackfoot Troop, 5th “Longknife” Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, transferred over its last enclave at Rustamiyah, Iraq, to the Iraqi government on August 18, 2011. A small NATO presence remained to advise officer trainees with the Iraqi Army. Sometimes referred to as the “West Point of the Tigris,” FOB Rustamiyah’s purpose was to advise and mentor Iraqi officers. (091211)


Texas Guard’s 36th Infantry troops to leave Iraq

About 700 troops from Texas Guard’s 36th Infantry Division are set to leave Iraq without replacement. They are scheduled to leave on September 7, 2011. This means that the US will turn over regional responsibilities for southern Iraq to US Division-Central, staffed by the 25th Infantry “Tropic Lightning.” This will reduce US forces in Iraq from roughly 46,000 to 45,000. (090711)


USAF stands up out-of-country base to handle Iraq withdrawals

USAFtransitionbaseSWA


The USAF Central Command has announced that it has stood up a base, its location it will not disclose, to handle forces departing Iraq, many of which will be USAF forces and aircraft. Since the USAF has not disclosed where the base is, I am assuming it its out-of-country Iraq. It was a very active military facility but was closed in 2004. Multiple flying units are expected to come here, and some have already moved through. The 332nd Air Expeditionary group is handling the transition. The photo shows Airmen assigned to this group carry their bags to their lodging rooms after arriving at a base in Southwest Asia in the middle of the night on Aug 31, 2011. (090711)

US forces leave Camp Taji

A/1-18 “Vanguard” Infantry has moved it s operations out of Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, to Joint Security Station Loyalty in the middle of Baghdad to prepare for Iraqi drawdown. The US is preparing to close Camp Loyalty and the Vanguard troops will secure the area during the withdrawal. The 1-7th Field Artillery has already left Camp Loyalty. The A/1-8 Infantry is expected to remain until Camp Loyalty is completely closed. As an aside, considerable efforts are underway to clear the major routes and supply lines in and out of Iraq in preparation for troop convoys on their way out. (090611)

Obama says only 3,000 US troops in Iraq by year’s end

Fox News reported on September 6, 2011 that Obama and SecDef Panetta have reduced the number of US forces to be in Iraq by year’s end to 3,000, from what the military had expected to be 27,000. Senior military officers are said to be concerned about how to secure these forces. There have been no agreements made on any numbers with the Iraqis yet, so I am not sure what this new number means. It was my expectation that everyone was to be out by year’s end. This is a baffling report. There are presently about 46,000 American troops in Iraq. As an aside, the White House and Panetta are denying this report. I think they can do that since the Iraqis have not said anyone can stay; in fact I thought I heard that Maliki said a decision has been made that all forces must be out by year’s end, toughen the other hand, we know the Iraqis want some trainers to stay. What a mess. My own view now is to pull them all out. Our service people have done their duty 100-fold. (090611)

Iraqis now in charge of revamping their military doctrine

US advisors graduated their last doctrine development class for Iraqi military forces on August 22, 2011. The Iraqi military, which has been working with the US advisors to revamp outdated British and Soviet doctrine for the past 10 months, will now be fully in charge of finishing this job. (083011)

US transfers final sector of Kirkuk airspace to Iraq

The USAF transferred the final portion of Kirkuk, Iraq airspace, 15,000 feet and below, to the Iraqi Civilian Aviation Authority on August 25, 2011. The USAF had earlier transferred the upper two-thirds. The US expects to hand over the final sector of airspace over Baghdad in October. (083011)

Look for massive airlift effort to remove forces and equipment from Iraq

HandyRussell
Major General Russell Handy, USAF, commander 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force and director, Air Component Coordination Element in Iraq, has said that a heightened level of airlift will be flying in and out of Iraq to withdraw equipment and personnel from Iraq as we approach year’s end. The USAF will employ the C-130, C-5 and C-17 aircraft to handle most of the large movements, which will have to be supported by a significant amount of air refueling aircraft. He commented that this will be a growth area for the USAF between now and December 31. He indicated that Air Force people are located throughout Iraq on the ground involved in such things as reconnaissance and intelligence and embedded with Army forces for, among other things, aircraft control when close air support is needed. They will have to be withdrawn too. Of course the fighter and other flying units will have to be withdrawn as well. He said that the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) in the US Embassy Baghdad will continue to work with the Iraqi air force after the withdrawal is complete. It will work for the American ambassador. General Handy’s headquarters will be leaving. This is the first time this editor has seen reference to OSC as a follow-on organization working military affairs once the withdrawal is complete. In its January 2011 report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), Stuart W. Bowen Jr. since 2004, said the OSC-I (Iraq) “will implement the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, effective October 1, 2011.” It outlined these as its responsibilities:

  • “Providing interface for exchange of information and advice between the Iraqi military, the U.S. Embassy, and DoD components responsible for security-assistance programs, including promotion of standardization, interoperability, and other cooperative measures
  • “Evaluating Iraqi ability to employ and maintain security-related equipment and assistance
  • “Performing programming, planning, management, and implementation functions related to FMS, the Foreign Military Finance (FMF) program, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, joint exercise planning, and other forms of bilateral military engagement.”

So the question remains open about who will assure national air sovereignty is protected for Iraq. (082911)


Contingency Operating Base (COB) Warhorse transferred to Iraqis

Soldiers of A/1-8 Cavalry, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division – North, officially transitioned Kirkush Military Training Base, Iraq, known as COB Warhorse, back to the Iraqi Army on August 21, 2011. The base had served mainly as a training base and reported will continue in that role. (082511)

Shipping out of Iraq growing into a “frenzy”

UnionIII


Some military commanders are comparing the logistics demands of shipping equipment out of Iraq to shutting down in Vietnam. Forward Operation Base (FOB) Union III (the main building shown here) in Baghdad’s International Green Zone is building up to handle the exodus of equipment and troops. Union III used to be Ba’ath Party Headquarters. It is a massive building and complex. More than one million pieces of equipment have already been shipped out or transferred to the Iraqis and there is at least another million to go. Union III has established a data base listing items being readied for shipment. If units within the Central Command at large do not want the items, the Iraqis can claim them. If they do not want them, they are either shipped back to the US or destroyed. The US has already transferred 33 million non-tactical items to the Iraqis since January 2009. Several bases slated to close are all packed up, but are holding on to their equipment trying to maintain some level of flexibility. The concern among logisticians is everyone is going to wait until the last minute and the deluge will be massive. (082511)

USAF general tells airmen to plan for change

GoldfeinDavid
Lt. General David Goldfein, commander USAF Central Command, has told his airmen to stay loose when it comes to when hey will go home. He said it this way: “I would plan on whatever timeline you were given when deployed, and I would set the expectation at home with your family … We are going to need you for every day of your deployment.” As Spc. Karen Sampson, USA, reporting for Operation New Dawn put it, fundamentally, he told them that “planning for future operations is planning around change.” This is probably especially true for the USAF, which this editor believes will be needed after the 2011 withdrawal dealing to assure air sovereignty in Iraq.

Joint Base Balad shipping out trucks

The USAF’s 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Management and Analysis flight is busily shipping vehicles out of Iraq, reducing the number of vehicles at the base at a rate of about 35 percent per month since June. Only 500 of the 1,000 original vehicles are still there. The outfit said it has never handled this many vehicles at one time, so it is busy. It will come as no surprise that the biggest problem is getting units to turn in their vehicles on time --- who wants to let their vehicle go! (082311)

USF-I to move to Kuwait during Iraq withdrawal

buehring


US Forces Iraq (USF-I) is planning to move its headquarters from Iraq to Camp Buehring, Kuwait as part of the US withdrawal from Iraq. The responsibility for this and other moves out of Iraq rest with the 3rd US Army, which is dual hatted as the US Army Central Command, Lt General Vincent K. Brooks, USA in command. The command expects thousands of US trips to move through Camp Buerhring so a lot of upgrades to the base are being made in preparation including new yards, new buildings and new communications. I am not 100 percent certain, but it appears that HQ USF-I will move to Kuwait early and will command and control much of the withdrawal from there. (082211)

Setting US extension in Iraq aside, focus now seems on defining long term strategic relationship

LittleGeorge
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters on August 17, 2011 that the US is committed to withdrawing all its forces from Iraq by year’s end. He then indicated that once done, the next phase of the US-Iraqi relationship would begin. He said defining that relationship is what people are working on now. He said the US has a strategic commitment to Iraq. It is too early to tell, and no doubt many options are on the table, but US forces are leaving, the bags are being packed, the equipment is moving out, and nearly all forces might well be withdrawn by December 31. I had not thought this possible, but it could happen. It seems from Little’s comments that the US is then prepared to bring back whatever is needed to fulfill the responsibilities of a long term strategic relationship. This editor would think that at a minimum it would mean a return of USAF forces along with special forces at the least. We’ll have to wait to see how this plays out. (082211)

Coast Guard playing central role in Iraqi withdrawal

USCGIraq

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has been in Iraq on and off since I believe at least 2003. Given the current US withdrawal, it now has the lead role in training Iraqi River Police, Coastal Boarder Guard and Iraqi Navy. To do this, the USCG is employing a Maritime Security Advisory Team (MSA). Its job is to provide maritime advice and technical expertise to both the U.S. government and Iraqi counterparts. It is attached to the US Embassy and is part of the US Country Team as opposed to being assigned to a Department of Defense organization such as US Forces Iraq or 5th USN Fleet. (081611)

1/149 Infantry arrives at Balad to prepare to escort US forces out

The 1/149 Infantry, 77th Sustainment Brigade, Kentucky National Guard, has arrived at Joint Base Balad, Ira. Their mission is to escort convoys of departing American forces and equipment out of Iraq. Some will stay at Balad while others will go to Tikrit. (081511)

Coordinated enemy bomb blasts strike over dozen cities in Iraq, killing at least 56-60 or more

Ramadan means noting to the enemy in Iraq. It coordinated bomb blasts on August 15, 2011 in over a dozen cities in Iraq from the north to the south that killed 56 people, perhaps 60 or more. Cities struck included Kirkuk, Baghdad, Najaf, Kut and Karbala. The bombs included car bombs, roadside bombs, and a suicide bomber. As US forces continue to draw down, the enemy appears able to strike at will wherever it wants. (081511)

Soldiers prepare equipment for turn-in at Camp Liberty, Iraq

CleanGenerator


Soldiers with B/Griffin Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade (2 AAB), 1st Infantry Division, Camp Liberty began preparing Army equipment for withdrawal on July 28, 2011. Camp Liberty is located northeast of Baghdad International Airport. The 2 AAB will among the last US units to leave Iraq, and will be busy preparing equipment for departure, sale, or scrap. In the gee whiz department, one soldier said it takes about six hours to thoroughly clean a generator and 12 to do the same for a vehicle. Just imagine the expands of the task before them. (081211)

Military collecting ammunition for movement out of Iraq

AmmoDepotIraq


The Joint Munitions Command at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, is the depot center for collecting ammunition from forward operating bases as they close. The ammo is sorted, inspected, classified and repackaged for re-issue or designated to be demilitarized. Reports from Balad indicate the pace is hectic. On the one hand, the troops have to prepare for withdrawal, yet on the other, they must be sure the troops left have plenty of ammo to attack and defend when needed. (081011)

Kuwaiti port serving as major Iraqi equipment shipment port

ShuaibaKuwait


The port of Shuaiba, Kuwait (shown here), is receiving and shipping thousands of vehicle and pieces of equipment as part of the US withdrawal from Iraq. The equipment is either going home, to Afghanistan, or to the Iraqis. When site closure began, there were 94; there are now 48 with seven more to close in August 2011. For the most part, the US is leaving behind the infrastructure at each of the sites, and deciding whether to ship out the equipment. Thus far, 67,000 items have been identified to be turned over to Iraq, about 58 percent through the process. Some of the stuff is being given others sold. (080911)

Army transfers Al Kisik Military base west of Mosul to Iraqis

The 4th Advise and Assist Task Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, transferred responsibility for Joint Security Station W-4, a small U.S. base located within Al Kisik, to 3rd Iraqi Army (IA) Division on August 1, 2011. This now completes the transition at the Al Kisik Base, which hosts the 3rd IA Division. The base is a few miles west of Mosul, Iraq, western Ninewa Province. This ends six years of effort. (080911)

Army transfers Manila Training Center to Iraq

The 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division, transferred base base operations and training responsibilities at the Manila Training Center near Chamchamal, Iraq, to the Kurdish Regional Guard (KRG) on August 4, 2011. The MTC transfer is the fourth base transfer to take place in the 1st AATF’s area of responsibility. The KRG will use it to train future troops. (080911)

Muqtada al Sadr threatens US forces that might remain after 2011, has been killing US forces for years

AlSadr


Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American, pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite cleric told thousands of followers on August 7, 2011 that his forces will attack US forces who remain in Iraq after 2012. His Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army, has already accelerated attacks against US forces and has been attacking US forces for years. This editor has maintained for years that this man and his militia are enemies of the US and must be destroyed. I reaffirm that position, with the full recognition that he has many followers in Baghdad and his followers hold a politically important bloc in parliament. For many years now his militia has been killing American and allied forces, and no one has taken action against him. Action must now be taken to either arrest or kill al-Sadr and destroy his militia. Further actions must be taken, if not already underway, to reinforce the US forces scheduled to withdraw in order to properly cover their withdrawal. Al-Sadr is our enemy. He spends a great deal of his time in Iran. (080811)

Iraqis get go-ahead to start negotiations with US

The Iraqi political leadership advised government officials that they may begin negotiating retention of US forces in Iraq. The approval came on August 2, 2011. A major US requirement is for US troops to be granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution. Otherwise, reports say the Americans are willing to leave 10,000 troops in-country beyond the end of the year. Pentagon officials dispute these reports, instead insisting that they first need to hear the Iraqi requirements before a force structure can be sized. That is the way it is supposed to be done. (080311)

COB Basra holds mass casualty exercise prepping for withdrawal contingencies

ArmyBasraER


US forces at COB Basra in southern Iraq conducted large-scale mass casualty exercises preparing for a worst-case scenario as US troop withdrawals become increasingly imminent. The leadership there has decided that practice, practice, practice is the best approach in preparations. The scenario involved a simulated indirect fire attack striking an ammunition depot and the operating room at the Troop Medical Clinic. This was followed by simulated indirect fire attacks against the living quarters of the 1-12 Cavalry. The flight line was activated and various medical units transported their injured to the flight line for transport out. Aircraft were not employed to conduct the evacuations, but the flight line people were ready. (080211)

Army preparing to lose strategic comms in Iraq, installing tactical comms for withdrawal

TacComms


As the US force withdrawal proceeds in Iraq, there will be a point in time, sooner rather than later, when use of strategic communications will be discontinued. To prepare for that, C/640th Aviation Support Bn is setting up new tactical communications networks, in the main, to support the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) which is controlling half of Army aviation assets in country. C/640th is setting up shop at COBs Warrior, Kirkuk and Speicher, Tikrit, both in northern Iraq. (080211)
Fifteen American military killed in Iraq in June - Iran pegged as culprit

Fifteen American servicemen were killed by hostile enemy action in Iraq during June 2011, mostly by IEDs. While Admiral Mullen, CJCS, said on August 1 that there has been a significant reduction in attacks against US forces since then, the loss in June is not trivial. Mullen has attacked the Iranians for supplying the weapons, and has ramped up tensions between the two countries accordingly. Lolita Baldor, reporting for AP on August 1, said, “(General) Austin said the biggest threat is the flow of armor-piercing explosives moving across the border from Iran to Iraq, and the U.S. withdrawal may heighten that risk.” Iranian shipment of so many armor piercing IEDs is most worrisome at a time when US forces are planning to drive out on the roads for the final withdrawal prior to year’s end. Prudent planning would seem to dictate some kind of response to Iran should US forces come under IED attacks during the withdrawal. (080111)

Navy-Coast Guard turn over Basra Oil Terminal security

Al-Basrah-Oil-Terminal

On July 26, 2011, the US Navy and Coast Guard turned over security for the Al Basrah Oil Terminal and surrounding area to the Iraqi Navy and Marines. It is located about eight miles offshore. (080111)

US vacates Contingency Operating Location K1 to Iraqi forces

HeavyLiftIraqEquipment


Troopers from C/1 “Devil Brigade” Special Troops Bn of the 1st ID transferred control of Contingency Operation Location KI in Kirkuk Province to Iraqi forces on July 25, 2011. Combat engineers spent several days to dismantle and pack up all US systems our forces employed while there. This is the 15th such location the transferred by B/Division Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Division since October 2010. The 12th Iraqi Army Division plans to use K1 to support a new tank regiment.

CSA warns Iran may be preparing Iraqi Shiites to inflict mass casualties on US Forces, Iraq

DempseyMartin
General Martin Dempsey, USAn Chief of Staff, USA, and CJCS designate, warned the Senate Amed Services Committee (SASC) that Iran has been equipping Iraqi Shiites such that one could conclude that together they are planning to inflict mass casualties on US forces in Iraq ala the Beirut bombing of Marines. He said, "Iran's activities in southern Iraq are intended to produce some kind of Beirut-like moment and, in so doing, to send a message that they have expelled us from Iraq” and said further, "in some cases (this is) supported by intelligence." The US has 46,000 troops in Iraq and is planning to withdraw them all by year’s end. In response to a question, he said, "It would be a gross miscalculation to believe that we will simply allow that to occur without taking serious consideration of reacting to that.” This underscores my contention that withdrawal is a full military operation that can involve significant risks of violence and that reinforcements may be required to cover it. This is a most troubling perspective from General Dempsey. (072711)

US turns over largest base yet to Iraqis, COS Marez


talafar


A/5-82nd Field Artillery turned over Contingency Operating Base (COS) Marez to Iraqi forces, the 10th Bde, 3r Division, on June 14, 2011. A spokesman for the 1st Cav said, “This is the largest base so far that we have transitioned since arriving in country.” The base is located near Tal Afar. The commander, Captain Kyle Eldridge, said, “We left all of the living quarters, maintenance bays and some other equipment necessary to run their day-to-day operations such as generators.” The base will be operated by both Iraqi and Kurdish forces.s (072611)

Iraqi leaders will miss decision deadline on US troop question

TalabaniJalal
Stars & Stripes has reported that Iraqi President Talabani, shown here, told PM Maliki and others to decide by July 23, 2011 whether they want any sustained US military presence in Iraq beyond the end of the year. US officials feel convinced the Iraqis will miss that deadline. They further feel that September is the earliest they expect to receive any kind of decision. The paper said one senior US military official commented it could take until March 2012. This latter date would be a disaster, since the US would have removed all its forces and infrastructure and equipment. It would require a wholly new deployment, which would be expensive. US military planners must be pulling their hair out. Most certainly they are guessing what the likely options are to remain, and then instructing the other units to pack it up and prepare to leave. My own guess is that major USAF units and special forces are the most likely to remain right up until the end, with two Carrier Strike Groups in the Arabian Sea-Persian Gulf just in case.

There are a few sticking points. First, Iranian backed Shia want US forces out lock stock and barrel. They will not budge. Second, for US forces to stay, the US requires immunity from Iraqi prosecution. And finally, those Iraqis who want a continued American presence really want civilians who build things and give them things. It is unlikely that the civilian executive departments would send many people there, however, without assurances of security. (072211)


238th Support Maintenance Co told to get Heavy Equipment Transporters moving

HeavyEquipmentTruckRepair


The 238th Support Maintenance Co., 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, has been ordered to get Heavy Equipment Transporters on the road to start moving heavy equipment from northern Iraq to forward operating bases in Kuwait. These trucks, designed 20 years ago, were not designed to carry the kinds of loads they will now have to move, so wear and tear are going to be issues. The 238th will have to keep them running. The 238th soldiers shown here have to maneuver into tight, close spaces to repair this Heavy Equipment Transporter at their shop on Balad. But the mission is to keep these hogs going, and that’s what they’ll do. In the mean time, about 30 soldiers from the 310th ESC have gone to Kuwait to begn setting up reception operations there for the equipment. 1st Lt. Thomas Raterman underscores a point we have been making for some time: ““This is a good mission, because there is nothing simple about it and nothing will stay the same ... Complacency, within our command, doesn’t exist, because it can’t exist. Everything is changing constantly ... This mission has never been done before in Iraq ... Everything is a learning experience, [and] everything we do, it’s the first time we’ve done it.” In short, withdrawal is a full blown military operation. (071811)

Iraqi forces take responsibility for route clearing in Kirkuk Province

Following months of training with the 1st Advise and Assist Task Force (AATF), 1st Infantry Division, the Iraqi Army 12th Field Engineer regiment is taking over responsibility for route clearing operations in Kirkuk Province. C/Bde Special Troops, 1st AATF had been responsible prior to this. (071811)

Attacks against US forces in Iraq raise withdrawal issues

CartwrightJames
General James Cartwrihgt, USMC, vice chairman, JCS, acknowledged to reporters on July 14, 2011 that attacks against US forces in Iraq, which he maintained are Iranian-backed, threaten the US withdrawal and whether US forces should stay in Iraq after 2011, if asked. He said, "We want to make sure of the ability to protect ourselves. That lethal environment is starting to worry us." My interpretation of this underscores something I have been saying for some time. Withdrawing large numbers of military forces from a combat zone is a full-fledged military operation. It is fraught with threats against the withdrawing force. I have suggested that we could well see major reinforcements sent to Iraq simply to cover the withdrawal. My personal gut view is this is one reason we have had two carrier strike groups in the region for some time. We had been deploying only one. St present, there is only one Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked. It would not surprise me to see another or even more as time goes by. (071511)

US units start collecting and inventorying equipment

The 640th Aviation Support Battalion at Camp Taji, Iraq is one among many which has begun to collect equipment, itemize unused or misplaced military equipment, and square up their inventory books in preparation for withdrawal. The unit intends to get rid of equipment not being used to lighten the load when withdrawal comes, and identify what is serviceable and not. Serviceable items will be returned to those who need it, the rest will be destroyed or shipped out. (071111)

Iran and Government of Iraq, strong words from SecDef Panetta

PanettaAustinIraq
SecDef Panetta was in Iraq on July 11, 2011, and had strong words for Iran and interestingly for the Government of Iraq as well. Regarding Iran, Panetta said, “We’re very concerned about Iran and the weapons they're providing to extremists in Iraq ... We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue to happen ... This is not something we're going to walk away from. It's something we're going to take on head on." Unclear what he has in mind. He also admonished the Iraqi government for failing to deal with the Shiite threat to US forces In Iraq. This latter point is very interesting --- in effect, he is accusing the government of allowing the Shiites to attack US forces just as they are in the process of leaving. Indeed three rockets were fired from a Shiite neighborhood into the Green Zone while Panetta was there. This editor has maintained from the early days of this war that we should have arrested Muqtada Sadr, the Shiite leader, many years ago. He is a close Iranian ally and is open about his contempt for US forces in Iraq. He has threatened them many times. I raise all this to illustrate once again that withdrawing military forces is a military operation, can be dangerous, and may demand reinforcements in providing very lethal cover for the withdrawal.

In an aside, the
Stars and Stripes is reporting Panetta pressured the Iraqi government to decide one way or the other whether it wants any US forces to remain beyond 2011. In very frank language, Panetta is quoted saying, “Do you want us to stay, don’t you want us to stay? ...Dammit, make a decision.” The command in Afghan has said that he made this statement to the troops, not to Afghan government officials. (071111)

Admiral Mullen says negotiations to retain US forces in Iraq underway

MullenMichael
In the first official statement of its kind, Admiral Mullen, CJCS, said on July 7, 2011, “Negotiations (to retain US forces in IRaq) are underway and it’s hard ... There are very clear capability gaps the Iraqis are going to have ... And both the Iraqi security forces and our forces recognize those gaps are there ... My number (of forces to leave) doesn’t make any difference ... It’s what the Iraqi government and really the Iraqi people say is acceptable to them to provide for their own security.” (070811)

UK to withdraw 500 by years end

PM Cameron of the UK confirmed on July 6, 2011 that he will withdraw 500 troops by year’s end, a modest reduction to his 9,000 troop force. The UK also intends to withdraw all forces by the end of 2014. (070611)

Outgoing Lt. General Rodriguez reminds us of the mission in Afghan

RodriguezDavid
Lt. General David Rodriguez, USA, commander International Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commander, US Forces Afghanistan spoke to Pentagon reporters by satellite from Afghan on July 6, 2011. Rodriguez will leave by month’s end. He provided a full status report, but I found his summary of the mission useful because it sometimes gets hard to figure it out as so many changes seem to be be made. He described it this way: “Deny al Qaeda sanctuary and prevent the insurgents from re-taking Afghanistan. To do this, we have and will continue to destroy or degrade the insurgents’ infrastructure, build the Afghan National Security Forces strong enough to lead to provide security for their country, and ultimately mobilize the people to stand up against their enemies.” He said he sees no “unnecessary risk” created by the current drawdown plan. (070611)

Canada completes combat role in Afghan

On July 5, 2011, Canada terminated its combat role in Afghanistan and turned over its Masum Ghar base to the Americans. The Canadians held the base for six years. Some Canadians will remain in Afghan as support troops working for Afghan military and police forces. (070611)

US may be willing to leave 10,000 troops after 2011 if asked

The LA Times reported on July 6, 2011 that the White House is agreeable to leaving 10,000 US military people behind in Iraq after the end of 2011 if asked by Iraq. The Pentagon has vigorously denied the report, asserting that whatever a number might be would be based on Iraq requirements, and thus far the US has no Iraqi requirements. The Times said the Obama administration has proposed this to the Iraqi government, which is deadlocked on the issue. Interestingly, the US is planning to leave about 200 as training advisers in accordance with the 2008 agreement. I would guess these would be attached to the embassy attache office or some new kind of military assistance office. The Times also reported, “Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, nominated to command U.S. special operations forces, said a small force of special operations troops should remain in order to assist Iraqi units in going after insurgents.” There is some concern the Iraqis are going to wait too long, and all forces will be on their way out, after which the Iraqis will ask for help and the US will be in a crunch political position of having to decide whether to send them back. (070611)

US turns over three stations to Iraqis

The US turned over three joint security stations in southern Iraq to the Iraqis between June 19-22, 2011, Sifer and Al Sheeb in Maysan Province and Minden located in Basrah. (063011)

Army deputy commander in Iraq says “our last order is to go to zero” by year’s end

HelmickFrank
Lt. General Frank G. Helmick, U.S. Forces-Iraq deputy commanding general (operations), said on June 22, 2011 that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will drop from the current level of 47,000 to zero. He commented, “Many of the tasks we do will roll into the United States Embassy and what is being formed at the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, so they’ll have a huge responsibility ... We will also transition many of the things we do to the Iraqi security forces and the remainder of task to Central Command ... Some of the things we do will not be transitioned; they will not be done because the Iraqi security forces don’t want them done, or it’s not in the Embassy role set ... The government of Iraq has not asked us, and as far as I know our government hasn’t discussed it ... Our last order is to go to zero.” (062511)

Top Iraqi leaders meet about future of US forces Iraq

Iraq held its first high level meeting on June 20, 2011 to address US force posture in Iraq after 2011. The meeting was held at the president’s residence, and the PM, and senior Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders attended. No decisions were made other than to hold another meeting soon. (062411)

The incredible USA, environmental managers inspect bases being closed

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The US and US military sure take a beating world-wide, but 12 US environmental managers are busy inspecting bases that are closing to make sure our forces leave them in tip-top condition. The divisions and bases involved have already done the work and checked everything out, but these environmental managers come in for a last checky-check. They are working to assure that the designated environmental compliance officer at each site is complying with the environmental policies established by USF-I and are doing what they are supposed to do to turn the base over to Iraq. Each base must undergo a minimum of three surveys before turnover. The photo shows Pamela L. Davis, an environmental inspector with USF-I engineers, notes the location of a site that needs to be clean during a survey of Camp Liberty, May 16, 2011. (061911)

Withdrawal from Iraq could be dangerous for American forces

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I have maintained that withdrawing a major military force from a foreign country, especially one conquered and held, is a military operation that presents many dangers, and could require reinforcement to cover the withdrawal. Michael Schmidt, reporting for The New York Times on June 6, 2011, echoes those sentiments. His first paragraph says, “Even as the American military winds down its eight-year war in Iraq, commanders are bracing for what they fear could be the most dangerous remaining mission: getting the last troops out safely.” Schmidt reported that military leaders are especially focused on a 160 mile stretch of desert road from Iraq to Kuwait, once known as the Highway of Death, also known as Main Supply Route Tampa. Soon military trucks will be lined up and moving on that road and they will have to be defended. An immediate problem is getting the road cleaned up of debris. US forces do not want debris that could host IEDs scattered all over the roads. Helo flights are flying over the road daily to click off what is clean and what is yet to be cleaned. Iraqis are under contract to clean this road up, but will not be paid until our guys are out. The Shiite Mahdi militia loyal to Muqtadr Sadr are a main worry. (061611)

Iraqi president to discuss US presence “soon”

The People’s Daily Online from China, citing an official newspaper in Iraq, reported that Iraqi President Talabani will discuss the presence of US forces beyond the 2011 deadline “very soon.” Nejmeddine Karim, governor of Kirkuk Province, told AFP he wants US forces to stay, fearful of sectarian violence. He said, "Keeping the US troops is important to protect the sky and borders of Iraq and to maintain the internal security of the country, because we are witnessing a large danger through the escalation of violence and the fear of sectarian violence ... The security situation will collapse in Iraq if the US forces withdraw now,"As an aside, the Iraqis asked US congressmen visiting Iraq to leave. Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh was reported to have said, “We have told the U.S. embassy Friday to ask the congressmen to leave Iraq ... Those people are not welcome in Iraq. They are raising a controversial issue which affects the strategic relation between Iraq and the United States.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA) led a six person delegation on a one day visit on June 10, 2011. He apparently riled the Iraqis by suggesting they repay the US for some of the costs of the war. (061511)

Enemy attacks Basra

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The enemy in Iraq fired seven 107mm rockets (an Iranian example shown here) at Basra AB in Baghdad on June 15, 2011. An Army helicopter returned fire and killed one enemy and wounded two. An Iraqi response force went to the site of the attack and found the dead and wounded enemy. Authorities were quick to point out that attacks are common, but markedly lower than the 2006 and 207 peaks. (061511)

Panetta confident Iraq will want troops to stay

During his confirmation hearings to be SecDef, Leon Panetta said on June 9, 2011, "It's clear to me Iraq is considering some kind of presence ... I have every confidence that a request like that will be forthcoming." (061011)

Army general upbeat, but says lots to do with time left

Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, USA, a spokesman for US ForcesIraq, has been deployed to Iraq four times. He said in March, "It's pretty inspirational seeing how much progress they've made ... Frankly, we have a lot left to do in our time left here, but we're determined to get as much done as possible," he said. "I'm confident that Iraq is going to continue on a steady path toward progress ... We don't plan on maintaining U.S. Forces-Iraq after 2011." He said he sees al Qaeda as the main threat that will be left after the US leaves. This said, The Washington Post reported on June 9, 2011, “Behind that facade, according to Iraqi politicians and military officers, the country’s armed forces remain dysfunctional, with power dangerously decentralized and wielded by regional fiefdoms controlled by Iraq’s top politician.” So, whom to believe? The future will tell. (060911)

Seven months left before all US forces leave Iraq, maybe

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Military planners must be going nuts. They do not know, nor do they seem to have any inside information, about whether Iraq will ask US forces to remain in Iraq beyond the 2011 withdrawal deadline. Colonel David Lapan from the Pentagon said on June 6, 2011, “I couldn’t tell you the internal state of deliberations in the Iraqi government, but we have not gotten that request.” So the problem for planners is how best to get the withdrawal going, which takes a lot of time and manpower, and how to remain flexible enough to remain if required. Iraq at present is without a defense and interior minister. US planners say they will need at least two months to execute the withdrawal from the “Go,” which means that they have June through October to fine tune a plan and adapt to changes that might occur. The projection now is that if nothing comes from the Iraqis by the end of October, the withdrawal will commence with dispatch and it will be very hard to turn things around.

Lingering in the background are questions about what kind of withdrawal US forces might experience, a step-by-step safe withdrawal or a violent one that would no doubt require reinforcements to cover the withdrawal. Suicide bombings are continuing and, of course, the US just lost five troopers in a rocket attack against their base. Some observers even worry that stepped up attacks against US forces during these final months will attempt to take advantage of troops preparing to leave, who might not be as well prepared to fight while they pack, and to make headlines that will convince Americans to go ahead and leave regardless of what the Iraq government wants.

One fly in the ointment of concern is Muqtada al-Sadr who says his Mahdi army will raise hell if the US fails to leave. This editor has argued for years we should have arrested this guy a long time ago.

This editor believes this to be a dangerous period in Iraq for US forces. I have always argued that military withdrawals are very difficult logistically and from a security vantage. I was in he CINCPAC Command Center during the final withdrawal from Saigon and it was tense and anxious every step of the way. While I do not pretend to be a military tactician, I believe I would get two, maybe even three Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) along with two and possibly three Marine Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) offshore Iraq at the ready. Each ARG would have a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked. At present, the USS
Ronald Reagan CSG and the USS Enterprise CSG along with the USS Boxer ARG are on the scene, so there is a presence to be sure. (060711)

Eight months left in Iraq, all glowing reports aside, five GIs killed in rocket attack

Details are understandably scarce right now, but five US troops were killed on June 6, 2011, we believe, on a base in eastern Baghdad where they were training Iraqi police. An Iraqi security source has said their quarters were hit by a rocket at about 7 am local time. We will add details as they come available. Eleven US soldiers were killed in Iraq in April, and two in May. As an editorial aside, if you were prone to want revenge, how would you do that in this era of using US forces only for “advise and assist?” Nothing? (060611)

US transfer one sector of Iraqi airspace to Iraq

Officials at the Airspace Control Authority transferred airspace to Iraq Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) officials June 1, 2011. The ICAA took control over of the ALI sector from surface to 24,000 ft. It will control all aircraft on final approach. Such transfers have been going on in increments since January 2009. This is the first transfer to the surface. Two sectors remain to be transferred, Kirkuk and Baghdad, where the airspace is controlled by the US surface to 15,0000 ft. These transfers are scheduled for October 2011. These transfers are in keeping with the planned total withdrawal of US forces by the end of 2011. That said, we must remind ourselves that the Iraqi Air Force cannot guarantee air sovereignty. Should all US fighting aircraft leave Iraq by year’s end, one has to wonder how Iraq will deal with, for example, Iran, which has a strong air force. One also wonders how Iraq will provide its own ground forces with close air support. (060611)

British armed forces are on the ground at rebel front lines

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Video is available to show British armed forces on the ground at the front lines with Libyan rebels east of Misrata. They hid begind concealment once they spotted the video camera. Speculation is they are there to coordinate the imminent employment of British attack helicopters which will go after Libyan ground forces and their weapons, including armor, well hidden and close to the rebel lines. My guess is they will help locate enemy forces and radio that data up to the incoming helicopter attack force. (053111)

Army withdrawals underway

The 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd ID, has begun its departure from Iraq to return to Ft. Stewart, Georgia. Three US installations will close or be used by the Iraqis or other USA units as a result. Elements of the Iraqi 7th Division have signed for Camp Khalid and elements of the 1st IA Quick Reaction Force signed for Camp Tariq. B/3-15 Infantry turned over Camp Taqaddum to Iraqi forces from the 1st IA Division. A departure plan has been prepared for all US Amy units in country and it is being executed. The plan involves departures, turnovers, and re-positioning prior to departure. (053111)

SecArmy says troops will be out by year’s end

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SecArmy John McHugh, flanked by CSA General George Casey, told the House Appropriations Committee-Defense subcommittee on March 16, 2011 that the Army is on track to have all its forces withdrawn from Iraq by year’s end as scheduled. The Army has drawn down to about 50,000 at present with six “advise and assist” brigades in country. The Army is down to seven bases. McHugh said the withdrawal is actually ahead of schedule. Both McHugh and Casey agreed the task of helping Iraq advance is now up to US civilian executive branch agencies, like State. (053111)

US Army strength in Iraq looks to remain strong through all 2011

The administration’s position that all US forces will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year has been very clear. They are to be withdrawn unless Iraq asks some to stay, Iraq has not asked, and Iraq better hurry or it will be a fait accompli. However, information available to us is that announced deployments to Iraq for this summer plus units alerted to deploy leave a strong force in place at year’s end.

At present, there are six brigades and two convoy brigades, plus an extra brigade headquarters organized under the 3rd ID HQ. On the surface, it looks like the trimming planned for 2011 is minimal, we think two division HQs. Whether the alerted forces actually deploy remains to be seen, of course.

Brigades deployed for Iraq this month, May 2011:
  • 2nd Bde, 1st Cavalry Division
  • 2nd Bde, 82nd Airborne Division

The DoD announced on May 24, 2011 the following additional deployments, starting :
  • 3rd ID headquarters
  • 1st BCT of the 1st Cavalry Division
  • 4th BCT of the 1st Armored will rotate in starting mid-summer and extending through fall 2011.
  • Information coming to us is that two more brigades have been alerted to deploy this summer and one more in January 2012.
  • Those units alerted are as follows:
  • 1st BCT, 34th ID, Minnesota National Guard, summer 2011
  • 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Kentucky National Guard, we believe summer 2011
  • 76th BCT, Indiana National Guard, ordered to mobilize for January 2012

My information is that 2nd Bde, 28th ID of the Pennsylvania National Guard was alerted to deploy spring-summer 2011, but that may have been cancelled or postponed. (052611)

US forces still dying in Iraq War

While we are watching the events that transpire around the US withdrawal from Iraq, please know that American military forces continue to fight and die there. Fifteen were killed in April 2011, and the first two to die in May over this past weekend in central Iraq. No details are yet available. (052311)

British leave Iraq

The final complement of British military forces, eighty-one Royal Navy sailors, has departed Iraq. They were patrolling waters off the southern port city of Umm Qasr. The Iraqi Navy now has the deck and the con. Forty-four British troops remain as part of NATO’s training mission at the Iraqi Military Academy. NATO was not part of the Iraq War. And of course, there is a small group located with the British embassy. (052311)

US turns over Contingency Operation Location in Kirkuk to Iraqis

The 1-14 Infantry “Golden Dragons” officially turned over Contingency Operating Location McHenry in Kirkuk Province, Iraq to the Iraqi Army on May 15, 2011. McHenry has served as one of the oldest U.S. operating locations in Iraq, established during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (051711)

Iraqi PM Maliki says he might ask US to keep forces in country beyond 2011

Maliki
Iraqi PM Maliki said on May 11, 2011 that he is considering asking US forces to stay beyond 2011 but only if he can get a solid backing from the country’s political parties at meetings scheduled for this month. He told a Baghdad news conference, “I will bring the leaders of the political blocs together. If they say yes, I will agree and if they say no, I will reject it ... Whole countries have failed to do this, and you want to make me say yes or no before I gather the national consensus? ... It is impossible to have a 100 percent agreement," he said. "But when the consensus reaches 70, 80 or 90 percent, then I call this consensus. The rest should respect this." (051211)

Iraqis say in no hurry to decide on US residuals

Osama al-Nujaifi, the speaker of parliament, said in a recent interview, “There is no certain time or certain date to decide on the U.S. military, and we will not be in a hurry to take a decision.” Admiral Mullen, CJCS, told the Iraqis in April he needed a decision within weeks. He will not get that. Mullen’s equivalent, Gen. Babakir Zebari, has said that Iraqi forces will not be prepared to go it alone until 2020. President Maliki understands his air force will not be ready by next year.

Operation New Dawn defined - US military in “advise and assist” mode

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Back in February 2010, the Obama administration decided to call the US military operation in Iraq, “Operation New Dawn” to reflect the reduced combat role of US forces and the US withdrawal by the close of 2011. I came upon some definition for Operation New Dawn which has probably existed for some time but which I wanted to share in case you missed it. General Lloyd Austin, Commanding General, US Forces Iraq, said, “Through our actions, we will demonstrate our nation’s commitment to the Iraqi people and set the conditions for an enduring partnership with a sovereign, stable, self-reliant, and unified Iraq.” The motto is “Build, partner, strengthen, pressure.”

  • Build: “Build Iraq’s civil capacity by providing a secure environment for political, economic and institutional initiatives to succeed.”
  • Partner: “Partner with US Embassy Baghdad to enable a successful transition using whole-of-government approach.”
  • Strengthen: “Strengthen the Iraqi Security Forces by advising, training, assisting and equipping the force.”
  • Pressure: “Pressure extremist networks through partnered counterterrorism operations.” (051011)

Gates tells Maliki, “It’s up to you”

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SecDef Gates met with Iraqi PM Maliki on April 7, 2011. Pentagon Press Secretary Morrell told reporters on April 6, 2011, that Gates told Maliki “the ball is in your court” with regard to what Iraq wants from the US after the end of 2011. Morrell put it this way:

“It’s really up to you. You need to figure out what you need of us -- what functions that you think still need developing, and how we can help to that end, and therefore, what you need to ask of us. But the ball is really in your court to figure that out and then approach us with what your requirements are, and then we’re willing to work with you to figure out how we can be of assistance.” (050511)


Mullen tells troops pace of withdrawal will pick up

Admiral Mullen, CJCS, visited US forces in Iraq in late April 2011. He told forces at Camp Victory, “The U.S. military will remain committed to helping the ISF improve their readiness ... We will also continue to help our State Department as it now assumes the mantle of leadership in this relationship ... General Austin is on a plan right now to end the mission based on the current strategic framework agreement, which was signed a few years ago ... Late this summer we will see the pace and scope of the drawdown reach its most aggressive level ... Should the Iraqi government have the desire to discuss the potential for some U.S. troops to stay, I am certain my government will welcome that dialogue ... But it needs to start soon, very soon, should there be any chances of avoiding irrevocable logistics and operational decisions we must make in the coming weeks ... We desire truly strategic partnership with Iraq, one that last a very long time into the future ... That partnership won’t end with our departure but it must certainly begin with keeping our promises. (050411)

Transition planning out of Iraq must be done carefully


As of now, Admiral Mullen, CJCS, has put US forces on notice that they are to be out of Iraq by the end of the year. He has warned the Iraqis that they will have to decide very soon if they wish any US forces to remain. On the one hand, US forces must complete their training plans for Iraqi security forces. On the other hand, they have to prepare to leave. Moving the people is easy. Moving the equipment is very hard. Strategic transports have to be identified and scheduled, ships to carry the heavy equipment have to be identified and scheduled. Bases and communities across the nation have to prepare to accept the returning forces. Forces presently at home must prepare to deploy promptly should the withdrawal demand cover reinforcements, and aircraft and ships will be needed to be identified and scheduled for that eventuality. It has already been announced that some troops scheduled to deploy to the region will not go. Only eight months remain between now and the year’s end. There is a lot of work to do. This will be a full-scale military operation. And then, “what if” Iraq falls apart after the withdrawal? Will the US stay home and watch it happen? (042511) The US has agreed to withdraw all military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. I intend to start tracking this withdrawal in a serial article updated as I get new information.

Admiral Mullen confirms US withdrawal agreement with Iraq stands --- it’s end of 2011

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Admiral Mullen, CJCS, said from Baghdad on April 22, 2011, "There are no plans -- nor has there been any request from the Iraqi government -- for any residual U.S. force presence here after December ... "There are no official discussions with respect to any extended presence of United States forces ... "I think later this summer, we will see the pace and scope of the drawdown reach its most aggressive level ... If Iraq wants to keep some American forces in the country to shore up its military vulnerabilities, the U.S. government would welcome the discussion ... It is up to the government of Iraq to reach out, to initiate a dialogue to look at the future agreement possibilities and to work out the specifics of what that might be ... But it needs to start soon -- very soon -- should there be any chance of avoiding irrevocable logistics and operational decisions we must make in coming weeks. Time is running short for any negotiations to occur."

Iraq withdrawals due to pick up speed soon

Addendum, 042211: The Wall Street Journal is reporting the US has only 47,000 vice 50,000 military personnel left in Iraq and the US is negotiating to retain 10,000 vice the 20,000 reported below following the American departure at the end of 2011. The WSJ also said that Admiral Mullen, CJCS, has told the Iraqis he has to know soon, as it takes months to prepare troops for deployment.

IraqWithdrawal


US withdrawals from Iraq are scheduled to pick up speed this summer and fall. The current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) requires the remaining 50,000 US forces be out by the end of the year. That appears to include air forces. Right now, the Iraqis have no way of maintaining any semblance of air sovereignty without the US. The Stratfor Intelligence Group has said the US has indicated it would like to stay longer, perhaps retaining 20,000 for “defense of Iraqi airspace, to more sophisticated capabilities in planning, logistics, maintenance and intelligence.” The US is increasingly concerned about the expansion of Iranian influence throughout the entire Mideast, Iraq included. So is Saudi Arabia. Stratfor estimates that the next move must be an Iraqi one. If not made soon, withdrawals will ramp up in speed. (041911)

Iraq withdrawal schedule to speed ahead, unless Iraq asks for them to stay

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There are presently about 47,000 US troops in Iraq. They are scheduled to begin leaving in large numbers this summer and early fall, and to be out completely by year’s end. However, Secretary of Defense Gates, on perhaps his final visit to Iraq, said the US is willing to keep some there if Iraq wants them. But he stressed Iraq will have to ask soon as the US has many commitments to fill. AP suggests that President al Maliki is under enormous pressure not to ask for the US to remain. I continue to believe the USAF will remain in significant numbers along with US special forces. The former would maintain air sovereignty, continue to build the Iraqi Air Force, and to provide close air support to Iraqis ground forces where needed. The latter would train Iraqi troops and conduct the kinds of special missions for which they are so well known. (040711)

Good reminder from families --- GIs still fighting and dying in Iraq

HockingBrandon

Stars and Stripes, Megan McCloskey, published an article in April 3, 2011, “Is Iraq the new forgotten war?” reminds us that war still rages in Iraq even though US forces “ended combat operations” there in August 2010. The US has lost 11 military since the mission change, 4,443 throughout the entire eight-year war, and still has 46,000 military there. The latest loss was Cpl. Brandon Hocking, USA, a gunner on the lead vehicle for a convoy traveling between bases as a mobile repair team. His vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, an IED. He was a member of the 87th Sustainment Support Battalion and was KIA on March 21 in Samawah, ten days before he was due to come hime. this was his second deployment. He is the father of two. (040411)