Today is our 4,692nd day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,339
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,125
We find this morning's Cost of War passing through: $ 1, 556, 572, 900, 000. 00
Since we're back in Iraq, let's take a look at how we're doing.
(Many embedded links at the source.)
Iraq has a new candidate for prime minister, Haider al-Abadi; however, the possibly outgoing premier, Nouri al-Maliki is putting up a fight instead of conceding that he likely no longer has enough votes to win a third term.. Meanwhile, 247 people were killed and 22 were wounded. One of the dead was a well-respected Kurdish journalist from Turkey.
Today, President Fuad Masum named Haider al-Abadi as the new candidate for prime minister of Iraq. He was selected by the National Iraqi Alliance coalition and is currently the deputy speaker of the parliament. Abadi is also a member of the Dawa party, which is led by outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He now has 30 days to form a new government. During that time, Maliki continues to be the caretaker prime minister.
Maliki appeared on television again today. While he said nothing, another member of the Dawa party, Khalaf Abdul-Samad, declared the nomination illegal. Nouri al-Maliki’s son-in-law told journalists the former prime minister will try to have the nomination overturned in the courts. Last night, Maliki deployed special forces troops, militiamen and heavy weaponry ahead of this expected nomination.
In April, the State of Law coalition, of which Dawa and Maliki are members, won the largest number of seats during the election. This gave Maliki the belief that he might be able to serve another term, but even his coalition is not behind him. Over one third of its serving lawmakers are supporting Abadi. It is expected he will gain a majority, once the Sunnis and Kurds chime in, and be able to form the new government. The State of Law coalition is part of the larger National Iraqi Alliance. Haider, so far, has about 130 lawmakers behind him.
Perhaps thanks to the changeover, the U.S. government in now selling arms directly to the Kurdish government. It is suspected the C.I.A. is acting as the dealer. The administration had limited sales to the federal government in Baghdad, but those arms were not reaching the Kurds, and that lapse contributed to the Islamic State’s rapid advance across northern Iraq.
A Kurdish journalist, Deniz Firat, was killed during a mortar attack on August 8, while she was embedded with Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighters near Makhmour.
In Baghdad, a pair of bombs killed one civilian and wounded seven more.
The bodies of two Sahwa members were found in Baiji.
A militant bomb instructor in Salah ad Din managed to kill himself and 21 recruits during class; another 15 were wounded.
Security forces killed 89 militants in Adhaim.
Airstrikes in Shirqat killed 54 militants.
In Jurf al-Sakhar, 19 militants were killed.
Security forces killed 15 militants in Haditha.
Nine militants were killed in the Himreen Mountains.
Clashes left seven militants dead in Barwana.
Seven militants were killed in Dijla.
Eight militants were killed in Khanaqin.
U.S. airstrikes in Bashiqa left six militants dead.
In Mosul, a senior militant commander was killed.
Of course, we're likely back in Iraq for the sake of being back in Iraq. It's starting to come out that some in the Pentagon don't think this will do any good anyway
Lt. Gen. William Mayville, the Pentagon’s top war planner, today sought to lower expectations for the current US air war in Iraq, insisting the attacks are having only very limited effects on ISIS operations, and a very temporary impact.
Lt. Gen. Mayville insisted the current air war did not mean ISIS was “contained” or even that its momentum was effectively stalled, and that the current strikes are mostly focused on keeping ISIS from moving directly on Irbil.
When President Obama first announced the new air war Thursday, the strikes were said to be focused on stopping the Irbil offensive, though since then he has broadened the goals of the war considerably, aiming to protect Baghdad, stopping ISIS from taking key infrastructure, and preventing ISIS from maintaining its caliphate.
In that context, Lt. Gen. Mayville’s comments must be seen not only as tempering expectations but also as laying the groundwork for further escalation of the war, and advancing the narrative that the already large US presence is insufficient for those growing goals.
Its undeniable that Lt. Gen. Mayville’s assessment in that regard is quite true, and that even 108 warplanes is insufficient for the goals now laid out of stopping ISIS nationwide. Yet it is left unspoken just how massive the US presence would have to be for these goals, with the public expected to just accept “more” as a general trend.
Indeed, with President Obama insisting there isn’t a “military solution” at all, his decision to keep escalating that military action is all the more puzzling, and suggests that getting the military operation going in the country is an end unto itself, with escalation to match whatever goals they finally settle on something to be worried about at a later date.
Of course, with airstrikes of questionable effectiveness, that can only lead to one thing. Boots on the ground. Yes, there are some already calling for that
even as their counterparts think the airstrikes aren't doing any good.
The former NATO chief commander and military leader in Europe says he thinks the U.S. needs to put boots on the ground to fight with Iraqi and Kurdish troops against the Islamic State.
Currently, about 250 U.S. troops are assessing Iraqi and Kurdish forces’ capabilities and share some intelligence with them, according to the U.S. military. Retired Adm. James Stavridis thinks that “many more” Special Forces advisers are needed to provide direct assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish troops.
“I think we probably need triple that with some enablers and conventional protective mechanisms around them,” said Stavridis, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Those enablers should include aircraft, medical support and intelligence, and cyber support, he said.
Last week, the U.S. began launching airstrikes against the Islamic State. While manned aircraft can attack enemy vehicles and troop formations and unmanned aircraft can attack enemy leaders, air power also has its limitations, he said.
“You cannot hold territory; you cannot provide advice; you can’t do reconnoitering at ground level — a drone is a wonderful high level view, but it doesn’t have the feel and the granularity of an observer of the ground,” Stavridis said. “You cannot provide significant defensive positions, you can only knock down incoming offensive capability.”
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is in turmoil. The Iraqi parliament has selected a new prime minister, but current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to step aside and security forces loyal to him have reportedly taken up positions at strategic locations in Baghdad.
Another complicating factor is the Iraqi government has turned to Shiite militias and Iran for help against the Islamic State. Despite the presence of these adversaries, Stavridis believes it is critical that U.S. Special Forces advisers work with Iraqi troops.
Some days it does feel like the end times are well underway.