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Author: TriSec    Date: 03/22/2016 09:53:33

Good Morning.

So we'll start this morning like we used to; with the latest casualty report from our ongoing wars. By now you've heard that a US Marine has been killed on the ground in Iraq.

IRBIL, Iraq — A U.S. Marine was killed near the front line with the Islamic State in northern Iraq on Saturday, becoming the second combat casualty of the war against the militants, according to the U.S. military and Iraqi officials.

The Marine died when Islamic State militants fired rockets into a small U.S. base in Makhmour, a front-line town controlled by Kurdish peshmerga forces on the outskirts of the region of Kurdistan, U.S. officials said.

“Several” other Marines also were injured in the rocket attack, according to a Pentagon statement. An earlier statement had not specified which branch of the military had been involved.

A senior Iraqi army officer in Makhmour said two rockets landed about 8:20 a.m. Saturday on the U.S. camp, a small, closely guarded facility where American advisers have been based for several months helping Iraqi army and peshmerga forces battle Islamic State fighters nearby and preparing for an offensive to recapture the key Iraqi city of Mosul.

The death “reminds us of the risks our men and women in uniform face every day,” the Pentagon statement said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the service members involved, their families and their coalition teammates who will continue the fight against ISIL with resolve and determination,” it added, using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State.

U.S. officials did not specify the precise role of the Americans serving on the base. But elite Marine Raiders are deployed in Iraq with a mission similar to that of the Special Operations forces there.

Which also reminds me that we haven't looked at the Cost of War in a long time, and we find that passing through:

$ 1, 677, 271, 250, 000 .00

Remembering of course, that we can't do anything Candidate Sanders wants to do because it's "too expensive".

But, back to Iraq. There's a story out of Kurdistan this morning that's mildly interesting; apparently Peshmerga forces in Iraq have captured an American defector from ISIL. But of course, parts of his story don't quite add up. One wonders if he's a mole, sleeper, or worse.

An American who said he defected from the Islamic State has admitted he "wasn’t thinking straight" when he decided to go to the Middle East and join the militant group earlier this year.

"I made a bad decision to go with [a] girl and go to Mosul. ... I wasn’t thinking straight," Mohamad Jamal Khweis told an interviewer in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The 26-year-old surrendered to Kurdish peshmerga fighters near the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar and has been held by them since Monday.

Khweis, who was born in the United States and grew up in a Virginia suburb of Washington, was interviewed by Kurdistan24 television station in Irbil, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq.

No mention of fighting

Khweis spoke in English during an extensive interview that was boiled down to 16 minutes. It contains no mention of fighting or other violence, though it reveals some of the man’s background and his travels as of December, when he set out to join the extremist group.

U.S. officials and analysts are taking a close look at the interview, focusing on Khweis’ answers and demeanor. While parts of his story seem plausible, holes in the account raise concerns.

"The answers he is giving don't appear to be satisfactory," Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation to Protect Democracies, told VOA. "The question then becomes whether he's lying, obfuscating, or just doesn't want to talk about aspects of his story. And then the next question is why?"

The interview shows a bearded young man in khaki pants and a short-sleeved, collarless gray-blue shirt, speaking calmly and occasionally smiling.
"There was an imam who taught us about sharia," Khweis said, later noting that "our daily life was basically prayer, eating and learning about the religion for about eight hours."

Khweis said he did not complete the full training program and "didn’t agree with their ideology." He told his interviewer, "That’s when I wanted to escape."

"It was pretty hard to live in Mosul. It’s not like Western countries. It’s very strict. There’s no smoking," Khweis said during the interview, which also showed him puffing on a cigarette. "The lifestyle in Mosul was very difficult – not just for me, for everybody there. ... I stayed there for about a month."

"After things didn’t work out," the young man said, "I didn’t see myself living in that environment. I wanted to go back to America."

Finally, since today seems to be about our expanding war in Iraq, I'll leave you with some thoughts from a Marine General, speaking before Congress.

WASHINGTON -- If the Marines were called today to respond to an unexpected crisis, they might not be ready, a top Marine general told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, testified to lawmakers that the Marines could face more casualties in a war and might not be able to deter a potential enemy.

"I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now," he said, citing a lack of training and equipment.

Paxton, along with the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, spoke to the Senate committee on the readiness challenges facing each service after 15 years of war and recent budget cuts.

For the Marines, he said units at home face the most risk because of fewer training opportunities with the best equipment deployed with forces overseas. And it would be these undertrained home units that would be called to respond to an unexpected crisis.

"In the event of a crisis, these degraded units could either be called upon to deploy immediately at increased risk to the force and the mission, or require additional time to prepare thus incurring increased risk to mission by surrendering the initiative to our adversaries," Paxton said.

"This does not mean we will not be able to respond to the call ... It does mean that executing our defense strategy or responding to an emergent crisis may require more time, more risk, and incur greater costs and casualties."

Communication, intelligence and aviation units are the hardest hit, Paxton said.

"All of our intelligence and communications battalions ...would be unable to execute their full wartime mission requirements if called upon today," he said.

So, there is that.

10 comments (Latest Comment: 03/22/2016 16:12:55 by Will in Chicago)
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