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Author: TriSec    Date: 10/25/2016 09:48:42

Good Morning.

We'll start this morning with our latest casualty in Iraq. Despite us not being the primary combatants anymore, there's still Americans on the ground in Mosul.

An explosive ordnance disposal technician killed by an ISIS bomb in Iraq on Oct. 20 had been working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul at the time of his death, Military.com has learned.

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. "JJ" Finan, 34, had been attached to a Coronado, California-based SEAL team at the time of his death, according to a source with close knowledge of the events. Military.com is not releasing the name of the team to avoid compromising operational security.

Finan was killed when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device as it was exiting a minefield, the source said. No other teammates were injured.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes in Irbil, Iraq, this weekend, the commander of the coalition fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, provided more context, saying Finan had spotted one IED and was directing teammates and civilians to safety when his vehicle struck another roadside bomb.

A Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com that Finan, as a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a special operations task force serving in Iraq.

SEAL teams frequently have outside augments serving in specialized capacities, such as explosive ordnance disposal.

In a pair of emails to unit family members, the commander of the SEAL team paid tribute to Finan and the sacrifice he made for his brothers-in-arms.

"JJ was the definition of a professional and a loyal teammate and he will be deeply missed," the commanding officer wrote. "He answered the nation's call and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and for it we will be forever grateful."

The officer said the team planned to honor Finan formally and informally in coming weeks in a variety of ways.

"Meanwhile, we will remain resolute," he said. "Our SEALs and sailors currently deployed will continue to do our nation's work with the utmost dedication and professionalism ... this country is blessed to have such patriots as JJ."

Finan is the first U.S. service member to be killed supporting the Iraqi Security Forces' assault on Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq.

We'll stay with Iraq - the most recent US casualty is tied to the ongoing offensive to re-take Mosul. It was in the news briefly, but has faded almost as quickly as it was announced. Despite this, the fight does go on - and there's an undercurrent to that battle that's hardly been mentioned. This story illustrates more than anything how difficult it is to get anything done in the Middle East.

Washington has again found itself in the middle of a fast-escalating conflict between two of its most important partners in the fight against ISIS.

In a move that infuriated Baghdad — and its Russian and Iranian allies — Turkey deployed roughly 500 troops to a military base in Bashiqa, Iraq, last December to train and advise local forces in preparation for the Mosul offensive that began last week.

Iraq denounced the move as a violation of its sovereignty, and it has insisted that the Turkish troops will not play any role in Mosul's liberation.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter signaled to reporters Friday that the US does not unconditionally support Turkey's involvement in the offensive.

"The Iraqi government will need to agree" to Turkey's participation in the Mosul campaign, Carter said, noting that "the practicalities" of such an agreement are still being "hammered out."

The dispute between Turkey and Iraq has forced the US into a delicate balancing act — between staying on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's good side to prevent Baghdad from getting fully sucked in to Iran's sphere of influence, and acknowledging its shared concerns with Turkey over Iran's lofty regional aspirations.
In the end, however, Washington is more likely to defend Iraq's sovereignty than to side with Turkey.

"I am not sure how much the US is now lobbying for the Turks," said Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy specializing in the politics and security of Iraq.

"I think US is caught between two allies, but if it has to choose then it will default to Iraqi sovereignty," Knights added. "The US views the Turkish involvement as a huge headache but wants to minimize the risk of ether side acting rashly."

Iraq has repeatedly denied Turkey's requests to help liberate Mosul, which fell to ISIS in mid-2014.

We'll move on to some veteran's issues next - perhaps you remember that during the darker days of the war, the Pentagon started offering up increasingly large "enlistment bonuses" to entice folks to sign up for war? Some of the larger payouts were in excess of $15,000. How about the defense department deciding, in some cases a decade later, that those payments were inappropriate and demanding that combat troops repay them?

Lawmakers on Sunday condemned a Pentagon effort to recoup enlistment bonuses improperly paid to thousands of California National Guard soldiers a decade ago, saying the overpayments were not the soldiers’ fault and calling on the Pentagon or Congress to waive their debts.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged a House investigation of the problem, calling the Pentagon demands for repayment of bonuses from combat veterans “disgraceful."

McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said the House would demand a briefing from the National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon agency that oversees the California branch of the Guard.

The Times reported that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses — which often reached $15,000 or more — from about 9,700 California Guard soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Department of Defense should waive these repayments, and I will be requesting a full brief from Army and National Guard leadership,” McCarthy said in a statement. "The House will investigate these reports to ensure our soldiers are fully honored for their service.

"Our military heroes should not shoulder the burden of military recruiters' faults from over a decade ago,” McCarthy said. "They should not owe for what was promised during a difficult time in our country."

The bonuses were mostly given out from 2006 to 2008 by California Guard recruiters who were under pressure to help the Pentagon fill its ranks for two major wars.

Several California Guard officials pleaded guilty in 2010 to making fraudulent bonus payments.

The soldiers say the Pentagon is reneging on 10-year-old contracts and imposing severe hardship on veterans whose only mistake was taking money that was offered to them at the time.

Of course these 'debts' should be written off. Soldiers who went to war on a promise aren't the ones at fault here.

19 comments (Latest Comment: 10/25/2016 20:19:42 by Raine)
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