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Inherent Resolve - Phase 1 - Without Turkey

Ankara asserted that the war against the jihadi group must be broadened to target the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Additionally, Ankara called for the creation of safe haven areas in Syria, protected by no-fly zones. Washington refused such demands, arguing the priority must be defeating the militants.

In October 2014 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote a highly private, and very blunt memo to National Security Advisor Susan Rice about US policy toward Syria. The detailed analysis, crafted directly by Hagel, expressed concern about overall Syria strategy. The focus of the memo was the need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime. Hagel warned that the Syria policy was in danger of unraveling due to confusion over the US stance toward Assad.

By mid-Novemer 2014 a number of media outlets were reporting that the US was changing its strategy in fighting the radical Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Due to the influence of the Arabian monarchies and Turkey, President Barack Obama had ordered a review of the strategy for fighting the group: Washington admitted that the initial plan not to remove Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad was wrong. Washington came to believe that it would probably not be possible to defeat ISIS without political changes in Damascus and the removal of the Syrian president from power.

The Iraq First strategy was supposed to create time for the preparations of a pro-Western opposition, mainly represented by the Free Syrian Army. Now Washington doubted the strategy's plausibility: By the time ISIS was annihilated in Iraq, the Free Syrian Army may well be weakened or even destroyed. In other words, Washington was finally convinced of the necessity of acting to promote regime change in Damascus.

President Barack Obama on 18 November 2014 answered “no” to whether he was “actively discussing ways to remove” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama added, “we are looking for a political solution eventually within Syria. … But we’re not even close to being at that stage yet.”

Reuters reported November 26, 2014 that Qatar was covertly training moderate Syrian rebels with US help to fight both President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State group and may include more overtly Islamist insurgent groups. The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia's border and al-Udeid, the largest US air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate rebels.

Together with Coalition partners, the provided material support and airstrikes to counter ISIL’s advances and provide time and space for Iraq government reforms. The US, Coalition, and Government of Iraq (GoI) military actions collectively prevented further large scale humanitarian catastrophes and mass atrocities.

By late 2014, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and affiliated Kurdish Security Forces had stemmed the ISIL advance and stopped or reversed encroachment on Baghdad. Iraqi and Kurdish forces have begun to retake territory threatened or captured by the ISIL with the aid of U.S. and Coalition air strikes; however, to successfully take major offensive operations, Iraq requires assistance to counter the ISIL threat.

The initial setbacks and subsequent losses absorbed by the ISF resulted in a critical requirement to rebuild ISF capabilities to conduct offensive operations to liberate ISIL-held territory. Based on the November 2014 U.S. assessment and in support of the GoI counter ISIL plan, the requirement to resource ISF counter-offensive capabilities includes building three Iraqi Army Divisions (9 Brigades), three Kurdish Brigades, and an initial Tribal Force that could serve as the basis for developing an Iraqi National Guard (ING).

The estimated cost is $89.3 million for each of the nine IA Brigades. Equipping the three Iraqi Army Divisions (9 Brigades) is critical to generate sufficiently armed, equipped and trained forces to conduct sustained operations necessary to counter ISIL. Support for equipping the Iraq forces is also a feasible and tangible way to demonstrate our commitment to maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq and the need for international assistance and a unity of effort in countering ISIL.

If the Iraqi Army does not receive the necessary training and equipment they will be unlikely to conduct counter-offensive actions in a timely and effective manner, and are less likely to achieve success. The Iraqi forces are inhibited in building a critical mass to combat ISIL. Failure to do so could result in a delay to Iraqi plans to go on the counter-offensive against ISIL, exacerbating sectarian divisions, providing room for establishment of a de facto ISIL state, fueling ISIL extremism, and exacerbating the humanitarian and economic effects of the conflict in Iraq.

Failure of the Iraqi forces to gain the initiative to counter ISIL could spread the conflict in the region and further the Sunni/Shia divide. Additionally, if support is not provided, American interests in the region would be undermined. If the US does not provide this crucial support to bolster the ISF, it may inadvertently discourage those ethnic/tribal forces already engaged or contemplating engagement in opposing ISIL. Finally, if this assistance is not provided, the US will also have less leverage to influence the Government of Iraq (and IA) during a critical period on the importance of complying with applicable international human rights standards and to ensure that their difficult fight against terrorism is conducted in a manner that protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of law.

The United States is planning to deploy more than 400 troops to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State group. The training is expected to begin in March 2015. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia agreed to host the training sessions. At least four training sites in those countries are being identified. The training cycle is expected to last six to eight weeks. While training is expected to take several months, Syrian forces could be ready by the end of 2015 to enter the fight in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group. The US operation expects to train about 5,400 rebel forces each year for three years.

The US-led air strikes have “taken [out] more than half” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (formerly ISIS/ISIL) group’s leadership, Al Arabiya quoted US Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones saying 22 January 2015. “We estimate that the air strikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Jones said. While the statistics were “not so important in themselves,” he said, “they do show the degradation of ISIS.”

US officials said they plan to train about 5,000 Syrian fighters from the Free Syrian Army over three years. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have publicly offered to host training sites. On February 19, 2015 the United States and Turkey signed an agreement to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.

The United States had about 2,000 advisers and force protection units working in three [or four] locations: Baghdad International Airport; the Ain al Asad Air Base in al-Anbar province, most of which was controlled by the Islamic State; and Irbil, the capital the Kurdish region and the location of a joint command center.

The Pentagon said 14 April 2015 that IS had lost 13,000 to 17,000 square kilometers of territory since coalition airstrikes began in August 2014, reducing its holdings in Iraq by 25 to 30 percent. “ISIL has lost large areas where it was once dominant,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren, using another acronym for the group. “Iraqi security forces along with coalition air power have unquestionably inflicted some damage on ISIL and have begun to push ISIL back.”

As of mid-April 2015, the United States had 3,040 troops in Iraq - 2,240 to support the Iraqi Security Forces and 800 designated for security and force protection.

Marina Ottaway, Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, writes in "Stark Choice in Iraq" that US officials have been deluding themselves that they can fight ISIS in Iraq without cooperating with the Shi’a militias and Iran. The defeat in Ramadi proved them wrong. She argues The goal of the new intervention in Iraq is to defeat ISIS. The United States needs to focus on that goal and work with the militias, or get out.

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said June 03, 2015 that the military campaign to stop the Islamic State group has killed more than 10,000 of its fighters in less than a year.

Video from the G-7 summit in Germany showed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi trying to get a word in with the US president after world leaders were gathered for a group photo. Obama was on a bench chatting it up with Italy’s prime minister and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF – when al-Abadi and his translator took a seat next to Obama. As Obama and the other leaders huddled, Obama appeared unaware of Abadi, who awkwardly sat about a foot away with his translator and waits to get the president’s attention. It never happens. When Obama, Lagarde and Italy's Mario Renzi stood up, so did Abadi – though he was still ignored. Finally, Abadi looked at his watch, his translator lifts his hands in the air and shrugs, and the two walked away.

On June 10, 2015 Obama ordered 450 additional military trainers to Iraq in a new effort to bolster Iraqi troops as they try to retake Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital seized last month by Islamic State insurgents. The White House said the extra troops will not serve in a combat role and will augment the 3,100 the US already has in Iraq to "train, advise and assist" Iraqi forces and Sunni fighters. The US in the past year had trained about 9,000 Iraqi troops and is training another 3,000, but it was unclear how many more recruits Iraq will be able to supply.

Efforts to deal the Islamic State terror group a lasting defeat in Syria have hit a “chokepoint,” with the U.S. military struggling to produce a moderate Syrian fighting force to complement American and coalition air power. The Pentagon said 18 June 2015 that of the 6,000 volunteers for the Syria train-and-equip program, fewer than 200 have actually begun training at sites set up in Turkey and Jordan. Another 1,500 have completed the first round of screening, with 4,000 volunteers still waiting to start the vetting process. Not a single volunteer had completed the program and returned to Syria to fight the Islamic State group.

After having budgeted $500 million for the Syria train-and-equip program, the Pentagon admitted the progress has been below expectations, which called for an initial moderate Syrian force of 5,400. Training sites were set up in Jordan and Turkey, with additional sites in Saudi Arabia and Qatar expected to come online as the program grew.

By June 2015 no one had completed the training program, and fewer than 100 were currently enrolled. "We are trying to recruit and identify people who…can be counted on…to fight, to have the right mindset and ideology," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the House Armed Services Committee. "It turns out to be very hard to identify people who meet both of those criteria."

One problem is that it was difficult to ascertain an individual’s allegiances. Many candidates screened gave reason to believe they would be more interested in using their newfound training against the Syrian government. Several who were originally accepted into the program were forced out once their true loyalties came to light. “It is simply difficult to acquire the number of Syrian rebels willing to participate in the training under current parameters,” Jennifer Cafarella, with the Institute for the Study of War, told Fox News.

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Page last modified: 21-02-2016 20:03:57 ZULU