Inherent Resolve - 2016
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Congressional House Appropriations Committee 25 February 2016 the United States is increasing its funding for the battle against Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Africa. He said his department is requesting $7.5 billion, a 50 percent increase over last year, to fight the militant organization. Carter said the fight would encompass not just land, air and sea, but also space and cyberspace. Briefly, he confirmed reports that the military's Cyber Command unit has recently begun a new cyberwarfare campaign against Islamic State, but declined to give details in a public setting. In recent months the intensification effort against Islamic State included the use of additional U.S. special expeditionary forces to carry out raids, free hostages, capture IS leaders and gather intelligence.
Four Saudi warplanes landed at Incirlik military base in Turkey on 26 February 2016 to join the U.S-led Western coalition aerial raids against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
The United States established a firebase in northern Iraq to support Iraqi forces in liberating the city of Mosul from the Daesh, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters on 21 March 2016. "Several weeks ago, thousands of Iraqi troops began occupying a tactical assembly in Makhmour, this is part of the force generation associated with the liberation of Mosul," Warren stated. "These Iraqi forces, along with their coalition advisors, require forced protection, so we constructed a small firebase to do just that." On March 19, US Marine Sergeant Louis Cardin was killed in Iraq during an Daesh rocket strike.
The US is providing more than 200 additional troops and several Apache attack helicopters to assist Iraqi forces in their fight to retake the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced April 18, 2016 in Baghdad. Carter said the new US troops would be mainly advisers needed to help with the logistics of advancing Iraqi troops further from their bases as they encircle Iraq's second largest city. He said they would advise at the brigade and battalion headquarters level.
"Everyone knows the fight of Iraq is the fight for Mosul," a senior U.S. defense official said. "Mosul is the end game in Iraq." Iraqi forces began an offensive to retake the IS stronghold on March 24. A senior defense official says a total of eight Apache attack helicopters will be sent to aid in the battle. U.S. troops are needed to fly and maintain them. In 2015, Iraqi officials declined a U.S. offer for Apache helicopters in the battle to retake Ramadi from IS, but the U.S official noted that the fight for Mosul will be even more difficult. The city fell to IS militants in the summer of 2014.
Carter on April 18, 2016 announced the United States will increase funding for Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq, with a senior official saying the amount will be about $400 million.
On April 25, 2016 President Obama ordered a significant increase in the number of US Special Operations Forces in Syria and urged European nations to ramp up their contributions to the coalition fighting Islamic State. Speaking in Hannover, Germany, Obama said up to 250 additional personnel will join a team of about 50 US troops in Syria. “Their expertise has been critical as local forces have driven ISIL [Islamic State] out of key areas,” Obama said.
Earlier in APril 2016, the United States announced the deployment of an additional 200 troops and several Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, where they will help government forces there take back IS-held territory. The additional US troops will not be “leading the fight on the ground,” Obama pointed out, “but they will be essential in providing the training and assisting local forces that continue to drive ISIL back.”
The additional 250 U.S. special operations troops heading to Syria will be a "force multiplier," meeting with local fighters and providing expertise to Syrians willing to take on Islamic State, according to the Pentagon. "This is as much about introductions and connections and seeing what we can do to support those forces, some of whom we don't know yet," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Monday. "That's what the main task of these additional forces will be."
In June 2016 an internal diplomatic cable signed by about 50 officials criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the civil war in Syria, and called for the use of targeted airstrikes against the Syrian government. The document emerged from an internal “Dissent Channel” within the State Department that allows employees and diplomats who disagree with administration policy to voice their concerns with superiors without the fear of retaliation.
The memo asked the Obama administration to employ a “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons” to directly engage the Syrian army and hasten an end to the civil war that had already taken the lives of nearly 500,000 people. "The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable," the memo reads. "The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges." Until this point, the administration’s policy in Syria has been mainly limited to aiding rebel soldiers fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State. The US had not directly and openly confronted Assad and his Russian-backed forces.
American historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter writes in his article for the Middle East Eye. "The memo called for a 'more militarily assertive US role' in the Syrian conflict in the form of 'a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed US-led diplomatic process.' That is precisely the policy option that Secretary of State John Kerry has been widely reported to have championed privately for years," Porter emphasizes.
A June 2016 report by Washington's influential think tank Center for New American Security, entitled "Defeating the Islamic State: A Bottom-Up Approach." The report states :"In western Syria, a more radical shift is needed. Rather than focusing first on coming to a political agreement, the United States should emphasize arming and training local groups that are acceptable to the United States regardless of whether they are fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or ISIS [Daesh] ... The United States should also be willing to increase its use of military coercion in the west and be willing to threaten and execute limited military strikes against the Assad regime in order to protect these actors [US-backed local groups]... ".
The US military's renewed program to train and equip Syrian rebels helped anti-Islamic State forces make "significant steps forward" across the Syrian battlefield, officials said 30 June 2016, as the Pentagon works to evaluate recent changes in the program. "We have U.S.-trained opposition forces near the Mara line, we have U.S.-trained opposition forces down in the at-Tanf garrison, and we have provided advice, assistance and training to the Syrian Democratic Forces that are conducting the Manbij operation," Colonel Chris Garver, a spokesman for the coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, told reporters Wednesday.
Rather than trying to build entire units, as the Pentagon did in its first attempt at a train-and-equip program, the U.S. military is now focused on training small numbers of fighters as "spotters," who can coordinate resupply efforts and describe enemy positions, according to U.S. officials.
As of June 2016, the US military was supporting about 10,000 Syrian Arabs through the small number of fighters in both the old and new train-and-equip programs.
The United States will deploy 560 more troops to Iraq to help shape the fight to retake Mosul from Islamic State, following the recent seizure of a key airbase near the city by Iraqi forces. Defense Secretry Ash Carter made the announcement during a visit to Baghdad 11 July 2016. He said the additional troops would be sent to the newly retaken Qayyarah Airbase West, about 60 kilometers south of Mosul, which will serve as a logistics and air hub for the coalition. “The point of seizing that airfield is to be able to establish a logistics and air hub in the immediate vicinity of Mosul,” Carter told reporters.
According to a leaked US proposal, the United States offered Russia a new military pact against the Islamic State and al-Qaida in Syria, If finalized, the arrangement would dramatically alter America's role in the Arab country's five-year civil war. The document, published by The Washington Post July 14, 2016, called for joint bombing operations, a command-and-control headquarters and other synchronized efforts. US and Russian officials with expertise in intelligence, targeting and air operations will “work together to defeat” the extremist groups, the eight-page paper stated. Such a partnership would repudiate months of US criticism of Russia's military intervention in Syria. It would also position the US alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad ahd his chief international backer, despite years of American demands for Assad to leave power. Russia would be getting what it has wanted since intervening in Syria in September 2015: An international alliance, of sorts.
The partnership was part of what US officials termed a "final offer" to Moscow. In exchange, the US wanted the Russians to pressure Assad to stop bombing moderate militant groups and civilian populations, and to allow unfettered aid to besieged rebel-held areas. Washington also wanted Russia's help in forcing Assad to start a political transition that would end his family's four-decade rule. Opposition to the Syria plan is shared by a many officials at the State Department, Pentagon and US intelligence community. That wariness deepened after Russian air strikes a few days earlier against US-trained rebel camps. In June, Russian planes hit a rebel encampment despite advance warnings from US officials, and then returned for a second strike when US jets left the area to refuel.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear, security analyst Mark Sleboda also had doubts as to whether Washington was serious about coordination. It has been suggested, he said, that it is not known "Whether this is an actual outreach from the Obama administration or whether this is more signals that the Obama administration is increasingly confused and not in control of its own agencies."
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said 19 August 2016 that US fighters attempted to intercept Syrian planes to protect American advisers – a term the US military often uses for its Special Operations Forces – working with Kurdish forces after the Syrian government jets bombed the area.
On 22 august 2016, another Pentagon spokesman, Peter Cook, said, “We would continue to advise the Syrian regime to steer clear of those areas.... We are going to defend our people on the ground, and do what we need to defend them... “It’s not a no-fly zone,” he said, adding that “the Syrian regime would be wise to avoid areas where coalition forces have been operating.”
When asked about Russia, Cook said the US would also do the same with Russian jets, which have been striking Daesh targets in Syria at the country’s request since 2015. “If they threaten US forces, we always have the right to defend our forces,” Cook said.
By late February 2016 the United States and Nigeria were in talks about sending US military advisers to Nigeria's Borno State to help with the fight against Boko Haram insurgents. A team went to Nigeria in the previous two months and “recommended” the U.S. and Nigerian militaries restart training, but that no decision hds been made. The interaction was a sign that the US-Nigeria relationship was going well with the new president in power. President Muhammadu Buhari took office as the nation's 15th president in May 2015, following his defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The deployment was recommended by the top U.S. Special Operations commander for Africa, Brigadier General Donald Bolduc. A U.S. assessment team suggested dozens of advisers be placed in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, to help Nigerian military planners carry out a more effective counterterrorism campaign. Nigerian officials reportedly embraced the recommendations and were drawing up detailed requests.
The United States already had about 250 military personnel in Cameroon, running a drone operation to keep track of Boko Haram activity. If the new deployment is approved, US forces would serve only non-combat advisory roles.
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