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ISIS Is Reportedly Biding Its Time Ahead Of A Bloody Iraqi Comeback
President Donald Trump may believe the U.S. military has soundly defeated ISIS in Syria, but a new report suggests that the terror group is simply biding its time in its home country of Iraq ahead of a deadly resurgence.
According to a new analysis by in Jane's Intelligence Review, ISIS is "exploiting the chaotic and unresolved security situation" in Iraq to reconstitute itself, regaining a territorial foothold in the country's northern Qara Chokh mountains despite the loss of its primary stronghold in Mosul just over a year ago.
"[ISIS] is exploiting remote, often sparsely populated areas in which it can establish a physical and logistical infrastructure to offer shelter and food for its fighters," explains Dr. Jonathan Spyer in Jane's.
These mountain footholds, like the tunnels that have stymied U.S. forces in the anti-ISIS fight in Syria, are "strongholds for the movement, where it may exercise control, from which operations can be planned and launched, where it may domicile its leadership and its most committed cadres, and to which it can fall back when facing pressure from the ISF and Kurdish Peshmerga forces," he added.
Spyer, a longtime Middle East analyst and chronicler of ISIS' evolution, has actively observed ISIS activity near the Qara Chokh mountains over the last several months, and and the long-term implications of these growing strongholds are clear, per his report in Janes: "Ultimately, the group may seek to develop (or revive) its capability to conduct operations across [a] far broader area, including into Baghdad, Mosul city, and Samarra, and then onwards into Syria and Iran."
Who's to blame for this sudden resurgence? According to Jane's, it's partially the ISF who spent too much time clashing with the Kurdish militias that are ostensibly their allies in the anti-ISIS fight rather than thoroughly ridding the remote regions of the country of ISIS holdouts.
"The ISF has not attempted a comprehensive 'cleaning out' of the inhabited villages in this area," Spyer writes. "This has enabled the Islamic State to establish a presence inside many of them, and to seek to disrupt and destroy communication between local tribal structures and the security forces – assisted in this by the sectarian [behavior] of certain ISF elements."
An Iraqi security forces member provides security near a patrol base in Mosul, Iraq, June 22, 2017.U.S. Army/Cpl. Rachel Diehm
The Jane's report comes during a period of major uncertainty for both Operation Inherent Resolve and the multinational alliance to defeat ISIS itself. On Dec. 19, Trump abruptly announced the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria; days later, top Trump administration envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and diplomatic architect of the anti-ISIS mission Brett McGurk resigned in protest.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency." Trump tweeted on Dec. 19.
After months of embracing an indefinite U.S. troop presence in Syria, a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly inspired Trump to order the withdrawal in direct conflict with counsel from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned that day in protest.
"Ultimately, the group may seek to develop (or revive) its capability to conduct operations across [a] far broader area"— Dr. Jonathan Spyer
According to Pentagon data released part of an August inspector general report for Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines, ISIS has an estimated 15,500 to 17,100 fighters in Iraq, as well as 14,000 fighters in Syria. A report from a United Nations panel of experts released at the same time concluded that ISIS “has up to 30,000 members roughly equally distributed between Syria and Iraq and its global network poses a rising threat."
For their part, OIR officials appear confident they can wipe out the remaining pockets of ISIS fighters floating around in Iraq's northern regions.
"The ISF are relentlessly pursuing ISIS fighters wherever they hide," an OIR official wrote on Twitter on Dec. 22 amid the Syria withdrawal chaos, accompanied with aerial footage of an airstrike on a purported ISIS hideout. "The Coalition will continue to provide support and joint fires as needed to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq."
But whether the ISF and their international partners can completely root out ISIS fighters remains to be seen, according to the Jane's report — and those forces may not even experience the full consequences of overlooked footholds until years later.
"This does not appear to herald an imminent large-scale campaign," writes Spyer of the ISIS footholds in northern Iraq. "Rather, the Islamic State appears to be in a phase of rebuilding its structures to prepare for a future recommencement of insurgency in Iraq, accompanied by a steady drip of armed attacks."
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.