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The Pentagon Is Shifting US Combat Power From Iraq to Afghanistan — Again
The U.S. military has begun shifting troops and equipment from Iraq, where ISIS is trying to establish an insurgency, to Afghanistan, where the Taliban and other groups are waging a more conventional fight, officials told Task & Purpose on Monday.
While Iraqi officials and defense contractors refused to say how many troops are being moved from one war zone to the other, as first reported by the Associated Press, the overall number of U.S. troops is expected to remain close to current levels: about 5,200 in Iraq and roughly 14,000 in Afghanistan, said Pentagon spokesman Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway.
More troops in Afghanistan will allow the United States to place advisors and enablers at the battalion level of Afghan military and police units, Rankine-Galloway told Task & Purpose.
As ISIS has moved from fighting on the battlefield to launching suicide attacks against civilians, the U.S. military has less of a need for artillery and other combined-arms units in Iraq, he added.
“We have a government with a security force that has secured its own borders and has removed ISIS’ ability to hold onto territory,” Rankine-Galloway said. “That [Iraqi] force is now engaged in internal security operations: disrupting terrorist plots, rooting out terrorist caches of explosives and weapons. You don’t need things like artillery and HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System] to do those sorts of missions.”
U.S. troops in Iraq now and those deploying there in the future will focus on helping the Iraqis stop the flow of foreign fighters into their country from Syria, developing the Iraqi air force and training Iraqi federal police, said Air Force Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.
Soldiers with Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division fire their M777 towed 155 mm howitzer during a fire mission near Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 03, 2017.U.S. Army / Spc. Craig Jensen.
During the conventional fight against ISIS from 2014 to 2017, U.S. advisers trained Iraqi federal police units to fight as an infantry force alongside the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, Thomas said on Monday.
“The federal police, therefore, weren’t building that skill set of policing and border security,” Thomas told Task & Purpose. “Now that the major urban combat in Iraq is over … we’re trying to help them buttress their internal security policing forces.
“Soldiering, weapons use and deployment, and operating as teams aren’t going to be the same as how to detain someone and question them, border security, how to do community policing and trying to keep the peace, rather than be on the offensive, like they were before.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan remains focused on making the Afghan security forces as combat effective as possible against the Taliban and other terrorist groups, such as ISIS-Khorasan in the eastern part of the country.
To that end, the Army is deploying more than 800 specially trained advisers to Afghanistan this spring as part of the first Security Force Assistance Brigade. The soldiers come from across DoD and academia and include former advisers and special operators, 1st SFAB deputy commander Col. Bryan Chivers, told Task & Purpose in a January interview.
Defense Secretary James Mattis recently told reporters that the United States has no plans to dramatically increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“If you mean another thousand troops, or another 5,000 — I have no plans along those lines,” Mattis said Friday in answer to a reporter’s question.
The Navy has fired five senior leaders so far in August – and the month isn't even over.
While the sea service is famous for instilling in officers that they are responsible for any wrongdoing by their sailors – whether they are aware of the infractions or not – the recent rash of firings is a lot, even for the Navy.
A Navy spokesman said there is no connection between any of the five officers relieved of command, adding that each relief is looked at separately.
'We are a people organization' — Army leaders push renewed focus on soldiers amid rise in sexual assaults and suicides
After months of focusing on modernization priorities, Army leadership plans to tackle persisting personnel issues in the coming years.
Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Tuesday at an event with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that what people can to hear service leadership "talk a lot about ... our people. Investing in our people, so that they can reach their potential. ... We are a people organization."
Two U.S. military service members were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Resolute Support mission announced in a press release.
Their identities are being withheld pending notification of next of kin, the command added.
A total of 16 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan so far in 2019. Fourteen of those service members have died in combat including two service members killed in an apparent insider attack on July 29.
Two U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been killed in non-combat incidents and a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was declared dead after falling overboard while the ship was supporting operations in Afghanistan.
At least two defense contractors have also been killed in Afghanistan. One was a Navy veteran and the other had served in the Army.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's paramilitary groups on Wednesday blamed a series of recent blasts at their weapons depots and bases on the United States and Israel.
The statement from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella grouping of Iraq's mostly Shi'ite Muslim paramilitary groups, many of which are backed by Iran, said the United States had allowed four Israeli drones to enter the region accompanying U.S. forces and carry out missions on Iraqi territory.