by Matt Nizich

Afghanistan

Pentagon set to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan
July 19, 2017
Defense Secretary James Mattis is expected to soon release a strategy for Afghanistan that would call for an additional 3,000 to 5,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan; though National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has instituted a soft cap of 3,900 additional soldiers that can be sent to Afghanistan. The softcap is being viewed as a stopgap until the Trump administration can determine a long term strategy for U.S involvement in the region.

Extreme harm to Afghan civilians continues as suicide attacks worsen, latest UN report shows
July 18, 2017
The number of civilians killed and injured in the Afghanistan conflict during the first six months of 2017 persisted at the same record high levels as last year, according to a mid-year report from the United Nations. A total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between 1 January and 30 June – an increase of two per cent on the same period last year.

US air raid kills Afghan police in Helmand
July 22, 2017
An errant US air raid has killed 16 friendly Afghan policemen, including two commanders, who were residing in a military compound that had been retaken by Afghan police from the Taliban a day earlier. A spokesman for the governor of Helmand said that “It was most probably a miscommunication or the coordinates were not correct, which resulted in the US air strikes. An investigation has been launched.” The United States has carried out 52 air raids in Helmand over the past five days due to increased fighting.

Iraq

The massacre of Mosul: 40,000 feared dead in battle to take back city from Isis as scale of civilian casualties revealed
July 19, 2017
According to The Independent’s latest intelligence reports, more than 40,000 civilians were killed in the U.S. led coalition’s effort to retake Mosul. A majority of the casualties are expected to be as a result of the unrelenting artillery bombardment by units of the Iraqi federal police (in practice a heavily armed military unit), airstrikes, and ISIS itself (who had been known to use civilians as human shields). Former Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that the government has no real plan to rebuild the city or help beleaguered civilians, and that corruption at high levels of the Iraqi miliatary is allowing sleeper cells to reform, undoing the progress that has been made.

Iran and Iraq Military Unite Against ‘Terrorism,’ Creating Potential Problems for U.S.
July 24, 2017
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hiyali met Sunday in Tehran to sign a military agreement aimed at improving joint efforts to curb the influence of jihadis such as the Islamic State militant group. This commitment to a bilateral strategic effort is seen as concerning for the U.S, as they are dependent on Iraq as a strategic force in the region, and the U.S and Iran have accused each other of attempting to destabilize the region by supporting terrorist organizations. Relations with Iran have only continued to deteriorate since the election of Donald Trump and his hard line stance on increasing sanctions.

US Army to Deploy 2,100 Soldiers to Iraq this Fall
July 20, 2017
The U.S. Army announced Thursday that 2,100 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) will deploy to Iraq this fall. The soldiers from 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based in at Fort Polk in Louisiana will replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles as part of the military operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

US-led coalition strikes last ISIS stronghold in Iraq’s Tel Afar
July 24, 2017
The US-led coalition launched several airstrikes targeting ISIS’s hideouts in the district of Tel Afar in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province. More than 20 militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) were reportedly killed and dozens more were wounded in the American strikes in Tel Afar. Tel Afar is the last ISIS major stronghold in Iraq.

The Iraq Report: War crimes continue in Mosul
July 19, 2017
Following the announcement made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that Baghdad would “not issue an amnesty for the murderous terrorists”, there has been a noticeable uptick in atrocities coming from Mosul. These atrocities include the execution of suspected IS members by Iraqi soldiers, who threw them off a bridge and then shot them once they landed. The promise of no amnesty, as well as the general lack of accountability for both sides is being blamed for the apparent uptick in occurrences.

Syria

Syria says U.S. halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war
July 25, 2017
Syria views a U.S. decision to halt CIA support to rebel groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad as a “start” toward ending the six-year conflict, a government minister told Reuters. The program overseen by the CIA has funneled aid to rebels in southern and northern Syria, with support from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. In a tweet on Tuesday, President Trump called the CIA funding to anti-Assad Syrian rebels “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments”.

Russian Military Could Force The U.S. Out of Syria, Army Official Says
July 21, 2017
Special Operations Command chief Army General Raymond Thomas, U.S Special Forces Head, said Friday that Russia had established a more credible foothold than the U.S. in Syria, and that Moscow could use this influence to essentially expel his forces. According to international law, the U.S is illegally intervening in Syria, whereas Russia is there legally due to being invited by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S and Russia have maintained an uneasy cease-fire between the rebels and military in recent weeks, though Thomas warns we are still “a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, U.S.?”

Turkish Report Exposes Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria
July 19, 2017
Turkey’s state-run news agency published U.S. base locations in northern Syria on July 18th – exposing American soldiers on the front lines of the fights against ISIS. The publications contained detailed information about the 10 U.S bases, including troop counts and a map of the U.S force presence. It is believed that these actions were taken in response to the U.S’s continued support of Kurdish fighters, who Turkey views as a terrorist organization.

Top general confirms end to secret U.S. program in Syria
July 21, 2017
U.S. Special Operations Commander Tony Thomas confirmed Friday that the U.S. had ended its covert program aiding rebel groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the decision was made after assessing the years-long operation’s capabilities. Officials say the program has helped rebel factions gain significant footholds and territory in Syria, but critics claim the United States does not adequately vet the groups it arms and trains, potentially putting U.S. weapons into the hands of extremist groups in the region.