The U.S. And Their ‘Alliance’ (Except For The Kurd’s) Need To Leave Syria Right Now!

 

Any time that a person or more so a military, are in or flying above another Nation without the permission of that Nations government then you are an illegal intruder and you have declared war on that Nation. Syria’s President Assad has made it very clear that he considers the U.S. and their Alliance partners to be in his Country illegally and that he does not want them there. Even though I am an American citizen I cannot condone our actions in this Syrian Civil War nor with Syria’s inner-border conflict with the terrorist group called ISIS. We were never invited to step into this conflict within Syria’s borders and we should never have gone into that country, we have no right to be there. I will try to keep this article as short as I can yet I will do my best to explain my thoughts/beliefs as to why I believe as I do, for your consideration.

 

As I have written a few times before on this site that history shows within the Islamic world that it appears that about the only way to not have total chaos is if a rather brutal dictator rules their country. I personally do not like anything to do with brutality or with dictators, I am merely expressing an observation. I know that Syria’s President Assad is both of these elements yet I believe that the people of Syria as a whole were far better off six years ago than they are today. In Islamic countries there has been a civil war raging for about 1,400 years now between their two main sects and this hatred of each other still shows no sign of ending, ever.

 

Just like in Afghanistan the U.S. is in an Islamic country with our military and we have no exit strategy, as is the case in Syria. In Afghanistan the American tax payers have spent well over a trillion dollars to help bring peace to this tribal war-torn land and we have spilled the blood of many of our soldiers, and for what? In the long game our government has been trying to get the Taliban and to sit down with the very weak Government in Kabul to form a ‘sharing’ government, so why are we there? Unless a person is totally ignorant of reality they must know that once there is a ‘sharing’ government and the U.S. pulls out of the country that the Taliban will simply murder the civilian government people and everything will go back to the Taliban like it was 15 years ago. So, all of that gold and all of that blood spilled, for what? With all of this money the American government has spent in this country it is estimated that 90% of the civilians there only have one set of clothing, our occupation time there could have been spent in more productive ways.

 

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, all far away countries that in the long run where our blood and gold have really accomplished very little to nothing. There is always one ‘positive’ to these military campaigns and that is the jobs provided by the ‘war-machine’ industry and of course the billions of dollars that go to the corporations leaders and to the people who are able to afford stock in these companies. To many government leaders in to many different countries seem to believe that their infrastructure must have a very strong weapons export economic base. People in these ‘second and third’ world nations (economically) need safe housing, schools, clothing and food. They need an infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and jobs. I am sure that you noticed that these items I mentioned are the same exact things that the people of the economic powers also want and need, in most respects all people need and wish for the same things. The ‘Western Powers’ have a long history of setting up ‘war lords’ to rule small countries, then sell them a lot of weapons whom they use against their own citizens and then we wonder why their people hate us so much.

 

Now, back to the main line of thought, the situation in Syria. The Syrian President Mr. Assad has many economic and security issues within his borders and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this Civil War that has been raging for the past six years. Back in the first term of U.S. President Obama when he had Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State the so-called Arab Spring started. Mrs. Clinton pushed Mr. Obama into trying to ‘help’ fire up the civil war in Libya to over through their dictator, look at the total mess that Libya still is. Egypt came next where we helped to over through their dictator then we got the Muslim Brotherhood who had to be over thrown by the Egyptian Army before Egypt became another Libya. Then Hillary set her eyes on removing President Assad from power in Syria, now look at what a disaster Syria has become.

 

The U.S. encouraged the Syrian citizens to revolt against President Assad and we have spent several billion dollars on training and supplying weapons to ‘moderate Islamist’ whom Assad calls terrorist, if the situation were reversed would we not call them terrorist? As we all know when we decided to pull out of neighboring Iraq we opened up a vacuum along their western border which made a very weak Iraqi government even weaker. We should have stayed longer just doing border control help while the government soldiers and police tried to keep the peace in the cities and the country’s interior. Our governments failures helped open up the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq (both Shiite Islamic nations) for a new Sunni military army to step in and form their own government in these two countries. ISIS is a result of our governments ignorance of reality in this part of the world. We say we are in Syria to fight against this group of mass murderers and that we are not at war with Syria itself but that is an obvious lie. If we are training and supplying groups like the ‘Free Syrian Army’ who are fighting to bring Assad’s government down then we are in an ‘undeclared’ war with the Syrian government.

 

The Syrian government has many allies to help them fight the different intruders trying to over through them. Russia of course is their most powerful ally but they do have several more including other Shiite countries like Iraq, Iran and basically Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah. The ethnic people know as Kurd’s are also fighting against ISIS but their case is a bit different because several hundred thousand Kurdish people have lived within these borders for thousands of years so in a sense they are fighting against ISIS and to a degree against the Syrian government in an attempt to keep and to achieve their own Nation. The recent episodes where we have shot down a Syrian jet fighter and a couple of Iranian drones has brought the U.S. closer to direct war with Syria, Russia and Iran. These events would not be a reality if we simply weren’t there. Some will say that we have to be there to fight ISIS but this is not true. The American people have spent our own money and blood in a Nation who has not attacked us or declared war on us and whom does not want us there. If the U.S. and our ‘Alliance’ partners were not there then Syria’s allies would have and could have taken our place with their bombers and their soldiers. But the real question is why are we doing what we are doing there? My question is, is it because of the trillions of dollars in war materials our economy produces and of course the jobs this creates for our economy? Could the reason partly be because of the friends our politicians have on the Boards of these companies, or is it because of the stocks that our Senators, Congressmen and women and also this President own in these companies?

 

 

 

 

‘I can’t go out’: Texting for help from Islamist-occupied Philippines city

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

‘I can’t go out’: Texting for help from Islamist-occupied Philippines city

By Simon Lewis and Manuel Mogato | MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES

Trapped in a war zone, Carmalia Baunto’s husband, Nixon, had been trying for weeks to stay alive as Islamist guerrillas and Philippine government forces battled for control of Marawi City.

With the fighting raging around him, Nixon texted and called throughout, until just over a week ago when the messages stopped abruptly, leaving his wife praying that it was just his cellphone battery that had died.

“I’m OK, but I can’t go out. The house is safe,” the 41-year-old hardware store owner had told his wife in a message from their home inside the southern Philippines city.

He heard gunbattles in the street, he wrote, and hid from black-clad fighters who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State and have occupied the city’s commercial district for a month.

On June 14, at 9:59 a.m., Nixon texted to ask Carmalia to buy him more credit for his phone, which she did.

Then the messages stopped, and his phone stopped ringing.

“I’ve had sleepless nights since then,” Carmalia, 42, told Reuters at Marawi’s government compound, where she has been sleeping in a mosque while awaiting word of her husband.

The couple and their children were out of town when fighting erupted in Marawi on May 23, but Nixon went in the next day to check on their home and got trapped. Like most of the city’s residents, the family is Muslim.

Officials estimate 300 to 500 people are still trapped inside Marawi, fearful of militants accused of using civilians as human shields as much as of government airstrikes and starvation.

Some families have sent messages saying they have resorted to eating blankets or cardboard dipped in water to keep hunger at bay.

The Philippine military has said it is in the final stages of its operation to oust the insurgents, whose ranks contain local militants and foreign, battle-hardened fighters from Islamic State’s campaigns in Syria and Iraq.

The fighters have put up tough resistance, exploiting the city’s narrow streets, thick concrete walls and basements, and harassing troops with sniper fire and Molotov cocktails.

Philippines military aircraft – with technical assistance from U.S. special forces – have pummeled the city with 500-pound bombs, raising fears about the safety of civilians unable to get out.

In the early stages of the conflict, many people were texting and calling in their whereabouts.

Their best hope of getting out lies with a “peace corridor” initiative of President Rodrigo Duterte.

It comprises Philippine army officers and their former adversaries, fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.

The team says it has helped to evacuate 270 people since it was set up on June 4. It has also delivered supplies to those who remain behind.

Others have escaped by making their own way across the city, dodging sniper fire, to cross the Banggolo bridge over the Agus river and reach the government-controlled area.

BATTERIES RUN DOWN

But there is no power and water in the city. Phone batteries have now largely run down and the team has no way to contact most of those inside, including Nixon Baunto. He had used two phones, his wife said, and the power must have run out in both.

Families visiting the evacuation team’s office on Wednesday provided 15 new names of loved ones they say are trapped in the city, according to Wendell Orbeso, a director at the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Later, the team received a text saying 10 or more people were hiding out in a grocery store.

“We don’t exactly know how many people are still there,” Orbeso told Reuters at the office in a government building now mostly used to house evacuees.

The locations of the beleaguered civilians are passed to military commanders in the hope that soldiers can rescue them.

After flushing militants from the city’s neighborhoods, troops have moved house-to-house, watching out for booby traps that include cooking gas cylinders rigged to explode, Gen. Ramiro Manuel Rey told reporters in Marawi on Wednesday.

Carmalia has been told the army is close to clearing the militants from the area around her home, she said.

Nixon was too scared to leave the house, she said. He believed he would likely be captured by the militants or mistaken for a fighter and shot by the military, he told her.

He had survived by collecting and drinking rainwater.

Earlier in the siege, Nixon ventured out to a mosque, where he reported seeing more than 100 civilians sheltering, including women and children nursing gunshot wounds, he told his wife.

“He could not take the shooting, the bombing and the fear of stray bullets,” she said, so he returned home, further from the epicenter of the battle.

“I pray to Allah every day, every night, every hour for this war to end so my family can be reunited,” Carmalia said, wiping tears from her eyes.

She was desperate to have her husband back for the Eid al-Fitr festival this weekend, she said. “If he’s not back, I have no interest in celebrating.”

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan & Simon Cameron-Moore)

U.S. On Collision Course With Syria, Russia And Iran Once De-Facto ISIS Capital Falls

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. on collision course with Syria and Iran once de facto Islamic State capital falls

June 21 at 7:42 PM
Trump administration officials, anticipating the defeat of the Islamic State in its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, are planning for what they see as the next stage of the war, a complex fight that will bring them into direct conflict with Syrian government and Iranian forces contesting control of a vast desert stretch in the eastern part of the country.To some extent, that clash has already begun. Unprecedented recent U.S. strikes against regime and Iranian-backed militia forces have been intended as warnings to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran that they will not be allowed to confront or impede the Americans and their local proxy forces.

As regime and militia forces have begun advancing eastward, senior White House officials have been pushing the Pentagon to establish outposts in the desert region. The goal would be to prevent a Syrian or Iranian military presence that would interfere with the U.S. military’s ability to break the Islamic State’s hold on the Euphrates River valley south of Raqqa and into Iraq — a sparsely populated area where the militants could regroup and continue to plan terrorist operations against the West.

Officials said Syrian government claims on the area would also undermine progress toward a political settlement in the long-separate rebel war against Assad, intended to stabilize the country by limiting his control and eventually driving him from power.

The wisdom and need for such a strategy — effectively inserting the United States in Syria’s civil war, after years of trying to stay out of it, and risking direct confrontation with Iran and Russia, Assad’s other main backer — has been a subject of intense debate between the White House and the Pentagon.

Some in the Pentagon have resisted the move, amid concern about distractions from the campaign against the Islamic State and whether U.S. troops put in isolated positions in Syria, or those in proximity to Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, could be protected. European allies in the anti-Islamic State coalition have also questioned whether U.S.-trained Syrians, now being recruited and trained to serve as a southern ground-force vanguard, are sufficient in number or capability to succeed.

One White House official, among several who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Syria planning, dismissed such concerns, saying: “If you’re worried that any incident anywhere could cause Iran to take advantage of vulnerable U.S. forces . . . if you don’t think America has real interests that are worth fighting for, then fine.”

The official said the expanded U.S. role would not require more troops, comparing it to “The Rat Patrol,” the 1960s television series about small, allied desert forces deployed against the Germans in northern Africa during World War II.

“With our ability with air power . . . you’re not talking about a lot of requirements to do that,” the official said. “. . . You don’t need a lot of forces to go out and actually have a presence.”

This official and others played down reports of tensions over Syria strategy. “No one disagrees about the strategy or the objectives,” said a second White House official. “The question is how best to operationalize it.”

The Pentagon, not the White House, made the decision to shoot down Iranian drones and a Syrian fighter jet in response to their approaches to or attacks against U.S. forces and their Syrian allies, this official said. “They shot down an enemy aircraft for the first time in more than a decade. That’s accepting a high level of risk,” the official said. “. . . We’ve done quite a lot since April that the previous administration said was impossible without the conflict spiraling.”

Ilan Goldenberg, a former senior Pentagon official now in charge of the Center for New American Security’s Middle East program, agreed that the Obama administration “over-agonized” about every decision in Syria.

But Goldenberg faulted the Trump administration with failing to articulate its strategy. “It has been the worst of all worlds,” he said. “A vagueness on strategy, but a willingness to deploy force. They are totally muddying the waters, and now you have significant risk of escalation.”

“I know the president is fond of secret plans,” Goldenberg said. “But this situation requires clarity about our objectives and what we will or won’t tolerate.”

Trump promised during his campaign to announce within his first month in office a new strategy for defeating the Islamic State. That strategy remains unrevealed, and for several months Trump appeared to be following Obama’s lead in avoiding Assad, Iran and Russia and continuing a punishing assault on Islamic State strongholds elsewhere in Syria, as well as in Iraq.

In April, Trump broke that mold with a cruise-missile attack on regime forces after their use of chemical weapons against civilians. Assad and his allies protested but did little else.

More recently, however, there have been direct clashes between the United States and the regime. Trump’s campaign calls to join forces with Russia against the Islamic State have largely disappeared amid increased estrangement between Washington and Moscow and investigations of Trump associate’s contacts with Russian officials.

Despite U.S. warnings, regime and militia forces have moved toward the Syrian town of At Tanf, near the Iraq border, where U.S. advisers are training Syrian proxies to head northeast toward Deir al-Zour, the region’s largest city, controlled by the regime and surrounded by the Islamic State. It is a prize that the regime also wants to claim.

At the end of May, Syrian and Iranian-backed forces pushed southward to the Iraq border, between At Tanf and Bukamal, where the Euphrates crosses into Iraq. In Iraq, Iranian-backed militias have, in small but concerning numbers, left the anti-Islamic State fight and headed closer to the border, near where regime forces were approaching.

On at least three occasions in May and June, U.S. forces have bombed Iranian-supported militia forces approaching the At Tanf garrison. Twice this month, they have shot down what they called “pro-regime” armed drones, including one on June 8 that fired on Syrian fighters and their American advisers.

On Sunday, two days before the most recent drone shoot-down near At Tanf, a U.S. F/A-18 shot down a Syrian air-force jet southwest of Raqqa.

In response, Russia said it would train its powerful antiaircraft defense system in western Syria on farther areas where U.S. aircraft are operating and shut down the communications line that the two militaries have used to avoid each other in the crowded Syrian airspace.

“The only actions we have taken against pro-regime forces in Syria . . . have been in self-defense,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week.

Dunford also made clear that victory against the Islamic State in Raqqa, and in Mosul, where the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces are in the last stages of a months-long offensive, will not mark the end of the war.

“Raqqa is tactical. Mosul is tactical,” Dunford said. “We ought not to confuse success in Raqqa and Mosul as something that means it’s the end of the fight. I think we should all be braced for a long fight.”

In a report Wednesday, the Institute for the Study of War, referring to intelligence and expert sources, said that the Islamic State in Raqqa had already relocated “the majority of its leadership, media, chemical weapons, and external attack cells” south to the town of Mayadin in Deir al-Zour province.

Neither the U.S.-led coalition and its local allies nor what the institute called the “Russo-Iranian coalition” can “easily access this terrain — located deep along the Euphrates River Valley — with their current force posture,” it said.

At the White House, senior officials involved in Syria policy see what’s happening through a lens focused as much on Iran as on the Islamic State. The Iranian goal, said one, “seems to be focused on making that link-up with Iran-friendly forces on the other side of the border, to control lines of communication and try to block us from doing what our commanders and planners have judged all along is necessary to complete the ISIS campaign.” ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.

“If it impacts your political outcome, if it further enables Iran to solidify its position as the dominant force in Syria for the long haul,” the official said, “that threatens other things,” including “the defeat-ISIS strategy” and “the ability to get to political reconciliation efforts.”

“For us,” the official said, “that’s the biggest concern.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed to this report.

ISIS Destroys Historic al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul Iraqi, It Was 850 Years Old

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

ISIS Destroys Historic al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraqi Military Says

ISIS militants allegedly blew up the landmark al-Nuri mosque and its famous leaning minaret in Mosul where the terror group’s leader three years ago declared a “caliphate,” Iraq’s military said in a statement.

Reuters first reported the Iraqi military statement, which was then confirmed by NBC News. The statement said that Iraqi military forces, which are battling to retake the city from ISIS, were 80 yards away when the explosion occurred.

But ISIS, through its Amaq news agency, claimed that it was actually an American airstrike that destroyed the mosque.

U.S. military officials also blamed ISIS for the destruction of the mosque. A U.S. official said they did not conduct any planned or deliberate strikes in the area.

“As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commander of the ground forces component of a coalition working to defeat ISIS in Iraq.

Image: Al-Nuri Mosque
The leaning Al-Hadba minaret, which is part of the al-Nuri mosque, is shown on June 19, 2017 in Iraq. File Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP – Getty Images File

The mosque and its Al Hadba Minaret, built in 1172, had been a symbol of the fight against ISIS in Mosul. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” — in Iraq and Syria — from the site in 2014.

Related: ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi May Have Been Killed, Russia Says

Iraqi forces earlier Wednesday moved through Old Mosul to recapture the mosque, which a senior security official said has a symbolic importance for the terror group. U.S. coalition aircraft have been providing airstrikes as Iraqi forces have fought to retake Mosul from the ISIS group, which seized the city in 2014.

Later Wednesday a security official said Iraqi forces were forced to withdraw from areas close to the mosque after facing heavy resistance from ISIS snipers.

The U.S. military statement did not mention airstrikes.

“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS, and we continue to support our Iraqi partners as they bring these terrorists to justice,” Martin said in a statement.

The Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul began in October. Iraqi forces entered Mosul for the first time in two years in November, and on Sunday Iraqi forces started storming the Old City, which is believed to be the group’s final stronghold in the city.

Image: Mosul Mosque
This aerial view taken on June 21, 2017 and provided by Iraq’s Joint Operation Command reportedly shows destruction inside Mosul’s Nuri mosque compound. Handout / AFP – Getty Images

The Al Hadba Minaret has been leaning about 253 centimeters (a little more than 8 feet) off its axis for several years and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2012 announced plans to help come up with a plan to stabilize it, the group said.

If ISIS did blow up the historic mosque, it would just be the latest instance of the terror group destroying or damaging historic sites after it took control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

The group destroyed antique temples and statues in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, a 2,000-year-old city that is home to a UNESCO world heritage site, after taking control of that city in 2015.

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JUNE 13: U.S. Humanitarians Risk Their Lives to Save Injured Civilians on ISIS Front Line 1:31

The Syrian army, aided by Russian forces, drove ISIS out of Palmyra last year and the liberation was celebrated with an orchestra concert there. When Syrian forces took control of the city in March of 2016, Syrian and forces found it rigged to explode, a chief Russian sapper said at the time.

But in December ISIS said it recaptured the city from Syrian forces, The Associated Press reported.

The terror group also laid waste to the archaeological site of Nimrud in northern Iraq and smashed relics in a Mosul museum, officials have said.

The U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS, the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, is providing Iraqi forces with equipment, training, and fire support.

U.S. Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, U.S. and coalition commander in Iraq and Syria, called the destruction of the mosque another reason why the group must be eliminated.

“I was just in Mosul Wednesday afternoon and close enough to see the mosque and its famous leaning minaret. Little did I know it was for the last time,” Townsend said in a statement. “This is just another example that ISIS is a cruel, heartless and god-less ideology that cannot be permitted to exist in this world.”

The US Has No Long-Term Plan In Syria, And That’s Dangerous

 

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, looks at smoke rising in the al-Meshleb neighbourhood of Raqa as they try to advance further into the Islamic State (IS) group's Syrian bastion, on June 7, 2017 two days after finally entering the northern city.

NEWS
The US Has No Long-Term Plan In Syria, And That’s Dangerous

on June 20, 2017

T&P ON FACEBOOK

 

On June 13, coalition warplanes from the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS rained 28 airstrikes down across eastern Syria. Along the Jordanian border, coalition forces moved a long-range artillery system into a recently declared “de-confliction zone,” the first time the weapon system has made an appearance in the country’s south. A few hours to the north, U.S. special operations forces embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces pushed deeper into Raqqa, ISIS’s defacto capital.

That same day, nearly 6,000 miles away, Task & Purpose asked U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, about the U.S government’s plan for Syria once ISIS is defeated. Cole, who sits on the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and has called for a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Syria, paused. “I don’t think a plan’s been fully formulated.”

As the United States and its allies slog toward their final goal of toppling the so-called caliphate of ISIS, decision-makers in Washington have no real plan for what comes next. The results could be disastrous.

We are now nearly three years into Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led military effort to defeat ISIS initiated under President Barack Obama. The campaign’s raw numbers are staggering: More than 22,600 airstrikes, nearly 9,650 of them in Syria; more than 84,000 bombs and missiles used against the group; tens of thousands of militants killed by coalition-backed local forces and torrents of precision munitions dropped above the battlefield.

Without question, the coalition is making progress. ISIS is significantly weakened, having lost nearly a fourth of its territory and several high-profile leaders in the last year. In Iraq, the jihadists are on the verge of losing their stronghold in Mosul, the site of a grueling nine-month battle led by the Iraqi security forces. With pressure mounting, influxes of foreign recruits have slowed dramatically and vital revenue streams have begun evaporating.

The real fight for Raqqa is now underway. The U.S. military has played an enormous role in the offensive to retake the city, training and arming the Syrian Democratic Forces and hammering strategic ISIS positions in the area with repeated air and mortar strikes. The group will almost certainly lose Raqqa and, in time, be chased to the far reaches of Syria by a disparate group of coalition forces, their Arab and Kurdish partners on the ground, and forces fighting for the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad — all of whom will then have to deal with each other.

A day will come that marks the end of large-scale military operations against ISIS, but it may resemble other so-called victories in the Global War On Terror, a declaration similar to President George W. Bush’s often-derided ‘‘Mission Accomplished” speech or President Barack Obama’s premature announcement about withdrawing troops from Iraq. With no clearly defined strategy, the United States is at risk of being dragged into fighting yet another protracted insurgency, being pulled into a possible military confrontation with Iran or Russia, or some combination of all three — a scenario that will only perpetuate the ruin wrought by Syria’s civil war and provide fertile ground for ISIS to flourish once again.

The Trump administration’s position on Syria has always been murky, apart from his campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. In April, the White House went from tacitly accepting Assad’s rule — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called it “a political reality” — to launching a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in just a few days. The scramble to clarify the U.S. position following the strikes was marked by no less than five policy changes in a matter of two weeks, as The Guardian pointed out at the time, leaving observers guessing about Assad’s fate and what, if anything, might prompt future U.S. intervention in the region.

As coalition forces gird themselves for the protracted “annihilation” campaign that Secretary of Defense James Mattis outlined in May, the scope of U.S. strategy will remain crucial in determining the United States’ future involvement in Syria. Will Washington opt for a short-term outlook, working to crush ISIS militarily and then, following some arbitrary “victory” point, immediately withdraw, leaving allied militias fighting to ensure the jihadists don’t return? Or will the Pentagon find itself drawn into a long-term engagement in the country, caught between mopping up ISIS and the deeper regional rivalries at play in the war?

According to the Department of Defense, the choice might be an elementary school favorite: all of the above. The Pentagon doesn’t “currently envision maintaining a ‘permanent’ military presence in Syria after ISIS’s defeat,” DoD spokesman Eric Pahon told Task & Purpose via email. But the U.S. military will, however, “provide support as necessary to ensure vetted local partners can provide security to prevent ISIS from re-establishing its networks.” In short: We’ll work with our local partners to make sure ISIS doesn’t regroup, but don’t look for some long-time commitment — the same “should I stay or should I go” logic that’s plagued the government’s fraught efforts to extricate itself from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. But given the complexity of Syria’s conflict, that roadmap could prove near impossible to follow.

While the collapse of the Assad regime once seemed plausible, it no longer seems likely any time soon. Crucial military support from Russia and Iran has rejuvenated the Assad war machine, and battlefield successes and sectarian population transfers have allowed the Syrian government to increase its holdings across the country. Emboldened, pro-regime forces have now turned their attention to Syria’s east, where they are steadily pushing into ISIS-held territory and openly clashed with the coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on June 18.

This advance has serious implications for the future of ISIS and the coalition’s partners on the front lines.

A despot with a much higher death count than ISIS, Assad’s continued rule would virtually guarantee that the issues that fueled the group’s rise remain unaddressed. More than six years of brutal civil war have left the country deeply fractured along sectarian lines, and the number of people killed could now be approaching 500,000, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. The vast majority of rebels will never accept Assad — a man whose face has become synonymous with the barrel bombs that have showered down on schools and hospitals.

And what will become of our local partners, those U.S.-armed Kurdish and Arab fighters, once the ISIS fight is over? The DoD doesn’t really seem to know or care. Pahon told Task & Purpose that “U.S. interaction with these forces is focused on the lasting defeat of ISIS,” and while they may have a role in security operations, “questions about the long-term roles of these forces would be better directed to local provisional councils.” If Assad’s forces continue to advance, who’s to say how long these local councils will exist — and in what capacity they’ll be able to focus resources on keeping ISIS at bay?

OIR’s public campaign design isn’t much help. The plan is divided into four phases, with the final stage — “Support Stabilization” — calling for the coalition to provide “security, planning, and required support to the government of Iraq and appropriate authorities [emphasis added] in Syria.” Note the ambiguity here: We don’t even know who those authorities will be.

OIR spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon couldn’t provide any real answers about future plans either. “These are largely political questions outside of what it is that we have been directed to do: defeat ISIS,” Dillon told Task & Purpose via email. “[The] future presence of U.S. forces in Syria will be a political decision made by our leadership in Washington.”

The coalition deferring to decision-makers in Washington should be reassuring, given Trump’s recent, unusual move to place Mattis in charge of setting troop levels. But with top policy jobs temporarily occupied by Obama-era fill-ins — only five of the Pentagon’s most-senior 53 jobs have been filled — who is actually making those decisions? The Department of State, where only a handful of more than 100 appointments have been confirmed, never responded to multiple inquiries from Task & Purpose.

Rep. Cole’s comments provide a stark illustration of the uncertainty in Congress about what’s happening in Syria. Cole described the idea of a military escalation with Iran as “certainly possible” adding that “removing ISIS and replacing it with Iranian-backed militias is hardly a situation we want to end up at.” But this is exactly where we could be heading: Having invested deeply in Assad, Tehran is playing a long game in Syria, gambling that the money and material it pours into the country will allow it to secure a lasting foothold there.

As part of this effort, pro-regime militias have repeatedly violated the U.S. de-confliction zone near the strategically important Tanf garrison over the past month or so. The moves, which analysts have described to Task & Purpose as a way for Iran to test the U.S. position in Syria, have been met by three coalition airstrikes against pro-regime fighters in the last month; coalition planes have also shot two armed Iranian-made drones out of the sky. The last thing Iran wants is any kind of long-term U.S. presence in Syria. According to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Washington feels the same way about Iran. If you’re not worrying about the possibility of a U.S.-Iran clash in Syria, now’s the time to start.

Escalating tensions with Russia could prove just as rocky. On June 18, a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government plane that had dropped bombs close to fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces near Tabqa, a critical town located to Raqqa’s southwest. The incident, the first time a U.S. jet has downed an Assad pilot, caused Russia’s Defense Ministry to suspend air coordination with the coalition over Syria’s crowded skies. Russia also threatened to track any coalition jets or drones that stray west of the Euphrates river, significantly increasing the chances of a confrontation between coalition and pro-regime forces.

Considering the trajectory of the conflict, and the potential for escalation, you’d think Washington would have well-developed plan in place. But judging by all appearances, you’d be wrong. Speaking on June 13, days before the sudden spike in tensions across Syria, Cole said he’d “leave it to the administration to see if they’ve got an endgame,” adding that “nobody I’m aware of in Congress has a clear idea about what that endgame will be.” Given the stakes at hand, Americans should find this uncertainty deeply disturbing.

Jihadists cried out “God is great” every time they shot a follower of Jesus Christ

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/112411/590-415/coptic-christians.jpg
(Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany) Hanaa Youssef and Mina Habib, the widow and son of a man who was killed in a militant attack against Coptic Christians last month, hold the victim”s portrait in Minya, Egypt June 8, 2017. Picture taken June 8, 2017.

A 10-year-old Egyptian schoolboy who witnessed the brutal murder of his father by Islamic State militants in Minya, where 29 Christians were slaughtered in May, says the jihadists cried out “God is great” every time they shot a follower of Jesus Christ.

Mina Habib told Reuters in a piece published Tuesday that his father, one of the 29 believers massacred on May 26 when IS stopped three vehicles on their way to a monastery, was killed specifically for his Christian faith.

“We saw dead people, just dumped on the ground,” the boy, who is now receiving therapy at a local church, said of the attack.

“They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car,” he said of his father, Adel.

Mina said the 15 gunmen shot Christian children dead, but he and his older brother, Marco, were spared.

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/110308/590-436/egypt.jpg
(Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany) Mourners react at the Sacred Family Church for the funeral of Coptic Christians who were killed on Friday in Minya, Egypt, May 26, 2017.

Three vehicles were attacked that day, with a bus and car transporting children and families being the fist targets.

The extremists reportedly shot out the windows, took the women’s jewelry, and asked victims whether they were Christians before killing them.

“They saw us in the back of the truck. They made us get down and a man wearing camouflage like the army pointed his gun at us, but another one in all black told him to let us go. Every time they shot someone they would yell God is great,” the 10-year-old added.

He said the radicals had Egyptian accents, and most of them were wearing masks.

The killing of the 29 Christians was only the latest attack on Egypt’s minority Coptic community, which has been terrorized by Islamic radicals for years, with the attacks increasing with IS’ rise in the region.

The Copts have said that they “take pride” in dying for their faith, in defiance against IS.

“We take pride to die while holding on to our faith,” Bishop Makarios, the top Coptic Orthodox cleric in Minya, said in May.

Thousands of Copts mourned the victims of the bus shooting, and expressed their grief and rage at the funerals.

“With blood and soul, we will defend you, oh cross!” Copts yelled at the Church of the Sacred Family in the village of Dayr Jarnous.

“We will avenge them or die like them,” they said. “There is no god but God and the Messiah is God!”

At the same time, however, they have pleaded with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to keep his promise to protect them, and to increase support for the families of victims.

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Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/10-year-old-survivor-isis-massacre-every-time-they-shot-christian-they-yelled-god-is-great-188734/#gc4xoVK8ROgQaeYD.99

U.S. aircraft shoots down a Syrian government jet over northern Syria, Pentagon says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. aircraft shoots down a Syrian government jet over northern Syria, Pentagon says

June 18 at 6:21 PM

A U.S. strike aircraft shot down a Syrian government fighter jet Sunday shortly after the Syrians bombed U.S.-backed fighters in northern Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Pentagon said the downing of the aircraft came hours after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja’Din, southwest of Raqqa. The rare attack was the first time a U.S. jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, and signaled the United States’ sharply intensifying role in Syria’s war.

The incident is the fourth time within a month that the U.S. military has attacked pro-Syrian government forces.

A statement distributed by the Syrian military said that the aircraft’s lone pilot was killed in the attack and that the jet was carrying out a mission against the Islamic State.

“The attack stresses coordination between the US and ISIS, and it reveals the evil intentions of the US in administrating terrorism and investing it to pass the US-Zionist project in the region,” the Syrian statement said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Before it downed the Syrian plane, the U.S. military used a deconfliction channel to communicate with Russia, Syria’s main ally, to prevent the situation from escalating, the Pentagon said.

U.S.-led jets stopped the fighting by flying close to the ground and at a low speed in what is called a “show of force,” the Pentagon said.

About two hours later, despite the calls to stand down and the U.S. presence overhead, a Syrian Su-22 jet attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces, dropping an unknown number of munitions on the U.S.-backed force. Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said that the Syrian aircraft arrived with little warning and that U.S. aircraft nearby tried to hail the Syrian jet after it had dropped its bombs. Thomas also said U.S. forces were in the area but were not directly threatened.

After the hailing attempts, a U.S. F/A-18 shot down the Syrian aircraft “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” the Pentagon said.

Thomas rejected the Syrian government’s claims that the aircraft was bombing the Islamic State, adding that Ja’Din is controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces and that the terrorist group had not been in the area for some time.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of predominantly Arab and Kurdish fighters, is a key proxy force for the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. The fighters were instrumental in retaking towns and villages from the Islamic State in recent months and are fighting to retake the extremist group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa.

Also on Sunday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps announced that it had launched a rare cross-border missile attack against Islamic State militants in eastern Syria. The missile strikes, launched from Iran, were in retaliation for twin Islamic State attacks earlier this month in Tehran, the Iranian capital, on the parliament and the tomb of the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution that killed 18 people, according to a statement carried by Iran’s official news agency.

The missile attacks had targeted a militant command center and other facilities in Deir El-Zour, a contested region in eastern Syria, where the United States, Iran, and other powers and proxy forces are fighting for control. The strikes had killed “a large number” of militants and destroyed equipment and weapons, the statement said.

Earlier this month, a U.S. jet downed a pro-Syrian government drone that dropped an apparent dud munition near U.S.-led coalition forces near the southern Syrian town of At Tanf. U.S.-led forces have increased their presence in Tanf to deter pro-Syrian government forces in the area. Iran-backed Shiite militias, along with other pro-Syrian government forces, have steadily advanced around Tanf despite repeated warnings from the U.S. military.

Tanf is a key town on the Iraq-Syrian border that has been home to a U.S. Special Operations training outpost for months.

“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Pentagon’s statement said. “The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat.”

Fahim reported from Istanbul. Louisa Loveluck contributed to this report from Beirut.

This article is developing and will be updated.

Russia May Have Killed The Butcher al-Baghdadi In May 28th Airstrike In Raqqa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Russia’s Defense Ministry says it is investigating reports that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in one of its airstrikes in Syria last month.

The airstrike on May 28 was carried out on the outskirts of the militant group’s de facto capital Raqqa, on a command post where ISIS leaders were meeting, according to Russian state media reports.
“According to information, which is being verified via different channels, the meeting was also attended by the (ISIS) leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated in the strike,” the ministry said, according to the TASS report in English. Other state media reported that more than 300 “terrorists” were killed in the strike.

An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Mosul.

The leaders were discussing their exit from the city through the so-called southern corridor, the ministry said.
The airstrike was carried out following drone footage confirmation of the council’s meeting location, state-run Sputnik reports.
US defense officials said they were unable to confirm the reports. Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition’s operation against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said the coalition “cannot confirm these reports at this time.”
There have been multiple reports of Baghdadi’s death in the past that have turned out to be false.

Al-Baghdadi: An elusive and brutal leader

Officials had long described the ISIS leader as enemy No. 1 in the fight against ISIS, and speculation had swirled over his whereabouts.
Baghdadi has kept a low profile, speaking out in occasional videos and audio messages.

Can ISIS ever be eradicated?

Can ISIS ever be eradicated?
He gave a sermon at a mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, in which he declared himself the leader of his envisaged Islamic caliphate. The sermon was filmed and widely watched around the world.
US forces captured him in Falluja, Iraq, in 2004. At the time, he was considered a low-level al Qaeda member.
He was freed in 2009, and within a year was the leader of Iraq’s al Qaeda affiliate, heading up a renewed campaign of bombings and assassinations. Al Qaeda leaders later severed relations with him, saying he was insubordinate, killing too many civilians.
As the leader of ISIS, which has seized and lost swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, he earned a reputation for brutality.
The extremist group brought a reign of terror and intimidation into areas where they gained control. And the brutality has continued, despite military setbacks. In one reported case, ISIS slaughtered 163 civilians and left their bodies in the street for days, the United Nations said.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which is a nom de guerre, was born Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al Samarrai.

ISIS Murderers 2 Chinese Missionaries In Pakistan For Sharing The Gospel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

ISIS Kills 2 Chinese Missionaries Accused of Violating Visa Rules in Pakistan by Sharing the Gospel

Jun 13, 2017

The Scottish Episcopal Church approves gay marriage
Pakistan’s interior ministry has said the two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped and killed by Islamic State-affiliated militants last month were preachers who allegedly violated their business visa rules.

(Screengrab: JustPaste.It) A masked ISIS militant reads the charges facing the two men tied to a cross, who were later shot in the back of the head for banditry, Mosul, Iraq.

According to Reuters, the terrorist-linked Amaq News Agency announced last Thursday that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) was responsible for the killing of two Chinese nationals who were abducted last month in the Baluchistan province and were believed to be Mandarin language teachers.

“Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq was quoted as announcing in a statement.

On Monday, the Pakistani government identified the two Chinese nationals killed as 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi. The interior ministry also claimed that both Lee and Meng were in violation of their visa rules because they were preaching instead of learning Urdu.

“Instead of engaging in any business activity, they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning (the) Urdu language from a Korean national … were actually engaged in preaching,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The statement didn’t indicate whether the Korean national was from South Korea or North Korea or what the Chinese nationals were preaching.

According to the online news outlet Quartz, The Global Times and Shanghai-based The Paper, the slain Chinese nationals belonged to a 13-member Christian missionary group in China being led by a South Korean national.

Quartz also cited Chinese reports indicating that a local Muslim community complained about the group trying to evangelize to them. Additionally, Quartz reports that a Chinese journalist has said that Chinese foreign ministry officials briefed reporters in a closed-door session and gave them much of the same information that has been reported.

Following the killing of the two Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s interior ministry has decided to “streamline” its visa policy for Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s The Nation quoted a ministry spokesperson as saying.

According to The Nation, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan called for a databank of Chinese nationals present in Pakistan during a meeting.

“This data bank, to be prepared by National Database and Registration Authority, should be shared with all security agencies,” the minister said, reiterating their claim that the deceased Chinese nationals violated the terms of their visas.

The killing of the two Chinese Christians come as IS has attempted in the last year to establish its presence in Pakistan, just like it has in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan. IS-linked militants have carried out a number of attacks in Pakistan this year, including a suicide bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed at least 90 and injured over 300 in February.

Last month, IS claimed a bomb attack on a convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri south of Quetta that killed 25 people.

Additionally, this is not the first time that IS has claimed responsibility for the killing Chinese nationals.

In 2015, IS in Syria killed 50-year-old Beijing native Fan Jinghui who was held hostage for months.

Kosovo charges 9 men with plotting attacks at Albania-Israel World Cup match

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Kosovo charges 9 men with plotting attacks at Albania-Israel World Cup match

By Fatos Bytyci | PRISTINA

Kosovo prosecutors said on Wednesday they had charged nine Kosovar men with planning attacks at a World Cup soccer match in Albania against the visiting Israel team and its fans last November.

Last year, Kosovar police arrested 19 people – including the nine charged on Wednesday – on suspicion that they had links with the Islamic State militant group and were planning attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania.

At the time, fearing such attacks, Albanian authorities moved the Nov. 12 qualifier to a venue near the capital Tirana from a stadium in the northern town of Shkoder.

The state prosecutor said some of the nine men charged were in contact with Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a prominent Islamic State member and the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq” from whom they received orders to attack. Police and family members told Reuters last week that Muhaxheri has been killed in Syria.

The group was also planning to launch attacks inside Kosovo against local and international institutions and buy weapons with money received from Muhaxheri, the prosecutor said.

NATO has around 4,500 soldiers in Kosovo helping to keep a fragile peace. The European Union and the United Nations also have security and diplomatic missions in Kosovo.

The prosecution said the defendants took orders from Muhaxheri and planned to attack and destabilize “the countries in the Balkans and then create their territory of the Islamic State”.

One of the defendants had kept in his basement 283 grams of self-made triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosives. The same explosive was used in attacks in Paris and Brussels and was found in a series of foiled bombings in Europe since 2007.

Another defendant had produced half a kilo of explosives at his house from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), it said.

Kosovo, with a majority ethnic Albanian Muslim population, has had no militant attacks on its home turf, but at least 200 people have been detained or investigated over offences related to Islamic State.

A total of 300 Kosovo nationals have gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State and more than 50 have been killed there.

International and local security agencies in Kosovo, including at the NATO mission and the EU police mission, are worried that many of those returning home from combat zones could pose a security threat.

In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law introducing jail sentences of up to 15 years for anyone found guilty of fighting in wars abroad.

(Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Louise Ireland)

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