The Rendon Group Snapshot Report – 28 March 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on April 4, 2016

The Rendon Group


Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at or +1-202-745-4900.

Developments on US Military Engagement in Iraq: Mosul Timeline Advances

Iraq picture

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (left) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joseph Dunford Jr. (right) testifying before Congress. (RFE/RL)

This week’s snapshot focuses on the Pentagon’s plan to submit a proposal to President Obama in the coming months for an increase in the number of American servicemen in Iraq. However, in response to reporters’ questions at a press conference, General Dunford rejected the suggestion that the fundamental role of the deployed troops will change. The plan may include options to “accelerate” the fight against the Islamic State group, such as additional special operation forces, Apache helicopters and a more active advisory role for Iraqi forces. According to government numbers, there are currently 3,870 US troops in Iraq, though the technical number varies based on the “ebb and flow of war deployments.” On 24MAR, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tweeted that the anticipated battle for Mosul had begun, but the battle is expected to be a long, complex operation.

News summary of events during the week of 21MAR16 – 28MAR16

  • 21MAR: The US set up a small Marine artillery outpost in northern Iraq to protect a nearby Iraqi military base where US advisers are helping Iraqi combat troops plan and prepare for a counter-offensive in Mosul. (AP)
  • 21MAR: Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia demanded the withdrawal of US forces in Iraq, saying that it would treat US Marines deployed in Iraq to fight Islamic State as forces of occupation. (Reuters)
  • 22MAR: Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the House Armed Services Committee, “As far as the campaign is concerned, I’m confident that we will defeat ISIL and that we have the momentum of the campaign in Iraq and Syria.” (AP)
  • 23MAR: The US-led coalition conducted 26 strikes in Iraq against Islamic State (an Islamic State weapons storage facility, a communication facility, and 12 tactical units) Combined Joint Task Force said. The strikes, concentrated near Mosul, Sinjar, and Hit also hit several vehicles, mortar positions, and a weapons cache. (Reuters)
  • 24MAR: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the national forces launched what is expected to be a long and difficult offensive to retake the second city of Mosul, the Islamic State group’s main hub in Iraq. (AFP)
  • 25MAR: The Pentagon said it was moving to increase the number of American forces in Iraq and announced that US forces have killed the Islamic State’s finance minister. (AP)
  • 26MAR: A Kurdish commander said an Iraqi army offensive to retake the city of Mosul was suspended after five days due to bad weather. (UPI)
  • 27MAR: Local authorities reported that thousands of civilians are fleeing the fighting on the new front opened by Iraqi forces against the Islamic State group south of Mosul. (AFP)
  • 28MAR: A potential catastrophe posed by the condition of the Mosul damb, Iraq’s largest, raised alarms as the raining season nears. (Xinhua)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about developments on US military engagement in Iraq

  • @PDShinkman – Paul D. Shinkman, National Security correspondent for US News and WTOP News.
  • @Tmgneff – Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Staff writer at the Washington Post
  • @DanLamothe – Dan Lamothe, National security writer for the Washington Post
  • @JeffSchogol – Jeff Schogol, writer for Air Force Times
  • @kristina_wong – Kristina Wong, Pentagon/defense/national security reporter for The Hill

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the developments on US military engagement in Iraq

Christopher Harmer, analyst at the Institute for the Study of War

“They want fighters to mount attacks at home or elsewhere. The strategic arc of this fight has changed. The caliphate remains the heartland, but it is just one element of what’s become a global battlefield. This is a multigenerational war.”

  • “Raid that killed an Islamic State leader marks a shift in U.S. strategy”, LA Times, 25MAR

Brian Fishman, a terrorism expert at the New America Foundation in Washington

“This is going to last quite a while. It’s absolutely true these guys have lost territory in Syria and Iraq. But you don’t need to control a state that size in order to train people to successfully carry out terrorist attacks in Europe.”

  • “A Top ISIS Leader Is Killed in an Airstrike, the Pentagon Says”, NYT, 25MAR

Paul R. Pillar, professor at Georgetown University

[The Islamic State] “looks like a loser in the Middle East, so there is greater incentive to show through transnational terrorism operations that ‘Yes, we are strong and active, and can hit our enemies in the West despite all the setbacks we’ve had in Syria and Iraq,’.”

  • “A Top ISIS Leader Is Killed in an Airstrike, the Pentagon Says”, NYT, 25MAR

Michael Knights, analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“We could probably liberate Mosul tomorrow, but we would have a real mess on our hands if we did. A lot of work needs to be done to ensure an orderly transition of power in Mosul.”

  • “In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is in retreat on multiple fronts”, Washington Post, 24MAR

Kenneth M. Pollack, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution

“Unfortunately, as has been a trademark of American involvement with Iraq at least since 2003 (and arguably since 1991), military success is not being matched with the commensurate political-economic efforts that will ultimately determine whether battlefield successes are translated into lasting achievements.”

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the developments on US military engagement in Iraq

1. US Marines deploy to northern Iraq to provide protection

Media: Associated Press


Date: 21 March 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has set up a small Marine artillery outpost in northern Iraq to protect a nearby Iraqi military base where U.S. advisers are helping Iraqi combat troops plan and prepare for a counteroffensive in Mosul, a U.S. spokesman said Monday.

“It is a fire base,” Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon.

It is the first such base established by the U.S. since it returned forces to Iraq in 2014 in response to the Islamic State’s takeover of Mosul and other areas of northern and western Iraq, Warren said. He said it should not be considered a combat outpost because it is located behind the front lines and is not initiating combat with the Islamic State.

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2. Military Setbacks, Financial Strains Pressure Islamic State in Home Territory
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: Nour Malas
Date: 22 March 2016
Islamic State has lost territory in a string of military defeats in Syria and Iraq over the past several months and the group has also come under new financial pressure, according to U.S. and Western officials.
But even after the battlefield setbacks and struggles to sustain salaries and perks for its fighters, Islamic State claimed the deadly terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, suggesting that it is still able to inspire, mobilize, and coordinate complex operations abroad.
The militants have lost some access points along the Syrian-Turkish border through which new recruits, foreign fighters and goods flow into Islamic State territory. But a critical 60-mile strip of land along that frontier remains under their control.

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3. BLOG: What the Marines’ new fire base means for the fight against the Islamic State and the battle of Mosul

Media: Checkpoint (Washington Post)

Byline: Thomas Gibbons-Neff

Date: 22 March 2016

Over the weekend, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed during a rocket attack on his fire base in northern Iraq.

Prior to Cardin’s death Saturday, the public did not know about the fire base, named Fire Base Bell. It was just days old when 107mm rockets fired by the Islamic State group landed within its confines, killing Cardin and wounding his comrades. The Pentagon had planned to release the details of the Marines’ new position, a small outpost of berms, tents and four 155mm M777 howitzers, but did not because it was not fully operational, according to Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

Fire Base Bell hearkens back to the United States’ older wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where small outposts with names like Fire Base Phoenix and Combat Outpost Turbett were ubiquitous and where the creation of yet one more would only be noticed by the enemy and the troops that had to fill the sandbags. Yet in the fight against the Islamic State, the creation of a U.S. outpost indicates a noteworthy development in a battle that is largely fought from the skies.

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4. BLOG: The U.S. military has a lot more people in Iraq than it has been saying

Media: Checkpoint (Washington Post)

Byline: Missy Ryan

Date: 21 March 2016

The U.S. military has around 5,000 service members in Iraq, officials said on Monday, far more than previously reported, as the Obama administration quietly expands ground operations against the Islamic State.

The number of American forces in Iraq has come under increased scrutiny following the death over the weekend of a Marine staff sergeant, the second combat casualty in renewed U.S. operations in Iraq. He was killed when militants launched rockets at a small U.S. base around the city of Makhmour. The existence of the Marine detachment had not been known prior to Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin’s death.

Officials at the Pentagon have declined to specify how Marines are serving at the outpost in northern Iraq, which they described as a satellite base positioned to protect American trainers at a nearby, larger base. Their presence in Iraq highlights the use of forces from Navy ships already in the Middle East.

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5. Pentagon Moving to Increase US Troop Numbers in Iraq Soon

Media: Associated Press

Byline: Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns

Date: 25 March 2016

Washington (AP) — The Pentagon said Friday it was moving to increase the number of American forces in Iraq and announced that U.S. forces have killed the Islamic State’s finance minister. “We are systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recommendations on ways to increase U.S. support for Iraq’s ground fight against IS are going to be discussed with President Barack Obama soon.

“The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn’t been made,” Dunford told Pentagon reporters during a briefing. He did not say how big that increase might be.

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