Saturday, March 26, 2016




AL JAZEERA reports that the Islamic State sent 10 suicide bombers to attack Ein el-Assad base today resulting in 8 of the bombers being killed by Iraqi forces, 2 of the bombers blowing themselves up and "at least 18 soldiers" being killed.  GULF NEWS explains, "Al Assad airbase, located about 180 kilometres northwest of Baghdad in Anbar province, is one of the largest military installations in the country."

Meanwhile,  "The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks."

This announcement was made by Gen Joseph Dunford at the press briefing he and Secretary of Defense Ash Cater held on Friday.

Q: The Marines this week in their support of the Iraqi offensive operation, is this something we will see more of, do you think, as time goes on in the fight to get to Mosul? And is -- can you talk about the accelerants that the secretary has talked about before and whether this is a key part of what you want to see the military do more of in Iraq over the next several months?

GEN. DUNFORD: I mean, Lita, we've talked I guess now for some months about setting the conditions for success in Mosul and -- and facilitating the Iraqi forces and staging around Mosul to begin to isolate Mosul, and as the Iraqis have announced, that has begun. These Marines that were there, the artillery battery that were there were in direct support of that. We put the -- we put the battery there to support the Americans that are there advising the Iraqi forces and also in a position to provide support to the Iraqi forces.

And from my perspective, this is no different than aviation fires we've been delivering. This happens to be surface fires -- (inaudible) -- artillery. But certainly no different conceptually than the fire support we've been providing to the Iraqis all along.

And with regard to further accelerants, the secretary and I do expect that there'll be increased capabilities provided to the Iraqis to set the conditions for their operations in Mosul. Those decisions haven't been made yet, but we certainly -- we certainly do expect more of the kinds of things that we saw in Ramadi, albeit a bit different tailored for operations in Mosul. But it's -- but again, the primary force fighting in Mosul will be Iraqi security forces and we'll be in a position to provide advise, assist and enabling capabilities to make them successful.

Q: It appears to be part of a -- more of a ground combat role than we've seen before.

GEN. DUNFORD: No, it's not. I mean, we have -- we have -- we have surface fires in Al Asad and other places, as an example, and we've used those in the past. And so this is not a fundamental shift in our approach to supporting the Iraqi forces. This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.

[. . .]
Q: But General Dunford, we've just heard this week that there are actually 5,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. Why is the Pentagon and senior military leadership reluctant to say that it's  more than 3,800?

GEN. DUNFORD: We're not reluctant, Jennifer. What we track is the number that are in our force management level. That's 3,800. But this is nothing that's inconsistent with what's been going on for the last 15 years in terms of people that are in and out on temporary duty less than a certain period of time, people that are in direct support of the embassy. Those have -- those have not been counted. In other words, there's a consistency in the way we've been counting people that's been going on for the last 15 years.

And at any given time, we have 3,800 directly in support of the mission. When units rotate, for example, we don't double-count those numbers, so if there's a unit of 200 that's being replaced by a unit of 200 and they both happen to be on the ground at the same time, we don't count that as 400, we haven't in the past 15 years, because that hasn't -- that hasn't counted against our force management level.

So the accounting of our people has been consistent. We're not denying that there's more people than 3,800; I think you got the numbers from us. But in terms of what we count in the mission, and that's in accordance with the direction that we've been given, the 3,800 is what's against the mission.


Q: (Off-mic.)

GEN. DUNFORD: No, I didn't say 5,000 was accurate, I said 3,800 was the force management level and there's some number above that on any given day as a result of people that support the embassy, people at a TDY and people in other categories that don't count against that 3,800.


Q: I'd like to follow up, if I could, on Lita's questions about the Marines and that fire base. Unlike the previous U.S. military combat positions and fire support, this is an independent base, these are U.S. military only. And by all indications, they are not just defensive, but in this latest movement by Iraqi forces, they provided fire support for offensive operations against ISIS. So why is this not the first footprint of a U.S. combat ground operation there in Iraq?

GEN. DUNFORD: Jim, the reason they're in a different base is simply a function of geometry. They're designed to support forces in an area called Makhmur. The artillery can't be co-located with the ground forces in Makhmur and provide effective fire support, so this position was selected because of the geometry necessary to support that particular location.

And with regard to providing support to Iraqi offensive capability, once again, I mean, to me, there's no inconsistency between what this artillery unit did and what our aviation support is doing every single day. I don't draw a distinction with it. In other words, we've said that we're providing enabling support to include combined arms capability to Iraqi forces as they conduct operations, which is exactly what this artillery unit was doing.

Q: Well, we have all indications that this is a pretty permanent position right now; that after a short period of time, U.S. Army personnel are going to replace the 26 MEU Marine there. And it still has all indications that the U.S. military is directly involved in the ground operations of -- with the U.S. -- with the Iraqi.

SEC. CARTER: Yes, maybe very quickly just say, even since last week now, as the Iraqis have started to consolidate their positions, the situation on the ground has changed in terms of where the Iraqis are in the relationship to the support, the defense of support they're providing to our artillery unit that's there. So that's already changed, you know, through the course of the week.

But in all honesty, I just cannot see this being inconsistent with everything that we've been doing over the last several months.

SEC. CARTER: And let me just add to that, what we'll be doing in coming months. This is our approach to eliminating ISIL from Mosul. The Iraqi Security Forces are the ones who are carrying out the assault, the envelopment, the assault, but we're helping them.

That's our -- that's been our approach and we'll continue to do that. Started in Ramadi, we'll continue to going up to Mosul. Carla?

Q: When do you anticipate seeing U.S. American ground forces closer to the front lines as the battle towards Mosul looms?

GEN. DUNFORD: Jim, one thing that I probably just need to clarify, this position is behind what is known as the forward line of troops for the peshmerga and Kurds. So it's by no means out in front on its own.

And secondly, what I would say about your question about the future is we have a series of recommendations that we will be discussing with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi security forces.

So again, the secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks. But that decision hasn't been made.

Nor -- you know, you alluded to decisions that have already been made about Army units replacing the Marine units. All that is pre-decision. There's been no decisions made about what's going to happen to this particular position in the future.

But it is going to be decided in the context of the broader issue that the secretary will bring to the president again, focused on what it is we need to do to maintain a minimum money campaign and what specifically do we need to do to enable operations in Mosul.

 "The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks."

So much for Barack Obama's promise of no boots on the ground and of no US troops in combat.

Like every other promise, it was just another lie.

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café
You laugh he said you think you're immune
Go look at your eyes they're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies

-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on BLUE

Lies and more lies from Barack.

And lies have consequences.

On the 13th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, March, 19, 2016, another US service member died in Iraq.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"