The “Defeat” of ISIS

Simple question, especially for the Trump supporters who seem to think his Administration had some significant effect on the defeat of ISIS is Iraq:

What is the genesis for people thinking that we’ve been conducting ground combat operations in Iraq, to buttress the claim that the current POTUS ‘allowed’ them to obtain victory?

I know A LOT of Iraqi’s and Kurd’s who have some things to say about these nakedly partisan claims.

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Another Deployment in the Books

I sit here once again, in the land of milk and honey, and in that most ubiqituous symbol of American commercialism – Starbucks [I might have said Walmart, but that’s really more a Chinese symbol….]; and reflect on where Iraq is at present.

An enemy, at once both foreign and domestic, has largely been vanquished, and the Iraqi’s held their own theater of “mission accomplished” in the form of a parade, that from the rooftop of our SCIF, we could make out some of the assembled forces readying themselves to march past the Prime Minister. Yet, just as in 2011 as coalition forces withdrew as mandated by the 2008 agreement between the Bush and Maliki governments….the Shi’a factions hold no small amount of power, this time in the official form of the Popular Mobilization Forces, integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces apparatus.

Yep, the same Shi’a blocs that were and remain Iranian-backed; who did and still aspire, attack U.S. forces within Iraq. To put a fine point on the last sentence, Shi’a Militia elements killed one U.S Solider and critically wounded another on October 1st, 2017.

While domestic political theater still revolves around blaming Bush for invading Iraq without a definitive plan for occupation, or blaming Obama for adhering to the 2008 withdrawal agreement……the American polity is largely unaware of the drivers of Iraqi politics, and how that effects it’s security….and contributes to the rise of radical Islamic terror groups.

Make no mistake….though ISIS has lost it’s vast swaths of territory once held, it remains committed to an insurgency that will only succeed when the Shi’a blocs increase their oppression of the Sunni minority. It’s already occurring. In several ‘liberated’ locations across Iraq, ISIS cells are engaging in “Phase II Insurgency” activities [loosely based on the Maoist model]. We will be back again….of this I have no doubt. Iraqi governance, or lack thereof….will create the space needed for Islamic insurgency to continue to grow, or re-grow as it were.

Through all of this, I’m saddened by what the American polity [writ large, I’m generalizing] focuses on. Not the actual drivers of instability, not the actual issues facing the Iraqi people [much of which wrought by our 2003 invasion]….but rather, the narratives that can be used to bludgeon the political opposition here at home. This is particularly insulting as they [by and large] profess to the heavens that they “support the troops”. This reached critical mass for me, when the current POTUS all but claimed victory for the “defeat” of ISIS……ignoring the hard work of U.S. and Coalition forces during the preceding years….as he did nothing more than continue the policies of the previous Administration. Most Americans seem completely unaware that beyond airstrikes and special operations raids [which they know very little about for obvious reasons] we’re not actually doing the fighting in Iraq.

Is this the fault of our media? Certainly partially, as our media completely avoids educating the public on world events, in life of giving uninterrupted space for the two major parties to propagandize. But it’s not all the fault of the media. Reporting of the problems highlighted above, can be found if one really wants to look. But you’re not going to be educated by your favorite sock puppet cable opinion show.

After spending the last several months away from this theater, and in the company of Americans and Coalition partners who understand the dynamics at play….my bliss comes to an end of sorts. But I know that I’ll probably have another deployment in my near future….in another place that we shouldn’t still be, supporting a cause that our taxpayers don’t really understand.

Some links worth reading for deeper context to my paltry overview above:

New Masters of Revolutionary Warfare: The Islamic State Movement (2002-2016)

The New ISIS Insurgency – What Jihadists Do After Losing Territory

The Foundation Stones [Long Post]

Anyone who knows me, virtually or in-person, knows that I have little use…and little regard for Religion. Not Faith….and the freedom to practice it….but Religion.
But I understand it’s impact [positive AND negative] on culture and society, and every once in a while, usually when and where I least expect it, I come across somebody’s perspective on the larger question of what Faith means to a culture…..and I’m blown away.
I’m currently without the distraction of cable news and political drama [except for fleeting glimpses] and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s allowed me to reconfirm what’s important in life…and political theater ain’t it. I’ve been able to catch up on some quality reading and am currently winding down on The Lion’s Gate, by Steven Pressfield; in my opinion, one of the greatest authors of my time.
In The Lion’s Gate, Pressfield takes the reader through the unfolding events leading up to, during and just after the Arab-Israeli “Six-Day War”. The entire book is phenomenal, the story being told through the post-war interviews with no small number of the veterans themselves. However, one passage struck me as poignant and thought-provoking, over all the rest:
The Jewish religion is not a faith that prizes blind obedience or collective adherence to dogma. Our tradition is cerebral. We debate. We argue. The question is always holier than the answer.
The primal Jewish issue is justice. Judaism is a religion of the law, and the seminal concept of the law is that the minority must be protected. In the Jewish faith, you study. You wrestle with issues. You are a scholar. You deliberate, you dispute. A Jew asks over and over, “What is fair? What is just? Who is a good man, and why?”
I spent only one winter in the yeshiva. What I learned, more than Torah, was to love the teachers, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and “the saintly Nazir,” Rabbi David Cohen, who embodied these pursuits with such honor and integrity. I learned not so much from them as through them, by watching their actions, hearing their speech, and observing the way they conducted themselves. I learned the history of the Jewish people, the incredible suffering endured by millions over so many centuries, and of Jerusalem, the centrality of this place in the soul of the people, their neshama, and why our return to this site means so much.
The Kotel. The Western Wall, as it is called in English. How did so much hope and passion come to be attached to a wall? Not even the wall of a temple, which the Kotel is not, but even humbler, a retaining wall for the mount upon which the razed temple had once stood. A ruin. How could this mean so much to me? How could it mean so much to our paratroopers who had never studied, who knew nothing of Torah, who did not even know how to pray?
A wall is unlike any other holy site. A wall is a foundation. It is what remains when all that had once risen above it has been swept away. A wall evokes primal emotion, particularly when it is built into the land, when the far side is not open space but the fundament of the earth itself. When one stands with worshipful purpose before the expanse of a wall, particularly one that dwarfs his person, that rises above him and extends on both sides, an emotion arises from the heart that is unlike the feeling evoked by any other religious experience. How different, compared to, say, worshipping in a cathedral or within a great hall or at the foot of some monumental tower.
One approaches the Western Wall as an individual. No rabbi stands beside you. Set your palms against the stones. Is God present? Will the stone conduct your prayers to Him? Around you stand others of your faith; you feel their presence and the intention of their coming, but you remain yourself alone.
Are you bereft? Is your spirit impoverished? Set your brow against the stone. Feel its surface with your fingertips. Myself, I cannot come within thirty paces of the Wall without tears.
The ancient Greeks considered Delphi the epicenter of the world. This is the Wall to me. All superfluity has been stripped from this site and from ourselves. Here the enemies of my people have devastated all that they could. What remains? This fundament alone, which they failed to raze only because it was beneath their notice. The armored legions of our enemies have passed on, leaving only this wall. In the twenty centuries since, those who hate us have defiled it and piled trash before it and even relieved themselves against it. They have neglected it, permitted slums to be built up around it. This only makes it more precious to us.
That morning of June 7, I can’t remember exactly when this happened—maybe on the way down to the Wall with Moshe Stempel and the others. At some point we were climbing the stairs—Yair Levanon, Dov Gruner, Moshe Milo, and I—when we noticed a scrawl, freshly scratched into the stone, in Hebrew:
IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM, MAY MY RIGHT HAND FORGET ITS CUNNING.
This is a verse from Psalm 137, which also contains the line “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.”
While we grow fat and lazy under a relentless parade of self-indulgent, vulgar, Statist politicians….while we surrender our most basic liberties to the guise of security….we have aging contemporaries who know what it means to fight for their very survival. And they bore the cost stoically.

The Myth of the Iraqi Surge

We are enduring the fallout today, of the myth that the Iraqi “Surge” was successful…along with the myths surrounding the withdrawal of US forces. These events, lived by the men and women on the ground….have become political memes, myths and talking points…without substance or experience from those who employ them. Having served 15 months in Baghdad during the Surge, I can attest to the sentiments of the author of this article…as well as the whitewashing that continues to this day.

CFR’s three guests — retired Gen. Raymond Odierno, former commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq and now a senior adviser to JPMorgan Chase; Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security adviser under president George W. Bush; and Christopher Kojm, former senior adviser to the Iraq Study Group — had remarkably similar views.

No dissenting voices were included. All three had been enthusiastic promoters of the surge in 2006–2007 and continue to market the myth of its success. While recognizing the unmistakable failure of the post-surge American effort in Iraq, each still firmly believes in the inherent validity of that “strategy.”

I listened for more than an hour waiting for a single dissenting thought. The silence was deafening.

………………………….

In an orgy of killing in Baghdad and many other cities, the two main sects ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, expelling each other into a series of highly segregated enclaves. The capital, for instance, essentially became a Shiite city. In a sense, the civil war had, momentarily at least, run its course.

In addition, the U.S. military had successfully, though again only temporarily, convinced many previously rebellious Sunni tribes to switch sides in exchange for money, support and help in getting rid of the overly fundamentalist and brutal terror outfit, Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For the time being, AQI seemed to the tribal leaders like a bigger threat than the Shiites in Baghdad. For this, the Sunnis briefly bet on the United States without ever fully trusting or accepting Shiite-Baghdad’s suzerainty. Think of this as a tactical pause — not that the surge’s architects and supporters saw it that way.

America’s man in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, was already in the process of becoming a sectarian strongman, hell-bent on alienating the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Even 60,000 or 90,000 more American troops couldn’t have solved that problem because the surge was incapable of addressing, and barely pretended to face, the true conundrum of the invasion and occupation — any American-directed version of Iraqi “democracy” would invariably usher in Shia-majority dominance over a largely synthetic state.

The real question no surge cheerleaders publicly asked, or ask to this day, was whether an invading foreign entity was even capable of imposing an inclusive political settlement there. To assume that the United States could have done so smacks of a faith-based as opposed to reality-based worldview — another version of a deep and abiding belief in American exceptionalism.

From MAJ Danny Sjursen  at War is Boring

 

The End of an Era

As a former Army Pathfinder, this hits close to home…I’m sad to see the capability and tradition officially case it’s colors.

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Capt. Steven J. Orbon, the commander of F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and Herbst, the company first sergeant, cased the unit guidon as a final act for the 82nd Airborne Division’s pathfinder company.

“For many, today is a sad one,” Orbon said to an audience that included family, friends and veteran pathfinders whose service dated to 1957.

The deactivation was part of a larger Army transformation that saw other pathfinder units shutter last year and also marked the end of other small and specialized units known as long-range surveillance companies. But it won’t end the pathfinder story, the captain said.

“It is simply the closing of a chapter,” Orbon said.

The company included paratroopers as well as rangers, jumpmasters and experts in fast-rope insertions and extractions, he said. Among their ranks they counted expert rappellers, climbers, scuba divers, medics, snipers, switchblade operators and the 82nd Airborne combatives champion.

Read the rest here….

A Simple Thank You

No moving stock photo, no Facebook meme, no yellow ribbon. Just a heartfelt thank you.

Thank you to my Brothers and Sisters…my Comrades-in-Arms. Thank you to some for chewing the same dirt and dodging the same IEDs that I did. Thank you to those who did so much more than I did. Thank you to those who stood ready and willing, but weren’t called. And thank you to those who kept the home fires burning and the homesteads safe while your loved one was away.

A simple thank you to those who know, who endured…..who remember…..and who honor.

Where is Tyler Skluzacek’s White House invitation?

Tyler Skluzacek was in sixth grade when his dad, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Skluzacek, spent a year in Iraq. When he returned home, Tyler noticed something different about him. He suffered from night terrors.

Tyler said:

“Your dad just disappearing for a year and coming back a little bit different and seeing his Army buddies and them coming back a little bit different, too. … I have a real personal connection to the PTSD problem.”
Now a senior in college, Tyler says he wanted to “try to create something that will help [his dad] sleep better.”

So he did.

This is the spirit of America.