Posted tagged ‘Combat troops’

Pentagon Denies Troop Presence on Syria Front Lines Despite Photographs

May 28, 2016

Pentagon Denies Troop Presence on Syria Front Lines Despite Photographs, Washington Free Beacon, May 27, 2016

Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers guard against Islamic State militants at a frontline base near Mosul, northern Iraq, on June 6, 2015, four days before the first anniversary of the second-largest Iraqi city's fall to the extremists. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers guard against Islamic State militants at a frontline base near Mosul, northern Iraq, on June 6, 2015, four days before the first anniversary of the second-largest Iraqi city’s fall to the extremists. (Kyodo)

The Pentagon Thursday denied the presence of U.S. troops on the front lines in Syria despite photographic evidence showing special operations troops fighting alongside Kurdish forces in an offensive to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State.

Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, maintained the Obama’s administration’s claim that ground troops in Syria are solely serving in advisory and assistance roles in the war-torn region.

“They are not on the forward line. They are providing advice and assistance,” Cook said during a testy exchange with reporters. “That mission has not changed, their role has not changed. They are not leading this fight. They are supporting those forces that are at the leading edge of this fight, and they are doing it in a very effective fashion.”

Near frontline north of the Islamic State bastion of Raqa city, in Syria an AFP photographer saw armed US soldiers http://u.afp.com/ZEZo 

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Fatisah (Syria) (AFP) – US forces on the ground in northern Syria are helping a major offensive against the Islamic State group in its stronghold of Raqa 

Cook refused to comment specifically on the photos.

“What I will say is that special operations forces when they operate in certain areas do what they can to, if you will, blend in with the community to enhance their own protection, their own security… And they might be, again, for visual purposes, might be blending in with the local community,” he said.

The AFP reported that U.S. commandos were seen climbing onto a rooftop “carrying U.S.-made anti-tank missiles.” A fighter with the Syrian Democratic forces told the outlet that U.S. troops are taking part in the group’s operation against ISIS.

The revelations contradict the Obama administration’s insistence that ground troops are in Syria solely to advise and assist local forces.

Ahead of the president’s announcement last month that he would deploy an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes reiterated that U.S. troops would not be acting in a combat role

“Obviously, any special forces troops that we deploy into Iraq or Syria are going to be combat-equipped troops,” Rhodes said. “They’re not being sent there on a combat mission. They’re being sent there on a mission to be advising and assisting and supporting the forces that are fighting against ISIL on the ground.”

One reporter pressed Cook to clarify the difference between a “forward line” and a “front line.” He replied vaguely that he didn’t “have a yardstick measurement” and that the front lines of war are always “fluid.”

D.C. refuses to arm persecuted Christians fighting ISIS

November 18, 2015

D.C. refuses to arm persecuted Christians fighting ISIS, Front Page MagazineRaymond Ibrahim, November 18, 2015

(Please see also, U.S. ‘discriminates’ against Christian refugees, accepts 96% Muslims, 3% Christians. — DM)

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In recent months, Mideast Christians have been forming militias to fight the Islamic State (IS) and other jihadi groups in both Iraq and Syria—even as the Obama administration, which arms the “opposition,” refuses to arm them.

In Iraq, some of the few remaining Assyrian Christians have formed militias under the name Dwekh Nawsha (literally meaning “self-sacrifice” in Christ’s native tongue of Aramaic).  Most of these fighters are from among those Christians displaced from the Ninevah Plain due to the atrocities committed by IS and are on the frontlines fighting the jihadis.

They were formed soon after the U.S.-supported Kurdish Peshmerga, who are leading the fight against IS in the region, retreated from many Christian villages without a fight last summer, declining to protect them from the IS advance which led to the usual atrocities.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Christians have taken up arms because they want to protect their own land, and many no longer trust the Kurds to do it for them.” Indeed, the Kurds, including the Peshmerga, have been known to abuse and even persecute Christians.  Like IS, Kurds are Sunni Muslims too.

“We will stay here, and Christians will protect Christians. Not Arabs or Kurds protecting us, but Christians,” said local commander Fouad Masaoud Gorgees.

In neighboring Syria, approximately 500 Syriac Christian fighters recently assembled and managed to prevent the Islamic State from entering the ancient Christian settlement of Sadad.  But on October 30, IS captured a town less than five miles away, leaving Sadad vulnerable to continued assaults.

Even the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox church, Ignatius Aphrem II, traveled to Sadad to boost the morale of Christian defenders.  Said Aphrem:

It was emotional but it was also very encouraging to see our young people determined to defend their land and stay in their homeland.  To see them ready to fight and to sacrifice for their land, I think that’s what’s very meaningful, that made me very proud of them.

There’s a reason why Christians are frantically trying to save Sadad from the clutches of IS.  As one Syriac Christian fighter put it, Sadad “is a symbolic place for us and we will not allow it to fall again.”

He is referring to the events of October 2013, when the U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army—widely touted as moderate but in fact working with al-Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front—captured the town.  They made a graphic video (with English subtitles) of those whom they killed, the “dogs of Assad”—“dog” being an ancient Islamic epithet for Christians—while shouting Islam’s victory-cry, “Allahu Akbar” (which John McCain equates to a Christian saying “thank God”) and praise for the Free Syrian Army.

During their one week occupation of Sadad, the moderate/radical coalition tortured, raped, and murdered 45 Christians; the bodies of six people from one family alone, ranging from ages 16 to 90, were found at the bottom of a well (an increasingly common fate for “subhuman” Christians).

At the time, Syriac Archbishop Selwanos Boutros called it Syria’s “largest massacre of Christians.”  Even so, this massacre was wholly ignored by the Obama administration and so-called mainstream media in an effort to maintain the narrative that the Free Syrian Army was “moderate.”

Concerning the Sadad massacres, the archbishop had asked in 2013:

We have shouted aid to the world but no one has listened to us. Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness? Where are my brothers?

As persecuted Mideast Christians have well learned since, most Western governments—the Obama administration at their head—could care less about their fate.  They care only about one thing:  overthrowing Assad—at any cost, including by directly or indirectly arming the Islamic terrorists that persecute Christians in horrific ways, including slaughtering those who refuse to renounce Christ for Muhammad.

Yet truly “moderate” Christian militias fighting the Islamic State are denied arms from Washington: “Lobbyists in D.C. are blocking weapons and equipment from reaching Dwekh Nawsha, the Christian militia force that has been fighting ISIS in Iraq’s Assyrian Nineveh plains.”

Retired Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari, an Iraq war veteran who served 20 years in the army, says: “As much as you’re giving money to all these individuals who are killing each other [the “moderate” terrorists, Kurds, etc.], why don’t you try to give it to the Assyrians?”….  Currently, their [Christians’] lack of resources prevents them from launching an offensive.”  U.S. funding, training, and equipment would allow these Christian militias to take the fight to IS, added Sangari.

Of course, all of this assumes that U.S. leadership actually wants the Islamic State and other “moderate” jihadis to be defeated in an offensive by anyone—a dubious assumption.

Still, persecuted Christian pleas have not totally fallen on deaf ears.  A few Western Christians, mostly Americans, have traveled to the Middle East to help the indigenous Christians fight the jihadis.

Seeing their governments, which possess the military capability to annihilate the Islamic State, do next to nothing—not even help arm Christians—against IS, these Western Christians have decided to take it on themselves to fight the good fight on behalf of the weak and oppressed.

Brett Felton, a former American soldier who once served in Iraq, now sees himself as a “soldier of Christ” and has returned to help train Dwekh Nawsha against IS.

According to the 28-year-old, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But here we’re actually fighting for the freedom of the people … to be able to live without persecution, to keep the church bells ringing.”

U.S. vet Jordan Matson, who has the words “Christ is Lord” inscribed in his vest, said: “I decided that if our government wasn’t going to do anything about it, I would… We’re getting shot at [by IS/jihadis] on pretty much a daily basis….  We don’t have the technology that the United States military has to push our enemies away.”

First the Christians of Iraq and then Syria implored the West for help against the Islamic persecutors that the United States unleashed by overthrowing secular strongman Saddam Hussein and now against Bashar Assad.

Brutally persecuted Christians were totally ignored by both government and media.

Then they implored the Obama administration to simply stop arming their persecutors.  When that too fell on deaf ears, vastly outnumbered and underequipped Christians gathered to fight the Islamic State head on, hoping the U.S., which showers the “opposition” with weapons, would help equip them against IS.

No such luck.  As a result, a few Western Christians who believe in religious freedom are risking their personal lives to help their Mideast brothers against the scourge of “ISIS.”

In light of all this, to still fail to understand which “side” U.S. leadership is on—they currently claim to be on the side of “democracy,” “freedom,” and “human rights”—is to be beyond naïve.

Hollande, Obama lack the troops and will for total war on ISIS. Mid East rulers are even more reluctant

November 16, 2015

Hollande, Obama lack the troops and will for total war on ISIS. Mid East rulers are even more reluctant, DEBKAfile, November 16, 2015

French_anti-terror_police_15.11.15French anti-terror police

When French President Francois Hollande declared war on ISIS and called the attack in Paris an “act of war,” he gave the terrorist organization’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi an unexpected boost. He upgraded the Muslim caliphate to a fully-fledged state against which France is now at war. US President Barack Obama was more cautious, declaring at the G-20 summit in Antalya that his country and France would fight together against terror, without specifying how.

Obama has problems of his own. The attempt to portray the Kurdish conquest of the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq as an important achievement in the war against ISIS dissipated quickly after Peshmerga troops were shown on TV moving into a city that was empty and lying in ruins, after it was abandoned by Islamic State forces. There was no battle there either.

Also, the US and Kurdish claims that they had severed the main road link between the ISIS capitals in Iraq and Syria, Mosul and Raqqa, proved hollow as ISIS had stopped using that route months ago after it became vulnerable to American air strikes.

If that wasn’t enough, Obama ran into an obstacle in Antalya.

The summit’s host, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is consumed by an overriding aversion to an independent Kurdish state rising on his country’s border, demanded a declaration that all Kurdish forces, including the Peshmerga, the PKK and the YPG, on which the US depends heavily for fighting the war against ISIS, be classified as terrorists and targeted by the West just like ISIS.

Therefore, before broaching any decisions about intensifying the war on the Islamist terrorists, Western and Muslim countries were already at odds on targets.

It therefore makes no sense for President Hollande to try and invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter under which an act of war against one member of the alliance is tantamount to a war on all. Furthermore, making this a NATO operation would rule out a priori any collaboration with Russia in the campaign against ISIS, despite their common objective.  Vladimir Putin was already vexed over the feeble Western response to the bombing of a Russian airliner killing 224 people, compared to the global outcry over the Paris outrage.

In their responses and commentaries on what to do after the Paris assault, Western politicians and security experts seemed to agree that putting their own boots on the ground for finally getting to grips with ISIS was not on the cards – there would just be “more of the same,’ as one American security expert put it.

Others advised assigning the ground battle to the Egyptian, Jordanian, Kurdish, Iraqi, Saudi and other Gulf Arab states.

Who were they kidding? None of those Arab governments or armies is capable or willing to declare full-scale war on the Islamic State. The Kurds alone have stepped into the breach and are confronting the Islamists face to face, but they have sought in vain for the weapons they need, which the US refuses to supply.

Egypt, for instance, even after an ISIS network was able to breach its security system in Sharm El-Sheikh to plant a bomb on the Russian airliner on Oct. 31, has held back from a major military assault on the strongholds of the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, otherwise known as ISIS-Sinai. Egypt’s President Fattah Al-Sisi has not uttered a word on the Islamist threat since then.

French security and intelligence services demonstrated that they were unprepared for war on ISIS, and are pretty much in the same boat as other Western powers.

Since the outrage in Paris, French and Belgian security forces have conducted raid after raid to pick up Islamists, claiming to be rounding up the masterminds and confederates of the nine bombers and shooters who attacked Paris and murdered 132 people  In fact, they are acting more to calm a jittery public than in the expectation of achieving meaningful results in the war on terror. Till now, neither France nor any Western government knows exactly how many people were involved in the attack on Paris, or the numbers and locations of the Islamic Caliphate’s worldwide terror networks.

Putin has no long term strategy, says administration w/no long term strategy

October 31, 2015

Putin has no long term strategy, says administration w/no long term strategy, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, October 31, 2015

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This is an administration that believes you win wars with word games

Obama claimed that Putin is acting in Syria out of weakness and is being all reactive. Then he reacted by shipping weapons to Sunni rebels, a move he had originally rejected, and sending American soldiers into combat as boots on the ground.

Now DNI James Clapper is claiming that Putin is being impulsive and has no long term strategy. This comes from an administration that changed its mind several times about intervening in the Syrian Civil War and keeps saying it still doesn’t have a plan for defeating ISIS.

Clapper said Putin was “very impulsive and opportunistic” as he increased Russian support for close ally President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s roiling civil war.

“I personally question whether he has some long-term strategy or whether he is being very opportunistic on a day-to-day basis,” Clapper told CNN’s Jim Sciutto. “And I think his intervention into Syria is another manifestation of that.”

Being “opportunistic” is actually how real life battles are fought. You have a strategy, but you seize advantages based on the evolving situation on the ground.

So far Putin’s long term strategy has been to expand Russian influence in the region. It’s working really well. Russia is back to being the regional alternative to the US. It’s securing strategic territories and its allies are expanding their sphere of influence.

On top of that, Putin managed to avert US air strikes on Assad with his fake WMD deal. Then he helped Iran secure its nuclear weapons program with the Iran deal. (I’ll grant that he had a lot of help from Obama and Kerry there.) Now he’s angling to get Obama on board a peace deal that keeps Assad in power and ends US support for the rebellion. Considering this administration’s foreign policy track record, he’ll probably get his way. While the administration clown car taunts him as weak and opportunistic and reactive and impulsive.

In the Cold War, the Soviets trash talked while the US got things done. Under Obama, the US talks trash and Russia gets things done. But this is an administration that believes you win wars with word games.

How is that working out for them?

No moral outrage in the military

October 6, 2015

No moral outrage in the military, Washington Times, James A. Lyons, October 5, 2015

105_2015_b3-lyon-obama-shiel8201_c0-0-2933-1710_s561x327Obama Decimates the U.S. Military Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

[T]he degradation of our military’s core principles must be viewed in a much broader perspective. Actually, it is a key element in President Obama’s declaration to fundamentally transform America. When you want to take down a country, the first thing you do is weaken its military.

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Recent articles highlighting horrifying child abuse atrocities inflicted on defenseless children by our Afghan military and police partners are but the latest examples of how President Obama is destroying U.S. military forces.

Our military leadership’s response to these blatant acts of pedophilia by our so-called Afghan partners has been shocking. In short, the guidance provided to our Army and Marine Corps personnel was to just ignore these Muslim and Afghan seventh-century customs and traditions. They have been instructed to not interfere, even when such horrific acts are being committed on our own bases.

Those U.S. military personnel. whose moral outrage will not let them ignore these atrocities and instead act to stop these unconscionable acts against children, are either disciplined or forced to leave the service. In other words, even if you find a young boy chained to a bed so that a local police commander can sodomize him every night and you hear the screams, you are told to look the other way. This is not only un-American but an act against humanity.

Even the Taliban outlawed such practices and freed a number of children, thereby earning the gratitude of village elders. Does the Taliban with its seventh-century mentality have a higher moral code than the U.S. military leadership? It should be clear to any thinking person that when our honorable military personnel are forced to ignore these crimes against humanity, they are viewed as being complicit.

To those who have followed our involvement in Afghanistan, the current policy to ignore acts of pedophilia should come as no surprise. When “green on blue” attacks gained national attention, our military leadership tried to explain it away by claiming the friction that developed between the two forces was because our military personnel were not sensitive enough to Afghan culture and traditions. In other words, if our Afghan partners conduct violence or kill U.S. military personnel, it is our fault. What nonsense.

Other Afghan cultural idiosyncrasies our military personnel are forced to accept without reservation include wife-beating, rape, drug use, thievery, dog torture, desertion and collusion with the enemy, the Taliban. Furthermore, under no circumstances can our military discuss Islam in any form. The genesis for this goes back to the purging of all our training manuals and instructors who presented Islam in an unfavorable light or linked it to terrorism. It is totally against our core principles and everything we stand for as Americans. It clearly has an adverse impact on individual and unit morale, which affects the ultimate goal of the “will to win.” The bottom line is that we are forcing our great military to submit to Islam and its governing Shariah law, or possibly die.

This is exactly the choice offered to infidels who have been vanquished by Islamic jihad. Our military’s silence and acquiescence, particularly by the leadership, is the humiliating price for our coexistence with our Afghan partners. This is unacceptable.

However, the degradation of our military’s core principles must be viewed in a much broader perspective. Actually, it is a key element in President Obama’s declaration to fundamentally transform America. When you want to take down a country, the first thing you do is weaken its military. We cannot ignore the fact that with or without sequestration, the Obama administration has unilaterally disarmed our military forces and, consequently, our capabilities. Further, the social engineering imposed on our military forces — to include the acceptance of gay, lesbian and soon transgender personnel — further undermines the moral fiber of our military and constitutes a further degradation of our military effectiveness. Forcing women into combat roles only further degrades the situation. The restricted rules of engagement imposed on our forces has reduced our military’s effectiveness and caused unnecessary loss of life and debilitating injuries.

Likewise, the pin-prick attacks on the Islamic State cast a shadow over what a dedicated air campaign could accomplish. It projects an image of weakness and ineffectiveness of our true capabilities. It has taken the “awe” of our invincibility and overwhelming force capabilities out of the equation. The net result is that our enemies no longer fear us, and our allies can no longer trust us.

The imposed limit on the application and capability our military force is not limited to the Middle East. For example, in the Western Pacific, to challenge China’s illegal actions in the South China Sea, the Obama administration has restricted the U.S. Navy from enforcing its freedom of seas concept that has been a fundamental principle of the U.S. Navy for more than 238 years. Our Asian allies in the Western Pacific watch carefully how we respond to China’s aggressive actions. Our directed restraint clearly will not raise their confidence level.

Our national security is being deliberately jeopardized. President Obama’s bloviating to Vladimir Putin at the recent U.N. session that he leads the most powerful military in the world was only true on the day he took office. Since then, Obama has systematically degraded our capabilities. The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee must take forceful action now to prevent further emasculation of our military capabilities.

Unnecessary loss of life – The deadly price of politically correct rules of engagement.

September 30, 2015

Unnecessary loss of life – The deadly price of politically correct rules of engagement.

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War is nasty, brutal and costly. In our latest wars, many of the casualties suffered by American troops are a direct result of their having to obey rules of engagement created by politicians who have never set foot on — or even seen — a battlefield. Today’s battlefield commanders must be alert to the media and do-gooders who are all too ready to demonize troops involved in a battle that produces noncombatant deaths, so-called collateral damage.

According to a Western Journalism article by Leigh H Bravo, “Insanity: The Rules of Engagement” (http://tinyurl.com/p59nlqs), our troops fighting in Afghanistan cannot do night or surprise searches. Also, villagers must be warned prior to searches. Troops may not fire at the enemy unless fired upon. U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present. And only women can search women. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said: “We handcuffed our troops in combat needlessly. This was very harmful to our men and has never been done in U.S combat operations that I know of.” Collateral damage and the unintentional killing of civilians are a consequence of war. But the question we should ask is: Are our troops’ lives less important than the inevitable collateral damage?

The unnecessary loss of life and casualties that result from politically correct rules of engagement are about to be magnified in future conflicts by mindless efforts to put women in combat units. In 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially lifted the ban on women serving in ground combat roles. On Jan. 1, 2016, all branches of the military must either open all positions to women or request exceptions. That boils down to having women serve in combat roles, because any commander requesting exceptions would risk having his career terminated in the wake of the screeching and accusations of sexism that would surely ensue.

The U.S. Army has announced that for the first time, two female officers graduated from the exceptionally tough three-phase Ranger course.

Their “success” will serve as grist for the mills of those who argue for women in combat. Unlike most of their fellow soldiers, these two women had to recycle because they had failed certain phases of the course.

A recent Marine Corps force integration study concluded that combat teams were less effective when they included women. Overall, the report says, all-male teams and crews outperformed mixed-gender ones on 93 out of 134 tasks evaluated. All-male teams were universally faster “in each tactical movement.” The report also says that female Marines had higher rates of injury throughout the experiment.

Should anyone be surprised by the findings of male combat superiority? Young men are overloaded with testosterone, which produces hostility, aggression and competitiveness. Such a physical characteristic produces sometimes-poor behavior in civilian society, occasionally leading to imprisonment, but the same characteristics are ideal for ground combat situations.

You may bet the rent money that the current effort to integrate combat jobs will not end with simply a few extraordinary women. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the Navy Times that once women start attending SEAL training, it would make sense to examine the standards. He said, “First we’re going to make sure there are standards” and “they’re gender-neutral.” Only after that will the Navy make sure the standards “have something to do with the job.” We’ve heard that before in matters of race. It’s called disparate impact. That is, if the Navy SEALs cannot prove that staying up for 18 hours with no rest or sleep, sitting and shivering in the cold Pacific Ocean, running with a huge log on your shoulder, and being spoken to like a dog are necessary, then those parts of SEAL training will be eliminated so that women can pass.

The most disgusting, perhaps traitorous, aspect of all this is the overall timidity of military commanders, most of whom, despite knowing better, will only publicly criticize the idea of putting women in combat after they retire from service.

Satire | Pentagon Downplays Significance Of Taliban Taking Over All Of Afghanistan Last Night

September 30, 2015

Pentagon Downplays Significance Of Taliban Taking Over All Of Afghanistan Last Night, Duffel Blog, September 30, 2015

150929-D-NI589-068-750x400Photo Credit: Glenn Fawcett with the U.S. Department of Defense

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following the Taliban’s complete takeover of Afghanistan late last night, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook noted in an early morning press briefing that the Pentagon remains “generally positive” about the war effort and that “there is minimal cause for concern.”

“That’s how things go in a protracted counterinsurgency,” Cook told reporters. “You face some minor setbacks regardless of how many troops lose their lives or how many billions of taxpayer dollars are spent equipping local defense forces incapable of defending their own country.”

After the Taliban overran Afghan forces in Helmand earlier this year and took over the city of Kunduz this week, sources say the Obama Administration and many senior defense officials seemed surprised that major media outlets expressed even the slightest bit of interest in a war over a decade old.

At Central Command in Tampa, Fla., Gen. Lloyd Austin — who oversees forces in the region — assured reporters there was little cause for concern.

“We’ve seen this time and time again,” Austin said. “This modest spike in Taliban attacks shows that our strategy is working. These massive coordinated attacks are merely the death throes of an insurgent movement.”

Austin cited a range of historical and contemporary intelligence analyses to support his claim, adding: “Don’t believe me? Just look at the history of insurgencies. The Tet Offensive, Saigon in ’75, Iraq in 2006, every summer in Afghanistan since 2001.”

Sources at the White House say the president has not been too concerned with the situation for at least a few months, especially after he declared a successful end to the war in 2014 and placed forces there at Defense Condition (DEFCON) “Chill.”

Duffel Blog attempted to reach the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan at his Kabul office but were ultimately unsuccessful. His new spokesman, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, stated that Gen. John Campbell and the U.S. Ambassador were unavailable for comment as they had departed Kabul via C-5 transport just a few hours earlier.

 

Russian marines join Hizballah in first Syrian battle – a danger signal for US, Israel

September 24, 2015

Russian marines join Hizballah in first Syrian battle – a danger signal for US, Israel, DEBKAfile, September 24, 2015

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[T]he most ominous aspect for the US and Israel of the Russian attack on the Syrian airbase is that Russian marines were combined with Syrian and Hizballah special forces.

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Before dawn on Thursday, Sept. 24, Russian marines went into battle for the first time since their deployment to Syria, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal. Russian Marine Brigade 810 fought with Syrian army and Hizballah special forces in an attack on ISIS forces at the Kweiris airbase, east of Aleppo.

This operation runs contrary to the assurances of President Vladimir Putin to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sept. 21 – just three days ago – that Russian forces in Syria were only there to defend Russian interests and would not engaged in combat with the Syrian army, Hizballah or Iranian troops.

The ISIS force defending the air base is dominated by Chechen fighters under the command of Abu Omar al-Shishani, who is considered one of the terrorist organization’s leading commanders in the last two years. The 27-year-old al-Shishani hails from the Chechen enclave of Pankisi in Georgia, like many others who joined ISIS from 2012.

However, targeting Chechen fighters was not the only reason for the order given by Russian command in Syria to attack the air base.  In DEBKA Weekly 678 of September 11, we predicted that the first Russian mission in Syria would be to break the Syrian rebel siege on Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city.

As their first step, the Russians would have to prevent the cutoff of highway 5, running from Aleppo to Damascus, and keep it open for Syrian army reinforcements and military equipment to the city.

The offensive to regain Kweiris airbase that fell to ISIS in mid-June is the first step in the implementation of Russia’s operational plan for the Aleppo area.

Meanwhile, little substance was to be found in the reports appearing, mainly in the United States, suggesting that Putin, disappointed by the Obama administration’s unwillingness to send the US Air Force to collaborate with Russia in the fight against ISIS, would try to talk Obama round if and when they meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 28.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources, these reports were spread to cover up the serious crisis in the US war against ISIS.

While Russia poured troops and advanced hardware into Syria, establishing bases and launching offensive action, the US anti-Islamic State effort suffered a heavy blow with the decision of Obama’s ISIS war czar, Gen. John Allen, to step down in early November.

Sources close to the general were quoted as referring to his frustration “with the White House micromanagement of the war and its failure to provide adequate resources.”’

The fact that the Russian forces launched their attack on ISIS shortly after the announcement of Allen’s upcoming resignation shows that Putin is not waiting for US cooperation in the war on the Islamist terrorists.    That said, DEBKAfile’s military sources point out that the most ominous aspect for the US and Israel of the Russian attack on the Syrian airbase is that Russian marines were combined with Syrian and Hizballah special forces.

For the first time in 41 years, since the 1974 war of attrition against the IDF on the Golan, Russian troops are fighting alongside Syrian forces. It is also the first time that a world power like Russia is willing to go into battle with an acknowledged terrorist group, such as Hizballah.

Our sources point out that the joint attack was completely counter to the tone and the content of the comments exchanged by Putin and Netanyahu at their summit.

A full report on Russian military activity and strategic objectives in Syria, and a rundown of the content of the Putin-Netanyahu talks in Moscow appear in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out Friday, September 25.

Russian troops already engaged in battle against ISIS around Homs

September 17, 2015

Russian troops already engaged in battle against ISIS around Homs, DEBKAfile, September 17, 21015

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Contrary to the impression conveyed by Moscow that Russian troops in Syria are not engaged in combat and that none of the sophisticated arms deliveries were destined to the Syrian army, new developments belie both these claims. 

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that on Wednesday, September 16, Russian R-166-0.5 (ultra) high-frequency signals (HF/VHF) vehicles were spotted on Highway 4, which links Homs and Aleppo. These vehicles, called “mobile war rooms” by the IDF and Western armies, were accompanied by BTR-82 troop carriers transporting Russian marines. The R-166-0.5 enables communication with forces located on battlefields as far as 1,000 kilometers away using high frequency and ultra-high frequency signals.

The communication systems are resistant to electromagnetic jamming so Russian forces operating deep inside Syria can report to their commanders at the main Russian base in Latakia or receive orders, intelligence data and even video from drones or planes.

Another feature is a cylinder on the side of the vehicle containing a folded antenna that can be raised to a height of 15 meters.

The R-166-0.5 is an integral part of Russia’s battlefield operations, so it would not be deployed unless long-distance troop movements were underway. The appearance of those vehicles in the Syrian theater provides a clear signal of Moscow’s intentions.

Our sources point out that during the past few days, fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) succeeded in cutting off part of the highway between Homs and Aleppo for several hours. It marked a very dangerous development for the Syrian army and regime, because a permanent cutoff of Highway 4 would tighten the siege on Aleppo and possibly pave the way for the conquest of the second-largest city in Syria.

The movements by the armored vehicles show that the Russian troops are preparing to head into battle in order to prevent such a scenario.

Moscow has denied supplying new, sophisticated weapons to the Syrian army. However, a Syrian military source revealed Thursday, Sept. 17, that the Syrian military has recently started using new types of air and ground weapons supplied by Russia, underlining growing Russian support to Damascus that is alarming the United States and Israel. “New weapons – and new types of weapons – are being delivered,” said the source which described them as “highly accurate and effective.”  The army had started using them in recent weeks having been trained in their use in Syria in recent months. “We can say they are all types of weapons – be it air or ground,” he said.

DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal that the Russian shipments for the Syrian army include MI-28 MIL assault helicopters (NATO-coded Havoc), an all-weather aircraft, which can also serve as an anti-tank weapon against the mostly US-made tanks fielded by ISIS and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front Syrian arm.

Our military and intelligence sources point out that Moscow has given itself room to maneuver in terms of its declared goals, telling Washington and Jerusalem during the past few days that its troops will defend their own interests if there is a need to do so. Thus, Russia aims to use its forces in any way that it deems fit.

DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington report an ongoing debate within the Obama administration regarding whether to accept the proposal that was raised during the telephone conversations this week between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Moscow proposed military-to-military talks on ways to prevent a confrontation between its troops in Syria and those of the US-led coalition, saying that the talks would provide a complete and clear understanding of Moscow’s intentions.

Unlike Kerry, who is in favor of taking the Russians up on their proposal, some circles in the administration feel that such talks would ultimately give Russia the green light for its military involvement and that Moscow is in the process of grabbing control of running all military operations in Syria, including those by other countries and groups.

Last week, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Quds brigades, visited Moscow for the second time since April.  DEBKAfile’s sources in Moscow point out that this time, unlike his previous visit, Soleimani met with Russia’s National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev and a number of generals directly connected to the buildup in Syria, but not with President Vladimir Putin.

The developments in Syria will also take center stage when Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu meets with Putin in Moscow on September 21.

Russia gearing up to be first world power to insert ground forces into Syria

September 1, 2015

Russia gearing up to be first world power to insert ground forces into Syria, DEBKAfile, September 1, 2015

Russian_airborn_troops_syria_1.9.15Russian airborne troops for Syria

Despite strong denials from Moscow, Russian airborne troops are preparing to land in Syria to fight Islamic State forces. The surprise attack on Monday, Aug. 31, by ISIS forces on the Qadam district of southern Damascus, in which they took over parts of the district – and brought ISIS forces the closest that any Syrian anti-Assad group has ever been to the center of the Syrian capital – is expected to accelerate the Russian military intervention.

Moscow is certainly not ready to endanger the position of President Bashar Assad or his rule in Damascus, and views it as a red line that cannot be crossed. If Russia intervenes militarily in this way, Russia will be the first country from outside the Middle East to send ground forces into the Syrian civil war.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that discussions by the Russo-Syrian Military Commission, which was established last month in Moscow to coordinate the intervention, accelerated during the last few days.

Our intelligence sources point out that the concerted activities of the commission are taking place amid the nearly complete paralysis of the US Central Command-Forward-Jordan (CCFJ), where operations against the rebels in southern Syria, including those holding positions across from Israel’s Golan, are coordinated. Officers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel are attached to the CCFJ.

Most of the operations of the CCFJ have been halted due to a conflict that erupted between the Syrian rebels and the U.S. Central Command, CENTCOM. The US military is opposed to the rebels cooperating with Al-Qaeda-linked groups, such as the Al-Nusra front, while the rebels claim that this cannot be avoided fir they are to defeat the forces of Bashar Assad and Hizballah.

The paralysis of the CCFJ is spurring the Russians to try to show that their “central command” for Syria is operating without any difficulties.

In recent weeks, the Russians have taken four military steps related to Syria:

1. On Aug. 18, six of Russia’s advanced MIG-31 Foxhound interceptor aircraft landed at the Syrian Air Force’s Mezze Airbase, which is the military section of Damascus international airport. After the fighters landed, they were immediately followed by giant Russian Antonov AN-124 Condor cargo planes carrying 1,000 of Russia’s 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missiles.

The advanced jets are intended to serve as air support for the Russian units that arrive in Syria.

2. Before the Russian planes landed in Damascus, Moscow reached an agreement with Washington for the removal of NATO’s Patriot missile batteries from Turkey. The removal was carried out gradually during the month of August, thus preventing the possibility that NATO Patriot missiles could hit Russian fighters carrying out operations in Syrian airspace.

3. During the last week of August, a large number of Russian troops, mostly logistical teams whose job is to lay the groundwork for the arrival of the combat units, arrived in Syria. The troops were seen in Damascus and in Jablah district of Lattakia province, where the Russian forces are building a military base.

4. Our intelligence sources also report that Moscow has started to supply Damascus with satellite imagery of the ground situation on the different fronts.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that all of these preparatory steps by Moscow for the introduction of ground forces are being carried out in coordination with Washington and Tehran.

The more that the three capitals tighten their coordination in support of Assad, the sooner the Russian intervention is expected to take place.