Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Report Confirms Civilian Casualties in Defeat-ISIS Campaign, Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- A recent report confirms the unintentional deaths of 105 civilians in June as a result of coalition operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a total that includes 77 deaths reported by Amnesty International, the deputy commander for strategy and support for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters today.

British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney spoke via teleconference from Baghdad, and addressed the report of civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria during June, which was published July 26.

“The coalition makes every effort to avoid civilian deaths on the battlefield and to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure,” he said. “But the reality of the fight against ISIS and the brutality of this enemy has made it impossible to avoid a risk to the civilian population in the areas being liberated.”

He said he spoke on behalf of all coalition service members, from privates to the most senior leaders, when noting that “such tragic occurrences are deeply felt throughout our ranks and push us all to do all we can to minimize these instances.”

“We strive to ensure the safety of the civilians that we are here fighting to protect,” he added.

Evil Enemies

“We must also remember that the work of holding the coalition to account for our actions, an endeavor that we welcome and encourage, does not diminish the evil and brutality of the enemies we seek to defeat,” Gedney said.

Crimes against humanity and the violation of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict are ISIS' routine modus operandi, the general told reporters.

“Those who live under their tyrannical rule endure a shocking level of violence to force conformity to a radical belief, a tactic which they sought to export across the world,” Gedney said of the terrorist organization. “And when faced by the superiority of the [Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces], ISIS has exploited the innocent, the unarmed and the weak as a means to slow down the forces determined and capable to defeat them.”

Coalition Works to Minimize Deaths

And as the U.S.-led coalition works to minimize the risk to noncombatants, ISIS is doing all it can “to maximize the number of innocent civilians killed,” he said.

Holding the coalition accountable for its actions in this war must be informed by facts and understanding, the deputy commander emphasized.

“We have said it many times, and it bears repeating: We work to make this campaign the most transparent in history, and we plan and execute our operations … to minimize our impact on the populations that we are fighting to protect,” he said.

Force allocations that are not grounded on readily available information do a grave disservice not only to the civilians who have had to live through the trauma induced by ISIS, but also to the countless service members from the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Iraqi security forces and the 26 troop-contributing nations are on the front line in the global fight against ISIS every day, Gedney said.

Monday, July 30, 2018

NATO Stepping Forward on Training Mission to Iraq

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples is stepping out smartly to establish the alliance training mission in Iraq, said Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of the Joint Force Command, in a recent interview.

Iraqi leaders asked the alliance to stand up the mission, and NATO heads of state approved the request during the Brussels Summit July 12.

The NATO effort will build on past NATO involvement in the country. In the past, seven personnel acted as facilitators for NATO efforts. The training mission will have about 200 personnel in the nation to push forward. A Canadian major general will be the commander in Iraq, Foggo said.

The Iraqi government does not want to make the same mistakes that led to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria taking over much of the country in 2014. Iraqi security forces had let their training lapse and ISIS was able to capture the western part of the nation and much of the north. The crown jewel in the ISIS effort was the capture of Mosul, the second-largest city in the country.

“Thankfully, we formed a coalition that went in and did some significant training and work with Iraqi forces who pushed them back,” Foggo said.

Fighting ISIS, Rebuilding

This was an incredible effort on part of the Iraqis and coalition personnel, the admiral said. Iraqi security forces were holding off ISIS, while rebuilding for the long-term fight against the terrorist organization.

NATO was a part of that effort. At the time, NATO teams concentrated on triage and medical training for Iraqi forces heading to the field, showing them how to counter improvised explosive devices and conducting explosive ordnance disposal training. “This is significant because the amount of unexploded ordnance there, particularly in Mosul, is huge,” Foggo said.

The NATO trainers also helped train Iraqis in repair of old Russian equipment like T-72 tanks and BMPs -- amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicles. “We did all that with a very small number of about seven people in Baghdad,” Foggo said. “They served as facilitators to bring in the training teams, the medical teams [and] the mechanics operating out of a couple forward operating areas in country.”

The new NATO mission formalizes the effort and commitment of the alliance. The mission will also facilitate a bigger mission set. The Iraqis have asked for more technical training, more advanced training and “they would also like to become much more proficient in the area explosive ordnance disposal,” he said.

‘It’s a Good Mission’

Foggo said a meeting he had recently in Iraq illustrates the need. He was visiting Besimayah Range in Iraq earlier this year and met with the Iraqi team tasked with going into Mosul to disarm the unexploded ordnance in the city. “These guys went in and they got everything they could above ground, to pave the way for people to return their homes and they get back to rebuilding and reconstruction,” the admiral said.

“It’s a good mission,” he continued. “It’s one NATO embraces and we look forward to leading it here in the future.”

The troops themselves are dedicated and willing, Foggo said. At that meeting in Besimayah, he spoke with Iraqi personnel who had served in Mosul. “The first thing that struck me was that they were very professional, stand-up young men who looked me in the eye,” he said. “One of the EOD specialists had been gassed. He had been disarming some sort of device that went off. It was chlorine gas and they got exposed. They were very proud of the fact that they were taken to an American field hospital to be treated.”

“I see them as being brave, very professional and very focused on the task that they have to rebuild their country now that they have succeeded in taking it back,” the admiral added.

The needs of Iraqi forces will change over time, Foggo noted. EOD may be the big need now, but something else may be more important next year. “As we get there and we provide a level of expertise that the NATO alliance can provide with all the different warfare specialties that we have and all the skill sets that we have, the alliance is a very powerful and robust and resource rich alliance,” the admiral said.

“We have people who understand how to maintain the infantry branch, maintain the armor corps, how to teach strategy and tactics, how to disarm bombs -- we’re going to find things where there may be gaps or seams where the Iraqi armed forces might need help with,” he said..

“If it is in our mandate and under the rubric of training and nonkinetic activity … then we can slide into that and adapt to that fairly easily,” Foggo said.

Coalition Strikes Continue Against ISIS Targets in Iraq, Syria

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partners continue to pursue the lasting defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in designated parts of Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Operation Roundup, which began May 1 to accelerate the defeat of ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and Iraq-Syria border region, has continued to gain ground and remove terrorists from the battlefield through offensive operations coupled with precision coalition strike support.

Between July 23-29, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes, consisting of 11 engagements, in Iraq and Syria

Strikes in Syria

There were no reported strikes conducted Syria yesterday.

On July 28, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strike damaged an ISIS line of communication.

On July 27 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal. The strikes destroyed an ISIS fighting position and damaged three ISIS lines of communication.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Syria between July 23-26.

Strikes in Iraq

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq between July 27-29.

On July 26 in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement on ISIS targets near Rutbah. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS pickup truck.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on July 25.

On July 24, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets near Makhmur. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on July 23.

Additional Strikes

On July 22, coalition military forces conducted four strikes in Syria that were not reported in the previous release. The strikes consisted of four engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal that destroyed four ISIS supply routes.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group's ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and ground-based tactical artillery, officials noted.

A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.