A multimillion-dollar reward offered by the Trump administration in return for information leading to the arrest of two senior operatives of Hezbollah is part of ongoing US efforts to “demonize” the group, a party official said Oct. 11.
The new US measures, including recent sanctions, will not affect Hezbollah’s operational activities, the official added.
He was reacting to the US State Department’s announcement Oct. 10 of an up to $7 million reward for information on Talal Hamiyah, who it says leads Hezbollah’s “international terrorism branch” and who the US claim has been linked to attacks, hijackings and kidnappings targeting US citizens.
Another $5 million is being offered for information on Fu’ad Shukr, a member of Hezbollah who runs the group’s military forces in southern Lebanon. The State Department said he played a key role in Hezbollah’s recent military operations in Syria.
The total of $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of the two comes as part of tougher US action against Iran, Hezbollah’s patron.
Shukr and Hamiyah are believed to have worked alongside Mustafa Badreddine running the party’s military operations after the death of Imad Mughniyeh. Badreddine, one of the founders of Hezbollah in 1982, took a leading role in the group’s military wing after the death of his brother-in-law, Mughniyeh, in Syria in February 2008.
Badreddine was indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a key suspect in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in 2005, but was himself killed in Syria in 2016. Media reports speculated that internal Hezbollah power struggles had led party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah himself to order Badreddine’s death, although a party spokesman denied the claims in March of this year.
The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hezbollah leaders in a decade, and come against the backdrop of heightened US-Iran tensions resulting from President Donald Trump’s threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
An avowed critic of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Trump has called it one of America’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. US officials have said he is looking for ways to pressure Tehran. Under the new policy, the White House is focusing on the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah – two Iran-backed entities that have long elicited scorn from much of the West.
The Hezbollah official dismissed the accusations, saying the US should be “the last state” to designate people on terror lists and accusing it of supporting terrorist organizations and sponsoring states and regimes “that have a long history in financing and supporting terrorism.”
“It is part of the continuous efforts to demonize Hezbollah. They are false accusations that will not have any effect on the operational activities of Hezbollah,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with party regulations.
Later Oct. 11, MP Hussein Musawi – a member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary bloc – said the “US is the mother of terrorism.” He continued: “The plan’s aim is to encourage Muslims to kill each other and to make peace with the criminal Zionists.”
All efforts to distort Hezbollah’s image and show a different image about Iran will fail, he added in a statement. “Remaining silent about this [American] interference may take Lebanon downhill toward collapse. This is what the enemies of Lebanon want.”
Musawi went on, saying: “We advise those concerned not to take any American dictates, by maintaining the policy of constructive dialogue between all political forces and components.”
Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s ongoing civil war. The group has been fighting ISIS inside Syria and along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Col. Walker “Bud” Mahurin was an American combat fighter pilot. Flying P-47s with the 56th FG in WWII, he became an ace three times over in the skies over France and Germany. He was shot down once but returned with the help of the French underground.
After the war Mahurin remained in the newly independent U.S. Air Force. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 found him in the Pentagon, working on new fighter aircraft procurement. The skills he exhibited in WWII would once again be tested, this time in a new arena of air warfare…the jet age dogfight. In this episode, Mahurin tells his dramatic story of returning to combat in Korea.
When you consider your family as a unit, you put its well-being before everything else, including yourself. After almost 8 years of marriage to my veteran, there are times I’ve had to dig deep into my well of patience. When my partner just said something so incredibly pig-headed that I, an angel, am left wondering what bloated, booger-eating alien just inhabited his brain and made his mouth move, I have to stop, take a breath, and remind myself that we are a unit. Is being right the most important thing in this moment? Is what I’m about to say or do going to serve the strength of the unit, or am I going to spin my wheels trying to outmaneuver my husband in an argument?
Despite what you might think, leaning back on things I’ve learned from the military lifestyle is what helps us keep comms open and clear.
We don’t argue much these days, which I attribute to years of practicing a combination of honoring our commitment to love and respect each other and using direct communication to problem solve together. Through our time in the military, he, the active duty service member, and I, the spouse, have developed the skills to say what we mean and let the rest fall away. Neither of us are much for jabbering, but there’s additional value in speaking directly that is hugely beneficial to a partnership. There is a purpose, a kernel of truth, to every message. The more you can make that purpose known, the less work the receiver has of deciphering the message.
Imagine a JTAC calling in for close air support from the F-16 in the sky with, “Hey, um, it would be super boring if you went south tonight — so maybe head west, if that’s cool. I was thinking this building we’ve confirmed for housing arms for I.S. was super ugly and could use some redecorating — like, with it and everything inside of it being on fire. It should be empty of people around 1930 zulu, unless Game of Thrones is on and you want to watch that instead… so if you felt like buzzing by and dropping a bomb that could be fun.”
Providing communications for Balikatan
Speaking passively with suggestions for what could be done, rather than what needs to be done, leaves a lot of room for error. It requires that the receiver, the F-16 pilot, cross a field of uncertainty to reach the intended point of the communicator, the JTAC. What if the pilot interpreted the message any other way? Turns out Game of Thronesis on at that time and she does want to see what happens to Tyrion Lannister. And why not? The JTAC said it was okay, and that building will still be there tomorrow. She can bomb it then.
There’s a reason military communication follows a formula. It gives the communicator tools to say in shorthand directly and with clarity what needs to happen. When there is a goal, every element of the message should inform as to what that goal is. In other words a successful message is objective-oriented, which is another skill we practice at home.
I am a quality time person. Gifts are nice and compliments are sweet, but I really feel loved by my husband when we spend time together. When we are hanging out and I have his attention, I feel fulfilled, deserving, and lucky in love. And then there are spells when that well runs dry. If he’s busy at work for a long amount of time, then comes home and gets on his phone to read Group Me texts from his coworkers, I start to grumble. I know more than a few times I’ve looked over at his phone, huffed, and said, “You spend 9 hours a day with those guys. Don’t you talk to them enough?” And twice a week he goes to rugby practice, often with games on Saturdays. It can be easy for me to say, “You sure play rugby a lot” to which he would probably say “…yeah.” (Fair. Was there a question asked? Nope.)
These brief conversations are tense and a perfect example of missed communication. He’s not getting what I’m saying, but he can tell I’m irritated, which in turn makes him irritated. If I were to try a direct approach, this would play out differently. What’s my goal? To have his attention and feel loved. With an objective-oriented approach in mind, I would say, without attitude, “Hey, I haven’t seen a lot of you lately and miss you. It would mean a lot to me if we can spend some time together.” I would have his attention in a second! He would put his phone down and hear me, and probably tell me about his day.
U.S. Coast Guard
I know this because we’ve had this conversation many times, and after years of practicing this kind of direct communication at home, he’s developed a radar on his own for opportunities when we can spend time together. This way, he still goes to rugby practice, but maybe the next night we go get a cappuccino and do a crossword puzzle. He gets to know I still crave him and he surprises me in ways to show me he cares. We eliminate the confusion of wondering why the other person is a jerk who just doesn’t get it. I’m happy. He’s happy. Win-win.
BONUS: In a more literal sense of using military communication, we just taught ourselves Morse code. Last month, we went to the symphony and during Beethoven’s String Quartet in C Minor, started tapping dirty words on each other’s palm to try to make the other person laugh. There’s always that.
Standing in front of a projector that displays the remains of a deceased man, an Army Reserve instructor is not explaining to his 11 students the gruesomeness of what happened to the man, but the proper way to effectively serve in a unique and honorable job as a mortuary affairs specialist.
“Being in mortuary affairs isn’t easy because I know everybody can’t deal with remains,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Garcia, the lead instructor for the Mortuary Affairs Specialist Course held at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, May 12-28, 2018.
“The thing about our job is take those heroes and do all the preparation and help with the valuable effects,” said Garcia, who is assigned to the 5th Multifunctional Battalion, 94th Training Division – Force Sustainment, 80th Training Command (Total Army School System).
The mortuary affairs course falls under the command and control of the 94th Training Division, and the 94th Training Division supports the 80th Training Command’s mission of more than 2,700 instructors providing essential training to Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers.
“When you are dealing with the remains, you are thinking of the families and focused on treating the fallen hero with the utmost respect and dignity,” said Garcia. “It’s an honor to be here and to instruct because this job is like no other.”
Garcia’s students will graduate and move on to serve as combat-ready leaders in their units, but a few received first-hand experience shortly after switching to this military occupational specialty in 2017, and helped when Hurricane Maria hit land.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton)
“One day I’m learning at the morgue. Then I graduate from the mortuary affairs reclass course, and one day later I’m at the morgue again. This time I’m helping them because of the hurricane,” said Sgt. Pedro Cruz, assigned to the 311th Quartermaster Company. “We were working over there every day. I’m doing things I won’t do on deployment because as I hear, ‘you don’t work with remains every day on deployments.'”
Sgt. Adrian Roman-Perez, also assigned 311th Quartermaster Company, was another student who stepped out of the classroom and put what he learned to use shortly after the class ended.
“I worked alongside our instructor because we had to provide support to the morgue,” Roman-Perez said. “It wasn’t that the hurricane happened; it was about the aftermath after it happened.”
“In the Army, we train as we fight but you can’t do that in this job,” said Roman. “Most of the time, you are dealing with a mannequin and never have the opportunity to experience remains or have your body have that kind of stress.”
“For me it was kind of useful and it will be useful on my deployment because it helped prepare me for what is coming up,” Roman-Perez said. “That type of stressful situation helped me and taught me how to cope with it.”
According to Staff Sgt. Izander Estrada, a soldier assigned to 5th Battalion and helping Garcia with the mortuary affairs course, said that Hurricane Maria left a lasting impression not only on the students, but the instructors and staff at the organization.
“There were no trees, and it was so quiet,” he said. “You didn’t hear cars or birds or anything. It was completely quiet. It was a surreal experience.”
“It was a lot of stuff that if you’re not here, living there it’s impossible to understand or to explain,” he added. “Seeing people not having water and electricity, you start think about how important things are and that you take them for granted. Like when the air conditioning is always on, that’s electricity that you’re using.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Emily Anderson)
Despite dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Estrada was one of several individuals tasked with ensuring the future courses at the schoolhouse could still happen.
“This area had buildings actually demolished because of Maria,” he said. “This was September and we had to demonstrate that we could conduct the next class in February.”
The staff at the 5th Battalion worked with the 94th Training Division, the 80th Training Command and Fort Buchanan to secure a building, equipment, power and so on to ensure the next course could take place.
Eight months later classes are still steadily scheduled through the rest of the year, and staff and students are working hard to show why mortuary affairs is a crucial piece of the Army Reserve.
“One of the things I’m grateful for in the class is that I’ve been able to know the instructors and know how they work aside from them instructing,” said Roman. “I can ensure you, they are people that know their job. They know what they are doing, and they know their material and are experienced instructors.”
Both Cruz and Roman-Perez agreed that this job specialty is one that many may not consider, but is worth doing and instructing, if given the opportunity.
“I’ve thought about being an instructor. It is not an easy task but it’s a rewarding one you’ve got the ability to mold soldiers and help them, tell them the proper way of doing stuff, prevent them from slacking and taking up bad habits,” said Roman Perez.
“Mortuary affairs is not for everyone. I will say if new soldiers decide to join mortuary affairs, they will not regret it, ever,” said Cruz. “Maybe they’ll stay there forever because I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really love this MOS. It makes me feel like I’m really doing something for my nation.”
The battle for Iwo Jima in World War II became the bloodiest in U. S. Marine Corps history. But for survivors like Chuck Tatum, it also represents the best, the Marines and the United States has to give. For despite the 23,000 American casualties, including 5,400 dead, the flag atop Mount Suribachi, is a symbol of this nation’s willingness to fight for freedom and liberty, no matter what the cost. This episode is an in-depth interview with Chuck Tatum. These are his dramatic experiences in his own words.
If you were lucky enough to make it out to Agency Arms’ full auto shindig during SHOT Show 2017, you might’ve seen assorted burly dudes and barrel chested former freedom fighters hurling axes at a target. Why? Because lots of barrel chested freedom fighters still use tomahawks.
“But wait, Swingin’ Dick!” we hear you say. “Tomahawks haven’t been used since the days of Rogers’ Rangers and that American Revolution movie with an Australian in it! Isn’t this counterintuitive?”
To which we reply, “False. They’re using tomahawks right now in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Soldier Enhancement Program has been studying it, the combat development team at the US Army Infantry School has discussed its use — hell a platoon of the 101st were issued ‘hawks at Ft. Campbell just to see if the Joes would use it. And don’t forget all the SOF guys who use Winkler or RMJ ‘hawks — oh, and nice use of the word counterintuitive too.”
But, we digress. The specific axe we’re talking about was a custom MCUT, Modular Combat Utility Tool, from Jake Hoback Knives (@jakehobackknives). There were just a few of this particular version made. We’re gonna tell you all about it.
You’re welcome, nasties.
Hoback Modular Combat Utility Tool – MCUT
Hack’n’Slash Friday I: Hatchets and smatchets for rescue and hewin’
The Modular Combat Utility Tool looks very similar to the Hoback Knives logo. That’s hardly an accident.
Jake drew that logo a little over a decade ago (’03?) and has been asked may times over the years to build the axe that logo represents. Well, he finally got around to it…sorta.
We’d show you video and pictures of our own but were never able to get close enough to Jake at SHOT to club him unconscious (or roofie him). You’ll have to settle for these.
Hoback says the MCUT had its genesis in a desire to bring his logo to life in steel, but to do something different from what is an already crowded combat/tactical/taticool tomahawk market. He wanted it to be more than an axe, more than a breaching tool, but not one of those it’s-a-great-concept-but-poor-execution tools that’re often less than truly functional.
He wanted it to be a “Jack of All Trades” type implement, but not a jackin’ off exercise in tactarded futility.
With that in mind he designed the Modular Combat Utility Tool, which is a bit of a mouthful but does look to live up to its name. Here’s a quick rundown.
The base is Type III hard-anodized, 6061T6 aluminum handle, assembled from a total of 7 pieces.
Two (2) x ¼-20 stainless black button head cap screws
Two (2) x 3/16th hardened stainless dowel pins (three of them)
The top of the haft is built with a machine-tooled pocket that holds the dowels, screws, and cover plate. This is the feature that allows you to switch the MCUT between different configurations dependent on mission and needs.
The first run of custom MCUTs will bear the signature Hoback axes head. Later they will offer heads designed for different tasks (breaching, digging, throwing, an evening of relaxing Úlfheðinn berserkergang, etc.).
Hoback promises new videos on his YouTube channel each time he completes one of the new heads.
HOBACK KNIVES MCUT SPECIFICATIONS
Modular Head – .1875 Thick 80CrV2 for the Axe Head
Haft – .75 Thick, 6061T6 Aluminum, Type III Hard-Anodized, Fully 3D-Machined for Texture
Russia is sending what NATO thinks is thousands of troops into Belarus – and the transatlantic alliance is worried the Russians may not leave. The move would pose a counter to the recent movement of NATO forces into the area, including former Soviet states Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Poland.
The Russian and Belorussian response, they claim, is purely defensive. The Russians say it emulates a terrorist threat with external support – that support comes from the West, which the Russian military will move to counter.
Just as Americans embrace the fictional countries the U.S. military uses to train its troops, fictional Twitter and Facebook accounts representing Veishnoriya’s various official ministries have popped up around the war games. There are even fictional seals, flags, and histories surrounding the fictional country. You can even apply for a Veishnoriyan passport.
One Facebook discussion boasted that Veishnoriya has never lost a war, while detractors say, “It’s not Vesbaria, it’s not Lubenia. Volodya, your soldiers will be torn to pieces!”
An estimated three thousand to 100,000 Russian troops are involved (depending on who you ask), along with the Russian 1st Guard Tank Army. It’s an exercise they’ve been running every four years since the 1970s, except for the decade or so after the fall of the Soviet Union.
NATO experts believe the game represents what Moscow thinks is a scenario most likely to come from Western efforts to undermine the Russian sphere of influence.
If the war game did have upwards of 100,000 troops and tanks, the Russians would be required to report the exercise and submit to having foreign observers monitor the exercise, according to the Vienna Document, a 2011 security agreement.
Welcome to the first episode of Season Two of Warriors In Their Own Words. This episode is about the first Combat Helicopters. Today these aircraft carry the firepower of an artillery battery and can strike targets deep behind every lines, flying day or night in any weather. But back in 1944 helicopters were a brand new technology. Aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky supplied the first primitive choppers to the US Army and four pilots were trained to fly the untested aircraft in the jungles of Burma. Carter Harman was one of those first courageous pilots and he performed the world’s first helicopter combat rescue mission.
This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.
Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict. All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.
Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:
The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.
Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.
Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.
The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.
At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.
Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.
Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.
Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.
For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.
An ISIS expert claims there is a glaring “Achilles heel” present in the US strategy in Iraq and Syria, stating that the lack of any planning for the political future of the region after the terrorist group is wiped out will nullify the military gains made against the group.
“Only a fool would call this a victory,” Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and the co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” told The New Yorker. “It’s only the expulsion of ISIS fighters from a wasteland. It’s not a victory, not only because of the destruction. It’s also not a victory because there’s a shameless lack of a political track to supplement the military track. That’s the Achilles heel of Operation Inherent Resolve. They don’t have a political vision about what will happen after ISIS.”
The destruction Hassan mentions is almost total in Raqqa. The activist journalism group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently claims that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting between ISIS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and the US coalition.
The group has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes and 1,873 civilian deaths throughout the urban battle, and says 450,000 people remain displaced from the city.
Yet Hassan’s main argument is that the main threat to the success of the US-led mission is that there is no political plan for what will come after ISIS’s territorial defeat.
Professor Robert Pape, the director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago, said he agrees.
“When we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003 we created ungoverned space for Sunni Arabs in Iraq which then spilled over in nearby Syria,” Pape says. “The worry here is that as that area of Iraq and Syria now could remain ungoverned space from the perspective of the Sunni Arabs, this problem may just simply fester and continue.”
ISIS, and the war to defeat it, has inflicted enormous violence upon the Sunni Arabs of the region, and its effects will stick with the Sunni populations of Iraq and Syria for generations.
And throughout the campaign to liberate Sunni regions previously under the the rule of ISIS, Iraq has employed Shiite militias with ties to Iran, called the Popular Mobilization Forces, which have been suspicious of Sunni villagers in conquered ISIS territory. Iraq’s own security forces have also frequently resorted to brutality against civilians in places like Mosul, which was an ISIS stronghold until recently.
Meanwhile, vast swaths of eastern Syria remain controlled by Kurdish-led militias in the form of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or by the Shiite-led Syrian government.
An additional yet significant ethnic challenge lies in how to divide power between Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis in Syria and Iraq after the dust settles. Already, Iraq’s central government is asserting itself in regions controlled by Kurds around Kirkuk and Mosul, where clashes have occurred.
Such post-conflict realities in the Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria have led to widespread distrust between locals and the governments and militaries that now control them and have deepened the same feelings of political isolation among Sunnis that led to the rise of ISIS between 2007 and 2013.
According to Hassan, the “Achilles heel” of the US-led coalition’s strategy is that it makes no preparations to resolve these complex problems, and focuses solely on a military victory over ISIS. In his view, such a limited approach will only hasten the return of another Sunni insurgent movement in the region.