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Main events – February 19-25 2015
This week, there were no significant changes in the various combat zones in Iraq and Syria. YPG’s Kurdish forces continue to repel ISIS from the rural area of Kobani and this week it was reported that they were nearing the city of Tal al-Abyad, which is controlled by ISIS.
As the fighting continued in the area of Kobani, this week, Turkey evacuated a Turkish enclave in Syrian territory located about 35 km south of the Turkish-Syrian border. Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, was buried there. The evacuation, carried out by the Turkish Army and Turkish intelligence services, was accomplished without confrontation with ISIS.
ISIS, which is establishing its presence in Libya, used social networks for recruiting foreign fighters to fight in the ranks of the organization in Libya. Suicide bombers from the ISIS branch in Libya carried out attacks against targets affiliated with the secular Libyan government, based in eastern Libya. ISIS operatives continue to threaten Italy and the entire Christian world (“to conquer Rome”).
US and coalition airstrikes
During the week, there were several dozen airstrikes by US and coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. Following are the locations of the airstrikes (US Department of Defense website):
In Syria, airstrikes were carried out in the areas of Al-Hasakah, Deir al-Zor and Kobani (Ayn al-Arab). The airstrikes destroyed ISIS battle positions and damaged ISIS units and vehicles. An airstrike near Al-Hasakah damaged an oil drilling facility used by ISIS.
In Iraq, airstrikes were carried out in the areas of Baiji, Kirkuk, Mosul, Tal Afar, Al-Assad and Rutba. The airstrikes damaged battle positions, checkpoints, vehicles, buildings, weapons and heavy machinery, among other things.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that a fighter plane squadron of its air force, based in Jordan, carried out airstrikes on ISIS positions and areas occupied by ISIS (apparently in Syria). The targets attacked included oil refining facilities controlled by ISIS. The squadron came to Jordan on the orders of UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, February 17, 2015).
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that 1,601 people were killed in coalition airstrikes in Syria between September 23, 2014, when the airstrikes began, and February 23, 2015. Of those killed, 1,465 were ISIS operatives, most of whom were not Syrian. The SOHR noted that in its assessment, the number of ISIS operatives killed in coalition airstrikes is even higher. This is because ISIS customarily conceals the number of its losses and because of the difficulty in documenting all the places where airstrikes were carried out (syriahr.com, February 23, 2015).
According to American reports, the Iraqi Army is preparing to recapture Mosul
According to statements by senior US Army officials, the Iraqi Army is preparing to recapture the city of Mosul in the spring of 2015:
During a press briefing, a senior official at the US Army Central Command said that the US intends to set up a site for training troops in Saudi Arabia, and added that preparations for opening a training site in Turkey were nearly completed. According to the official, preparing the forces to regain control of Mosul is underway and the operation is expected to begin in April-May 2015. The operation will be carried out byIraqi Army forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Iraqi police forces, and forces from local (Sunni) tribes. The US will help the Iraqi Army regain control of Mosul by various means, including supplying military equipment, training, and sharing of intelligence. The US spokesman did not rule out the possibility of American ground assistance (US Department of State website, February 19, 2015).
A senior US military official said that 25,000 Iraqi soldiers will take part in the attack on Mosul, which is expected to take place in April-May 2015. He said that the city of Mosul had been held since June 2015 by 1,000-2,000 jihadi operatives. He added that it remained unclear whether it would be necessary to advance the American advisers in Iraq to the front in order to coordinate the attacks. According to the US military official, the high-quality core of the Iraqi Army is its five experienced brigades, consisting of around 10,000 soldiers. These brigades are currently engaged in training and coordination with the Kurdish force (The New York Times, February 19, 2015).
International summit on countering “violent extremism”
The international White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism was held in Washington DC on February 18-19, 2015 (Note: for reasons of political correctness, there is no mention of the Islamic-jihadi nature of the terrorism in question). The summit was attended by senior representatives from over 60 countries worldwide. Addressing the summit, US President Barack Obama stressed that the West is not at war with Islam. President Obama detailed the efforts to deal with the threats of “violent extremism,” including rejecting the “twisted ideologies” of terrorist groups, addressing the economic and political grievances among disadvantaged population groups and mobilizing the local population to take part in the struggle. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US State Department will increase its support for Interpol in dealing with the phenomenon of foreign fighters (White House website, February 19, 2015).
Written by: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC)