Tag Archives: Iraqi Army

Obama faces backlash after blaming intel community for missing ISIS

Official : White House aware of ISIS threat for over a year

Official : White House aware of ISIS threat for over a year

One wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, woke up Monday morning checking for tire tracks after his boss effectively threw him under the bus for having “underestimated” the threat posed by the Islamic State militant group.

But Obama’s remarks in a “60 Minutes” interview drew immediate objections from lawmakers and the intelligence community.

In the interview, Obama was asked how the Islamic State was able to gain so much territory. “Our head of the intelligence community Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” the president said.

Clapper previously had admitted that U.S. analysts both underestimated the Islamic State, or ISIS, and “overestimated” the ability of the Iraqi army to fight them.

But sources say Obama nevertheless was looped in on the rise of ISIS for a while.

A military intelligence official told Fox News that the Obama administration had options on the table to target senior leadership of ISIS — as well as the Al Qaeda-aligned Khorasan Group — in the 18 months leading up to the strikes in Syria which began last week.

The official, who is familiar with the data collection, said the threat from ISIS and Khorasan was well-documented in the president’s daily brief for over a year, but the White House failed to act.

The official said the intelligence community “pushed hard” to identify the leadership of both groups for targeting purposes and these options were presented to the president’s team — and “every option was denied.”

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., also questioned the president’s comments on Monday. Speaking on MSNBC, he said he himself became aware of the threat in the summer of 2013. King said Obama “dropped the ball” and is trying to blame others.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaking on CNN, also said he’s “puzzled” by some of the president’s statements.

“The intelligence comments — intelligence people are pushing back hard,” McCain said. “We predicted this and watched it. It was like watching a train wreck and warning every step of the way that this was happening … It is a direct result of our failure to leave a residual force behind.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest fielded a string of questions at Monday’s briefing about the interview. Asked if Obama intended to blame the intelligence community, Earnest said: “He did not.”

He acknowledged Obama “is the one that is ultimately responsible for protecting the national security interests of the United States of America.” He added: “There’s no question that he relies on important advice from the leaders in our military, from leaders in our diplomatic corps, and from leaders in our intelligence [community].”

In discussing Iraq, Obama told “60 Minutes” that the U.S. left the country after the war with “a democracy that was intact, a military that was well-equipped and the ability then (for Iraqis) to chart their own course.”

However, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “squandered” that opportunity over roughly five years because he was “much more interested in consolidating his Shia base and very suspicious of the Sunnis and the Kurds, who make up the other two thirds of the country,” the president said.

He also said ISIS regrouped under the cover of the Syrian civil war.

“During the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos,” Obama said.

He also said it was “absolutely true” that the U.S. overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army.

However, Obama also acknowledged that the U.S. is dealing with a conundrum in Syria, as the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State is helping Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the U.N. has accused of war crimes.

“I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance,” Obama said. “We are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad,” whose government has committed “terrible atrocities.”

However, Obama called the threat from the Islamic State and other terror groups a more “immediate concern that has to be dealt with.”

The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has taken control of large sections of Iraq and Syria. The Khorasan Group is a cell of militants that the U.S. says is plotting attacks against the West in cooperation with the Nusra front, Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliate.

Both groups have been targeted by U.S. airstrikes in recent days; together they constitute the most significant military opposition to Assad.

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Sunni militants seize Tal Afar city of 200k citizens enlarging control of Iraq

The Sunni militants fighting to make an Islamic state in Iraq have scored another victory in their move to control more territory. They captured Tal Afar, a city of 200,000 residents in north-west of the country.The city was taken just before dawn on Monday, Mayor Abdulal Abdoul confirmed to AP. The report was also confirmed by residents on the phone.

Residents reported that there was heavy fighting within the city limits as Shiite security troops used rockets and helicopters in an attempt to stop the advancing militants.

“The situation is disastrous in Tal Afar. There is crazy fighting and most families are trapped inside houses, they can’t leave town,” a local official told Reuters on Sunday before the city was overrun. “If the fighting continues, a mass killing among civilians could result.”

Tal Afar is home to mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkmen. Residents fear persecution by the hardline orthodox Sunni fighters comprising the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Sham movement.

The city had been one of the few spots of resistance to ISIS in the north-west of Iraq because, unlike most other Iraqi troops, the unit defending it didn’t flee the militants. It is also located close to the regions controlled by Kurds, who have been autonomous from Baghdad in most regards and have their own militias.

Iraqi men, who volunteered to fight against the Jihadist militants, gather around buses in Baghdad on June 13, 2014, as security forces are bolstering defenses in the capital.

US-trained Iraqi army and security forces proved to be grossly unprepared to defend the country from the lightning operation of ISIS, which is now in control of a large territory, including Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

ISIS military success made US consider the prospect of joining forces with its long-time adversary Iran to help the Iraqi government in dealing with the imminent threat.

ISIS seeks to create a fundamentalist Islamist state in the territories or Iraq and Syria with the majority of Sunni population. They are one of the fiercest and most radical fighters in the region, notorious for staging suicide bombing attacks and mass executions.

Their Iraqi offensive also made them the most wealthy and well-armed militant force in the region, after they captured banks and military depots.

ISIS ‘execute’ 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, post gruesome pictures (GRAPHIC)

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province.

Radical Sunni militants who have been capturing cities in northwest Iraq claimed on Twitter that they executed 1,700 Iraqi soldiers. The radicals posted graphic photos as evidence.

The photographs, which were posted on the Twitter account associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), came with captions that described their alleged massacre. They did not provide a date or location, but chief military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the killings took place in Salahuddin province, located north of Baghdad.

Some of the images show dozens of captured men in civilian clothes loaded onto trucks, with the captions saying that they were taken to their deaths.

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) transporting dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.

Another image shows men lying down in a ditch with their arms behind their head. Some of the final photographs show bodies covered in blood with several gunshot wounds.

It is impossible to independently verify the photographs and the number of people killed.

Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed the photos’ authenticity on Sunday, adding that he is aware of mass executions of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas controlled by ISIS.

Following the analysis of the images by military experts, it was concluded that about 170 soldiers were shot to death by the militants, he told the Associated Press.

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province.

Violence continued to escalate in Iraq on Sunday, with local residents telling to Reuters that ISIS insurgents attacked and took control of the town of Tal Afar, located in northwestern Iraq.

Iraqi Gen. Mohammed al-Quraishi confirmed to CNN that the city fell to Sunni rebels. Tal Afar is located in the Nineveh province and has a population of about 80,000 people, most of whom are Iraqi Turkmen.

Meanwhile, the US announced it will be increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad and moving some of its personnel out of the capital. Less than 100 US Marines and other military personnel are headed to Iraq to reinforce security at the US embassy in Baghdad, Reuters reported, citing a military official.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also said that a number of embassy staff were withdrawn from Baghdad on Sunday. “The Australian embassy remains open with reduced staffing levels,” DFAT stated. “We are unlikely to be able to provide consular assistance in Iraq at the current time.”

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) standing next to dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.

Earlier, ISIS insurgents seized Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in the north of the country as well as Tikrit – the capital of Salahuddin province, where the alleged massacre of soldiers took place.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday that the organization received a number of reports of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings” as ISIL militants raided Iraqi cities. The number of people killed last week may be in the hundreds, she added.

Once an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, ISIS fell out with the global terrorist network. The hyper-fundamentalist group, which is active in Iraq and Syria, gained notoriety for its ruthless tactics which include publicly crucifying and beheading those who violate their strict religious interpretations.

Iraq came under the influence of a Shia-majority government after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime in 2003. Since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, sectarian tensions have boiled over, resulting in Sunni insurgents increasingly waging war against the central government.