Monday, September 15, 2014

Islamic State Rebuilds Its Manpower In Iraq And Syria


The Islamic State has been able to rebuild its cadres to 20,000 fighters or more (AFP)

The Islamic State’s (IS) ability to take and hold a swath of northern Syria since 2013 and then parts of northern Iraq in 2014 could only be accomplished through a large armed force. Recently the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that the organization has anywhere between 20,000-31,500 fighters in both countries. That was a big increase from some predictions, while others have pointed to even larger numbers. For example, analyst Najim al-Kasab told the Daily Beast in July 2014 that IS had just 6,000 men, and an unnamed U.S. official put it at 10,000 when talking to the Washington Post the month before that. Others however have placed the figure much higher such as the Long War Journal, which believed the group had up to 50,000 men under arms. Another, Hishim al-Hashimi told the Telegraph that there were at least 25,000 IS fighters in Iraq alone. Whatever the true figure it is far higher than most initially believed.

The CIA’s new estimate shows how far the organization has come from its nadir in 2011. At that time former CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress that there were only 1,000 fighters left of the then Islamic State of Iraq. Many believed that the group was on its way out as much of its leadership had been jailed or killed, and the Americana and Iraqi forces and dramatically degraded its capabilities. As soon as the U.S. military departed however IS began making its comeback. In January 2012 it was able to launch multiple car bombs on the same day in both central and southern Iraq on January 9, and then carry out the first car bomb wave of the year starting on January 12. By the summer it had increased its capacity to the point where it was able to have two to three car bomb waves a month. August 16 it also posted a video of an operation it carried out in western Anbar province. It documented IS fighters wearing SWAT uniforms and driving police trucks assaulting five different locations and executing policemen in the Haditha area. It also highlighted a training camp somewhere in the Anbar desert and the planning session for the attack. The insurgents showed a level of sophistication in the operation only seen in Special Forces units. In more recent times the group has been able to regenerate its cadres through a number of means. First, it has a large amount of money to pay fighters. As early as 2005 the group was self-sufficient raising most of its money through extortion rackets and other criminal activity inside Iraq. Today it controls oil fields in both Syria and Iraq, and is involved in extensive petroleum smuggling, which could earn it up to several million dollars a day. It is also trying to regulate and charge fees in bank transactions in places like Mosul, and is running trade between Jordan, Syria and Iraq. This allows it to attract and pay new recruits. Second, the declaration of the Caliphate in June 2014 after its dramatic capture of parts of Ninewa, Salahaddin and Kirkuk has made it the premier jihadist group in the world. It was already bringing in many foreign fighters from its successes in Syria, and that number has undoubtedly swollen with its surge in Iraq. Third, IS has been gaining more followers within Iraq as well. It has relentlessly threatened and fought other insurgent groups in northern and central Iraq demanding their loyalty for months now. While some have resisted others have pledged allegiance to IS. Regular Iraqis have also joined the group swept up like others by its victories over the Iraqi Security Forces. All together this has provided a rich environment for the Islamic State to increase its numbers.

The Islamic State’s charge across central Iraq has been stopped and it is now facing the threat of wider air strikes by the Americans, but that has in no way slowed its ability to recruit new followers and carry out attacks. Ironically, the U.S. operations play into the organization’s image as the defender of Islam against the west, and provide it another recruiting opportunity. It now has a surplus of arms and supplies that it captured from the Iraqi and Syrian forces, plenty of money, and lots of new followers. That means it can make up for any losses without significantly slowing down its operations posing a huge challenge for both the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

SOURCES

Ardolino, Bill and Roggio, Bill, “Al Qaeda in Iraq video details deadly raid in Haditha,” Long War Journal, 8/21/12

Dilanian, Ken, “CIA: Islamic State group has up to 31,500 fighters,” Associated Press, 9/11/14

Hegghammer, Thomas, “The Foreign Policy Essay: Calculated Caliphate,” Lawfare, 7/6/14

Johnson, Keith, “The Islamic State Is the Newest Petrostate,” Foreign Policy, 7/28/14

Joumah, Khales, “Paying For The Caliphate: When Extremists Become Bad Bank Managers In Mosul,” Niqash, 9//14

Kenner, David, “Panetta: 1,000 al Qaeda terrorists still in Iraq,” The Cable, Foreign Policy, 6/9/11

Al Mada, “Daash manages the import and export operations and bartered vegetables for food,” 7/27/14

Miller, Greg, “ISIS rapidly accumulating cash, weapons, U.S. intelligence official say,” Washington Post, 6/24/14

New Sabah, “70 militants of Naqshbandi and the Islamic Army and the Mujahideen Army swear allegiance to Baghdadi,” 8/27/14

Roggio, Bill, “On the CIA estimate of number of fighters in the Islamic State,” Long War Journal Threat Matrix, 9/13/14

Sherlock, Ruth, “Inside the leadership of Islamic State: how the new ‘caliphate’ is run,” Telegraph, 7/9/14

Siegel, Jacob, “With Friends Like These, ISIS Is Doomed,” Daily Beast, 7/24/14

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Musings On Iraq In The News


My interview with Anbar’s Governor Ahmed Dulaimi was picked up by Business Insider along with my article on IS attacks upon Iraq's Yazidis. I was mentioned in Vox's "3 numbers that explain why ISIS will be so hard to destroy." My interview with Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi on the Iraqi insurgency was cited in "ISIL's Political-Military Power in Iraq" by Michael Knights in the CTC Sentinel. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Premier Haider Abadi’s New Iraq Government


President Fuad Masum, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, Dawa, State of Law
Vice President Osama Nujafi, Mutahidun
Vice President Iyad Allawi, Nationalist Coalition/Wataniya

Prime Minister Haider Abadi, Dawa, State of Law
Deputy Premier Salah al-Mutlaq, al-Arabiya
Deputy Premier Hoshyar Zebari, Kurdistan Democratic Party
Deputy Premier Bahaa Araji, Sadrist/Ahrar, National Alliance

Defense Minister VACANT
Interior Minister VACANT
Agriculture Minister Falah Hassan Zaidan, Mutahidun
Communications Minister Hassan Kadhim Rasheed, Badr Organization, State of Law
Culture Minister Fryad Rawanduzi, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Education Minister Mohammed Iqbal Omar, Iraqi Islamic Party, Mutahidun
Electricity Minister Qasim Abdi Mohammed Hammadi al-Fahadawi, Loyalty to Anbar
Environment Minister Qutaiba Jabouri, Iraq Coalition
Finance Minister Rowsch Nouri Shaways, Kurdistan Democratic Party
Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, National Reform Trend, National Alliance
Health Minister Adilla Hamoud Hussein, State of Law
Higher Education Minister Hussein Shahristani, Independents, State of Law
Housing Minister Tariq Kinani, Sadrist/Ahrar, National Alliance
Human Rights Minister Mohammed Bayati, Badr Organization, State of Law
Industry Minister Nasir Issawi, Sadrist/Ahrar, National Alliance
Justice Minister Haider Zamili, Fadhila, National Alliance
Labor Minister Mohammed Shaia’a Sudani, Dawa, State of Law
Municipalities Minister Abdul Karim Younis Aylan, Badr Organization, State of Law
Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq/Citizen’s
Alliance/Mowatin, National Alliance
Planning Minister Salman Ali Hassan Jumali, Mutahidun
Provinces Minister Ahmed Abdullah, al-Arabiya
Science Minister Faris Youssef Jajou
Sports Minister Abdul Hussein Abdul Ridha Abtan, Islamic Supreme Council of
Iraq/Citizen’s Alliance/Mowatin, National Alliance
Trade Minister Mlass Mohammed Husseini, Nationalist Coalition/Wataniya
Transportation Minister Bayan Jabr, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq/Citizen’s
Alliance/Mowatin, National Alliance

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Attacks Remain Low In Iraq 1st Week of September But Massacres Keep Casualties High


For the last several weeks the number of reported security incidents has dipped, but casualties have stayed at a high level. Fighting in Iraq remains intense in some parts of the country, but the insurgent charge during the summer has largely been subdued accounting for the decline in attacks. At the same time there are more and more reports of the Islamic State carrying out mass executions of people in its conquered territory, which accounts for the large number of casualties. This is likely the status quo in Iraq for the foreseeable future. 

In the first week of September there were the second lowest number of reported security incidents for the year. From September 1-7 the press had 168 incidents. That was the lowest figure for 2014 since 150 were recorded from August 15-21. This fits in with the recent trend, which started in August when attacks steadily declined going from 265 the first week, to 178 the second, 150 the third, and 179 the fourth. This all points to fighting in the country having settled into a rough stalemate. There is fierce fighting in some areas of the country, but in most provinces there are relatively few attacks. Baghdad for example had the most incidents with 50 for the first week of September, but in Kirkuk there were only 18, 16 in Ninewa, 11 in Diyala, and 10 in Babil. In comparison in January there were an average of 5.4 attacks per day in Ninewa with only 2.2 the last week.

The numbered killed in Iraq has been going in the opposite direction with the figures climbing over the last couple weeks. From September 1-7 there were 616 fatalities. That followed 348 from August 15-21, and 542 from August 22-28. The number of dead the first week of September was made up of 38 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 4 sahwa, 6 peshmerga, and 568 civilians. There were another 751 people wounded during the week consisting of 70 ISF, 3 sahwa, 41 peshmerga, and 637 civilians. Massacres by IS in Ninewa and Salahaddin is the main reason why the number of dead have been going up recently. As the group consolidates its control over northern Iraq it is killing more dissenters, minorities, and those who refuse to pledge allegiance to it. September 1 15 Yazidis were killed when one of their shrines was blown up by IS in Sinjar, Ninewa. September 2 7 people were executed in Mosul. September 4 15 people were shot in Mosul in two separate incidents. The next day three women were killed in the city. September 6 five fortune tellers were reportedly beheaded there as well, followed by 46 people being killed there the next day. In Salahaddin 60 bodies were discovered in Baiji and 24 truck drivers were found in Sulaiman Bek on September 3. After Amerli was liberated 24 executed people were uncovered there. That same day, September 5 another 35 bodies turned up in Sulaiman Bek. In total there were 234 people executed by the Islamic State for the week, roughly one third of the total number of fatalities.

Violence In Iraq By Week 2014
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan 1-7
244
363
736
Jan 8-14
272
364
683
Jan 15-21
205
358
616
Jan 22-28
236
305
618
Jan 29-31
57
93
237
JAN
1,014
1,483
2,890
Feb 1-7
204
296
700
Feb 8-14
226
258
505
Feb 15-21
264
346
703
Feb 22-28
251
374
618
FEB
945
1,274
2,526
Mar 1-7
253
412
702
Mar 8-14
206
324
612
Mar 15-21
216
423
736
Mar 22-27
211
279
580
Mar 28-31
110
168
271
MAR
996
1,606
2,901
Apr 1-7
238
259
550
Apr 8-14
223
362
646
Apr 15-21
251
406
786
Apr 22-28
226
347
744
Apr 29-30
61
82
179
APR
999
1,456
2,905
May 1-7
198
246
483
May 8-14
257
469
752
May 15-21
183
256
426
May 22-28
204
407
817
May 29-31
63
90
132
MAY
905
1,468
2,610
Jun 1-7
224
588
1,021
Jun 8-14
227
658
887
Jun 15-21
170
729
564
Jun 22-28
170
720
775
Jun 29-30
56
127
236
JUN
877
2,822
3,483
Jul 1-7
200
511
622
Jul 8-14
211
577
625
Jul 15-21
225
398
1,000
Jul 22-28
223
549
801
Jul 29-31
65
162
230
JUL
924
2,197
3,278
Aug 1-8
265
951
885
Aug 9-14
178
709
1,152
Aug 15-21
150
348
499
Aug 22-28
179
542
815
Aug 29-31
58
118
289
AUG
830
2,668
3,640
Sep 1-7
168
616
751

Security Incidents In Iraq By Province Sep 1-7 2014
Province
Security
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Types of
Attack
Anbar
23
104
9 ISF
2 Sahwa
93 Civilians
158
25 ISF
2 Sahwa
131 Civilians
8 Shootings
2 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Suicide Bomber
Babil
10
12
12 Civilians
30
2 ISF
28 Civilians
1 Shooting
6 IEDs
Baghdad
50
112
14 ISF
2 Sahwa
96 Civilians
297
27 ISF
1 Sahwa
269 Civilians
17 Shootings
25 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
4 Car Bombs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
Basra
2
2
2 Civilians

1 Shooting
Diyala
11
9
9 Civilians
27
27 Civilians
4 Shootings
12 IEDs
1 Suicide Bomber
Kirkuk
18
42
42 Civilians
61
61 Civilians
7 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Car bomb
Ninewa
16
103
103 Civilians
6
6 Civilians
7 Shootings
15 IEDs
Qadisiyah
2

2
2 Civilians
2 IEDs
Salahaddin
36
232
15 ISF
6 Peshmerga
211 Civilians
170
16 ISF
41 Peshmerga
113 Civilians
19 Shootings
7 IEDs
3 Car Bombs


The Islamic State has continued with its intensified car bomb campaign as well. For the last several weeks IS has been launching wave after wave of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) with only one to two days in between them. The beginning of September was no different. September 1 marked the end of the last wave, which began on August 29. Then the next series started on September 3 with a bombing in Samarra and lasted until September 6 with another bombing in that city. In total 11 VBIEDs went off for the week costing the lives of 58 people and wounding another 184. The targets during the week were split between those aimed at stoking sectarian tensions like the five on Baghdad and tactical ones like hitting Samarra and Camp Speicher outside of Tikrit.

Car Bombs In Iraq Sep. 2014
Date
Location
Dead
Wounded
Sep 1
Baya x2, Baghdad
13
45
Sep 2



Sep 3
Samarra, Salahaddin
7
17
Sep 4
Albu Faraj, Anbar
Kadhimiya & Sadoun St, Baghdad
Kirkuk, Kirkuk
24
85
Sep 5
Amiriya Fallujah, Anbar
Zafaraniya, Baghdad
Tikrit, Salahaddin
14
33
Sep 6
Samarra, Salahaddin

4
Sep 7



Totals
11
58
184


Anbar is a perfect example of how fighting in the country has deadlocked. Since the beginning of August insurgents have been trying to take Haditha and its nearby dam, while the Iraqi Security Forces and tribes are trying to clear the area around Ramadi for the umpteenth time this year. On September 2 IS fighters attacked Haditha on three fronts but were stopped. During that same time the ISF and tribes were continuing with clearing operations in Ramadi where insurgents have been able to expand from the south into the southern and northern sections. September 3 the ISF claimed it cleared Garma and Ben Ali, and then Hamidhiya the following day. The problem as always in the province is that the ISF and tribes have gone into these exact same areas again and again and again since January only to have them slip back into insurgent hands. The Anbar Operations Command simply has no strategy in place to clear and hold areas in the governorate, which is why no real progress has been made there. For the week there were a total of 23 incidents leading to 104 killed and 158 wounded. As usual a large number of those casualties were the result of indiscriminate government shelling, which hit Fallujah and Garma and resulted in 69 deaths and 120 injured.

Babil saw continued security operations by militias, while the Islamic State were striking back at them. There have been at least two clearing campaigns by militias in Yusifiya in the last few weeks with the last ending on September 5. IS has been attacking the Shiite gunmen in response with a mortar attack upon Iskandiriya on September 1 killing one militiaman and wounding two. September 3 an IED in Jurf al-Sakhr left one militiaman dead and two injured. Finally, September 5 a convoy was hit by an IED leaving 4 dead and 14 wounded. For the week the province saw 10 attacks, 12 killed and 30 wounded.

Baghdad had the most attacks of any province for the week. There were 50 that led to 112 killed and 297 wounded. Five car bombs went off in the governorate at the beginning of September hitting Baya, Kadhimiya, Sadoun Street, and Zafaraniya leaving behind 40 bodies and 123 injured. There were an additional 17 shootings, 25 IEDs and 3 sticky bombs during the week. Since fighting has subsided in northern Iraq Baghdad has returned as the main target of the insurgents.

The peshmerga are still trying to retake Jalawla in eastern Diyala after losing it to IS led militants in August. The Kurds have been able to clear some of the surrounding villages, but have not entered the town itself. In the meantime IS is carrying out reprisals there executing three on September 2 and blowing up the home of a sheikh and four of his relatives on September 6. In the center of the governorate the Diyala police chief announced a plan to clear the water system for Baladrooz, which had been cut off by the Islamic State. Outside the Jalawla area most of the province is relatively calm with only 11 attacks, 9 dead and 27 wounded for the start of September.

Kirkuk saw 42 killed and 61 injured for the week. Just over half of these were due to Iraqi Army air attacks upon Zab, Hawija, Tamor and Albu Zarkh, along with artillery fire on Tal Ali that left 27 dead and 36 wounded.

Similarly the Kurds are attempting to push the Islamic State out of the area to the north of Mosul in Ninewa. September 4 the peshmerga took four towns around Khazir, which had fallen to the militants the previous month. That was part of a larger push to retake Bashiqa, which is by Mosul Dam. These operations are being supported by American air strikes. On the other had there were eight reported executions by IS in Mosul and Sinjar causing 91 people to lose their lives. The Islamic State is attempting to assert its power over the province by executing those that break its rules. More of these incidents are going to occur in the future. Government air strikes killed another 11.

Salahaddin had the most casualties in the first week of September. There were 36 attacks causing 232 fatalities and 170 wounded. Heavy fighting continued throughout the middle of the governorate. This area was the target of 3 car bombs hitting Samarra and Camp Speicher outside of Tikrit. Most importantly militias, peshmerga, Iranian advisers backed by the U.S. Air Force relieved the town of Amerli that had been besieged for two months. After the initial victory the militias turned on their erstwhile Kurdish allies banning them from entering the town. At the same time, the peshmerga, militias and ISF were clearing areas of Tuz Kharmato during the week. A less successful attempt was launched to enter Tikrit again, which seemed to stall as soon as it began. The governor also announced that a tribal force of 5,000 fighters had been organized to help the security forces fight the insurgency. It wasn’t clear whether these men would be supported by Baghdad, which would be crucial to sustain them. Finally as areas of IS control were retaken several mass graves were found in Suleiman Bek, Baiji, and Amerli with 143 bodies in them. Government air strikes killed another 39 and wounded 33 east of Tikrit and in Baiji. Almost all of those came in one incident in Alam on September 2 when 38 died and 25 were wounded, all of which were displaced people. The government claimed it was a mistake, but the victims and their relatives believe that the pilot had to know he was hitting civilians.

SOURCES

AIN, "IA soldiers killed, injured northern Ramadi," 9/4/14

Alsumaria, "Killed and injured 13 by a roadside bomb on the entrance to Speicher military base north of Tikrit," 9/5/14
- "Seven dead and 17 injured in a car bomb targeting a gather of the army south of Tikrit," 9/3/14

Buratha News, "Daash executed 7 civilian residents of Mosul," 9/2/14
- "Found 60 bodies from Baiji north of Tikrit," 9/3/14
- "Injuring four people, blowing up a car bomb in central Samarra," 9/6/14
- “Salahuddin Governor announces the formation of a tribal force of five thousand fighters for the liberation of the province from Daash terrorists,” 9/7/14

Coles, Isabel, “Iranians play role in breaking IS siege of Iraqi town,” Reuters, 9/1/14

Fahim, Kareem, Ahmed, Azam, and Semple, Kirk, “Sunni Mistrust Is Major Hurdle for New Iraqi Leaders,” New York Times, 9/10/14

Al Forat, “4 villages of Sueliman Bek liberated,” 9/2/14
- "ISIL executes woman, throws her body in Tigris River," 9/4/14

Independent Press Agency, “Security forces stormed the start of the four axes of Tikrit,” 9/2/14

Iraq Times, "Death toll in suicide bombing in Kazimiyah up to 50 holy martyrs and wounded," 9/4/14
- “Shammari announce the start of a military operation to end the siege of water for the district of Baladruz,” 9/6/14

Jaffe, Greg, "In Amerli, an unusual alliance defeated Islamic radicals. Don't count on that lasting," Washington Post, 9/5/14

Al Mada, "Killing and wounding six soldiers blown up by a suicide car bomb north of Ramadi," 9/4/14
- "Killing and injuring three volunteers in mortar attack north of Babylon," 9/1/14
- “Peshmerga controls the strategic mountain overlooking Ba’shiqa and is waiting to intervene,” 9/6/14

Mamuzini, Hazhar, "IS Militants Behead Five Fortunetellers in Mosul," Bas News, 9/6/14

Al Masalah, "6 civilians killed and 33 wounded by a roadside bomb near Victory Square in central Baghdad," 9/4/14
- "Martyrdom of two elements of the Popular Brigades and wounded 18 by a roadside bomb north of Babylon," 9/5/14

NINA, "/16/ people injured by a car bomb north of the city of Kirkuk," 9/4/14
- "/35/ Bodies found in Sulaiman Bek district south of Kirkuk," 9/5/14
- “An army force backed by the sons of the tribes liberated Al-Hamidhiya area northeast of Ramadi,” 9/4/14
- “Army troops liberated areas east of Fallujah from the IS,” 9/3/14
- “Backed By US Fighter Jets, Peshmerga Begins Attack To Expel Islamic State Outside Ba’shiqa North of Mosul,” 9/7/14
- "Breaking News../3/ soldiers killed, /9/ civilians wounded in a suicide attack south of Fallujah," 9/5/14
- “Interior Ministry announces the cleansing of areas in Salah al-Din,” 9/1/14
- "Islamic State executed 14 civilians in Mosul," 9/4/14
- "The Islamic State executes three women in Mosul," 9/5/14
- "One element killed, two injured from the popular mobilization in Jurf al-Sakhar," 9/3/14
- “A security source: Military units carried out operations on the areas of the IS holed up in Ramadi,” 9/6/14
- "Urgent….Death toll of victims of the two explosions in Bayaa up to 58 killed and wounded," 9/1/14
- “Yankja area west of Tuz cleansed from the IS elements,” 9/1/14

Radio Free Iraq, “02 September 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 9/2/14

Radio Nawa, "Daash militants blow up houses of tribal elder and four of his relatives in Jalawla," 9/6/14

Al Rayy, "Daash executed three people in Jalawla on charges of incitement against the Islamic State," 9/2/14
- “Popular Battalions with the support of the security forces cleansed area of Fadhiliya in Yusifiya of terrorists,” 9/5/14

Rudaw, “Peshmerga Squeeze Militants in Nineveh, Recapture Four Towns and Villages,” 9/5/14

Saad, Mustafa, "Mass grave found east of Tikrit," Alsumaria, 9/3/14

Shafaq News, "10 wounded from popular crowd by car bomb explosion near al-Askariyain shrine in Samarra," 9/3/14
- "ISIS kills 15 Yazidi elders by blowing a shrine in Sinjar," 9/1/14

Yacoub, Sameer, "Iraq Attacks Kill 17 as Mass Grave Found," Associated Press, 9/5/14
- "Sunni militants kidnap dozens of men in Iraq," Associated Press, 9/4/14