American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present)
|American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present)|
|Part of the Intervention against ISIL,|
the Iraqi Civil War (2014–present), and
the Global War on Terrorism
An American F/A-18C Hornet aboard USS George H.W. Bush prior to the launch of operations over Iraq in 2014.
||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Commanders and leaders|
Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa
Mustafa Said Qadir
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (WIA) (Self-proclaimed Caliph)
Sleiman Daoud al-Afari (POW) (ISIL chemical weapons chief)
Around 100,000 fighters (according to Iraqi Kurdistan Chief of Staff.)
|Casualties and losses|
An American-led intervention in Iraq started on 15 June 2014, when President Barack Obama ordered US forces to be dispatched to the region, in response to offensives in Iraq conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). American troops went, at the invitation of the Iraqi Government, to assess Iraqi forces and the threat posed by ISIL.
In early August 2014, ISIL attacked Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq, and captured three towns in northern Iraq, close to the autonomous region Iraqi Kurdistan. Consequently, the US started supplying the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces with weapons on 5 August. On 7 August, the US also started humanitarian aid air droppings of food, water, and medicine for the civilians fleeing ISIL in the Sinjar Mountains. On the next day, 8 August, the US began airstrikes against ISIL positions in Iraq. Since then, nine countries, allied with the US in some coalition, have also executed airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq, more or less in concert with ground warfare of Kurdish and/or Iraqi government forces against ISIL. There have also been sporadic clashes between ISIL fighters, and US and Canadian troops, several thousand of whom are acting in advisory and combat roles with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. By April 2015, ISIL had lost 25–30% of the maximum territory they had gained in Iraq in December 2014, to Iraqi and American-led Coalition forces, leaving them in possession of around 15,000 square miles of Iraq.
Previous US involvement
After the U.S.-led Invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was based on assertions that Iraq had WMDs and was harbouring terrorists, U.S. military forces in Iraq peaked at 170,000 soldiers in 2007. The U.S. had withdrawn most of its troops from Iraq by 2011. The U.S. kept a staff though of 20,000 men in their embassy and consulates in Iraq, including dozens of U.S. Marine Embassy Guards and some 4,500 private military contractors (see Iraq War#2011: U.S. withdrawal).
In 2013, the U.S. started flying surveillance aircraft and unarmed drones, over Iraq again in order to collect intelligence on mainly Sunni Islamic insurgent Islamist fighters targeting the Iraqi government during the Iraqi insurgency.
The United States and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have been enemies since 2003, when ISIL, in its previous incarnations as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) and Islamic State of Iraq (al-Qaeda in Iraq), began to interfere and disturb plans of the Americans and United Nations and other Western powers for Iraq.
As revolt against the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion of Iraq and further “humiliating” Western and U.N. interference in Iraq, Jama’at and MSC started in August 2003 a terrorism campaign which targeted hundreds of Muslim Iraqis, several U.S. soldiers, and including in 2010 a church full of Christians, and presumably including the beheadings in 2004 of three American civilians, one British, one South Korean, and one Japanese civilian.
ISIL advances in Northern Iraq
After the December 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, violent insurgency of mainly Sunni Islamic Islamist fighters targeting the Iraqi government continued in what is called the Iraqi insurgency.
Between 5 and 11 June 2014, Sunni Islamic, jihadist, 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL) militants, already successful in the Syrian civil war, conquered the Iraqi cities of Samarra, Mosul and Tikrit, and threatened the Mosul Dam and Kirkuk, where Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops took control from the Iraqi government.
Internet beheading video campaign 2014–2015
On 12 August 2014, ISIL started a beheading campaign of Western and Japanese civilian hostages (announced 12 August, James Foley 19 August, Steven Sotloff 2 September, David Haines 13 September, Hervé Gourdel 24 September, Alan Henning 3 October, Peter Kassig 16 November, Haruna Yukawa sometime January 2015, Kenji Goto 30 January 2015) which not only by way of its natural gruesomeness but perhaps even more by its being glamorously and defiantly choreographed and scripted, professionally videotaped, and shrewdly published, branded and marketed via the Internet, hit Western public opinion strongly.
Though this provoking campaign couldn’t start off the American military intervention—that had already started on 8 August—it seems to have contributed to the decision of seven following Western countries, starting with France on 18 September, the Netherlands on 24 and Britain on 26 September (see next section, ‘Chronology’), to join the US war on ISIL.
On 5 September, 15 September and 3 December 2014, different sets of countries came together to discuss concerted action against ISIL. Present at all three meetings were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, and Denmark.
The coalition of 5 September (10 countries) decided to support anti-ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria.
The coalition of 15 September (26 countries) decided to support the Iraqi government militarily.
The coalition of 3 December 2014 (59 countries) agreed on a many-sided strategy, including cutting off ISIL’s financing and funding and exposing ISIL’s true nature.
US surveillance and military advising in Iraq
At the invitation of the Iraqi Government, on 15 June 2014 President Obama ordered dozens of United States troops to Iraq in response to offensives by ISIL (see previous section ‘Background’), to assess Iraqi forces and the ISIL threat.
On 29–30 June 2014, the U.S. increased the number of its troops in Iraq from 180 to 480, to prevent ISIL from taking control of Baghdad International Airport, which the US said would be critical to any evacuation of Americans from Baghdad, and to protect U.S. citizens and property.
In July, Obama announced that due to the continuing violence in Iraq and the growing influence of non-state actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the United States would elevate its security commitment in the region. Approximately 800 U.S. troops secured American installations like the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate in Erbil as well as seizing control of strategic locations like the Baghdad International Airport.
Around 13 July, a classified military report concluded that many Iraqi army units were deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran, which would bring Americans advisors to Iraqi forces into danger.
ISIL conquests and massacres; US reaction
During the first 15 days of August 2014, ISIL expanded its territories in northern Iraq. On 3 August, they conquered Sinjar and surrounding area, including Wana and Zumar, killing possibly 2,000 Yazidi men in the Sinjar massacre, and taking Yazidi women into slavery, causing 50,000 Yazidis to flee into the adjacent Sinjar Mountains. During their whole August offensive, ISIL massacred 5,000 Yazidis.
On 7 August, ISIL conquered Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, and neighbouring towns, causing 100,000 Christian civilians to flee for ISIL troops.
In reaction, on 5 August, Iraqi military started dropping food and water for the tens of thousands of Yazidis in the Sinjar mountains, and the U.S. started directly supplying Iraqi Kurds with weapons to fight ISIL. On 7 August the U.S. also started dropping food and water for the Yazidi Kurdish civilians trapped in the Sinjar Mountains (see also section ’Humanitarian efforts’).
Obama's decision for airstrikes
On the evening of 7 August 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a live address to the nation. He described the recent ISIL advances across Iraq and said that ISIL’s persecution and threatening the extinction of Yazidis, a religious minority in northern Iraq, including especially the Yazidis who had fled into the Sinjar Mountains, in particular had convinced him that U.S. military action was necessary. The President said that he had ordered airstrikes:
- to protect American diplomats, civilians and military in Erbil at the American consulate or advising Iraqi forces;
- to prevent a potential massacre (genocide) of ISIL on thousands of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar; and
- to stop ISIL’s advance on Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region where the U.S. had a consulate and a joint operations center with the Iraqi military.
Obama further defended his decision by saying:
- "The world is confronted by many challenges. And while America has never been able to right every wrong, America has made the world a more secure and prosperous place. And our leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity that our children and our grandchildren will depend upon. We do so by adhering to a set of core principles.
- We do whatever is necessary to protect our people. We support our allies when they're in danger. We lead coalitions of countries to uphold international norms. And we strive to stay true to the fundamental values -- the desire to live with basic freedom and dignity -- that is common to human beings wherever they are. That's why people all over the world look to the United States of America to lead. And that's why we do it."
The U.S. also started considering an operation with American ground troops to rescue the Yazidis in those Sinjar Mountains.
First US airstrikes in the Erbil and Sinjar areas
On Friday, 8 August 2014, U.S. Navy McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighters bombed an ISIL artillery unit outside Erbil, and four U.S. fighters later bombed ISIL military convoys, some of them advancing Erbil and besieging Kurdish forces defending Erbil. Another round of U.S. airstrikes in the afternoon struck 8 ISIL targets near Erbil. Armed drones as well as fixed wing aircraft were used in the U.S. attacks.
On 8 and 9 August, Obama extended the purposes of the airstrikes of 8 August as to be: 1.) protecting Americans in Iraq; 2.) helping Iraqi minorities stranded on Mount Sinjar; 3.) “break the siege of Mount Sinjar”; 4.) preventing massacres (genocides) on Yazidis and other minority groups as announced by ISIL; and 5.) helping Iraqis combat the threat from ISIL.
On Saturday, 9 August, U.S. forces launched 4 airstrikes against ISIL fighters threatening civilians on Mount Sinjar, this time primarily aimed at armored fighting vehicles. A combination of US warplanes and drones destroyed four armored personnel carriers. The U.S. airstrikes that day killed 16 ISIL fighters, Iraqi officials reported.
On 10 August, U.S. forces launched a series of 5 air attacks which targeted ISIL armed vehicles as well as a mortar position. Assisted by these U.S. air attacks, Iraqi Kurdish forces claimed to have recaptured the Northern Iraqi towns of Mahmour and Gweyr from ISIL control. An Iraqi airstrike conducted 9—11 August in Sinjar killed 45 ISIS militants, Iraqi officials reported. On 10 August, also the United Kingdom started with humanitarian airdrops for the—initially 50,000—Yazidis stranded in the Sinjar Mountains (see also section ’Humanitarian efforts’),
Between 9 and 13 August, the Kurds and Americans enabled possibly 35,000 to 45,000 of the Yazidis stranded in the Sinjar Mountains to escape or be evacuated into Syria (see Sinjar massacre#Refugee crisis in the Sinjar Mountains).
On Monday, 11 August, Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr., director of the U.S. operations, said the airstrikes since 7 August near Irbil and Mount Sinjar had slowed ISIL’s operational tempo and temporarily disrupted their advances toward Irbil. On 12 August, the U.S. carried out airstrikes against ISIL mortar positions north of Sinjar after ISIL had been firing on Kurdish forces protecting the Yazidis in the area.
On 13 August, the U.S. government concluded that the situation of the remaining Yazidis in the Sinjar Mountains was “much more manageable” and less life-threatening, and that an American rescue operation was therefore not acutely necessary. Presumably a few thousand or between 5,000 and 10,000 Yazidis still remained in those mountains.
Retaking Mosul Dam
On 16 August, U.S. drones and warplanes began a close air campaign aimed at supporting the advance of Kurdish fighters moving toward the Mosul Dam. Kurdish sources commented that this was the "heaviest US bombing of militant positions since the start of air strikes." On 16 August there were 9 U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, on 17 August 2014.
U.S. President Obama, in a letter to Congress on 17 August, explained this use of U.S. Forces as support to the Iraqi forces’ campaign against terrorist group ISIL. Obama said on 18 August that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi troops, with help from the U.S., had retaken the Mosul Dam from ISIL.
On 8 September, the Iraqi army with close air support from U.S. F-18 aircraft managed to retake the key Haditha Dam. Following the recapture, Iraqi troops moved on to recapture the town of Barwana. Iraqi state television reported that 15 ISIL militants were killed in the battle. Following the Iraqi victory, ISIL responded with the public execution of David Haines.
On 18 September, France decided to initiate airstrikes on ISIL as well (see main article: ‘Opération Chammal’).
On 24 September, the Dutch government decided to send six Fighter jets to contribute to the “international battle against ISIS (ISIL)” (see section ‘Airstrikes’).
On 26 September, the British Parliament decided to authorize British airstrikes on ISIL as well. Britain then announced to cooperate with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence agencies (see main article: ‘Operation Shader’). Also the Belgian Parliament that day decided to start airstrikes on ISIL (see section ‘Airstrikes’).
Around 28 September 2014, airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition together with Iraqi Army ground forces clashing with ISIL militants halted an ISIL offensive by Amariya al-Falluja, 40 km (25 miles) west of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, a BBC reporter on the spot reported.
On 30 September, the U.S. launched eleven airstrikes in Iraq and the UK conducted their first two airstrikes in Iraq in this intervention. Together with eleven U.S. strikes in Syria against ISIL these 24 strikes were the highest number of strikes against ISIL on one day since 8 August.
By the end of September 2014, the United States Navy and Air Force had conducted 240 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, as well as 1,300 tanker refueling missions, totaling 3,800 sorties by all types of aircraft.
On 3 October 2014, the Australian government authorized airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq (see main article: ‘Operation Okra’). On 2 October, Denmark’s Parliament authorized airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq (see section ‘Airstrikes’).
On 7 October, the Canadian Parliament voted in favour of Canadian airstrikes against ISIL (see main article: ‘Operation Impact’).
On 11 October, 10,000 ISIL troops headed from Mosul and Syria toward the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, and ISIL stood on the verge of taking the whole of Anbar province just west of Baghdad. The provincial council’s deputy head, Al-Issawi, said they then asked Iraq’s government to ask the U.S. to bring in ground forces; the Iraqi government however squarely denied to have received such demand from Anbar. 12 October, ISIL came within 25 km (15.5 miles) of the Baghdad airport, U.S. General Dempsey reported. The U.S. then deployed low-flying Apache attack helicopters to keep ISIL at bay.
Late November 2014, Morocco responded to an American appeal and sent several F-16 jets to fight against ISIL. (See also section ‘Airstrikes’.)
During the early morning hours of December 14, U.S. ground forces allegedly clashed with ISIL alongside the Iraqi Army and Tribal Forces near Ein al-Asad base, west of Anbar, in an attempt to repel them from the base of which includes about 100 U.S. advisers in it, when ISIL attempted to overrun the base. A field commander of the Iraqi Army in Anbar province, said that "the U.S. force equipped with light and medium weapons, supported by F-18, was able to inflict casualties against fighters of ISIL organization, and forced them to retreat from the al-Dolab area, which lies 10 kilometers from Ain al-Assad base." Sheikh Mahmud Nimrawi, a prominent tribal leader in the region, added that "U.S. forces intervened because of ISIL started to come near the base, which they are stationed in so out of self-defense," he responded, welcoming the U.S. intervention, and saying "which I hope will "not be the last." This was said to be the first encounter between the United States and the Islamic State, in four years. However, this claim has been stated to be "false" by The Pentagon.
In the Kurdish Sinjar offensive, 17–22 December, Kurdish troops, aided by U.S. airstrikes, connected the Sinjar Mountains to Peshmerga territory, enabling the Yazidis who stayed on the mountains to be evacuated. On 22 December, Kurdish Peshmerga forces pushed into the city of Sinjar, taking control of much of the city.
On December 25, 2014, Hassan Saeed Al-Jabouri, the ISIL governor of Mosul, who was also known as Abu Taluut, was killed by a US-led Coalition airstrike in Mosul. It was also revealed that the US planned to retake the city of Mosul in January 2015.
In mid-January 2015, Canadian soldiers at the front lines between Iraqi and ISIL troops exchanged fire with ISIL fighters. Canadians were not hurt, but they "neutralized" an unknown number of ISIL militants.
On 20 January 2015, the SOHR reported that al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, had been wounded in an airstrike in Al-Qa'im, an Iraqi border town held by ISIL, and as a result, withdrew to Syria.
On 17 February, it was revealed that ISIL had launched another major assault on Erbil, coming within 45 kilometres (28 mi) of the city.
By late February, it was reported that ISIL was beginning to use chemical weapons, due to the gradual weakening of the organization, and that the Iraqi Army was expected to join the Liberation of Mosul sometime in April 2015.
At the beginning of March, the Iraqi government announced that they would soon launch a military operation with the Kurdish Peshmerga and other allies to regain the city of Mosul, which was under ISIL control since 10 June 2014. On 10 March, U.S.-led warplanes dropped scraps of paper in Mosul, advising residents to evacuate the city and stay away from ISIL locations, because of those imminent military operations.
18 March 2015 Coalition airstrike at the al-Baaj District, in the Nineveh Governorate, near the Syrian border. It was reported that his wounds were so serious that the top ISIL leaders had a meeting to discuss who would replace him if he died. By 21 April, al-Bagdadi reportedly had not yet recovered enough from his injuries to resume daily control of ISIL.
On 25 March 2015, the American-led Coalition joined the Second Battle of Tikrit, launching its first airstrikes on ISIL targets in the city center. That night, US aircraft carried out 17 airstrikes in the center of Tikrit, which struck an ISIL building, two bridges, three checkpoints, two staging areas, two berms, a roadblock, and a command and control facility. The US-led Coalition continued conducting airstrikes in Tikrit until 31 March, when Iraqi forces entered the city center.
On 8 April 2015, Iraqi forces, building on their advances in the Saladin Governorate, launched an offensive to liberate the Anbar Governorate from ISIL occupation, beginning with an offensive in the region around east Ramadi, backed by Coalition aircraft. In retaliation, ISIL executed 300 people in the western Anbar Province. It was also reported that 10,000 Sunni tribal fighters would participate in the Anbar offensive.
On 12 April, the Iraqi government declared that Tikrit was free of ISIL forces, stating that it was safe for residents to return home. However, many refugees from Tikrit still feared returning to the city. On 12 April, Abu Maria, the top ISIL leader in Tikrit, was killed by Iraqi forces at the Ajeel Oil Field near Tikrit, along with his top aide, after they were both caught trying to flee from the city. However, later reports revealed that ISIL resistance persisted until 17 April.
By mid-April 2015, ISIL had lost 25–30%, 5,000 to 6,500 square miles, in Iraq since their peak territorial influence in August 2014 to Iraqi and American coalition forces, leaving them still possessing 15,000 square miles in Iraq.
On 17 April, Iraqi forces in Tikrit located and killed 130 ISIL sleeper agents, finally ending the Second Battle of Tikrit. However, cleanup operations to remove the 5,000–10,000 IEDs left behind by ISIL are expected to take at least several months.
On April 22, 2015 Iraqi government sources reported that Abu Alaa Afri, the self-proclaimed Caliph’s deputy and a former Iraqi physics teacher, had been installed as the stand-in leader while Baghdadi recuperates from his injuries.
On 3 May 2015, The Guardian reported that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was recovering from severe injuries he received from an 18 March 2015 airstrike, in a part of Mosul. It was also reported that al-Baghdadi’s spinal injury, which left him incapacitated, means that he may never be able to fully resume direct command of ISIL.
According to the Iraqi defence ministry Abu Ala al-Afri, ISIL's Deputy Leader, was killed on May 12, 2015, in a US-led Coalition airstrike on a mosque in Tel Afar, where al-Afri was holding a meeting with other ISIL senior leaders. The airstrike was reported to have killed dozens of other ISIL militants that were present. Akram Qirbash, ISIL’s top judge, was also killed in the airstrike. The U.S. Defense Department said that it could not corroborate the report.
In July 2015, 50 CENTCOM military analysts signed on to a classified complaint to the Pentagon's Inspector General that their intelligence reports were being inappropriately manipulated by members of the Obama Administration. They were subsequently joined by civilian and Defense Intelligence Agency analysts working for CENTCOM. Members of the groups in late-August anonymously leaked details of the case to the press.
The whistle blowers alleged that the Obama Administration attempted to portray a rosy image of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIL) by altering some reports to seem more positive, while burying other reports to keep them from the press and Congress. The analysts specifically alleged that the conclusions of both their reports about the readiness of indigenous forces to face ISIL, and about the effectiveness of the American air campaigns over Syria and Iraq, were completely reversed by the Administration before distribution.
On 17 October 2015, an MQ-1B Predator drone from 20th Attack Squadron, 432nd Wing, USAF, crashed after "experiencing electronic systems failure and loss of control due to a lightning strike" southeast of Baghdad; the drone was destroyed on impact.
On 22 October 2015 during 30 U.S. special forces from Delta Force and members of a Kurdish Counter-terrorism unit conducted a raid on an ISIL prison compound 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) North of the town of Hawija in Iraq's Kirkuk province. The raid liberated approximately 70 hostages, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. The Kurdish Regional Government asked U.S. special operations forces to support an operation to free hostages that were being held inside the prison and were going to be executed, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed in the raid, he was the first American service member killed in action as a result of enemy fire while fighting ISIL and at the time he was the first American to be killed in action in Iraq since November 2011.
The US-led coalition began targeting the IS chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special forces raids, the coalition is focusing on destroying laboratories and equipment, whilst further special forces raids are planned to target IS chemical weapons experts.
US officials reported that Delta Force operatives have carried out operations to target, capture or kill top ISIS operatives in Iraq, reportedly beginning in late February 2016, after several weeks of covert preparation such as setting up safe houses, establishing informant networks and coordinating operations with Iraqi and Peshmerga units. The Delta force operators are part of an Expeditionary Targeting Force that is also made up of operators from the US military's so-called "Tier One" Special Operations units, numbering around 200 personnel. Their main objectives are to gather enough intelligence from raids on terrorist-occupied compounds and hideouts, then from intelligence gathered at those sites they will give the ETF more intelligence about ISIS networks and quickly attack additional and related targets, in what's known as "targeted" missions. This strategy was tested during the May 2015 raid on Deir Ezzor in Syria. The ETF has so far collected enough intelligence about ISIS operations in Iraq in up to half a dozen locations that raids and field operations are ready to take place. In late-February, U.S. special forces captured Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, an ISIS senior chemical weapons engineer, in a raid in Badoosh, north-west of Mosul, there were no US casualties. Afari’s capture is the first known major success of this new strategy.
On March 19, Staff Sergeant Louis F. Cardin, a field artilleryman with the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion 6th Marines, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by an ISIS rocket attack on Firebase Bell near Makhmur, 8 other Marines were also injured, the Marines returned fire with their artillery. The Marines from the 26th MEU first began moving into the area just 2 weeks before, deploying from the USS Kearsarge. The base will be used by the U.S. military to support the Iraqi 15th Division when they attempt to retake Mosul and the Marines had finished setting up and testing their howitzers just 2 or 3 days before the attack. The joint taskforce overseeing the campaign against ISIS announced it was deploying additional Marines from the 26th MEU to Iraq to join the roughly 3,700 U.S. troops already deployed there to combat ISIS. There are already more than 4,000 Marines and sailors who have been deployed to Iraq since October.
On April 18, 2016, U.S. Special forces and Kurdish forces launched a raid on Hammam al-'Alil which killed Salman Abu Shabib al-Jebouri; a senior IS commander who was a leading member of the IS military council, two of his aides were also killed. US Defence Secretary Ash Carter announced that the US is to send 200 extra troops; the majority of them being special forces and 8 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, the remainder will include trainers, security forces for the advisers, and maintenance crews for the Apaches, increasing the number of US personnel in the country to around 4,100. The US also plans to give Kurdish Peshmerga forces, more than $400m in assistance.
On April 25, a U.S. warplane dropped a guided bomb that destroyed an SUV occupied by IS leader Raphael Saihou Hostey near Mosul, Hostey was a recruiter for IS, U.S. drone operators had been stalking him for days before the order came to kill him.
On May 3, 2016, Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV; a U.S. Navy SEAL, was killed by small arms fire during an ISIS assault on a Peshmerga position, approximately 3 to 5 kilometers behind enemy lines, near the town of Tel Skuf, 28–30 km north of Mosul, the SEAL killed was part of a 30-man SEALs unit deployed to Iraq as part of a special forces advise and assist mission. 125 ISIS militants broke into the position using three truck bombs followed by bulldozers which cleared the wreckage away, the U.S. responded with 11 aircraft; F-15s F-16s, A-10s, B-52s and 2 drones carrying out 31 airstrikes; which destroyed two more truck bombs stopping the attack, 58 militants were killed and more than 20 of their vehicles were also destroyed, Keating was part of a Navy SEAL quick reaction force called in by the Peshmerga. The IS attack is part of their attacks on multiple fronts overnight to obtain new ground, Iraqi military sources said that special forces had foiled an attack by five suicide bombers in the village of Khirbirdan and Peshmerga forces repelled an IS assault on Wardak. U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren labeled the offensive as one of the most complex battlefield operations launched by ISIS since December 2015.
As of early May 2016, there are more than 5,500 U.S. military personnel in Iraq; 3,870 are deployed to advise and assist local forces fighting IS militants, the rest includes special operations personnel, logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations.
Small teams of American advisers operate from northern Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, providing commanders with help in military planning and logistical support. They have moved about freely to interact with commanders in the field as long as they remain well behind front lines, in the case of the firefight at Tel Skuf, a dozen U.S. troops who were advising and assisting the Peshmerga happened to be at an outpost behind the front lines that had been targeted by the large ISIS force.
On May 17, the ISF takes control of the city Rutba. IS Lose the control of the strategically important town and Anbar's mostly control.
On May 25, during Operation Breaking Terrorism, U.S. airstrikes killed the commander of Daesh forces in Fallujah; Maher al-Bilawai in Fallujah.
On June 12, a US Apache attack helicopter carried out a strike that destroyed an IS car bomb near Qayyarah, 50 miles south of Mosul in support of Iraqi forces positioning ahead of an operation to retake Mosul from insurgents. It is the first time since President Obama authorized the helicopters' use in offensive operations earlier this year.
On June 25, a U.S. airstrike near Mosul killed 2 senior ISIS commanders: one was Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, ISIS' deputy minister of war, who oversaw ISIS' efforts to capture Mosul in June 2014 and consolidated ISIL's control over Mosul, he also led the ISIL Jaysh al-Dabiq battalion known for using vehicle-borne IEDs, suicide bombers and mustard gas in its attacks. The other was Hatim Talib al-Hamduni, a military commander in the area and head of military police for self-proclaimed Ninawa state; together, they engaged in dictatorial rule and sectarian murder and oppression since 2014.
On June 29, in support of the 2016 al-Bukamal offensive — the offensive by the Syrian rebels from different factions that aims to capture Al-Bukamal in Syria and effectively split its territorial holdings in two and preventing the transfer of fighters and weapons between the two countries — on the Iraqi side of the border, US-led coalition conducted five airstrikes near al-Qaim. Also that day in Fallujah, US-led coalition aircraft — including Iraqi aircraft, conducted airstrikes that killed at least 250 ISIS militants. Whilst Iraqi Security Forces fought them on the ground; the first strikes targeted a convoy of IS fighters trying to leave a neighborhood on the outskirts of southern Fallujah, destroying between 40-55 IS vehicles. A second convoy formed east of Ramadi later that day, coalition and Iraqi jets launched more strikes, destroying nearly 120 ISIS vehicles, but in both attacks, Iraqi Security Forces destroyed more. The figure of IS vehicles destroyed rose up to nearly 800 — Iraq's Joint Operations Command said the country's forces destroyed 603 IS vehicles, whilst the Pentagon estimated that coalition strikes hit at least 175, but those figures could not be independently confirmed.
On July 11, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the US is sending 560 additional US military personnel to Iraq, bringing the number of US personnel in Iraq to about 4,650. They will be stationed at Qayara airbase, which was recaptured on July 9 by Iraqi government forces being supported by U.S.-led airstrikes; most of them will serve in training and advisory roles, including engineers and logistics experts and with the airbase as a key staging area, they will assist local forces in the retaking of the IS stronghold of Mosul. Also, a new "Nineveh Liberation Operations Center" has been set up to coordinate the offensive, complete with dozens of U.S. and British advisers.
On September 28, the New York times reported that US officials said President Obama had authorized the sending of an additional 600 US troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in the upcoming battle to retake Mosul from IS.
On October 2, two Kurdish soldiers were killed and two French special forces operators were wounded by an IS drone north of Mosul, the drone was intercepted in flight and whilst they were examining the drone a small explosive device disguised as a battery blew up.
Coalition forces are playing a key role in the Battle of Mosul, on October 17, The Guardian reported that US, British and French special forces, which have been advising the Peshmerga, will play a prominent role in calling in airstrikes against ISIS targets inside the city. Adding that, according to the Pentagon, the US deployed an additional 600 troops to aid in the city’s capture, bringing the total number of US personnel in Iraq to more than 5,200. On October 19, Stars and Stripes reported that U.S. Apache helicopters joined the battle, launching night attacks against IS militants. On October 20, Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, of the U.S. Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3 who was attached to a SEAL team that was advising the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service, was killed in an improvised explosive device attack. The Washington Post reported that Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said the Iraqi troops were attacked by Islamic State fighters and the SEAL team members decided to pull back along with the troops they were advising. Finan was in a vehicle and was telling other members of his team that he had spotted a roadside bomb when he was killed. Fox news reported that there are upwards of 300 special operations forces embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish troops in the fight to take back Mosul. It was reported that about 100 U.S. advisers - mostly Special Forces and forward air controllers, are moving with Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes and rocket artillery fire, in the ground offensive to drive the IS from Mosul.
On November 1, Stars and Stripes reported that U.S. special operators were at the front line on the edge of Mosul - just outside the village of Gogjali, with elite Iraqi troops from the U.S.-trained Golden Division who were preparing to enter Mosul. The Americans wore black uniforms and drove black armoured vehicles to blend in with their Iraqi counterparts, U.S. special operators near Gogjali set up a mortar, unloaded a bazooka-style weapon and watched nearby fighting from a farmhouse roof; At around midday a drone the Americans had launched earlier stalled and crashed beside the farmhouse, breaking its wings and propeller. An Iraqi general told The Associated Press that later that day, Iraq's special forces entered the outskirts of Mosul, taking the state television building and advancing to the borders of Karama district despite fierce resistance by IS fighters. The Associated Press reported that as the sun went down, a sandstorm blew in, reducing visibility to only 100 yards and bringing the day's combat to an end, the AP reported. Meanwhile, U.S. Army engineers from the 101st Airborne Division also pushed closer to Mosul, searching for improvised bombs just west of the Great Zab River.
Contributions to intervention since August 2014
Military aid to the Kurds
On October 5, 2015, CJTF-OIR announced that it had given 50,000 rifles and machine guns, 56 million rounds of small arms ammunition, 677+ mortars, 73,000+ mortar rounds, 5,000+ anti-tank weapons, 56,000+ anti-tank rounds, and 150+ vehicles to the Iraqi Kurdish forces.
- The United States had begun on 5 August 2014, with the direct supply of munitions to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and, with Iraq’s agreement, the shipment of Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program weapons to the Kurds, according to Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the U.N., in the Washington Post, and the following days the American CIA secretly sent arms to the Kurds. Before 11 August, U.S. and allies had started rushing antitank weapons etc. to Kurdish fighters, and the U.S. intended to provide longer-range weapons.
- The United Kingdom placed the Special Air Service on the ground briefly and are airlifting munitions to the Kurds from an unnamed Eastern European nation. Members of the 2nd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, have also been deployed to the area.
- Germany has provided instructors to train Kurdish Peshmerga troops. It is also supporting the Peshmerga with shipments of machine guns and ammunition, anti-tank missiles, armored transport vehicles and personal equipment like night vision goggles, helmets, vests, radio sets and other equipment. It hopes to provide equipment for 10,000 Peshmerga troops. It has also flown wounded Peshmerga fighters to German military hospitals. Germany has currently up to 150 paratroopers and other ground troops stationed in northern Iraq to train and advise Kurdish military forces.
- France is planning to ship arms directly to the Kurds.
- Italy decided to give military aid to the Kurds.
- Spokesman Halgurd Hikmat for the Peshmerga Ministry confirmed that the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, and also Finland have agreed to supply weapons and military goods to Kurdish Peshmerga. Erbil-based BASNEWS reported that the Kurdistan Regional Government, in cooperation with the Iraqi and American governments, will open a military air base in Erbil.
- Australia in September began using RAAF C-17s and C-130Js to airlift arms and munitions to forces in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in October his country could dispatch up to 200 special forces troops to "advise" local forces in a "non-combat" role.
- Croatia in late August began sending arms to the Kurds. The armaments from Croatia are particularly useful to the effort because of the fact that they are compatible with the Kurds' Russian made weapons systems which make up the majority of their equipment.
- The Czech Republic has or will provide weapons to local forces. The Czech Republic offered to provide 10 million rounds for AK-47, 8 million rounds for machine guns, 5,000 warheads for RPG and 5,000 hand grenades. In September 2014 with the help of Royal Canadian Air Force it sent 8 millions rounds for machine guns to Iraq and in December 2014 another supply flight (provided by US Air Force's C-17 Globemaster) with 5,000 warheads.
- Estonia, Hungary, Greece, and Bulgaria have or will provide weapons to local forces.
- The European Union welcomed the "decision by individual Member States to respond positively to the call by the Kurdish regional authorities to provide urgently military material."
- Albania has or will provide weapons to local forces. Albania in late August began sending arms to the Kurds. With the help of Western air transport systems, Albania has sent 22 million rounds of AK-47 7.62 millimeter bullets, 15,000 hand grenades and 32,000 artillery shells to the Kurdish forces. The armaments from Albania are particularly useful to the effort because of the fact that they are compatible with the Kurds' Russian made weapons systems which make up the majority of their equipment.
- Turkey in early November 2014 began training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq, Turkey and Peshmerga confirmed, ‘as part of the struggle against ISIL’, a Turkish official said.
Military aid to the Iraqi government
- After the United States in June 2014 started to send troops to Iraq to secure American interests and assets and advise the Iraqi forces (see section US surveillance and military advising in Iraq), President Barack Obama end of September planned to send 1,600 troops to Iraq as "advisers" to the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces. 800 of them would provide security for soldiers and Marines and for property; hundreds would train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces how to fight ISIL. 8–9 November Obama doubled the number of American soldiers in Iraq to some 3,100. By February 2015, the US had deployed 4,500 troops. In June 2015, the US had deployed an additional 450 troops to Iraq, increasing the US troop presence in Iraq to at least 4,850.
- Germany is shipping non-lethal military equipment to the Iraqi Central Government and the Kurdish Regional Government.
- Italy has offered to supply weapons, ammunition, and other aid to local forces in Iraq. The prime minister of Italy Matteo Renzi visited Iraq and the Kurds on 20 August to consider the response to ISIL. He said that without international involvement it would be a "new Srebrenica".
- Canadian Prime Minister Harper announced on 4 September 2014 that Canada would deploy "about 100" military advisers to be based in Baghdad assisting the Iraqi Military in the fight against ISIS. These personnel are special operations forces which will work closely with US special forces to "provide advice that will help the government of Iraq and its security forces be more effective against ISIL", but their role is not expected to be direct combat. CBC News reports that about 100 Canadians will be deployed, primarily to help Kurdish forces.
- Denmark sent 120 military personnel to Iraq in November to train the Iraqi army.
- New Zealand will send up to 143 military personnel to Iraq, to help train local Iraqi Security Forces. Sixteen of which will be trainers, the remaining personnel will be deployed to protect the trainers, and help with advisory/intelligence roles. New Zealand has also sent up to $14.5m in humanitarian aid.
- Norway in October 2014 decided to send 5 headquarters personal, 120 advisors to help train the Iraqi army, and has used transport aircraft to deliver supplies to Iraq.
- Portugal has worked with neighboring Spain to provide training to the Iraqi Army south of Baghdad.
- Spain has provided 300 instructors to train the Iraqi Army and offered to provide weapons to the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and has stationed a Patriot missile battery and 150 servicemen in Turkey in case of cross-border attacks against its NATO ally.
Building Partner Capacity (BPC)
The Building Partner Capacity (BPC) program is meant to help the Iraqi government to prepare forces for the counter-attack against ISIL and the regaining of its territory. Australia in April 2015 committed 300 military personnel to the BPC training mission in Iraq. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, by May 2015 a dozen countries had committed themselves to the BPC program: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. By May 2015, the program had trained 6,500 Iraqi forces.
- The United States began conducting airstrikes in Iraq on 8 August 2014. Fighter aircraft from the United States Air Force and United States Navy, and military "advisers" on the ground, have been involved in combating ISIL in Northern Iraq, as well as in the north and west of Baghdad.
- Australia (Main article: Operation Okra)
Australia's Prime Minister at the time, Tony Abbott, announced on 3 October 2014 that Australia would commence airstrikes on ISIL. At least until 2 November, dozens of those airstrikes held on, in at least some cases hitting and killing ISIL people, but also targeting military equipment and an oil refinery. The Australian government is reticent with giving detailed information, out of concern for possible propaganda from the side of ISIL.
- Canada (Main article: Operation Impact)
On 7 October, the House of Commons voted in favour of Canadian airstrikes against ISIL, and approved of deploying six CF-18 fighter jets, an air-to-air refueling aircraft and two surveillance aircraft to participate in targeted airstrikes from an allied air base in Kuwait. The first Canadian airstrike took place on 2 November 2014, targeting construction equipment near Fallujah. The second airstrike was made on 11 November 2014, targeting ISIL artillery near Bayji, north of Baghdad.
Danish Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt promised 26 September 2014 to send four planes and three reserve jets (F-16s), with 250 pilots and staff, to launch airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq. The first mission by the Danish F-16s was flown on 16 October 2014. When the seven F-16s returned to Denmark in September 2015 for refitting and refurbishment, they had flown a total of 547 missions against ISIL in Iraq. A C-130J transport aircraft used in support of coalition operations and a mobile radar station remained in action. In June 2016 the F-16s returned with a mission that had been expanded to include ISIL targets in both Iraq and Syria.
- France (Main article: Opération Chammal)
On 15 September, Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft operating from the United Arab Emirates conducted reconnaissance flights on ISIL positions. On 19 September 2014, France conducted its first airstrike which targeted an ISIL depot, making it the first Western coalition partner to conduct airstrikes in Iraq.
- Germany is supporting airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria with six Tornado reconnaissance aircraft and one Airbus A310 aerial refueling tanker aircraft. It also provides high resolution radar images by its SAR Lupe reconnaissance satellites.
- Jordan (See also: Jordanian reaction to murder on al-Kasasbeh)
Jordanian officials said on 4 February 2015, after the release of a video showing captured RJAF pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh being burned alive by his ISIL captors in Syria, that the kingdom would consider joining the coalition by launching airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.
The Jordanian Air Force on 4 February 2015 began targeting ISIL positions in Iraq in retaliation for ISIL's brutal burning of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh, beginning the campaign with a large airstrike campaign centered on Mosul, which killed 55 ISIL militants, including ISIL's top senior commander of Mosul known as the "Prince of Nineveh".
- Morocco in late November 2014, as first Arab state joining this American-led military intervention in Iraq, responded to an American appeal to send several F-16 jets to the fight against ISIL. Four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters from the Royal Moroccan Air Force reportedly carried out aistrikes against ISIL positions on the outskirts of Baghdad, among other areas, around 10 December 2014. The Moroccan warplanes were to focus on hitting fixed targets, including training camps, oil refineries, and weapons depots.
- Netherlands (Main article: Dutch war against ISIL)
On 24 September 2014, the Dutch government decided to take part in “the military campaign” against ISIL which, as they claimed, had been started by the United States, and sent six F-16 fighter jets to Iraq to bomb ISIL. Their motivations to join this war: ISIL’s advance in Iraq and Syria, while displaying “unprecedented violence” and “perpetrating terrible crimes against population groups”, formed “a direct threat for that region”; ISIL’s advance in Iraq and Syria “causes instability at the borders of Europe” which threatens “our own [Dutch] safety”.
- United Kingdom (Main article: Operation Shader)
The Royal Air Force began attacking targets in Iraq on 30 September, with six and then later eight, Tornado GR4 strike aircraft. Around four, and then later six, MQ-9 Reaper unmanned combat aerial vehicles also began attacking targets on 10 November 2014. Airstrikes have been supported by Boeing E-3 Sentry, Boeing RC-135 and Airbus Voyager aircraft. On 16 January 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK was the second-largest contributor to the anti-ISIL coalition in Iraq, contributing over 100 airstrikes. The majority of British forces engaged in Iraq operate from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, however, MQ-9 Reapers are based in Kuwait and a RC-135 Rivet Joint is based at RAF Al Udeid in Qatar.
Facilitating or preparing for airstrikes
- Italy has offered to assist coalition partners in air-to-air refueling and ISR operations with one KC-767, four Tornado IDS attack planes, and two UAVs Predators. Air operations continue.
- Spain had in September announced that its contribution to ‘a US-led anti-IS coalition’ would remain limited to weapons, transport assistance, etc., for the Iraqi government, but has in October offered to assist coalition partners in transport, air-to-air refueling and ISR operations.
- The Grand National Assembly of Turkey on 2 October allowed foreign soldiers to use Turkish bases for a fight against ISIL, after pressure from the U.S. government on Ankara to join the anti-ISIL coalition.
Airstrike campaigns cancelled
- Belgium decided on 26 September 2014 that it would send six F-16 Fighting Falcons and a number of Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo planes, supported by 120 pilots and other staff, to support the military effort against ISIL in Iraq. Belgian air forces operate from Shaheed Mwaffaq Air Base located in Jordan. On 5 October, a Belgian F-16 dropped its first bomb on an Islamic State target, east of Baghdad. The contribution towards striking ISIL positions was discontinued on 30 June 2015 due to financial restraints, however 35 military advisors still remain in the country as of November 2015. The withdrawn F-16 aircraft spent six months in Jordan before returning home.
The United States and international partners have undertaken a large humanitarian effort to support refugees stranded in northern Iraq with airdropped supplies.
On 7 August, 2 Lockheed C-130 Hercules's and 1 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III dropped tens of thousands of meals and thousands of gallons of drinking water to Yazidi refugees who were stranded in the Sinjar Mountains by advancing ISIL forces. On 9 August 2014, U.S. aircraft again dropped humanitarian supplies over northern Iraq, this time consisting of 4,000 gallons of drinking water and 16,000 ready-to-eat meals.
On the night of 13–14 August, a 16-aircraft mission including US C-17s and C-130Hs, a British C-130J, and an Australian C-130J airdropped supplies to Yezidi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar in what was later described as "the first mass air delivery of humanitarian cargo since the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999."
Humanitarian intervention efforts per country:
- Australian C-130J transport aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force based in the Middle East on 13/14 August 2014, started airdropping humanitarian aid in Northern Iraq.
- Denmark has committed a C-130 transport aircraft and money for relief efforts.
- France plans to contribute to ongoing humanitarian efforts in Iraq, in addition to offering asylum to Iraqi Christians fleeing the violence.
- Germany ramped up humanitarian spending in Northern Iraq and sent 4 transport aircraft.
- Italy started humanitarian support.
- Sweden expressed support for military assistance by others but for legal reasons will only provide humanitarian support.
- United Kingdom made humanitarian supply airdrops to Yazidi refugees on Mount Sinjar starting on 10 August 2014, using Royal Air Force C-130's operating from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, while surveillance was provided by Panavia Tornado GR4s. It has been announced that Boeing Chinooks will also be deployed.
- New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced that New Zealand will provide $500,000 to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help people displaced by fighting in Iraq.
- The European Commission of the European Union announced it would boost humanitarian aid to Iraq to €17m, and approved special emergency measures to meet the crisis. On 15 August 2014, 20 of the 28 EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss military and humanitarian assistance.
According to Iraq Body Count, 118 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in 2014 and 845 in 2015.
According to "Airwars", a team of independent journalists, between 1,687 and 2,534 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in 288 incidents in Iraq and Syria between 8 August 2014 and 18 October 2016; other incidents with thousands more civilian fatalities were also recorded by Airwars, but the US-led coalition's responsibility couldn't be confirmed with equal confidence in those cases.
On 9 August, U.S. airstrikes killed 16 ISIL fighters, Iraqi officials reported. Between 9–11 August, in a concerted U.S.-Iraqi operation, an Iraqi airstrike killed 45 ISIL men. On 8 September, in an operation of Iraqi forces with U.S. airstrikes, Iraq reported that 15 ISIL fighters were killed. On 23 February 2015, it was revealed that over 8,500 ISIL fighters had been killed by US-led airstrikes, with at least 7,000 of the deaths in Iraq.
By early June 2015, ISIL had lost over 13,000 fighters to Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, with 10,800+ of the deaths in Iraq. By July 2015, ISIL had lost over 15,000 fighters to US-led Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, with 12,100+ fighters killed in Iraq.
"At least 999 Peshmerga troops lost their lives and 4,596 have been injured between June 10, 2014 and February 3, 2015," said Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs to reporters at a press conference in Arbil on February 4, 2015.
The United States suffered its first casualty of the conflict on 2 October 2014, when a United States Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey crashed in the Persian Gulf after takeoff from USS Makin Island, leaving one of its crewmen missing and presumed dead.
Extending US presence on Iraqi ground
While some U.S. troops were already active in Iraq for several purposes since June 2014 (see section Background), on 13 August, the U.S. deployed another 130 military advisers to Northern Iraq, and up to 20 U.S. Marines and special forces servicemen landed on Mount Sinjar from V-22 aircraft to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees. A team of British SAS was already in the area.
On 10 September, President Obama gave a speech in which he reiterated that American troops will not fight in combat. He also said that about 500 more troops will be sent to Iraq to help train Iraqi forces. At the end of September, Obama planned to send 1,600 troops to Iraq as "advisers" to the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces. 800 of them would provide security for soldiers and Marines and for property; hundreds would train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces on how to fight ISIL.
In early November 2014, President Obama announced that he would be doubling the number of US troops present on the ground in Iraq to around 3,000 men. By early December 2014, the number of US ground troops in Iraq had increased to 3,100, while other nations in the US-led Coalition decided to send 1,500 more ground troops to Iraq, increasing the total number of troops to 4,600.
In January 2015, the 1,000 Paratroopers of the "Panther Brigade" of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division were deployed to Iraq. They came with an additional 300 soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, bringing US troop levels deployed in the country to 4,400.
According to the New York Times, by February 4, 2015, the US had 4,500 troops in Iraq.
U.S. naming controversy
Unlike previous U.S. combat operations, no name was initially given to the 2014 military operation in Iraq and Syria by the U.S. government, until mid-October. The fact that the operation was still nameless drew considerable media criticism. U.S. soldiers remained ineligible for Campaign Medals and other service decorations due to the continuing ambiguous nature of the U.S. involvement in Iraq. On 15 October 2014, two months after the first airstrikes by the U.S., the operation was named Inherent Resolve.
Types of aircraft used
In the first U.S. airstrikes on 8 August, armed drones as well as fixed wing aircraft: McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighters, were used. The F/A-18s were that day launched from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. A Navy official said that the two planes involved in the airstrikes were Super Hornets from Carrier Air Wing 8, of Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. A number of Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II's from the USAF's 163d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron were deployed on November 17, 2014.
Air bases and aircraft carriers
The following is a list of publicly disclosed air bases that have been used for the interventions in Iraq and Syria. It is likely that there are other, yet undisclosed air bases being used. Turkey initially refused to allow using Incirlik Air Base for airstrikes against ISIL, but changed their position in July 2015 when they allowed U.S. fighters to use both it and Diyarbakır.
- Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait
- Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait (used by Denmark, Canada and Italy)
- Isa Air Base, Bahrain
- Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE (also used by France)
- Shaheed Mwaffaq Air Base, Jordan (also used by Belgium and Netherlands)
- RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus (used by United Kingdom)
- RAF Al Udeid, Qatar (used by United Kingdom and United States. Operated by the Qatari Air Force))
- Al Minhad Air Base, UAE (also used by Australia)
- USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) in the Persian Gulf until mid October 2014
- USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) deployed to the Persian Gulf from mid October 2014
- Cruise missiles have been launched from various American ships or submarines (against targets in Syria at least)
Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling Islamic State fighters have been closely cooperating with U.S. air force controllers based in Baghdad and in Erbil, suggesting ISIL targets to those U.S. air force controllers. The US controllers then checked those suggestions with live stream video information (ISR), to avoid hitting Iraqi or Kurdish forces with their airstrikes.
The initial decision to intervene in Iraq was met with bipartisan support in the United States Congress, albeit subject to a range of interpretations as to what constitutes legitimate intervention. Barbara Lee supported a strictly humanitarian intervention and opposed any mission creep as did Richard Blumenthal who argued for humanitarian relief, but opposed a prolonged direct military involvement. Bob Corker expected greater clarity with regards to the intervention's objectives, time frame and source of authorization. while Dick Durbin opined that he, "still had concerns" despite assurances from Obama that no U.S. ground troops would be deployed in Iraq. Congressional Democrats and Republicans who were more hawkish for their support for the intervention included the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein and then-Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner.
Despite the bipartisan support, the President's decision to re-engage the United States into a conflict in Iraq has attracted criticism from both the political left and right. Andrew Bacevich argued against military action, but not humanitarian assistance as did Seumas Milne who argued against military, but not humanitarian intervention. On the contrary, Cal Thomas accused Obama's decision to withhold American military assistance barring efforts by the Iraqi government to bridge the country's sectarian differences as tantamount to abandonment while an article in the Globe and Mail cautioned that an American intervention "would kill both ISIS and MCIR fighters as well as many Sunni civilians and fail to fix the underlying issues."An article by the Associated Press wrote that critics of Obama drew a direct connection between his foreign policy approach that underestimated ISIS and his decision to withdraw all American troops from Iraq in late 2011.
The editorial boards of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal penned editorials that were supportive of the intervention. Two editorials by The Washington Post argued that Iraqi's disintegration would threaten national, regional and global security and described efforts by the Obama administration to create a more inclusive Iraq government as presenting the best hope for the country in its fight against ISIS. Two editorials written in August by the New York Times also supported the intervention, praising Obama's sagacity in delivering the necessary humanitarian assistance to the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities on Mount Sinjar while eschewing the redeployment of American ground troops, and describing the subsequent deployment of American military airstrikes and other forms of assistance as, although insufficient, a necessary component of a more comprehensive strategy to defeating ISIS. An editorial by the Guardian written in June opined that ISIS's June 2014 Iraqi offensive invited foreign intervention that included the United States and that Obama's conditionalization of aid on Iraqis working together was in the best interest of all of Iraq's regions. Similarly, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal written in August wrote of the strategic interest the United States had in defeating ISIS and positively assessed the efficacy of American airstrikes in, "...reducing the jihadists' room for maneuver and giving new confidence to the Kurdish forces." While condemning ISIS's savagery and acknowledging the threat to American national interests in the Middle East that the group posed, an editorial by the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times argued that congressional authorization should override Obama's legal authority as the ultimate legal basis for the usage of military force in Iraq.
However, support for the intervention in the media was not unanimous. A Washington Post editorial criticized the American strategy of creating a unity government in order to fight ISIS was a mirage due to the country's political-religious cleavages and ISIS's numerical and technological superiority. William Hartung, writing in Stars and Stripes argued that the intervention would result in mission creep.
In an article for the BBC, Marc Weller, professor of international law at Cambridge University, argued that the US airstrikes are consistent with international law. Specifically, he argued that: the government in Baghdad invited international forces to join in the fight against IS; the newly reconstituted and religiously representative Iraqi government has a positive obligation to deliver on its constitutional promises and defend its population from subjugation by ISIS; and foreign intervention exercising the right of collective self-defense on behalf of Iraq can involve forcible action in IS-controlled territories in Syria that is proportional to the necessity of securing Iraq's borders. Similarly, Michael Ignatieff, professor of politics at Harvard University discussed the international dimensions of American intervention in Iraq in an interview with Der Spiegel in which he described the Islamic State as an "attack on all values of civilization" and that it was essential that America, "continued with their air strikes."
Ramzi Mardini in The New York Times wrote an op-ed opposing armed intervention as it exacerbated the blowback risk of terrorism against US although he did not object to humanitarian assistance aimed at helping the persecuted religious minorities living in ISIS controlled territories and instead called for greater diplomatic intervention in which the United States played a key role as an arbiter between Iraq's warring sectarian factions. On the other hand, Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy argues that ISIS are "likely planning attacks whether the U.S. conducts targeted air strikes or not" and that, in his opinion, the United States, "should destroy them as soon as possible." Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the Republican party including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and John Boehner have likewise called for greater military strikes in the region to contain the Islamic State.
In an interview with the Atlantic, Hillary Clinton suggested that the current crisis in Iraq was a result of his [President Obama] refusal to arm Syrian rebels, which Obama, in a meeting with lawmakers before Clinton’s interview, criticized as "horseshit."
An editorial in Vox defined the intervention as being limited to Kurdistan, effectively allowing the Islamic State to control a large part of Iraq absent any other occupying power. The editorial argued that the stability of Kurdistan would make it a better ally for the US.
- History of Iraq
- International Conferences on Peace and Security in Iraq (2014)
- Spillover of the Syrian Civil War
- 2015 Egyptian military intervention in Libya
- Opération Chammal - included French operation against ISIL
- Operation Shader - included UK operation against ISIL
- Operation Okra - included Australian operation against ISIL
- Operation Impact - included Canadian operation against ISIL
- American-led intervention in Syria
- Military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
- Iranian intervention in Iraq (2014–present) - separate Iranian operation against ISIL
- Persecution of Yazidis by ISIL
- Persecution of Assyrians by ISIL
- Iraqi insurgency (2011–present)
- Overseas interventions of the United States
- Fall of Mosul
- Salahuddin campaign (2014–15)
- First Battle of Tikrit
- Siege of Amirli
- Battle of Baiji (October–November 2014)
- Battle of Ramadi (2014–15)
- Battle of Baiji (2014–15)
- Sinjar offensive
- Second Battle of Tikrit (March–April 2015)
- Anbar offensive (2015)
- List of wars and battles involving ISIL
- The numbers are given by the U.S. Department of Defense and includes "casualties that occurred in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the Mediterranean Sea east of 25° Longitude, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea".
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