SOF’s Evolving Role: Warfare ‘By, With, and Through’ Local Forces

RAND – The role of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) in the Middle East has expanded steadily since the inception of the counter-ISIS campaign in 2014. In part, this expansion is due to the metastasis of ISIS into Libya, Yemen, and other countries beyond its major land-holding presence in Iraq and Syria. But the most notable feature of the expanded U.S. SOF role in the Middle East has been its work alongside indigenous forces in Iraq and Syria. Conventional and coalition forces provide additional numbers of troops. What makes this campaign so unusual is that U.S. forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops. Instead, the campaign is conducted “by, with, and through” others, a Special Forces phrase that the CENTCOM commander, General Joseph Votel, has adopted to call attention to this new way of warfighting. If the counter-ISIS campaign succeeds in dislodging ISIS from Iraq and Syria, this approach is more likely to be considered for other, similar conflicts.

America can succeed militarily in the Mideast. ISIS’s defeat in Mosul tells us how.

Washington Post – David Ignatius writes of what lessons can we take from the Islamic State’s defeat in Mosul and its coming eviction from Raqqa? The collapse of the caliphate tells us that the United States can succeed militarily in the Middle East if — and probably only if — it works with local forces who are prepared to do the fighting and dying.

ISIS has a navy? The US is sinking it

CNN – US and allied warplanes have sunk over 100 ISIS boats, destroying 65 of them in September alone, according to the international military coalition. While Iraq is nearly entirely land-locked, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that cross that country are navigable, and ISIS has been using watercraft for a variety of purposes, including transporting fighters and conducting improvised explosive attacks.\

The Front Lines

New Yorker – On the border of ISIS territory, Iraqi civilians fight for their survival. A look at the difficult situation on the ground inside Iraq today.

‘Iraq Is Finished’

The Atlantic – Emma Skye chronicles tribal leaders reflecting on the enemy destroying their country from within.

How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq

Politico – Emma Skye explains that Bush’s mistake was invading the country. His successor’s was leaving it to a strongman.

C.I.A. Is Said to Have Bought and Destroyed Iraqi Chemical Weapons

New York Times – The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

Why Iraqi army can’t fight, despite $25 billion in U.S. aid, training

Los Angeles Times – David Zucchino on what is wrong with Iraq’s army.

Iraq – The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

New York Times – C.J. Chivers fascinating story on the extensive chemical weapons stores unearthed in Iraq by the US, and the casualties they caused.

Iraq – The Fight of Their Lives

New Yorker – Dexter Filkins writes that the White House wants the Kurds to help save Iraq from ISIS. The Kurds may be more interested in breaking away.

Iraq – Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq

Washington Post – Former state department official Ali Khedery writes that to understand why Iraq is imploding, you must understand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and why the United States has supported him since 2006.

Iraq – What We Left Behind in Iraq

New Yorker – Dexter Filkins on the state of Iraq today – an increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence, and a nation worried for its future.

Iraq – General Principles

New Yorker – Dexter Filkins provides a considered answer to the question of how good was General Petraeus?

Iraq – My Mesopotamian Getaway

Foreign Policy – An excellent overview of post-American Iraq, by the Iraqi scholar Emma Sky.

Iraq – Americans can agree that the Iraq war was a mistake

Daily Telegraph – John Nagl writes that overwhelmingly the American people would say the war was a mistake, and undeniably the reason we went to war in the first place was invalid.

Iraq – The great gamble of Iraq 2012

Best Defense – Tom Ricks analyses the current situation in Iraq, with the US about to pull out…

Iraq – No Regrets Over Pushing the US Into War With Iraq

Washington Post – David Ignatius interviews Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, who was the most effective lobbyist in favor of the 2003 U.S. invasion: “So that’s how it ends — not with a bang or a whimper, either, but with a smooth valedictory from the man whom history will record as the secret instigator of the Iraq war, for which he has no apologies and, seemingly, no regrets.”

Iraq – The Wrong Man for the Job

The AtlanticThe Wrong Man for the Job

Robert D. Kaplan on how Obama’s new ambassador to Iraq is a star diplomat—but has no experience in the Arab world. Why Christopher Hill is a bad choice.

Iraq – There's Still a War In Iraq. It Isn't Ours.

Washington PostThere’s Still a War In Iraq. It Isn’t Ours.

Greg Jaffe writes that the Iraq war is over — for us.

Iraq – The New Rules: 'Hard Lessons' from Iraq, for Afghanistan and Beyond

World Politics ReviewThe New Rules: ‘Hard Lessons’ from Iraq, for Afghanistan and Beyond

Thomas P.M. Barnett writes that the recurring theme of “Hard Lessons,” the recent report by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, is that of somebody finally “taking charge.” The description is patently disproven, however, by the sheer volume of its use to describe the procession of all those who tried to do so. In fact, moving “from crisis to crisis,” and creating “ad hoc offices and systems” along the way, U.S. officials reinvented the Iraq wheel darn near annually.

Iraq – We must take on board the lessons of Iraq

Daily TelegraphWe must take on board the lessons of Iraq

As British troops head home from Iraq, John Keegan says military force should be used only as a last resort.

Iraq – The war in Iraq isn't over. The main events may not even have happened yet.

Washington PostThe war in Iraq isn’t over. The main events may not even have happened yet.

Tom Ricks provides the postscript to his new book entitled “Gamble.”

Iraq – A Military Tactician's Political Strategy

Washington PostA Military Tactician’s Political Strategy

The second excerpt from Tom Ricks’ new book on the surge entitled “The Gamble:”

In defending the troop increase, General Petraeus paved the way for a “long war.”

Iraq – The Dissenter Who Changed the War

Washington PostThe Dissenter Who Changed the War

The first excerpt from Tom Ricks’ new book on the surge in Iraq, entitled “The Gamble:”

As the No. 2 commander in Iraq, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno challenged the military establishment, pressing for the case for a “surge” of U.S. troops and a long-term strategy to guide them.