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Ben Watson & Patrick Tucker (Defense One) — The momentum has shifted in the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, so it’s time to commit more forces for the looming battles ahead, the top U.S. civilian and military leaders told reporters Friday.
“We have a series of recommendations that we will be discussing with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi Security Forces, or ISF,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford. “The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks—but that decision hasn’t been made.”
“We’re broadening both the weight and the nature of our attacks on ISIL,” added Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “In both Syria and Iraq, we’re seeing important steps to shape what will become crucial battles in the months to come.”
Robert Kahn testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, describing the crisis risks generated by persistently low oil and gas prices. He argued that the risks are especially acute for energy exporters such as Venezuela and Nigeria, and that such countries need sizable policy adjustments in the immediate future.
The following is the statement prepared by Robert Kahn, the Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2nd Session, 114th Congress.
Hearing on Economic and Geopolitical Implications of Low Oil and Gas Prices
Arabinda Acharya (Foreign Affiars) — In a February 2016 interview with 60 Minutes, John Brennan, director of the CIA, mentioned that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has, in a number of instances, “used chemical munitions on the battlefield.”
This came a few days after James Clapper, director of the United States Intelligence Community, said to a congressional committee that ISIS “has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent sulfur mustard.”
Specifically, ISIS used such munitions in an August 2015 attack on the Kurds in Kobani, although reliable measures of the extent of the damage and casualties are not available.
Fatima Bhojani (Foreign Affairs) — While in Iraqi Kurdistan in January of last year, a European investigator came across a field of holes into which improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had been placed. The dots went out in a line as far as the eye could see. “They had been placed this way so that anybody who crossed that field would strike an IED,” the researcher told me, asking that his name be withheld for safety reasons.
For the past 20 months, along with a colleague, he has been meticulously examining the supply chains of the more than 700 IED components that the Islamic State (ISIS) uses in Iraq and in the Syrian Kurdish region of Rojava.
Their findings were released in a report in late February, the latest addition to a catalog of documents on ISIS weapons published by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a private arms-tracking organization mandated by the European Union.
Nima Elbagir (CNN) — The battle for the key Iraqi city of Ramadi has opened a window into the resilience of ISIS. It took months of daily onslaughts before Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition were able to expel the militants from the city center recently.
Despite this setback, ISIS still controls as much as 25% of Ramadi, local tribal leaders say. And fighting continues to rage in pockets throughout the city.
So how does ISIS evade airstrikes? In Ramadi, as in many ISIS strongholds, the answer lies below the ground. "During our advance to cleanse the area, they would distract us and disappear," Maj. Gen. Sami Kathim, commander of Iraqi Counter Terror Services, told CNN.