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U.S. Increases Military Personnel in Baghdad

The Pentagon announced today Obama has authorized sending 350 more military personnel to Baghdad to secure the embassy.

This builds upon previous embassy security deployments announced on June 15 and June 30 and will bring the total forces responsible for augmenting diplomatic security in Iraq up to approximately 820.

The additional joint forces will come from within the U.S. Central Command area of operations and will include a headquarters element, medical personnel, associated helicopters, and an air liaison team.

In all, 405 U.S. military personnel will be sent to Baghdad to provide a more robust and sustainable security presence to help the Department of State continue their critical mission.

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British Hostage David Cawthorne Haines

British hostage David Cawthorne Haines, threatened by ISIS in the execution video of Steven Soltoff, is a foreign aid worker and former soldier.

He reportedly was kidnapped on March 12, 2013 near the Atmeh refugee camp in Idlib, Syria. It has been reported he was kidnapped with an Italian aid worker, Federico Motka. Motka was released in May, 2014, after negotiations with the Italian Government and a private security company. Motka had been working for the French non-governmental organisation ACTED. Here is ACTED's statement on his release. According to a spokesperson for a former aid group Haines worked for, he was also working for ACTED at the time of his abduction.

After his release, Motka told a Turkish news agency he had seen the ISIS flag during his captivity. He said he had been tortured and that he was moved six times.

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ISIS Executes Steven Sotloff

ISIS has released a video (no link here please) that shows Steven Sotloff in the beheading position. It says he has been executed, and a British hostage, David Cawthorne Haines, will be next.

Update: I don't think the video was made at the same time as the Foley video. The executioner mentions the continued bombings "at Amerli, Zumar and the Mosul Dam." Amerli and Zumar hadn't happened when Foley was killed. Also, Sotloff had a shaved head and no beard in the Foley video. In today's video, he has hair and a beard.

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Obama's Latest War Authorization Letter and ISIS Update

President Obama has written Congress explaining his decision to conduct airstrikes on Amerli:

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

As I reported on August 8 and 17, 2014, U.S. Armed Forces have conducted targeted airstrikes in Iraq for the limited purposes of stopping the advance on Erbil by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), supporting civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar, and supporting operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. U.S. Armed Forces have also provided humanitarian assistance to the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

On August 28, 2014, I further authorized U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the town of Amirli, Iraq, which is surrounded and besieged by ISIL. Pursuant to this authorization, on August 30, 2014, U.S. military forces commenced targeted airstrike operations in the vicinity of Amirli, Iraq. These additional operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.

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Pentagon Says Cost of Current Iraqi Operations is $7.5 Mil a Day

Via Reuters, we have been spending $7.5 million a day in Iraq since mid-June. That's a total to date of about $532 million.

U.S. military operations against Islamic State in Iraq have cost an average of $7.5 million per day since they began in mid-June, the Pentagon said on Friday, a figure that means the department has spent more than $500 million on the conflict.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told a briefing the expense of U.S. operations against Islamic State in Iraq had varied since U.S. forces became involved on June 16 but on average "it's costing us about $7.5 million per day."

Reuters says according to analysts, the U.S. has been spending $1.3 billion per week on Afghanistan.

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ISIS Explains Killing of Foley and al-Sheitaat Tribe Members

ISIS has released the third edition of its Dabiq Magazine. This issue addresses the killing of journalist James Foley and the al-Sheitaat tribe members. You can read it here.

On the tribe members:

These clans were left armed after they agreed to submit to the rule of the Sharī’ah with the condition they hand over all heavy weaponry. They then betrayed their covenant by rebelling against the Islamic State. They ambushed Islamic State soldiers, and then tortured, amputated, and executed prisoners taken from the ambushes. All these crimes were carried out in opposition to the enforcement of the Sharī’ah.

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ISIS: Frogmarch, Killings and Beheadings of Soldiers

Yesterday, ISIS posted photos of captured Syrian soldiers being forced to march across the desert in their underwear, presumably to their deaths. A video (non-violent) is here. Today Reuters reports ISIS released another video showing they were all killed.

Also today, ISIS issued another "blood message" to the U.S. warning it about helping the Kurds. In the video, now gone from You Tube but available elswhere (no links please) it shows a bunch of captured Kurdish soldiers in orange jumpsuits (likely to mimic Guantanamo.) One soldier is then beheaded on camera, while a warning to the U.S. is made about helping the Kurds. This took place in Mosul, in front of the Rahman Mosque.

ISIS also posted a video of it beheading a Lebanese soldier.

CENTCOM announces today it has struck a tank, a humvee, 4 armed vehicles, a construction vehicle and damaged a checkpoint.

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Identifying James Foley's Executioners


(Random photo of unnamed fighter from Tumbler page of Dutch fighter ChechClear.)

British authorities have not named the person standing beside James Foley in the ISIS execution video. They have said they are close to identifying him and refused to give names. On Meet the Press yesterday:

I think we are close. I've been in touch, obviously, in the last day or two with my colleagues at home. We're not yet in a position to say exactly who this is, but there is some very sophisticated voice identification technology and other measures that we have got which should allow us to be very clear about who this person is before very long.

The Sunday Times (UK) reported government officials have told them that security forces say a major suspect is former British rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary. Fox news says an unnamed "western intelligence source" has confirmed Bary is the primary suspect. All other media reports seem to be quoting the Sunday Times.

Some news reports say Bary's voice matches up with that of the killer in the video. Other news sources quote different experts who say the voices don't match. [More....]

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James Foley Killing: Knife Switch?

On James Foley, I think it's odd that the knife in the ISIS guy's hands in the execution video doesn't match the one on the ground next to Foley's body after he is killed. And we don't see the ISIS guy actually cutting Foley. Also, Foley doesn't flinch when he puts the knife up to his neck. Could the ISIS guy speaking in the video not be the actual killer, just playing the part for the cameras? They could easily have stopped the tape, and had the real ISIS executioner step in and do the killing. Are authorities searching for one person when they should be looking for two people?

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ISIS' Final Email to James Foley Family: Filled With Threats to America

Here is the final email ISIS sent to the family of journalist James Wright Foley, who was executed this week. As for the reasons for disclosing it:

The Foley family has agreed to release the email from Foley’s captors. GlobalPost has chosen to publish it in full in the interest of transparency and to fully tell Jim's story. We believe the text offers insight into the motivations and tactics of the Islamic State.

The full text of the email is below: [More...]

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U.S. Failed ISIS Raid Took Place in Ukayrishah, Raqqa

The U.S failed attack on July 4 took place at Uribase near Raqqa, at a training facility named the Usama bin Laden camp. ISIS supporters and reporters tweeted it at the time, and a few articles were written about it.

Paradoxy13 :

According to al-Quds soldiers with US & Jordanian insignia dropped from a stealth helo stormed an ISIS training camp in Ukayrishah, #Raqqa

Kjetil Stormark:

BREAKING: Military raid against ISIL camp outside Raqqa in Syria early Friday morning. ISIL claims US involvement.

Cedric LaBrousse

@Paradoxy13 @AuraSalix This is prison where most important prisoners are said to be as Father Paolo and former Raqqa Revol' Council head.

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U.S. Made Rescue Attempt of ISIS Prisoners in Syria

The Defense Department today announced it made a rescue attempt of Americans held by Syria. It was unsuccessful because there were no hostages at the location. Ground "components" were used. Apparently the attempt was made earlier this summer, not today, and commando forces were used. From the press release:

Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary RADM John Kirby on Attempted Rescue Operation

The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.

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Obama and Kerry Address Beheading of James Foley

President Obama today addressed the beheading of reporter James Wright Foley.

“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”

Here is John Kerry's statement.

And make no mistake: we will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil. ISIL and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable.

The Defense Department says it conducted 14 strikes today.

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Pentagon Insists Mosul Dam Strikes Aren't Mission Creep

Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby insists the airstrikes on Mosul Dam were not "mission creep."

“Mission creep refers to the growth or expansion of the goals and objectives of a military operation -- that the goals and objectives change, morph into something bigger than they were at the outset,” he explained.

“... Nothing has changed about the missions that we're conducting inside Iraq. ... Airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas -- humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities,” the admiral said.
The airstrikes in and around Mosul Dam fit into both of those categories, he said.

How do the strikes fit into those categories? He acknowledges ISIS' intent "was not clear" and then says:

If that dam was to blow or they were to open and flood the gates, that it could have an effect as far south as Baghdad.”

My posts to the contrary are here and here.

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New ISIS Video Warns Obama and Shows Beheading of U.S. Journalist

Truly horrifying. al Furqan Media (aka Furqan Foundation for Media Production) and al Hayat Media Center have just released a video threatening the United States if it continues strikes against ISIS.

In the video, which I won't link to but have watched, U.S. journalist James Wright Foley is beheaded. Here is the FBI notice of Foley's kidnapping in Syria in 2012. In 2011, he was held by Libyan government forces.

Just before Foley is beheaded, the beheader, who speaks in English, says:

Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their right to live in safety under the Islamic Califphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.

After that, the beheader shows U.S. journalist Steven Joel Sotloff in the same position, and says "The life of this American citizen Obama depends on your next decision." [More...]

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