December 20, 2018
A Daesh Terrorist in the Makhmur Mountains Area (DD Dec 19)
Al-Abadi offers concise summary of Iraq’s three current political challenges. [..]
US gives Iraq another 3 months to end dependence on Iranian gas. [..]
Former Ninewa Governor decries increasing Iranian influence in Iraq. [..]
Coalition airstrikes, artillery pound Makhmur mountain area. [..]
11 Daesh captured near Baaj-Syria border. [..]
SDF Command criticizes Trump’s withdrawal decision. [..]
Washington Post calls Trump’s Syria statements misleading. [..]
Pentagon says 2,130 US soldiers will leave Syria within days. [..]
British, French troops will stay in Syria. [..]
Anti-SDF protests break out in two Mayadin towns. [..]
SDF kills 32 Daesh fighters near Hajin. [..]
SDF ready to leave Deir Ez-Zor if Turkey attacks NE Syria. [..]
United States: Secretary of Defense Mattis resigns in protest over Syria decision. [..]
Afghanistan: President Trump intends to withdraw thousands of US troops from Afghanistan. [..]
REPORTS FROM IRAQ
The Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat wrote that Haider Al-Abadi, head of the Victory coalition and the former Prime Minister, says that the first challenge facing the political process in Iraq is to deal with
“external influences” that have reached a level such that they can exert pressure to appoint certain ministers. He says that the second challenge is the spread of unlicensed weapons in hands of groups that falsely claim to be part of the PMF, but have different perspectives from that of the state and the government. The third challenge is the economic situation, in view of the decline of oil prices, the unsafe investment environment in Iraq, and its increased expenditure. [Sumaria]
Also see related story under Foreign policy, below
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the new UN Representative in Iraq, met former PM Haider Al-Abadi in his office on Thursday. She guaranteed the continued support of the UN to Iraq and its people. Al-Abadi says Iraq is stable now, after the defeat of terrorism, and he is looking forward to UN support in the field of reconstruction. [Sumaria]
Council of Representatives
The First Deputy for the CoR, Hassan Al-Kaabi, signed an MOU with the UNDP to establish the Parliamentary Development Institute. The Institute will work on developing the legislative and monitoring role of the CoR, and develop the capacities of the MPs and CoR staff. [Ghad]
DaeshDaily comment. Why didn’t they think of this before?
The Iraqi Council of Ministers announced on Thursday that the 3 days from December 30, 2018, to January 1, 2019 would be taken as legal holidays to celebrate the new year. [Rudaw]
Michael Knights, a fellow at the think-tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote a 1-year retrospective on the referendum for Kurdistan’s independence. Knights says the referendum and its aftermath provided Daesh with divisions to exploit, as it put the KDP and the PUK at odds and made Iraqi Kurds and the Washington security establishment more wary of one another. Knights wrote that the US should have applied more pressure on the Kurdish leadership earlier in order to delay the referendum, and made its position clearer, and that the US did not have a well-defined fallback plan when the referendum went forward. [SotIraq] [WINEP]
The US allowed Iraq an additional grace period of 3 months to end its dependence on Iranian power and gas supplies. The original 45-day period of exemption from sanctions ended on Thursday. An Iraqi delegation was in Washington to discuss this extension. [Rudaw]
Atheel Al-Nujaifi, the former Governor of Mosul and a now a member of the Al-Qarar (Decision) Sunni bloc, says that the US withdrawal from eastern Syria will reflect directly on Ninewa. He says that the PKK and other forces are mobilizing in Sinjar, where he expects the crisis to start. He says Iraq should avoid conflicts and start dialogue among Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia to avoid falling into any regional conflict. [BasNews]
DaeshDaily comment. We have reported in the past that Mr. Nujaifi is a long-time political ally of Turkey.
Al-Nujaifi also says there is an Iraqi will to confront Iranian influence, but the effort is not organized or structured, unlike the project to increase Iranian influence, which is planned. He says that Arab and US influence is almost absent, which also goes for Turkey, which is mainly concerned about its security. [Arabi21]
Daesh said it blew up the house of an Iraqi Army soldier in Al-Shiti village, in the Zoba’a area, on Tuesday. [ICDNDec20]
Daesh said on Thursday it killed or wounded eight Iraqi Army members and destroyed their bus with an IED in Sakran village, Haditha. [A3maq]
A security source in Anbar says an IED explosion wounded two civilians in the Rummana subdistrict of Al-Qa’im. [BasNews]
Daesh said it targeted a PMF “gathering” in the Hajjaj area with a Katyusha rocket on Wednesday. [ICDNDec20]
Daesh said it targeted an Iraqi Army and a PMF “gathering” in Tikrit city with 2 Katyusha rockets. [ICDNDec20]
The following related coverage was published in DaeshDaily on Wednesday:
A DaeshDaily source said that several Oil Protection Facilities policemen were killed or wounded in a “major” Daesh attack on Allas oilfield. The source said that 2 Daesh terrorists were also killed in the attack.
The media office for the North Oil Protection Facilities said on Wednesday that 1 of its policemen had been killed in a Daesh attack on the Allas oilfield. [Shafaaq]
Daesh said it killed two Oil Protection Facilities policemen, set on fire 2 vehicles and a military position, and stole ammunition in an attack on Allas oilfield, early morning Wednesday. [ICDNDec20] Daesh published photos of the attack. [ICDNDec20]
General Jum’a Enad, Salahuddin Ops Commander, said on Wednesday that Army units engaged a group of Daesh fighters who sneaked from the Himrin Hills into an area close to Allas oilfield, taking advantage of bad weather conditions. 3 of the infiltrators were killed; fighting continued where fires broke out on the western side of the oilfield. [Baghdadia]
The Commander of the Gwer “axis” for the Peshmerga, Serwan Barzani, said on Thursday that the Coalition had been carrying out both airstrikes and artillery strikes against Daesh on Mount Qarachogh. He said that the Coalition had launched 45 airstrikes over the previous 24 hours. [Rudaw]
A security source had said on Wednesday that the Coalition was shelling areas of Mount Qarachogh with artillery. Daesh was suspected to be hiding in caves in the areas in question. [Sumaria]
A DaeshDaily source had said on Wednesday that Coalition planes killed more than 10 Daesh terrorists in an airstrike near Mount Qarachogh. The source said the terrorists were preparing to launch an attack north of Makhmur.
Nineveh Plain (Hamdaniya, Tel Keif)
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that the 30th PMF Brigade (Shabak) withdrew from Christian areas in Tel Keif and handed over its positions to Babelyoun, a Christian PMF, and to local police.
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that Ministry of Interior EOD units defused 800 Daesh IEDs, which had been left behind in several areas in Hamdaniya District, during the last 20 days. The source said the IEDs were planted on the streets and inside the unoccupied houses of displaced Christians.
South (Hammam Al-Alil/Qayara)
A DaeshDaily source said on Wednesday that Iraqi Army units in the 20th Division captured a Daesh commander in Qayara who had just returned from the Al-Hawl Camp in Syria. The source said that the terrorist, who had a forged passport, admitted there was an officer in the Directorate of Passports in Ninewa who provided Daesh with fake IDs.
The Directorate of Military Intelligence says that its units, operating in the 20th Army Division, arrested one of the “most dangerous female terrorists” in Hammam Al-Alil. It says that the woman is a member of the Daesh security body, and that her husband, brother, and son are all Daesh members. [Sumaria]
Daesh published on Thursday photos of its terrorists capturing, then murdering, the mukhtar of Amrini village, in Hammam Al-Alil. [ICDNDec20]
Daesh had reported the murder on December 3. [A3maq]
DaeshDaily comment. The photos show the terrorists dressed in Iraqi military uniforms.
A DaeshDaily source had said on December 3 that 3 Daesh terrorists captured and then killed the mukhtar of Al-Amrini village. The source said the terrorists kidnapped the mukhtar from his house and took him on foot outside the village, then tortured and killed him.
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that Kata’eb Al-Imam Ali, a Shia PMF, withdrew from Tal Abta town, Muhalabiya subdistrict, and handed over its positions to local police units and tribal PMFs. The source said that the MoI rehired 225 policemen a week ago, raising the total number of policemen in Tal Abta to 300. The policemen had previously been fired because they didn’t fight Daesh in 2014.
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that the Hussein PMF, from Tal Afar, withdrew from villages in Tal Afar District to Tal Afar city and Tal Afar airport. The source said that Iraqi Army 16th Division units were given the responsibility to secure the village areas. The source also said that several police stations were reopened in Ayadhiya, Abu Mariya, and other areas.
DaeshDaily comment. This is the third redeployment story in this issue. (See Tal Abta story just above and Tel Keif story earlier.) In each case, the military has moved Army and/or PMF troops to places where the units’ religious and/or sectarian orientation more closely matches the orientation of the residents. (Christians for Shabaks in Tel Keif, Sunnis for Shia in Tal Abta; Shia for Sunnis in Shia Turkmen-majority Tal Afar city). Twice is perhaps a coincidence but three times seems more like a strategy for increasing public confidence in security.
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that Iraqi Army 15th Division units reopened the Suhaila Road between Tal Afar and Dahuk. The source said the road had been cut off for the last 4 years. The source said the road is an important trade route between the Kurdistan Region and western Ninewa.
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that National Security Service units captured a tanker truck loaded with different kinds of medicine (including drugs) in the Kasik area. The source said the truck was coming from Erbil, and was supposed to be delivered to Daesh terrorists hiding in the desert near Tal Afar. The source sent us photos of the confiscated items.
A DaeshDaily source said on Wednesday that Iraqi Army 16th Division and Yazidi PMF units captured a Daesh commander in Qayrawan subdistrict. The source said the terrorist had been captured months earlier, but was released after paying a bribe.
A DaeshDaily source said on Thursday that National Security Service units captured 11 Daesh terrorists and confiscated large quantities of IEDs and explosives near the Syrian border in Baaj. The source said the terrorists had brought the explosives from Syria recently. The source sent us photos of the explosives.
Nechirvan Barzani, the PM of the KRG, says that the Kurdistan Region is ready to cooperate with the team investigating Daesh crimes in Iraq. The statement followed his meeting in Erbil with Karim Asaad Ahmed Khan, the head of the team, who is operating under the mandate of the UN Security Council. [Anadolu]
REPORTS FROM TURKEY
Military & security developments
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday that Turkey was “always following terrorist movements in northern Iraq,” referring to recent Turkish airstrikes. Akar also said that the priority of the Turkish Armed Forces is to concentrate on Manbij and the areas east of the Euphrates, adding that the trenches dug in these areas will not stop Turkey from “eliminating terrorism” there. [ElDorar] [Forat]
President Erdogan said that Turkey, Russia, and Iran needed to work together on regional security, and that following the 3 summits previously held in Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara, they would hold the 4th such summit in Syria. He made the remarks in a speech at the Turkish-Iranian Business Forum in Ankara on Thursday. [ElDorar]
REPORTS FROM SYRIA
The SDF Command said that the US decision to withdraw from Syria would cause instability, disturb security, create a military and political vacuum, and would have dire consequences on regional and international stability. [Qasioun]
DaeshDaily comment. We can’t criticize any of that. An interesting unanswered question is what happens to the Albu Kamal campaign designed to close out Daesh. Secretary Mattis will be on the job for two more months. Whether the SDF stays on the job is the big question.
Also see story under Albu Kamal below
The SOHR reported that there was a meeting between SDF Commanders and Syrian government officials in Qamishli to discuss the situation in the country following the US decision to withdraw and recent Turkish threats. Handing over the oilfields held by SDF to the government was one subject discussed. [SyriaHR]
The UN Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, gave a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday, at which he said that both the Al-Assad regime and the Syrian opposition had objected to the UN-proposed list for forming a constitutional committee. [ElDorar]
The US told the UN Security Council on Thursday that it remained committed to the “complete destruction” of Daesh, and to a political solution to the Syria crisis. Rodney Hunter, a diplomat with the US Mission to the UN, added that the US would not grant any funds for Syria’s reconstruction or “even talk about” the return of refugees until progress on the political solution was made. [Anadolu]
DaeshDaily comment. We are sure the gentleman is sincere about not funding Syria reconstruction costs. However, the “complete destruction” of Daesh policy was essentially ended by yesterday’s presidential withdrawal statement, making Hunter’s statement something less than sincere.
The Washington Post wrote that Daesh is still a threat, despite President Trump’s claims that Daesh is defeated in order to justify his forces’ withdrawal from Syria. The paper referred to the number of Daesh attacks in Iraq, which it wrote supports the view of many US intelligence and Army officers that Daesh is still a “lethal force” in Iraq and Syria, despite the decline in territory it controls. It quoted Masrour Barzani as saying that Daesh is regrouping and reactivating itself. It noted Mosul, Anbar, and Syria as places where Daesh is returning. The article described Trump’s statements as misleading. [Sumaria] [WaPo]
A Pentagon source says that 2,130 US soldiers are leaving Syria for Erbil in the coming few days, following Trump’s announcement of withdrawal. The source says that the Al-Tanaf base and Area 55 will be included in the withdrawal in a later stage. [BasNews]
A US official told Reuters that all US State Department staff will be withdrawn from Syria within 24 hours. This comes following Trump’s announcement of withdrawing all US forces from Syria. [SyriaNow]
A US official told Reuters that US withdrawal from Syria came following the agreement reached by the Turkish and US Presidents last week. [Qasioun]
DaeshDaily comment. It was reported that Trump and Erdogan spoke by phone last Friday.
Also see related stories under Foreign policy – Europe, Anti-Daesh campaign, and United States, following
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says the sudden US decision to withdraw from Syria will adversely affect the war against Daesh. He is surprised at the US decision, he told Reuters. The threat from Daesh has been minimized but not eliminated, he says.
In the same context, the UK says it will continue fighting Daesh in Syria until the threat is over. [Hawar]
Nathalie Loiseau, the French Minister for European Affairs, says France will keep its military presence in Syria. She told CNEWS that Daesh lost 90% of its territories but it is not defeated yet. [Qasioun]
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, called on the international community to support the ceasefire in Idlib, saying his country is extending its utmost efforts to preserve it. He says that Idlib is the last place remaining for the Syrian opposition, and that Turkey had agreed with Russia to preserve it in order to keep open the possibility of a political solution, to which Iran also agreed. [Qasioun]
The SOHR says that the SDF is contemplating freeing 2,080 foreign Daesh prisoners from 44 different nationalities, who are currently held by the SDF in eastern Deir Ez-Zor. The figure includes women and children related to Daesh fighters. The decision is due to the fact that almost none of their home countries are willing to repatriate them. [SyriaHR]
The US Department of Defense said on Thursday that US airstrikes in Syria would continue “as long as there are US soldiers on the ground.” Pentagon spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich made the remarks to CNN on Thursday. [Anadolu]
Daesh said it wounded SDF members and damaged their vehicle when it set off a parked motorcycle bomb near Azzawi village, south of Shaddadi, on Wednesday. [ICDNDec20]
Daesh said it wounded two SDF members and damaged their vehicle with a sticky IED in West Nashwa neighborhood, in Hasaka city, on Wednesday. [ICDNDec20]
Thousands of Kurds from northeast Syria gathered in south Kobane to demonstrate in front of a Coalition base in Kharab Ashiq village, demanding that the US and the Coalition take a firm stance against Turkish threats. [Hawar]
Raqqa city & district
Daesh said it killed one SDF member, wounded another, and damaged their vehicle with an IED in Jazrat Albu Hamid, on Wednesday. [ICDNDec20]
Central and West
The SOHR reported that instability and assassination operations in Idlib were ongoing in north Hama and west Aleppo. An IED targeted a vehicle of the pro-Turkey National Front militia in Atarib. Attacks in the area have killed 413 militia fighters since April, in addition to 106 civilians. [SyriaHR]
The SOHR reported sporadic fighting among unidentified armed groups north of Aleppo that left casualties. It is not clear whether the groups were pro-government, or Kurdish groups engaging Syrian opposition militias. Mare’ and Tadif were reported specifically as battlefields. [SyriaHR]
East (Deir Ez-Zor)
Deir Ez-Zor District
Daesh said it shot and killed two SDF members in Al-Takihi village, in Busayrah subdistrict. [ICDNDec20]
Daesh said it killed three SDF members and wounded four others with machine guns in Abu Nital village, in Al-Suwar subdistrict, on Wednesday. [ICDNDec20]
Daesh said it shot and killed two SDF members and wounded another in Hawayej Bu Mas’a village, in Al-Kasrah subdistrict in far northern Deir Ez-Zor, on Tuesday. [A3maq]
Local sources in Dhiban and Suwaidan say that people from both towns demonstrated against poor living conditions and arbitrary arrests made by the SDF. They demanded that the SDF free all arrestees. The sources say that the SDF opened fire to disperse the demonstrators, and that people in Dhiban engaged the SDF with their hands and light weapons. [Qasioun]
DaeshDaily comment. This report looks strangely similar to the report above in Al-Kasrah.
Albu Kamal District
The media office of the SDF said that SDF fighters had killed 32 Daesh fighters and destroyed “several” military positions on the outskirts of Hajin. [Hawar]
The SDF is talking about withdrawing all its forces from the area in case of a Turkish attack in northeastern Syria. Meanwhile, according to the SOHR, the Coalition is establishing a new military base in Hajin. [SyriaHR]
Daesh issued on Thursday a video of the results of a Coalition airstrike on a house in Al-Sha’afa. [A3maq]
DaeshDaily comment. We are sure that in Daesh’s story, as in all such Daesh stories, there were no Daesh members in the house and that the victims were innocent civilians cruelly targeted by the Coalition.
OTHER MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA REPORTS
Daesh said its snipers wounded an Al-Qaeda member in the Za’aj area, in Qifa, on Wednesday. [ICDNDec20]
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said on Thursday that Egypt was seeking to advance its security partnership with the EU, and that the EU had re-affirmed its support for Egypt’s efforts to achieve economic growth. Hafez made the remarks on the occasion of the Egyptian-EU Partnership Council holding its 8th session. [AhlMisr]
The Egyptian MoI says that security personnel killed 8 terrorists from the Hasm Movement, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It says that the detainees were preparing to carry out terrorist operations during the upcoming Christmas and New Year festivities. [Ghad]
Daesh said on Thursday it destroyed an Egyptian Army bulldozer with an IED in the Muhajara area, in Bal’a village in Rafah. [ICDNDec20]
Tunisian National Guard units killed the terrorist “Ayman bin Al-Muldi bin Yunis Al-Jindubi” during a security operation in Kef Governorate, northwestern Tunisia. Sources said that the killed terrorist was carrying explosives that he planned to use in an operation targeting security personnel. [Tunisien] [Tunisien]
Protests that started in Atbara city, northern Sudan, to protest high prices and living conditions, have reached the capital Khartoum. Police used tear gas in the capital to disperse demonstrators. [Anadolu]
2 demonstrators were killed in Al-Qadarif, eastern Sudan, during demonstrations protesting high prices and difficult living conditions. Sudanese MP Mubarak Al-Nour says that the demonstrators were killed by armed masked men. The Army was deployed in the streets. [Anadolu]
REPORTS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES
US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation on Thursday, 1 day after Trump’s surprise announcement that he was pulling US troops out of Syria. A senior White House official said that Mattis’ resignation followed a face-to-face meeting with Trump regarding their policy differences. Mattis issued a firmly worded resignation letter focused on the need to respect allies and face up to malign actors. It said, diplomatically, “… Because you have a right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” An official said that Mattis had opposed the decision to pull out of Syria. [Reuters]
DaeshDaily comment. Mattis has been regarded almost from the start of the Trump presidency by media and informed citizens as the Administration’s best and most important Cabinet member, and had steered the President away from bad decisions in the past. Those commenting on the resignation professed to be appalled and worried about this turn of events.
The Swedish intelligence service said that it had discovered that around 150 Swedish Daesh fighters had returned to Sweden after fighting with Daesh in Syria. This is out of an estimated 300 Swedish nationals who traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Daesh. [Qasioun]
President Trump has directed the Pentagon to come up with a plan to withdraw nearly half of the more than 14,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Thursday, a move that many of Trump’s senior advisers and military officials have warned will plunge the country further into chaos.
The order comes on the heels of Trump’s announcement that he will be withdrawing all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, a surprise decision that the president made against the counsel of his top advisers and without warning any of the allies who have fought alongside American forces in the battle there against Daesh.
The Afghanistan directive also comes as the United States attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban, potentially undercutting leverage that American diplomats have. It marks a significant departure from Trump’s August 2017 decision to slightly increase the number of U.S. troops there and keep them in place with conditions on the ground dictating withdrawal. [WashingtonPost]
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said on Thursday that he had met with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday, after his return from the talks with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi. [Khaama]
Daesh said it shot and killed an Afghan intelligence member in the Maqam Khan area, in Jalalabad, on Wednesday. [A3maq]
An Indonesian Police Commander says that police arrested 20 “hardcore” suspects under the extended security measures in place during the holiday season. He described these steps as “proactive,” after past terror attacks killed over 30 civilians in Surabaya. [Ghad]
Daesh published on Thursday the 161st issue of its Naba’ magazine, including an infographic about its operations in Iraqi, Syria, Egypt, west Africa, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan during the last week. It said it conducted 76 attacks, killing or wounding more than 186 people and destroying 31 vehicles. It also published an infographic about its attacks in Sinai during the last 3 months, claiming it killed or wounded 107 people and destroyed or damaged 54 vehicles. In this report, Daesh also published more info about its clashes with Al-Shabaab in Bur Meirale in Somalia on Saturday. Daesh had said it killed 14 Al-Shabaab members in the clashes. Naba’s first report in its miscellaneous section was about the US withdrawing from Syria. [ICDNDec20]
* * * * *
READER COMMENTS WELCOME
You are invited to add information to or comment on any Daesh Daily story