Logo for the Global Counter ISIL Defence Ministerial, held in Washington D.C., 20 July 2016.[i]
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve: The Air Campaign, Effectiveness, Part III
CENTCOM’s CJTF-OIR mission is now entering the second year since its inception in August 2014. It has been almost six months since the United States and its coalition partners began transitioning to the expanded phase of the CJTF-OIR mission. April to October 2016 witnessed a general expansion of the Global Coalition’s air campaign, complemented by relentless diplomatic pressure to bolster the Coalition’s political support and capabilities. Turkish ground forces intervened in August to prevent the Kurdish occupation of Manbij, and in September Russia accelerated its support for the Syrian regime forces battling in Aleppo. The April – October period ended with the Coalition preparing for its final series of operations against Raqqa and Mosul.
Diplomacy: Strengthening the Commitment, Two Years of Progress
US President Barack Obama speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin on 18 April 2016. Control between the Russian and Coalition partners remained both complicated and dangerous, and was not always conducted with mutual satisfaction.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg flies by helicopter to Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 Flagship, Bonn, 21 April 2016.[ii] NATO’s role in the Coalition remained hugely important, especially in the naval, air and training roles, although the United States continued to shoulder the majority of airstrikes and ground personnel.
Command reshuffling continued throughout the April – October period. On 21 April, Major General Peter E. Gersten, the deputy commander, operations and intelligence for the CJTF-OIR and 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force, was moved to the Secretary of Air Force’s office at the Pentagon as deputy assistant for programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller,[iii] continuing a trend seen throughout 2016 of Iraq and Afghanistan senior commanders moving between and into Washington posts.
Vice President Joseph Biden boards a C-17 aircraft after concluding his visit to Baghdad on April 28.[iv] Biden’s surprise visit was meant to impress the importance of the Coalition’s long-term Mosul strategy; the recapture of ISIL’s Iraq capital is one of President Obama’s year end goals.
In Hannover, US President Barack Obama met with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron; the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, President of France, Francois Hollande and Matto Renzi, the Prime Minister of Italy. 25 April 2016. Europe’s commitment to the counter-ISIL mission remained steadfast despite a number of ISIS terrorist attacks on European soil.
On April 28, Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser, formerly the director joint forces development at the Pentagon (J-7, Joint Staff HQ, USMC)[v], was promoted full general and appointed the commander, US Forces, AFRICOM.[vi] The Africa Command played an important role in the expanded counter-ISIL mission: several high profile strikes were carried out in Libya.
On 2 May, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that Norway had agreed to provide special forces to Jordan to assist in the training of Syrian Sunni fighters. The coalition continued to train “vetted” Syrian fighters. Norway also agreed to send a special medical team directly to the combat areas of northern Iraq.[vii] Carter personally thanked Norway’s Defence Minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide for her assistance in securing Norway’s commitment to the ongoing mission. Carter planned to meet with Defence Minister Soreide in Stuttgart for a CJTF ministers meeting happening later that week.
On 4 May Air Force Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr., the deputy commander USAF Central Command, Southwest Asia, became deputy commander, US Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base.[viii] That same day, Ash Carter met with the Danish Defense Minister, Peter Christensen, at the Stuttgart anti-ISIL defence ministerial. Christensen pledged to commit Danish forces to the full spectrum of military operations in Iraq and Syria.[ix]
On 11 May, Elissa Slotkin, Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, and Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, Lt. General Kenneth F. McKenzie, held a video-conference with their Russian MOD counterparts to recommit to the US-Russia memorandum of understanding on flight restrictions for Syria., the first of many teleconferences for the period.[x] The Russia-US memorandum would become especially significant towards the end of September with the collapse of the ceasefire agreement, and the renewed Russian air campaign against Aleppo.
On 13 May, US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter announced that Belgium would commit air assets (F-16s) to Syria as part of the counter-ISIL mission. Carter commended Prime Minister Charles Michel and Defence Minister Steven Vadeput for their support.[xi]
Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti (US Army), and General John W. Nicholson, commander Operation Resolute Support (Afghanistan), at the Meetings of the Chiefs of Defence, in Brussels, 18 May. The interplay between Afghanistan, NATO, and the CJTF-OIR was maintained at the highest level, yet remained only one of the several security challenges facing the US and NATO. Other areas of concern were Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
18 May 2016, General Joseph F. Dunford (USMC) meeting with Vice Admiral John N. Christenson, the US Military Representative to NATO, at the 175th session of the Meetings of the Chiefs of the Defence at NATO HQ, Brussels.[xii] Dunford, along with Secretary Carter, were instrumental in pushing for US troop increases to the CJTF.
On 18 May, Secretary Carter met with Qatar’s defence minister, Minister of State for Defence Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah, and they discussed mutual security, including the counter-ISIL missions.[xiii]
US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg prior to the US-NATO bilateral meeting in Brussels on May 19.[xiv] Stoltenberg and Kerry conducted nearly round-the-clock global diplomacy to keep the Coalition on mission, while building bridges for ceasefire negotiations in Syria, but also keeping the broader strategic perspective in mind.
On 24 May, the US DOD announced that Brigadier Karen H. Gibson, deputy commanding general Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber, US Army Cyber Command, had been promoted to Director of Intelligence, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, based in Kuwait.[xv] That same day, Brigadier General G. Kaiser was made commander, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. These appointments reflected a long-standing trend of moving intelligence and special forces personnel to CJTF and Afghanistan. Cyber, intelligence, training and battle-space control only increased in significance as the air campaign and ISF training operations expanded during the summer.
US President Obama photographed here taking notes before the G7 leaders working lunch in Shima City, Japan, 26 May 2016. Russia had been evicted from the G8 following the March 2014 invasion of Crimea. Along with Secretary Kerry, with only half a year left in office, President Obama maintained focus on the counter-ISIL mission and Afghanistan, the two wars that had not ended during his eight years as President.
June 2, Graduates of the USAF Academy Colorado Springs celebrate. President Obama congratulates graduate in the background.[xvi]
On June 3, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, during his visit to Singapore, met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the two discussed countering terrorism, including ISIL, as well as joint air operations in the Asia-Pacific. Carter thanked the Prime Minister for his aggressive stance on counter-ISIL and anti-piracy (Gulf of Aden) missions.[xvii] The coalition relied on smaller partners and regional actors to handle specific tasks, often outside the main theatre of operations.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meeting with French President Francois Hollande on 3 June 2016.[xviii]
On 3 June Army Command Sgt. Major William F. Thetford, command senior enlisted leader for US Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, replaced Army Command Sgt. Major Christopher K. Greca as command senior enlisted advisor for CENTCOM, MacDill AFB.[xix]
On 8 June, US DOD Secretary Ash Carter and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work held a meeting with Sweden’s Minister of Defense, Peter Hultqvist. Discussion topics included Russian aggression and expanding the counter-ISIL mission. Bob Work later met with the Defense Minister of Montenegro, Milica Pejanovic-Djuisic, thanking the minister for their commitment to Afghanistan.[xx] Also on June 8, Brigadier General Daniel R. Walrath, deputy commanding general (maneuver) 1st Armored Division; and commander Combined Joint Operations Center/Army Forces-Jordan, Operation Inherent Resolve, Jordan, was moved to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, US Army, Washington DC.[xxi]
ISW European situation map, showing ISIL attacks between March 25 and July 15, 2016. Turkey’s greater involvement in the Coalition drew a number of ISIL backed attacks.
On 10 June, Brigadier General Aaron M. Prupas, the deputy director of intelligence, US Forces – Afghanistan, also assistant deputy of staff of intelligence to NATO HQ, Operation Resolute Support, was made the director (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strategy, plans, policy, and force development) CENTCOM, Kabul, Afghanistan, under the Deputy Chief of Staff (ISR), USAF HQ at the Pentagon.[xxii] Brigadier General Aaron replaced Major General Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall who became the director (operations) and the military deputy at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Springfield, Virginia.
President Obama at the Department of Finance to give a statement on the Orlando shootings (12 June 2016), following a National Security Council meeting on June 14, 2016. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, is standing in front of the camera. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew are to his left.[xxiii] .[xxiv]
14 June: NATO Defense Ministers meet in Brussels. US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter meets with Pedro Morenes Eluate, the Spanish Secretary of Defense , and Jeab-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense for France.[xxv] Carter also met with Michael Fallon, Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence.[xxvi] Accelerating the ISIL campaign was discussed by all parties. Later, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Fikri Isik, the Turkish Minister of Defense. Carter emphasized Turkey’s critical role in the Counter-ISIL Coalition. Carter also thanked the Minister for his support in the ongoing refugee crisis, and in his commitment to Afghan security.[xxvii] Carter also met with the Secretary of State for the Defence of France, Jean-Yves le Drian.[xxviii]
The next day, June 15, Carter met with General Stepan Poltorak, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, and confirmed the US and NATO commitment to Ukrainian security, including US non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.[xxix] On 16 June, Secretary Carter met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman. Carter and bin Salman discussed Saudi Arabia’s important role in the counter-ISIL mission, as well as the Saudi operations to counter Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Yemen.[xxx]
Afghanistan situation map for June 30, 2016.[xxxi] ISW map. The long war entered its 15th year in October 2016.
On 17 June, the US Department of Defense released its Afghanistan situation report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” covering the period December 2015 to May 2016.[xxxii] The report discussed the successes of the counter-ISIL mission in Afghanistan (Islamic State – Khorasan), as well as the ongoing NATO Operation Resolute Support and US led Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The report, significantly, noted that insurgent violence has led to increased levels of civilian and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) casualties. The report also highlighted ongoing capability gaps in the ANDSF (although noting that Afghanistan’s aerial capability had increased three times from its 2015 level thanks to the delivering of ground attack aircraft and helicopters), and observed that while the NATO commitment continues to hover around the 7,000 soldier level, the US was significantly short of its 9,800 troop level establishment during the report period. US troop level is expected to fall to 5,500 by January 2017.
A video-conference was held between Russian and US DOD personnel on 18 June regarding Russian airstrikes carried out on June 16 that targeted At-Tanf in Syria, where US backed Syrian opposition and counter-ISIL forces were stationed.[xxxiii] At the Pentagon, on 20 June, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Minister of Defense. They discussed regional security concerns, as well as Lieberman’s planned visit to Fort Worth, Texas, where he would see the F-35 JSF production line (Israel will be the first foreign country to receive F-35s).[xxxiv] That same day, Carter issued a statement applauding Polish Minister of National Defense Macierewicz’s decision to deploy 60 special operations forces to Iraq, as well as commit four F-16s to Kuwait for reconnaissance missions.[xxxv] Likewise, Carter issued another statement, also 20 June, thanking Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Defense of New Zealand, for his commitment to the training mission in Iraq through November 2018.[xxxvi]
The next day, 21 June, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work met with the Dutch Minister of Defense Secretary-General Wim Geerts at the Pentagon, where the two discussed Europe and the counter-ISIL campaign.[xxxvii] On 24 June Ash Carter spoke by telephone with UK State Secretary for Defense Michael Fallon: they discussed the ongoing counter-ISIL mission and US-UK commitment to NATO.[xxxviii]
US Secretary of State meets with NATO Secretary General for bilateral talks on 27 June 2016, in Brussels.[xxxix] The same day US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter issued a statement congratulating Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi for the progress made securing Fallujah from ISIL control.[xl]
June 29, 2016: North American leaders summit working lunch at the National Gallery in Ottawa, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto. US Secretary of State John Kerry sits to Obama’s right and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice is to his left.[xli] Canada’s role in the Global Coalition remains complex, with the Liberal government committing 168 special operations forces to Iraq, while continuing to fly reconnaissance and refueling missions.
US President Obama discusses a statement on Afghanistan with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 6, 2016.[xliv]
NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow meets with the Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Mohamed Ahmed Albowardi Alfalacy, of the United Arab Emirates, 6 July 2016[xlv] The UAE plays a crucial role in the coalition, providing basing and support for US airstrikes, while also committing to the all important training mission.
8 July 2016, the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Secretary General Stoltenberg visits with NATO Allied Ground Surveillance personnel and their Global Hawk UAV.[xlvi]
Jens Stoltenberg meets with US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Warsaw on 8 July 2016.[xlvii] Operation Resolute Support was the major subject of discussion, with commitments made to sustain the operation through the conclusion of 2016, with financial commitments made to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces through the 2020 timeframe. It was hoped Afghanistan would be capable of financial responsibility for its security forces by the end of 2024 (the conclusion of the “Transformation Decade” as arranged at the 2012 NATO Chicago Summit).
Enemy attacks in Afghanistan, January 2014 to May 2016. The figures indicate an overall decline in IED and mine fatalities, but an increase in direct actions.
8 July 2016, Family Portrait of NATO heads of state, Warsaw Summit.[xlviii] Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom smiles, despite having lost the Brexit Referendum in June. He was to subsequently to resign on July 13. A week after this picture was taken, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, standing in front of Chancellor Merkel, would survive the coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
9 July 2016, Warsaw: Barack Obama shakes hands with Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan. Ash Carter is on the left and Jens Stoltenberg on the right.[xlix] Secretary Carter later met with Turkey’s Defense Minister, Fikri Isik, expressing uniformity on the anti-ISIL mission, and looked forward to meeting again in Washington DC for the July 20-21 Counter-ISIL Defense Ministerial.[l] Carter then left for Baghdad, arriving July 11.
US Defense Secretary Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi in Baghdad shortly after arriving on 11 July. At this meeting Carter highlighted the success achieved by capture the Qayyarah West airfield. Carter announced that the US intended to deploy another 560 troops to Iraq to build on momentum leading up to the planned assault on Mosul, an arrangement that had been made with CJTF-OIR commander Lt. General Sean MacFarland.[li] Mosul, the plan went, would be attacked from both north and south: in the north by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and in the south by Iraqi Security Forces. Manbij, the strategic hub along the Turkish border between Iraq and Syria, was now surrounded and under intensive aerial bombardment.
July 15, 2016, President Obama meets with Gerard Araud, French Ambassador to the US, following the ISIS terrorist attack in Nice. US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to offer his condolences.[lii]
On 19 July US Secretary Carter called Turkey’s Fikri Isik to reiterate his support for the democratically elected government, following the 15 July 2016 coup attempt.[liii]
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL Defence Ministerial, chaired by US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter, 20 July 2016, at Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington D.C.[liv] Carter later spoke with French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian. Carter expressed gratitude for the decision to deploy France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to support the CJTF.[lv] Carter also met with the Defense Ministers from Saudi Arabia and Australia, both involved in the training mission in Iraq.
French (and USN and German) naval forces operating against ISIL.
On 26 July the next video-conference between Russian MOD and US DOD personnel took place.[lvi] On 28 July Brigadier General Terrence J. McKenrick, the commanding general, Brigade Modernization Command, Army Capabilities Integration Center, US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Bliss, Texas, was promoted to deputy commanding general, US Army Central/Third Army, Kuwait.[lvii]
August 2, 2016. President Obama greets Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore on the White House south lawn. The Prime Minister also met with Secretary Carter for a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
On 2 August Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Eric D. Neilsen, was moved from the Joint Special Operations Air Component – Central, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to become the senior enlisted leader for NATO Special Operations Forces, Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe, Mons, Belgium; highlighting the close integration between CTJF and NATO special operations.[lviii]
Russian airstrikes in Syria, July 28 to August 20, 2016. Institute for the Study of War map.[lix]
September 7, 2016: Secretary Carter met with Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman for a bilateral meeting during the London UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial. They discussed regional security and ISIL.[lx] Carter then met with Fikri Isik, Turkey’s Minister of Defense, on September 8. Carter reaffirmed his commitment to Turkey’s security, and assured the minister of US support for anti-ISIL operations along the Turkish border.[lxi]
ISW situation map for ISIL activity in Turkey the year of 2015-2016.[lxii]
On 16 September, the US President’s National Security Council met. It was noted that at this time in the campaign, 50% of Iraq territory once controlled by ISIL had been recaptured, and that ISIL in Syria was now effectively cut off from the outside world.[lxiii]
The next video-conference between US DOD and Russian MOD liaisons took place on September 14, with another conference held on 22 September following the Russian or Syrian regime airstrikes on a UN aid convoy, disrupting the weeklong ceasefire agreement before the end of September.[lxiv]
September 20: US President Barack Obama before delivering his final presidential address at the UN General Assembly.[lxv]
Stoltenberg attending the UN General Assembly session on 20 September 2016, during his visit to New York.[lxvi]
On 22 September, Secretary Ash Carter met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Pentagon. They discussed US and Australian support for the counter-ISIL mission and the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan, as well as regional security concerns, the recent North Korean nuclear test, and naval developments in the Asia-Pacific.[lxvii]
Also on 22 September, the United Kingdom’s Michael Fallon met with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who expressed gratitude for the UK’s commitment to the coalition training mission.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a seminar at the Kennedy School, Harvard, during his visit to the United States, 23 September 2016. NATO and the Coalition took great lengths to explain the importance of the mission to often skeptical populations; the Combined Joint Task Force continued to maintain youtube and twitter pages filled with regular updates on airstrikes and other coalition movements.
Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford and Secretary Ash Carter state that the coalition has gained momentum in battling ISIL in Syria, September 24, 2016.[lxviii] On September 28, Carter announced that an additional 600 US soldiers were being committed to Iraq, in anticipation of the Mosul offensive.[lxix]
19 September. CJTF-OIR commander Lt. General Townsend meets US Army Secretary Eric Fanning in Baghdad at the beginning of the Secretary’s tour of US forces in Iraq.
Operations in Transition: Escalation
The summer of 2016 was a transitional period for the CJTF: while Ramadi had been recaptured at the end of 2015, and Hit was soon to follow (April 2016), with the Mosul – Raqqa corridor squeezed at Sinjar, although Fallujah was still under ISIL control. Much of the air campaign over the past five months was focused on the degrading of ISIL forces in preparation for the expected showdown over the ISIL capitals in Syria and Iraq.
Two French Mirage 2000Ds refuel over Iraq, April 8, 2016.
In the target information section of the CJTF-OIR strike reports, it is not unusual to see one strike credited with destroying dozens of ISIL fuel trucks, or destroying a cluster of local targets, from tunnels, bridges, rocket vehicles, VIEDs, IEDs and explosives factories, many boats and river craft, medium and heavy machine gun positions, bunkers, communications, HQ, and training facilities, currency mints, oil derricks, pump jacks, well heads, technicals, tactical vehicles, bulldozers, rear-end loaders, recoilless rifles, artillery pieces, mortars, weapons caches, fighting entrenchments, ISIL camera positions, sniper positions, multistory buildings, entire House Borne IEDs (HBIEDs), and some particularly interesting targets such as battle tanks and at least one ISIL controlled drone. A typical example, representative of the dozens of strikes conducted during any given day, are six strikes executed near Qayyarah, on April 5, 2016, destroying an ISIL tactical unit, weapons storage facility, four mortar firing positions, a supply cache, a VBIED production facility, and 13 staging areas.
Table showing the monthly weapon release figures for one year of the war, February 2015 – 2016. The low figures in the spring of 2015 coincide with the withdrawal of the B-1B bombers for modifications, and subsequent uptick with the arrival of B-52s.[lxx]
Table showing breakdown of CJTF-OIR strike mission targets for April 2016.[lxxi] Mosul was the most heavily attacked, receiving 137 strikes, nearly twice as many as Mar’a in Syrian, with 70 strikes. Fallujah, Hit and Qayyarah received more than 50 strikes each.
A huge series of strikes were carried out against ISIL controlled refinery assets near Mosul on 14 and 15 April 2016.[lxxii]
16 April: airstrikes target a VBEID and ISIL troop barracks near Al Hawl.[lxxiii]
18 April: coalition strikes destroy ISIL explosives and IED factories at Qayyarah[lxxiv]
Coalition strikes on April 24, targeting ISIL munitions factories in Fallujah and Sultan Abdallah, fighting positions around Manbij were also attacked.[lxxv] More ISIL infantry positions were engaged outside Fallujah on 25 April.[lxxvi]
Qayyarah was targeted on 27 April, as was Al Huwayjah.[lxxvii] An HQ facility at Washiyah, Syria, was also destroyed.
An ISIL VBIED factory at Al Qam was destroyed on 29 April. Additional VBIEDs were targeted near Kirkuk.[lxxx]
On 4 May 2016, the US Defense Department announced that Special Warfare Operator 1st Class, Charles H. Keating, a US Navy SEAL, had been killed in combat at Tall Usquf Iraq, May 3.[lxxxi] On 8 May, the DoD announced that 1st Lt. David A. Bauders of Seattle Washington, 176th Engineer Company, had been killed while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, on 6 May at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq due to a non-combat related incident.[lxxxii]
Weapons facilities at Qayyarah were bombed on May 5.[lxxxiii]
On 10 May US Special Operations Command carried out a hostage rescue raid in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, freeing Ali Haider Gilani, son of Pakistant’s former Prime Minister, had been held captive for three years by Al Qaeda.[lxxxiv]
19 May: Snipers in Ar Rutbah are targeted.[lxxxv]
On 20 May, the ISIS Syrian capital at Ar Raqqah was hit, a huge weapons cache destroyed along with an oil derrick.[lxxxvi] A mortar position at Mar’a was targeted on May 21. Another weapons cache was destroyed on May 22, again near Mar’a.[lxxxvii] Also on 21 May, the US killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Mansour in an airstrike in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Mansour had been the Taliban leader since July 2015. He was succeeded by Mullah Haybatullah Akhundzada.
On 24 May a VBIED was destroyed at Fallujah.[lxxxviii] PGM circled.
An ISIL HQ building in Mosul was destroyed on 25 May.[lxxxix]
On 23 May, the US DOD announced that Taliban leader Mullah Mansur had been killed in an airstrike carried out along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on 21 May.[xc] On 28 May, Gunner’s Mate Seaman Connor Alan McQuagge, a 19 yearold from Utah, died of a non-combat related injury while underway in the Red Sea, aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.[xci]
On 27 May the US conducted an airstrike against Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, an al-Shabaab commander in south-central Somalia. Da’ud was responsible for coordinating militia operations between Somalia, Kenya and Uganda, and had been head of Amniyat, the al-Shabaab intelligence branch.[xcii]
Another large ISIL VBIED was destroyed at Fallujah on 28 May.[xciii] PGM circled.
ISIL technical destroyed at Hit on 30 May.[xciv]
May 29, Iraq Shiite fighters fire artillery at ISIL controlled Fallujah.[xcv]
As of May 31 2016, 20,131 US military personnel had been wounded and 1,843 killed in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict in October 2001.
Strike data for June 2016. Manbij, along the strategic M4 route to Aleppo, received 32% of all strikes, over 276 of the 874 strikes conducted that month. Qayyarah accounted for 106 strikes, Mosul and Fallujah another 96 and 80 respectively.
On 6 June an ISIL oil tanker facility at Mosul was bombed.[xcvi] On 11 June a fuel weighing station at Qayyarah was destroyed as part of the mission to disrupt ISIL oil supplies.[xcvii] Mosul was bombed again on 14 June.
ISIL technical destroyed near Manbij, 22 June.[c] PGM circled. That day the US DOD reported that Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Clement, 38, had died on 21 June from non-combat injuries sustained while he was deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.[ci]
On 25 June the US conducted strikes against two ISIL commanders near Mosul, killing both: Basim Muhammad Ahmad Sultan al-Bajari, ISIL’s deputy minister of war (and former al Qaeda operative), and Hatim Talib al-Hamundi, ISIL military commander, Mosul.[cii]
On 26 June, Iraqi forces announced that Fallujah had been fully liberated, ISIS losses estimated at 2,500.[ciii] ISF Counter-Terrorism soldier drives through the streets of Fallujah.
Fleeing ISIL vehicle about to be hit by airstrike (in red) outside Habbaniyah, Iraq, 29 June 2016.[cvi]
A building complex controlled by fighters is demolished on 30 June 2016 near Manbij. Manbij was the most heavily bombed target for June and August.[cvii]
Russian airstrikes in Syria between 18 June and 28 June, 2016. ISW map.[cviii]
Syrian Democratic Forces fighter watches coalition airstrike near Manbij, July 2016.[cix]
Iraqi Army Aviation M-28 Havoc attack helicopters annihilate an ISIL convoy fleeing Fallujah, July 2016.[cx] The helicopter attacking here is circled.
3 July 2016: ISIL vehicle destroyed near Manbij.[cxi]
ISIL controlled building are destroyed on 5 July 2016 near Manbij.[cxii]
ISIL VBIED moments before destruction by coalition airstrike, outside Bayji, 7 July 2016.[cxiii]
On 9 July, US Forces-Afghanistan killed Umar Khalifa in an airstrike. Khalifa was a leader of the Tariq Gidar Group of the Islamic Sate-Khorasan Province, and responsible for multiple high profile attacks in Pakistan.[cxiv]
11 July, ISIL artillery piece destroyed near Manbij. PGM circled.[cxv]
13 July 2016: more buildings targeted in Manbij.
Buildings in Manbij explode as they are targeted by CJTF-OIR airstrikes, 11 July.[cxvi]
Rubble in Manbij, 16 July 2016.
16 July 2016, B-52 refuels from KC-10 Extender, Iraq.[cxvii]
The US DOD announced that 1st Lt. Anais A. Tobar, 25 years old, of Miami, Florida, had died on 18 July in Southwest Asia, in a non-combat related incident. 1st Lt. Tobar had been supporting Operation Inherent Resolve when she was killed.[cxviii]
Fireball engulfs Manbij neighbourhood on 19 July 2016.[cxix]
A huge cloud of smoke spirals up from an airstrike on Manbij, 24 July 2016.[cxx] Further strikes were carried on 26 July.
Al Baghdadi was the subject of airstrikes on 25 July.[cxxi]
On July 26 US forces conducted an airstrike against ISIL-K in Afghanistan, targeting Hafiz Sayed Khan, killing him. Khan was an ISIL emire involved in recruiting and participating in attacks in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.[cxxii]
Fireball from coalition airstrike on Manbij, 27 July 2016.[cxxiii]
ISW map for late July 19-25, showing terrorist activity in Iraq.[cxxiv]
Lt. Col. Flando E. Jackson, USAF, died on 4 August in Southwest Asia from non-combat injuries sustained during support for Operation Inherent Resolve.[cxxv]
Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force “Strike”, carries out a fire mission with their M777 howitzer in support of Iraqi Security Forces operating at Kara Soar Base, 7 August 2016.[cxxvi] Artillery fire missions are not counted in any of the coalition air campaign strike tallies, nor are the Russian or Syrian regime figures.
CJTF OIR strikes for August 2016. Manbij, close to the Turkish border, continued to be targeted, receiving 144 strikes, more than twice as many as Mosul (61) and more than three times as many as Qayyarah (49). Ar Raqqah, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria, was only struck 14 times, for 3% of all strikes. 522 strikes were conducted in August.
On 1 August the US conducted an airstrike against Sirte, Libya, stating that the airstrike had been requested by the Libyan government to counter ISIL forces.[cxxvii]
August 9: Coalition airstrikes destroy ISIL command and control node near Sultan Abdallah, Iraq.[cxxviii]
A terrorist attack was carried out in Southern Turkey on 10 August.[cxxix] On 14 August the DOD announced that Staff Sgt. Christopher A Wilbur, US Army, 36 years old, died from non-combat injuries on 12 August, in Kandahar, Afghanistan while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.[cxxx]
On August 23rd one US soldier, Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28 years old, of Irvine California, was killed and another wounded, along with 6 Afghan Security Forces soldiers in an IED blast in Helmand province.[cxxxiii]
Coalition airstrike destroys an ISIL VBIED factory near Mosul on 25 August.[cxxxiv]
Turkish APCs head towards Jarablus on August 25. Turkey began its armed intervention in the Syrian Civil War on 24 August, taking aim against both Kurdish and ISIL fighters.
The delicate diplomatic situation between Turkey and the Kurdish YPG forces in Manbij was redressed somewhat when Kurdish forces withdrew from Manbij on 25 August.[cxxxv]
On 30 August the US conducted an airstrike against Abu Muhammad Al-Adani, near Al Bab, Syria. Al-Adani, who was killed, was an ISIL spokesman and recruiter, responsible for organizing lone-wolf attacks.[cxxxvi] Another strike, carried out 7 September against Raqqa in Syria, killed Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad (“Dr. Wa’il), a senior ISIL leader, information minister, and a member of the Senior Shura Council. Wa’il was credited with overseeing production of the Islamic State’s gruesome propaganda videos.[cxxxvii]
The DOD announced that 1st Lt. Jeffrey D. Cooper, 25 years old, had died September 10 in Kuwait from non-combat-related injuries.[cxxxviii] On September 9, US Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldein stated that the air campaign was gaining momentum.[cxxxix]
11 September 2016, Task Force “Strike”, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, trains with 15th Iraqi Army Division soldiers during their advise and assist mission in support of CJTF-OIR in Kuwait.[cxl]
13 September, 7RAR (7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment) soldiers train with ISF at Taji.
On 16 September Warrant Officer Travis R. Tamayo, 32, of Brownsville, Texas died from a non-combat related incident in Abu Dhabi, UAE, while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.[cxli]
On 17 September, the DOD announced that it may have struck Syrian regime forces near Dayr Az Zawr.[cxlii] On 20 September the US Navy announced the death of Aviation Boatswain’s Mate, Airman, Devon M. Faulkner, 24, who died from non-combat related injuries while supporting Operation Odyssey Lightning, the US campaign in Libya.[cxliii]
21 September, 2016. US Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, takes photographs with Task Force Strike soldiers during his visit to the Combined Joint Task Force.[cxliv]
ISF forces raised the Iraqi flag over Sharqat on 23 September, liberating the city.[cxlv]
Infographic provided on the CJTF OIR website showing total training establishment as of September 24.[cxlvi]
September 25, 2016. CJTFOIR commander, Lt. General Stephen J. Townsend met with XVIII Airborne Corps soldiers at the Qayyarah airfield, Iraq.[cxlvii] XVIII Airborne Corps had previously led the coalition mission in Afghanistan, completing its tour there in December 2014. Townsend, commanding XVIII Airborne Corps, replaced Lt. General Sean MacFarland, III Armored Corps, shortly after 10 August, 2016. Townsend is expected to oversee the CJTF-OIR assaults on Mosul (Operation Conquest) and Raqqa, the ISIL capitals in Iraq and Syria. Russian airstrikes against Aleppo dramatically accelerated at the end of September, as Syrian regime forces prepared to enter the city in what many expect will be the decisive battle of the Syrian Civil War.[cxlviii]
RAF Tornado with 500 lb/230 kg Paveway IV laser-guided bombs on a strike mission, September 23, 2016.[cxlix]
USAF F-4C Wild Weasel flying over North Vietnam, December 1972.[cl]
During Operation Linebacker I between May and October 1972, 150,000 tons of munitions were dropped on North Vietnam; probably more than 130 kilotons: 300 million lbs.[cli] 40,000 tons were dropped on the area around An Loc between April and June 1972, while B-52s, flying 2,700 sorties, dropped 57,000 tons in Quang Tri Province. 18,000 sorties were flown in Military Region I, including Hue and Quang Tri.[clii] The B-52 Operation Linebacker II raids over eleven days in December 1972 produced 729 sorties and more than 20,000 tons dropped: 40 million lbs. One million tons of bombs were dropped during Operation Rolling Thunder, March 1965 to November 1968, the equivalent of 40 B-52s dropping full payloads, 800 tons, per day.[cliii]
B-52 refueling over Southeast Asia, 1967.[cliv] Operation Arc Light preceded Linebacker. B-52Ds could deliver 40,000 lbs of bombs. In the 1990s, the B-52G delivered 66,000 lbs of bombs, and modernized B-52Hs can carry 70,000 lbs, a typical strike package consisting of eighteen 1000 lb mk83 bombs.
In Iraq and Syria the tempo of the air campaign remains enormous, with 17,369 weapons releases for the first seven months of 2016, with an average of almost 2,500 launches per month. In December 2015, 21,113 sorties yielded 715 strikes that delivered 3,139 releases (often described as “bombs dropped”). That year a total of 21,113 sorties were flown. Of those, at least 9,914 had resolved in a weapons launch, with a number of estimates putting the total number of bombs dropped and guided missiles fired (presumably excluding cannon expended, although cannon attacks are included in the strike figures), at over 20,000 for 2015. For the first seven months of 2016, the figure was 12,350 sorties, with 6,575 of those sorties resulting in a weapons launch.
In April 2016 there were 2,582 weapons releases, then 2,341 coalition aircraft weapon releases in May.[clvii] There were 3,167 in June (almost double the quantity of launches in June the previous year),[clviii] and in July 2016 the B-52s began to operate in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Syria, 2,411 weapons were launched that month.[clix] There have been numerous reports that US stockpiles are decreasing, with the munitions industry struggling to keep up with demand for JDAMs, 1000 lb laser guided bombs, and other precision guided ordinance. The coalition is undoubtedly dropping many hundreds of thousands of lbs of munitions on Iraq and Syria, perhaps more than a million of lbs, every month. Keep in mind that none of these figures include Syrian regime airstrikes, or Russian airstrikes in Syria.
In February 2016, Rockwell’s B-1B Lancers, comprising the bulk of the USAF bomber force, and responsible for dropping 1/3 of total ordinance between July and January 2015,[clx] were withdrawn from the CJTF-OIR theatre for systems, weapons (JASSM-ER) and cockpit upgrades. Each B-1 can deliver 125,000 lbs of ordinance, with a typical load of 75,000 lbs of bombs not uncommon. This B-1B, with F-16 and F-15K escort, flies over South Korea on 21 September 2016, UN International Peace Day, in a show of resolve following the latest North Korean nuclear test.[clxi] The B-52s and B-1Bs have now been integrated into the USAF Global Strike Command, and will no doubt be deployed together in the expected air war finale, possibly before the end of the year.
[xc] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/778259/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-us-airstrike-against-taliba ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/778380/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-us-airstrike-against-taliban-le
[cxxxiii] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/923444/statement-by-secretary-of-defense-ash-carter-on-us-casualties-in-afghanistan ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/924303/dod-identifies-army-casualty
[cxxxvi] http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/930843/statement-by-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-precision-airstrike-targeti ; http://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/941733/statement-from-pentagon-press-secretary-peter-cook-on-strike-against-isil-senio
[clii] Drew Middleton, Air War Vietnam, Arno Press, New York Times Company, New York, 1978.
[cliii] Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History, p. 468