H.R. McMaster is hailed as the hero of Iraq’s Tal Afar. Here’s what that operation looked like.


He hoped his strategy would win the war. But ‘Restoring Rights’ was less than perfect, and victory would be short-lived.

February 24 at 11:39 AM

Jon Finer spent 18 months covering the Iraq War as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. He was chief of staff and director of policy planning for Secretary of State John Kerry.

On the eve of his biggest mission, in a career marked by hard jobs done well, Col. H.R. McMaster explained to me how the United States could win the battle for the city of Tal Afar and, eventually, the Iraq War.

It was a bold belief at the time: August 2005, the dog days of a long, bloody summer, during which a brutal insurgency had plunged Iraq to the brink of civil war. American casualties mounted, and there was no clear strategy for turning the tide.

McMaster was about to give the order to launch Operation Restoring Rights, which would become the conflict’s second-largest military campaign, after the liberation of Fallujah a year earlier. But Tal Afar, McMaster knew, would in some ways be even more complicated — demographically (a mix of Sunni Turkmen, Shia Arabs and Kurds), geographically (less than 100 miles from a terrorist crossing point into Iraq from Syria) and politically, as the new Iraqi government was struggling to find its feet and the George W. Bush administration’s war of choice seemed to be spinning out of control.

In contrast with Fallujah, heavily covered by the international press, the Tal Afar offensive was relatively low profile, in part because it coincided with, and was overshadowed by, the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. As a Baghdad correspondent for The Washington Post, I was one of two Western reporters accompanying McMaster’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, assigned to a platoon called Eagle Troop for almost three weeks. From before dawn until well after dark, we swept through the city — house by house, block by block, often under fire that couldn’t be located — in search of terrorists who had made it their home.

When McMaster (who is now a lieutenant general) was named President Trump’s new national security adviser, I retrieved from a closet three dusty spiral notebooks from that time. They reminded me of the fatally flawed hand he was dealt and the flicker of promise he produced, seized upon by an administration desperate for good news and yet soon snuffed out.

“The good people of this city have been under assault from the enemy for months,” McMaster told me in our first meeting, before walking me through Tal Afar’s toxic mix of sectarian violence, illiteracy, terrorist infiltration and inter-ethnic tension. “You have tribal rivalries that go back 200 years. You have Turkmen Sunnis who feel complete evisceration from the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south. You have all of the problems of Iraq here, in microcosm . . . it all comes together in this little town.”

Tal Afar, which before the 2003 U.S. invasion was home to some 200,000 people, has the dubious distinction of being one of the most frequently “liberated” cities in Iraq, to use the U.S. military’s term of art; which, of course, also means it has been among the most often conquered. After the invasion, it was one of the earliest cities to be taken by insurgents. In 2004 the U.S. Army pushed them out but left only 500 troops behind, and by 2005 Tal Afar had been recaptured.

I was tipped off about the coming offensive by a Washington colleague. You will like McMaster, he told me. It turned out everyone in the media liked McMaster, starting with his rare résumé, well-chronicled in recent days, replete with both soldierly valor and intellectual cred. He also has a flair for pungent comments tailor-made to be quoted.

The morning the operation began, he recounted how insurgents had recently murdered a child, placed an explosive in his body and then detonated it when his father came to retrieve him. “The greatest privilege of a professional soldier,” he said, “is to have the opportunity to kill these people.”

Bravado aside, however, killing terrorists was not McMaster’s priority, he said. He had a plan to make Tal Afar the proving ground for a new way of fighting the war, which the U.S. government was only starting to grudgingly acknowledge as an insurgency. It was the dawn of a short-lived age when “counterinsurgency doctrine,” a niche specialty among a certain set of soldier-scholars, became the Washington zeitgeist.

McMaster brought to Tal Afar as an adviser an Army reservist named Ahmed Hashim, a bona fide expert with a doctorate in security studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hashim was candid when I asked how he thought the war was going. “The U.S. response is not that different from a lot of countries faced with insurgencies: deny it, downplay it, disparage it. It’s not an effective strategy,” he said.

As McMaster explained it, the military needed to focus not just on killing terrorists but on protecting and winning over civilians, so they would not allow the terrorists to return. This meant taking greater risks with American lives than the Pentagon had accepted to that point. He described what he called the “lessons” he would implement:

First, “if we go in and fight and then reduce our presence, the enemy will move to where there are insufficient security forces, because the Iraqi security forces can’t withstand them yet.”

Second, “you have to defeat the enemy’s campaign of intimidation over the population by providing security for people who cooperate with you. You cannot allow retribution.”

Third, you need to “clarify your intentions to people by developing relationships, by action, by dialogue with people and by addressing local grievances.”

Fourth, “this means being out in the city. We could stay in our F.O.B. [Forward Operating Base] and eat mini pizzas and ice cream and redeploy in a year, but that won’t win the war.”

Fifth, “do everything you can to minimize destruction. If that happens, it’s the enemy’s fault. We’re not booby-trapping buildings, putting explosives in the ground, sniping indiscriminately. We’re fighting the people doing that. We don’t want to kill this city, we want to bring it back to life.”

I spent the next 15 days with McMaster’s troops as they fought their way to what was supposed to be the al-Qaeda stronghold, a dense tangle of ancient streets in a neighborhood known as Sarai. McMaster kept in touch with me by phone, which was rare for a commander during an intense operation — and a sign of his media savvy. He called to give me updates on the operation. He called to apologize after one of his sleep-deprived soldiers shot at me twice after mistaking my flak jacket, which was a different color than those issued by the Army, for a suicide vest. (We agreed it could have been worse.)

He also called to complain about my coverage, specifically my use of the label “peshmerga” to describe the Kurdish forces he had bused in to do the heaviest fighting. McMaster asked that I refer to them as the Iraqi army, which, technically, they were. But their uniforms and vehicles were adorned with Kurdish flags, not Iraqi ones. They spray-painted Kurdish slogans on the sides of buildings. Their presence had the potential to alienate the majority Turkmen and Arab population, which saw them as a threat. In the end, I told McMaster I would happily ask the Kurds who they thought they were fighting for and go with whatever they said. He laughed and eventually dropped it.

The only time I saw McMaster on the battlefield came as the operation was winding down. He and his Iraqi counterpart stopped by to watch Iraqi troops practice storming buildings. For training purposes, they chose a structure with an Iraqi flag plastered across the front wall, which meant it had already been checked for anything dangerous.

Seconds after the Iraqis charged through the door, an explosion erupted inside, followed by peals of gunfire. Two soldiers stumbled out, carrying a third, whose blood was soaking through his uniform on his right arm, abdomen and leg. McMaster ran over and put his hand on the wounded man’s shoulder. “You’re going to be fine,” he said, as a medic bandaged the Iraqi’s wounds and injected him with morphine. “You’re going to be okay.”

Maybe an insurgent had sneaked back into the building after it was cleared. Maybe it had never been cleared at all. Either way, the American trainers were furious and embarrassed. Most important to McMaster, though, was what happened next. The Iraqi troops, who at an earlier point in their training might have panicked and refused to fight, regrouped and went looking for a man they thought they saw throw a grenade before fleeing out a back door.

An hour or so later, after another firefight a couple of blocks away, the call came over the radio: “I have two AIF KIA” — anti-Iraqi forces killed in action. The Iraqis said they got their man, though it was difficult to know for sure.

By the relatively low standards of that phase of the war, Operation Restoring Rights was a success: Insurgents were either killed (a small number), captured (a larger number) or fled the city (the vast majority, denying the soldiers the showdown they sought). McMaster’s troops took a modest number of casualties. He seemed to have thought more deeply about the challenge U.S. forces faced, and inspired greater fealty among his charges, than any other commander I saw while embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq.

“Counterinsurgency tactics dealt the insurgents of Tal Afar a huge blow,” he told me before I boarded a C-130 to Baghdad. “We have broken the fear that dominated this place.” Residents who remained in the city walked freely in the streets for the first time in months. “In a few days we will ask the civilians to return,” said mayor Najim Jabouri, who had been brought by the U.S. from Baghdad to govern the divided city.

Still, according to the standards McMaster himself had laid out, the operation was far from perfect. U.S. forces were more restrained than I had observed elsewhere, but they still tore apart hundreds of Iraqi homes they entered, often after breaking down or blowing through doors, shouting in English at terrified residents, and leaving a wake of crying women and children and seething men. Every night they evicted families so they would have a place to sleep. As I wrote at the time, they detained people on little more than the say-so of anonymous informants who may have merely had an ax to grind.

On the eve of the final assault on the city center, we stayed up late, the skies alight with cacophonous strikes from Apache helicopters. The next day, many buildings had been reduced to rubble, though not on the destructive scale of Fallujah. Before Eagle Troop entered Sarai, what we thought was a firefight broke out. U.S. troops unloaded hundreds of rounds in quick bursts over 45 minutes. When the radios called for a cease-fire, it turned out the shooting was going in only one direction.

None of this was unusual in the foggy urban fighting that U.S. forces were asked to do in Iraq. Hashim, the skeptical academic who had been integral to designing the strategy, proclaimed himself satisfied, though with some hesitation. “The problem is, what happens when this unit leaves?” he lamented. “It’s only a one-year vision, and then we rotate out.”

That turned out to be a prescient question.

For at least two years after I left Tal Afar in mid-September 2005, Iraq continued to disintegrate. The city that got a shout-out from President Bush (“the outlines of the Iraq we’ve been fighting for”) descended back into insurgency. By mid-2006, Tal Afar was awash in the sectarian violence that had engulfed much of Iraq. A spate of suicide attacks culminated in early 2007, when two truck bombs killed 152 people and wounded more than 300 others.

The U.S. troop surge in 2007 and 2008 employed nationwide the tactics pioneered by McMaster, who was back in Iraq to advise commanding Gen. David Petraeus. Though the political chasm between Shiite rule and Sunni grievance remained unresolved, Tal Afar benefitted from reduced violence across the country.

It didn’t last. In June 2014, almost three years after U.S. combat forces left the country, Tal Afar was one of the first cities captured by the Islamic State as it rampaged across northern Iraq. Reports soon emerged of summary executions on the same streets McMaster’s troops had patrolled. The cause of Iraq’s most recent disintegration is hotly debated. Critics of President Barack Obama blame the troop drawdown he oversaw, although the leading alternative was a much smaller force, with a non-combat mission. Iraqi leaders’ unwillingness or inability to govern inclusively — a perhaps inevitable result of the sectarianism America’s invasion unleashed — played a role, as did the unexpected eruption of an even more brutal conflict next door in Syria.

Today, much of Tal Afar remains under the control of the Islamic State, though Iraqi forces, backed by the United States, have begun to liberate it yet again.




Image .. the killing of a senior commander in the Daesh and the surrender of terrorists Ayman Mosul


History of edits:: 2/24/2017 20:3720 visits readable
[Oan- Baghdad]
security forces on Friday killed a senior leader of the terrorist gangs Daesh addition to the surrender of a large number of terrorists , the right side of the city of Mosul.
He said the federal police captain Raed Shakir Jawdat said in a statement received by all of Iraq [where] a copy of it, that ” the band commando elite forces killed a terrorist named [Abdulrahman Attiya] nicknamed Opie Muwaffaq military] One of leaders in the field of Daesh aviation neighborhood side right from Mosul. ”
In a related development , the rapid reaction forces announced in a statement that ” the three formations of terrorists Daesh, turned herself in to the forces south of Mosul full promised them and their equipment.”
This comes at a time when the anti – terrorism camp Ghazlani southwest of Mosul forces took control of the entire Daesh.
The rapid reaction and federal police forces succeeded earlier in the day in control of the Mosul airport fully after battles with Daesh.
Security forces seek through a process launched last Sunday to regain control of Mosul Ayman Daesh largest strongholds in Iraq and another.
The security forces announced last month full control on the left coast of Mosul , in the framework of a broad battle was launched last October 17 to expel the terrorists Daesh of the city is restored.
On the other hand Joint Special Operations Command said in a statement the implementation of the Iraqi air force raids on targets in areas Daesh Husaybah and Abu Kamal inside Syrian territory on the one hand western Iraq dens were destroyed and the headquarters of the organization as a whole.
The Prime Minister Haider al – Abadi had announced earlier Friday that the Iraqi Air Force fighter jets bombed Daesh locations inside Syrian territory on his orders.


Mr. Ammar al-Hakim: We are working hard to include component Turkmen full care and support extended {}


History of edits:: 2/24/2017 19:2218 visits readable
{Baghdad} Euphrates News president of the National Alliance, Mr. Ammar al-Hakim confirmed pursuit of the National Alliance because the Turkmen component includes full care and support from him and other partners.

Mr. Ammar al – Hakim said at a joint press conference with representatives of the Turkmen component in Baghdad after a meeting between the National Alliance and the component of Turkmenistan “On this day , there was a significant opportunity to visit Turkmenistan component’s a heading and what it represents the essential and important national country multiple Bmcharbh, and appreciation and pride for the component Turkmen and martyrs and tender in the face of dictatorship in order to build the new Iraq and today against terrorism and we found it imperative for the National Alliance to continue with Iraqi factions to express their appreciation and respect for these components and express their willingness to work together with these components to build a love and harmony. ”
” The exceptional circumstances and that we achieve important victories on thebattlefield and get ready to declare Iraq free of Aldoaash military their presence is obvious, and we have to look ahead and determine the features required national steps of Iraqis such mobility and communication with the ingredients and talk about what is linked to the national settlement, was found on the concerns component Turkmenistan and the National Alliance was interacting with the concerns and rights. ”
He said , “We hope that we are witnessing an agreement of the Turkmen component on personal Astaizharha in the vacant ministries, and are working hard to be a Turkmen component within the constitutional principle in the national balance and full of care includes the support of the National Alliance and other partners, the National Alliance was an honor for him that stand the chance of sites government at the level of ministers and independent bodies and special grades of Turkmen leaders on the expression of interest in the Alliance component of Turkmenistan. ”
And “Let ‘s component of Turkmenistan to make more effort to reach a unified position of Turkmenistan within the framework of national unity, and the nature of the sensitive circumstances require standardized positions in defense of the homeland and the citizen, thankful component Turkmen reaction towards national positions and the draft national settlement that Hmlnah.”
For his part, Head of the Turkmen Front MP Arshad al – Salihi ” It was a historic visit by the National Alliance leaders to a component of the basic components of Iraq who have provided and still provide their youth and their land to fight terrorist groups.”
He added that ” the National Alliance leaders are familiar with a wider this oppressed component and lived with them together in the cells of the Baath Party and the trenches of Jihad and Aasa us to offer our thanks and appreciation for the visit auspicious alliance mud, and talked openly about the suffering component of Turkmenistan and the draft settlement and want Turkmens of the settlement to rebuild the country on the basis of established national preserve the rights of all Iraqi people , “.anthy


Urgent .. Official: Iraqi forces 1 km to the government complex Ayman Mosul


Urgent .. Official: Iraqi forces 1 km to the government complex Ayman Mosul

Twilight News / security official said, that the Iraqi forces are on the outskirts of the government compound in Mosul.
He said special forces Brigadier Mohammed Abdul Amir in the rapid reaction forces for Twilight News, that the joint Iraqi armed forces are far from the government complex in the door of the brick area city of Mosul amid a distance of 1 km.
It has a government complex, the Court of Nineveh province, the courthouse, the local police building Nineveh, government and media establishment.
He said Abdul Amir, the control of Iraqi forces on a government complex that would precipitate the collapse of the organization on the right coast.
Federal police forces and units of the elite Interior Ministry force known as REACT and made rapid progress towards the west of Mosul in the invasion from the south across the desert territory since the start of the second phase of the operation on Sunday.
Featuring western Mosul, the old city center souks antique, in addition to government buildings and administrative mosque who declared him the leader of the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Daesh creation of the state of succession to the regions of Syria and Iraq after the blitz, which was carried out by the terrorist organization in 2014.
The fighters Daesh actually trapped in western Mosul after being driven from the east of the city in the first phase of the attack, which ended last month after 100 days of fighting.

Reports: Trump for a new resolution on refugees and reconsider develop Iraq


 WASHINGTON – Iraq Press – February 23: It isexpected that the US President issued a decree Donald Trump executive secondly to curb immigration from the Middle East, after the first general decision to eliminate failure.     According to the leaks, the most prominent of which is as follows:     1. temporarily halt immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries were the same as those on the first list , namely: Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan.

2. Card “Green Card” holders and owners of dual nationalities exception is not on the list, which was not allowed in the first.

3. The lack of Syrian refugees exception requires a special hard to stop them, and include them in a common language that would prevent the new visa and asylum applications were withdrawn prior visas or asylum claims.

4. possibility of revising the Status of Iraq and of being friendly governments to Washington.

5. consult Congress 90 days after the decision in the absence of a judicial veto it and reconsider status of these countries.     Trump administration and after the first loss is preparing to battle a new and improved legal language in the new text to not face other constitutional loss in the courts, or shake a popular re – demonstrations to airports and embarrass the administration. And it suggested the “CNN” to issue a decision before the end of this week. Q ended



Commerce will hold “trade policy” with the participation of agencies and ministries and members of the diplomatic corps Conference



Since 24/02/2017 17:06 pm (Baghdad time)

BAGHDAD – balances News

Held the Ministry of Commerce, on Thursday, the first conference for “trade policy and economic reform” with the participation of ministries and government bodies, the private sector and members of the foreign diplomatic corps in the capital Baghdad.

The agent said the Ministry of Commerce and Walid al-Moussawi in a speech followed up / scales News /, that “the conference is a new step and blessing in shaping trade policy and economic reform, especially as the government program, which worked with the government began to reap dividends through the face of the economic and financial conditions as well as the entry of Capricorn in process development, economic growth and keep pace with economic developments taking place in the world and that we stepped away from her long years. ”

Al-Moussawi said that “the Ministry of Commerce is seeking through this important conference to emphasize the census and analysis of trade data and the narrow technical barriers to trade and also see the local expertise that is presenting a group of economists and those responsible for the economic institutions in the planning and oil sectors, as well as specialists from the Department of Foreign economic relations at the Ministry of trade Center. ”

He pointed out that “the conference was attended by economic groupings, ministries and agencies, as well as members of the diplomatic corps in Baghdad and provided the working papers presented by specialists in the Ministry of Oil and device standardization and quality control and other Iraqi ministries was addressed through which the new foundations that rely on data analysis and narrow the technical obstacles to trade. ”

For his part, the President of Sumer company for marketing oil Falah al-Amiri, that “the Ministry of Commerce contracted with well-known for the export of Iraqi oil international companies have been contracted with businessmen or unknown institutions, namely the process of developing the oil industry and to diversify its business, depending on the variables that occur in the world, including growth economic and economic transformations. ”

The conference witnessed a display research reports included new economic foundations commensurate with the existing economic concepts to analyze the data and process statistics of trade data and the need to provide a transparent and easy for businessmen and the private sector.

Participants at the conference expressed the role of this conference in shaping trade and economic policy that takes into consideration the work according to the perspective of what is happening in the world and keep up with economic developments and this is what lies at the heart of the work of the Ministry of Commerce and responsibilities Alhakiqih.anthy 29/1’s


“Where is al-Baghdadi?” It is a spread in the strongholds of western Mosul Daesh



Friday February 24, 2017 13:27

Alsumaria News / Nineveh
, said a local source in Nineveh province, on Friday, the spread of the phrase “Where Baghdadi?” On the walls in some of the neighborhoods that make up the strongholds of the organization “Daesh” west of Mosul, referring to the disappearance of the organization ‘s leader , Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called amid ongoing events and battles.

The source said in an interview for the Sumerian News, ” The phrase – Where Baghdadi? – Spread on the walls of some of the neighborhoods that make up the organization Daesh strongholds west of Mosul during the past 24 hours.”

The source , who preferred not to be named, said : “Interestingly, the phrase was not being scanned as usual by detachments organizing Daesh as writing offensive to organize , ” pointing out that ” the phrase carries multiple concepts are talking in the forefront for Baghdadi ‘s disappearance and his absence with its leaders a facing a fate sealed after the recent collapses. ”

The source speculated that “the phrase has been written by the leaders of al – Baghdadi , competed for the leadership of the organization is trying to stage a coup by taking advantage of his absence from the scene.”

The Iraqi forces have achieved progress on the ground in the various fronts of the city of Mosul, where the spin edit operations west of the city from the control of the organization “Daesh” that announced by the prime minister, Haider Abadi Sunday (February 19 20177).


Syrian Parliament welcomes the Iraqi air strikes on Daesh in Albu Kamal


History of edits:: 2/24/2017 16:4557 visits readable
{Baghdad: Euphrates News} welcomed the Syrian People’s Assembly, on Friday, the Iraqi air force strikes on dens “Daesh” gangs in the Syrian Abu Kamal area.
He said the Syrian parliament member Muhammad Maher in a press statement that “there is a common coordination between Syria and Iraq in the fight against terrorism being a threat between the two countries.”

He added that “such a move is welcome and do not require approval , ” stressing that “there is the aspiration of the Syrian side with the participation of Iraqi forces in the war on Daesh inside Syria following the liberation of the city of Mosul.”
The member of the Syrian parliament that ” the victories achieved by the Iraqi army and the popular crowd positively reflected on Syria.”
The Joint Special Operations Command, announced on Friday, the destruction of the Iraqi air force, targets for criminal gangs Daesh in Syrian territory in the area of the Albu Kamal Alsorah.anthy

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