The Obama administration is preparing to carry out a campaign against ISIS that may take three years to complete, requiring a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office, according to the New York Times, citing "senior administration officials." The first phase, an air campaign is already underway, with nearly 145 air-strikes in the past month. The Times says the aims are "to protect ethnic and religious minorities and American diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel, and their facilities, as well as to begin rolling back ISIS gains in northern and western Iraq." The next phase, to begin sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government, is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish forces and possibly Sunni tribal fighters. The final, toughest and most controversial phase is destroying the ISIS sanctuary inside Syria. This might not be completed until the next administration, some Pentagon planners are said to "envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months." (NYT, Sept. 7)
Gunmen opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in Iraq's eastern Diyala governorate, killing at least 68 people, Aug. 22. A suicide bomber broke into the Musab bin Omair Mosque during Friday prayers in the village of Imam Wais and detonated his explosives. He was followed by gunmen, who rushed in and opened fire on the worshippers. Initial reports blamed ISIS in the massacre, but reports later in the day blamed an unnamed Shi'ite militia, suggesting it was retaliation for a roadside bomb attack at a recruitment event organized by the militia.
After four days of deliberations in Kabul, a Loya Jirga of some 2,500 elders and tribal leaders on Nov. 24 announced its endorsement of the Bliateral Security Agreement that will enable thousands of US troops to remain in Afghanistan after the supposed "withdrawal" of NATO forces next year. A similar deal between the US and Iraq collapsed in 2011 over the issue of whether Pentagon troops would have to answer to local courts. A draft text released by Kabul last week appeared to show that Afghan President Karzai had yielded to a US demand for exemption of its troops from Afghan jurisdiction. Nonetheless, Karzai now says he will reject the Loya Jirga's recommendation that he sign the agreement, citing continued civilian casualties at the hands of US forces.
An Iraqi court on Aug. 2 rejected a US extradition request for accused Hezbollah commander Ali Mussa Daqduq. The court also ruled that Daqduq should be released immediately from his house arrest. In May an Iraqi court had cleared all charges against Daqduq. The court stated that Iraq could not extradite someone whose charges were dropped. He had been detained by the US for four years based on allegations that he was involved with Hezbollah and that he was responsible of planning a raid in 2007 which resulted in the deaths of five US soldiers. He had been transferred in December of last year when talks over which country should be responsible for trying him failed. US President Barack Obama considered trying Daqduq on US soil but was unable to reach an agreement with Iraqi authorities resulting in an extradition request pursuant to the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Baghdad.