US ground troops to Iraq, Syria: Pentagon

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Oct. 27 that the US will begin ground operations against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. "We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Carter said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee. (NBC, Oct. 27)

The announcement came four days after one member of a US special operations force was killed during an  mission to rescue hostages held by ISIS  in northern Iraq—the first US solider to die in ground combat with the jihadist group. The joint raid with Kurdish Peshmerga forces  targeted an ISIS prison at Hawija. (Rudaw, Oct. 25; Reuters, Oct. 22)

Earlier in the week, two high-ranking ISIS figures were reportedly killed in air-strikes on targets in Mosul: Hajeb Mizhir al-Jayji, who served as ISIS finance minister, and Abu Muslim at-Turkmani AKA Abu Motaz al-Qurashi, head of the military council for the city. the death of al-Qurashi was acknowledged in a statement by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

The civil opposition that continues to exist in Mosul reports little effect on the ground. Speaking to Syria's independent ARA News, local activist Sherin Hamo said: "Apparently, ISIS has not been influenced by the death of its leading militants, especially that the group was able to attract hundreds of new recruits over the last few months." (ARA News, Oct. 24)

  1. Turkey ready to move against US-backed rebels?

    BBC News reports the the US will be sending a contingent of  "fewer than 50" special forces troops to "train, advise and assist" vetted opposition forces in Syria, according to Pentagon officials. This appears to refer to the Kurdish-led force now preparing an assault on ISIS territory. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that President Tayyip Erdogan said he will "do what is necessary" to prevent the Syrian Kurdish rebels from declaring autonomy in the town of Tel Abyad… Will Washington be able to restrain Erdogan—at least until after ISIS is routed and the Kurds have outlived their usefulness?