The ISIS-Iraq Crisis
Source, unless otherwise indicated: The Stars and Stripes
The Islamic State militant group is holding hostage a young American woman who was doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, a family representative said. The 26-year-old woman is the third American known to have been kidnapped by the radical group.
The Islamic State group recently threatened to kill American hostages to avenge the crushing airstrikes in Iraq against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
The 26-year-old woman was captured last year while working with three humanitarian groups in Syria. A representative for the family and U.S. officials asked that the woman not be identified out of fear for her safety. All spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
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An American man thought to have been killed in Syria was there to fight alongside a terrorist group, most likely the Islamic State, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
Investigators were aware that Douglas McAuthur McCain had traveled to the country to join a militant group, but they did not yet have his body and were still trying to verify information about his death, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss by name an ongoing investigation and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
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The international effort to help Iraqis fight Islamic militants is heating up, with seven additional countries agreeing to provide arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces.
Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy and the U.K. have committed to giving weapons and equipment to the embattled Kurds, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes about two weeks after Hagel set up a working group to find ways to accelerate arms deliveries to the Kurds.
The Defense Department said the materiel is “urgently needed” as the Kurds take on the militant group known as the Islamic State, which has taken over much of Iraq and Syria.
The supply efforts “have already begun and will accelerate in the coming days with more nations also expected to contribute,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement.
He did not indicate which additional countries he anticipates will join the coalition.
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The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday that the U.S. has some insights into the activities of Islamic State militants within Syria, and certainly wants to have more, but he declined to comment on the Obama administration’s move to conduct surveillance flights over Syria.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters here that the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria.
“Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture,” said Dempsey, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group. “The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have … some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward.”
U.S. officials say the military has begun surveillance flights over Syria, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against the Islamic State militants who operate from safe havens there and have stormed across the border and taken control of swaths of western and northern Iraq.
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Bullet-riddled walls, burned-out buildings and a hastily dug grave in this town where U.S. troops were once stationed mark the northernmost advance of Islamic State militants along one of the main highways leading into Iraqi Kurdistan.
Kurdish forces recaptured Makhmur, an oil and farming center just 40 miles south of the Kurdish capital, Irbil, in the wake of U.S. airstrikes launched this month on Islamic State positions, pushing the militants back to the town of Qarach, a 15-minute drive down the road.
Few of the 18,000 people who lived in Makhmur have returned, fearing that Islamic State militants could come back, despite the presence of superior U.S. air power.
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U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in support of Iraqi security force operations, using attack aircraft to conduct two airstrikes in the vicinity of Irbil yesterday.
The two strikes destroyed two ISIL armed vehicles and damaged another near Irbil. All aircraft exited the strike area safely.
This strike was conducted under authority to support Iraqi security force and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts.
Since Aug. 8, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 98 airstrikes across Iraq.
Finally, a Huffington Post/You Gov poll:
“American support for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq has solidified in recent weeks, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. But the survey shows continued wariness about additional involvement to quell the insurgency there. According to the poll, 66 percent of Americans now favor the decision to conduct airstrikes in Iraq, while only 20 percent oppose it.
In a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted earlier in August, just after President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would begin conducting airstrikes, 58 percent of respondents said they favored it and 24 percent said they opposed that action. In the latest poll, which was conducted after American journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State, the insurgent group operating in Iraq and Syria, 75 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of independents and 76 percent of Republicans said they support the decision to conduct airstrikes.
But Americans continue to oppose sending ground troops to Iraq, by a 56 percent to 20 percent margin. Sixty-three percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents and a 41 percent to 31 percent plurality of Republicans said they oppose sending ground troops.”
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