U.S.-led coalition aircraft waged a series of deadly strikes against Islamic State around the city of Fallujah on Wednesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, with one citing a preliminary estimate of at least 250 suspected fighters killed and at least 40 vehicles destroyed.
If the figures are confirmed, the strikes would be among the most deadly ever against the jihadist group. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the operation and noted preliminary estimates can change.
The strikes, which the officials said took place south of the city, where civilians have also been displaced, are just the latest battlefield setback suffered by Islamic State in its self-proclaimed “caliphate” of Iraq and Syria.
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USA Today is reporting that a relatively quick victory over the Islamic State in Fallujah has raised hopes that Mosul, a much bigger prize in the fight against the Islamic State, will not be as difficult for Iraqi forces to recapture as initially feared.
Morale among Islamic State fighters has plummeted and its recruits are running away from clashes with Iraqi forces, Brett McGurk, a special envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
McGurk said the group’s days are “numbered” in the northern city of Mosul, but he declined to place a timeline on how long it would take to recapture that city.
The Pentagon is poised to announce new rules allowing transgender individuals to serve openly in the U.S. military, amid concerns from senior military leaders who believe the department is moving too fast and has yet to resolve many details, U.S. officials told The Associated Press, as reported by CBS News.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to announce the new policy this week, nearly a year after announcing his intention to make the change. The move would end one of the last bans on service in the military.
Several senior U.S. officials, however, said that while the chiefs of the military services largely back the change, they sought more time to fully develop and implement the complex new rules.
According to officials, the service chiefs asked Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to relay their concerns to Carter. A senior U.S. official told the AP that Carter met this week with his military leaders, heard their concerns, and has adjusted the timeline.
The Battle of the Somme might have been the most important battle of World War I, perhaps of the entire 20th Century. Perhaps ever.
Such are the musings of conservative columist George F. Will, whose essay in the Washington Post today was written to mark the centenary of the battle that began on the morning of July 1, 1916, stretched to both sides of upper reaches of the River Somme in France and ended five months later, resulting in more than one million troops killed and hundreds thousands more wounded or missing in action.
“In the first hours, eight British soldiers fell per second,” Will wrote. “By nightfall, 19,240 were dead, 38,230 more were wounded. World War I, the worst man-made disaster in human experience, was the hinge of modern history. The war was the incubator of Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, World War II and innumerable cultural consequences. The hinge of this war was the battle named for ‘that little stream,’ the river Somme.”
Despite the immense costs to both the Central Powers and the Allied militaries in manpower and resources, and the geo-political ramifications that would echo through the next century, the five-month battle accomplished very little in the short-term, according to Will.
“By November a million men on both sides were dead — 72,000British and Commonwealth bodies were never recovered — or wounded,” Will noted. “Twenty-two miles of front had been moved six miles.”