Metro-East News

Roger That: Islamic State’s ranks have fallen to 25,000 fighters as Iraqi Army gears up to retake Mosul

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

A top Obama administration official says the Islamic State group's ranks of foreign fighters have dropped to about 25,000 from a peak of 35,000, according to the Associated Press.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to counter IS, said fighters from 120 countries have joined IS. The extremist group is under pressure and has cut fighters' salaries by about half, according to McGurk.

Meanwhile, Military Times is reporting that U.S. commanders in Iraq have identified up to a dozen Iraqi army brigades that could mount an attack on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and potentially need U.S. combat advisers at brigade-level headquarters, a top American general in Iraq said Tuesday.

Iraqi commanders and their U.S. advisers are also debating whether the primary invasion force for the Islamic State group’s stronghold should come from the Iraqi-controlled south or from the Kurdish region in the north and east — or maybe both, the general said.

The remarks from Army Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. land forces in Iraq, are the latest from top American officials that bring into focus the upcoming battle of Mosul and the role U.S. troops might play.

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Police made two arrests Monday following the assault earlier this month of a decorated Marine outside a fast-food restaurant in Washington, D.C., according to Stars and Stripes.

A 17-year-old male was charged with aggravated assault and a 17-year-old female was charged with robbery. Both are from Washington and were not named by police due to their age.

A third person was suspected in the Feb. 12 attack, which victim Christopher Marquez said was racially motivated. Police said the investigation is continuing.

A surveillance video released by police last week shows a black male assailant in a white tank top punch Marquez in the head from behind as Marquez walked out of a McDonald's on E Street across from FBI headquarters, according to police.

Marquez, 30, is a Bronze Star with “V” device recipient who fought in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 and served until 2011.

After being punched, Marquez fell to the ground where he was robbed by the female suspect and then kicked in the head, police said.

Marquez was one of three Marines in an iconic photo taken during the second battle of Fallujah. He was photographed carrying a fellow Marine whose uniform is blood-soaked from a wound during the so-called Hell House battle during which one Marine was killed and 10 were wounded.

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Military.com is reporting that when female midshipmen in the Naval Academy Class of 2016 stride out onto the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for commencement in May, they'll be wearing trousers, not skirts, officials said Tuesday. It will be the first time men and women have worn essentially the same uniforms as they mark the end of their training in Annapolis.

Marine Col. Stephen Liszewski, the commandant of midshipmen at the elite training ground for future Navy and Marine Corps officers, announced the change to this year's graduating class Monday night. The 266 female seniors at the academy make up 24 percent of the Class of 2016.

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The Defense Department’s agency devoted to cutting-edge technologies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has big plans for 2017, including the launch of a 130-foot autonomous ship that will begin sailing the seas this year, according to National Defense Magazine

The Obama administration requested $2.973 billion for DARPA for fiscal year 2017, the same amount in its 2016 request, and $105 million more than what was appropriated, said DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar. That amounts to only 2 percent of federal R&D expenditures, but the organization has had a large impact, she added.

The funding will go toward three major strategic areas: rethinking complex military systems; mastering the information explosion; and developing the seeds of new technological surprise, she told reporters Feb. 10 during a briefing at DARPA headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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