Blogs: The Skeptics

Syria's Unclear Path Forward

Exclusive: On the Front Lines Facing ISIS

The Skeptics

1. What the locals in Erbil called a “vertical village” refugee camp. Because the regional economy tanked in 2014 owing to the twin maladies of the ISIS attack and the collapsing of the global oil market, the city of Erbil is littered with high-rise buildings frozen in various degrees of completion, mere shells. Refugees have been given permission in some of them, like the one pictured here, to build make-shift rooms on several of the unfinished floors in which to live. Whole families live in each of these single rooms.

2. The laundry area in the “vertical village.”

3. A luxury: a functioning, rapidly built community toilet. There are no private facilities of any sort. No kitchen, restroom, showers, or laundry.

4. Rows of pre-fab buildings and tents comprising a primarily Yazidi camp erected in the countryside not far from Mosul.

5. An elderly Yazidi man.

6. A young Yazidi father wonders what the future will hold for his son.

7. A Yazidi woman and her baby. One of the women I met at this camp was still grieving because three of her daughters—ages 10, 11 and 13—were taken from her home by ISIS to serve as sex slaves. She has not heard from them since she escaped in 2014.

8. This elderly Yazidi seemed traumatized when I met him.

9. ISIS is brutal to everyone. Even these Muslim women were driven from their homes by the Islamic radicals.

10-13. The children at every camp I visited seemed to fall into two categories. Some were deeply suspicious of any stranger and seemed afraid of me. But most were oblivious to the war and their lives as displaced persons. They were like kids everywhere: wanted to play, be silly, and enjoy life. Even in these camps many succeeded. Regrettably, their parents and those old enough to understand were not so lucky.

14. I accompanied Ali Javanmardi and his television crew from the Voice of America to the ISIS front lines opposite Mosul, escorted by a Peshmerga truck with a machinegun mounted in the bed.

15. Peering over the sandbags of the Peshmerga front lines at the ISIS line.

16. Looking through a gun port in a sandbag wall at the literal front line of ISIS. On the top of this hill stands the black flag of the Islamic State, marking their forward-most position.

17. A Peshmerga fighter: “We are not afraid of Da’esh (ISIS). They should be afraid of us!”

18. American Ryan O’Leary from Iowa, volunteering as a fighter and medic for the Peshmerga. “I want to help liberate Mosul from ISIS and make sure it doesn’t spread,” he said.

19. The children (and even some of the men) of the Yazidi camp loved to have their photo taken.

20. Taking photos of Peshmerga fighters on front line.

21. General Yassin gave me a tour of the forward position overlooking the ISIS line.

Daniel L. Davis is a widely published analyst on national security and foreign policy. He retired as a Lt. Col. after twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, including four combat deployments, and is a member of the Center for Defense Information's Military Advisory Board. The views in these articles are those of the author alone and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Government. Follow him on Twitter @DanielLDavis1.

Image: On the front lines. Copyright Daniel L. Davis.

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Exclusive: The Coming Battle for Mosul Will Be Tougher Than You Think

The Skeptics

1. What the locals in Erbil called a “vertical village” refugee camp. Because the regional economy tanked in 2014 owing to the twin maladies of the ISIS attack and the collapsing of the global oil market, the city of Erbil is littered with high-rise buildings frozen in various degrees of completion, mere shells. Refugees have been given permission in some of them, like the one pictured here, to build make-shift rooms on several of the unfinished floors in which to live. Whole families live in each of these single rooms.

2. The laundry area in the “vertical village.”

3. A luxury: a functioning, rapidly built community toilet. There are no private facilities of any sort. No kitchen, restroom, showers, or laundry.

4. Rows of pre-fab buildings and tents comprising a primarily Yazidi camp erected in the countryside not far from Mosul.

5. An elderly Yazidi man.

6. A young Yazidi father wonders what the future will hold for his son.

7. A Yazidi woman and her baby. One of the women I met at this camp was still grieving because three of her daughters—ages 10, 11 and 13—were taken from her home by ISIS to serve as sex slaves. She has not heard from them since she escaped in 2014.

8. This elderly Yazidi seemed traumatized when I met him.

9. ISIS is brutal to everyone. Even these Muslim women were driven from their homes by the Islamic radicals.

10-13. The children at every camp I visited seemed to fall into two categories. Some were deeply suspicious of any stranger and seemed afraid of me. But most were oblivious to the war and their lives as displaced persons. They were like kids everywhere: wanted to play, be silly, and enjoy life. Even in these camps many succeeded. Regrettably, their parents and those old enough to understand were not so lucky.

14. I accompanied Ali Javanmardi and his television crew from the Voice of America to the ISIS front lines opposite Mosul, escorted by a Peshmerga truck with a machinegun mounted in the bed.

15. Peering over the sandbags of the Peshmerga front lines at the ISIS line.

16. Looking through a gun port in a sandbag wall at the literal front line of ISIS. On the top of this hill stands the black flag of the Islamic State, marking their forward-most position.

17. A Peshmerga fighter: “We are not afraid of Da’esh (ISIS). They should be afraid of us!”

18. American Ryan O’Leary from Iowa, volunteering as a fighter and medic for the Peshmerga. “I want to help liberate Mosul from ISIS and make sure it doesn’t spread,” he said.

19. The children (and even some of the men) of the Yazidi camp loved to have their photo taken.

20. Taking photos of Peshmerga fighters on front line.

21. General Yassin gave me a tour of the forward position overlooking the ISIS line.

Daniel L. Davis is a widely published analyst on national security and foreign policy. He retired as a Lt. Col. after twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, including four combat deployments, and is a member of the Center for Defense Information's Military Advisory Board. The views in these articles are those of the author alone and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Government. Follow him on Twitter @DanielLDavis1.

Image: On the front lines. Copyright Daniel L. Davis.

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Trump’s Message to the DC Foreign-Policy Establishment: 'You’re Fired!'

The Skeptics

1. What the locals in Erbil called a “vertical village” refugee camp. Because the regional economy tanked in 2014 owing to the twin maladies of the ISIS attack and the collapsing of the global oil market, the city of Erbil is littered with high-rise buildings frozen in various degrees of completion, mere shells. Refugees have been given permission in some of them, like the one pictured here, to build make-shift rooms on several of the unfinished floors in which to live. Whole families live in each of these single rooms.

2. The laundry area in the “vertical village.”

3. A luxury: a functioning, rapidly built community toilet. There are no private facilities of any sort. No kitchen, restroom, showers, or laundry.

4. Rows of pre-fab buildings and tents comprising a primarily Yazidi camp erected in the countryside not far from Mosul.

5. An elderly Yazidi man.

6. A young Yazidi father wonders what the future will hold for his son.

7. A Yazidi woman and her baby. One of the women I met at this camp was still grieving because three of her daughters—ages 10, 11 and 13—were taken from her home by ISIS to serve as sex slaves. She has not heard from them since she escaped in 2014.

8. This elderly Yazidi seemed traumatized when I met him.

9. ISIS is brutal to everyone. Even these Muslim women were driven from their homes by the Islamic radicals.

10-13. The children at every camp I visited seemed to fall into two categories. Some were deeply suspicious of any stranger and seemed afraid of me. But most were oblivious to the war and their lives as displaced persons. They were like kids everywhere: wanted to play, be silly, and enjoy life. Even in these camps many succeeded. Regrettably, their parents and those old enough to understand were not so lucky.

14. I accompanied Ali Javanmardi and his television crew from the Voice of America to the ISIS front lines opposite Mosul, escorted by a Peshmerga truck with a machinegun mounted in the bed.

15. Peering over the sandbags of the Peshmerga front lines at the ISIS line.

16. Looking through a gun port in a sandbag wall at the literal front line of ISIS. On the top of this hill stands the black flag of the Islamic State, marking their forward-most position.

17. A Peshmerga fighter: “We are not afraid of Da’esh (ISIS). They should be afraid of us!”

18. American Ryan O’Leary from Iowa, volunteering as a fighter and medic for the Peshmerga. “I want to help liberate Mosul from ISIS and make sure it doesn’t spread,” he said.

19. The children (and even some of the men) of the Yazidi camp loved to have their photo taken.

20. Taking photos of Peshmerga fighters on front line.

21. General Yassin gave me a tour of the forward position overlooking the ISIS line.

Daniel L. Davis is a widely published analyst on national security and foreign policy. He retired as a Lt. Col. after twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, including four combat deployments, and is a member of the Center for Defense Information's Military Advisory Board. The views in these articles are those of the author alone and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Government. Follow him on Twitter @DanielLDavis1.

Image: On the front lines. Copyright Daniel L. Davis.

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Obama Is Siding with Saudi Arabia over 9/11 Victims

The Skeptics

1. What the locals in Erbil called a “vertical village” refugee camp. Because the regional economy tanked in 2014 owing to the twin maladies of the ISIS attack and the collapsing of the global oil market, the city of Erbil is littered with high-rise buildings frozen in various degrees of completion, mere shells. Refugees have been given permission in some of them, like the one pictured here, to build make-shift rooms on several of the unfinished floors in which to live. Whole families live in each of these single rooms.

2. The laundry area in the “vertical village.”

3. A luxury: a functioning, rapidly built community toilet. There are no private facilities of any sort. No kitchen, restroom, showers, or laundry.

4. Rows of pre-fab buildings and tents comprising a primarily Yazidi camp erected in the countryside not far from Mosul.

5. An elderly Yazidi man.

6. A young Yazidi father wonders what the future will hold for his son.

7. A Yazidi woman and her baby. One of the women I met at this camp was still grieving because three of her daughters—ages 10, 11 and 13—were taken from her home by ISIS to serve as sex slaves. She has not heard from them since she escaped in 2014.

8. This elderly Yazidi seemed traumatized when I met him.

9. ISIS is brutal to everyone. Even these Muslim women were driven from their homes by the Islamic radicals.

10-13. The children at every camp I visited seemed to fall into two categories. Some were deeply suspicious of any stranger and seemed afraid of me. But most were oblivious to the war and their lives as displaced persons. They were like kids everywhere: wanted to play, be silly, and enjoy life. Even in these camps many succeeded. Regrettably, their parents and those old enough to understand were not so lucky.

14. I accompanied Ali Javanmardi and his television crew from the Voice of America to the ISIS front lines opposite Mosul, escorted by a Peshmerga truck with a machinegun mounted in the bed.

15. Peering over the sandbags of the Peshmerga front lines at the ISIS line.

16. Looking through a gun port in a sandbag wall at the literal front line of ISIS. On the top of this hill stands the black flag of the Islamic State, marking their forward-most position.

17. A Peshmerga fighter: “We are not afraid of Da’esh (ISIS). They should be afraid of us!”

18. American Ryan O’Leary from Iowa, volunteering as a fighter and medic for the Peshmerga. “I want to help liberate Mosul from ISIS and make sure it doesn’t spread,” he said.

19. The children (and even some of the men) of the Yazidi camp loved to have their photo taken.

20. Taking photos of Peshmerga fighters on front line.

21. General Yassin gave me a tour of the forward position overlooking the ISIS line.

Daniel L. Davis is a widely published analyst on national security and foreign policy. He retired as a Lt. Col. after twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, including four combat deployments, and is a member of the Center for Defense Information's Military Advisory Board. The views in these articles are those of the author alone and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Government. Follow him on Twitter @DanielLDavis1.

Image: On the front lines. Copyright Daniel L. Davis.

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