Near East Center for Strategic Engagement

May 18, 2016 | | — On 13 MAY 16 thousands of people – including motorcycle-riding combat veterans, schoolchildren waving flags, and mothers with strollers – lined the streets of Coronado, California as the funeral procession of Charles Keating IV, the Navy SEAL killed in Teleskof, Iraq, passed by on its way to Rosecrans National Cemetery.

The crowd stood in somber silence, wiping away tears as the casket of the “Fallen Angel” (a term used to identify American combat casualties in battle), was carried out of the local Catholic church and driven through seven blocks lined with mourners.

As the body of one of America’s best was transported to his final resting place, many Americans reflected on why we had to lose another one of our young men in northern Iraq, and on what happened in Teleskof that led to his death.

On 3 MAY 16, NEC-SE posted: “What happened in the 3 May 16 Teleskof battle?”

In the article we stated:  “… ISIS flexed to Teleskof and found a breach point. The Coalition Forces (CF) were evidently asleep at the proverbial switch when ISIS made this move, because they did nothing to prevent ISIS forces from advancing with a large number of so-called vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) across the 2.5 kilometers separating the ISIS attack positions (Batnay) into Teleskof along the main high-speed avenue of approach (HWY #2).

Since our posting, NEC-SE investigative reports found that the ISIS breach element was led by an armored dozer (see photo). The armored dozer travels at an approximate maximum speed of 5 mph.

ISIS forces had sent two scouts ahead of the armored dozer to probe the CF lines, one of the scouts was wearing a “head cam” to survey the area. After probing the lines the ISIS scouts, one of which was a recent covert to Islam, flexed into the Kurdish trench. The “head cam” footage reveals that the guards in the Kurdish sector did not fire on the ISIS scouts immediately and did not engaged the follow on breach elements while leaving their defensive positions. Subsequently other Kurdish troops reinforced with CF killed the scouts and re-took the trench.

Once the ISIS scouts had identified the breach point, two armored vehicles — the armored dozer supported by an up-armored HUMMV — began the breaching operation of the Kurdish trenches in Teleskof. ISIS Sappers (combat engineers) began laying out bridging assets using 5 meter long by 2-meter wide bridge to breach the Kurdish trench line.

The breaching operation took approximately an additional 10 minutes with no rounds fired at the enemy negotiating through the main breach point. Once ISIS secured the main efforts breach point they began moving their ground forces and their vehicles through the breach site.

On 3 MAY 16, NEC-SE posted: In Teleskof the same “people” CF has been protecting retreated from battlefield checkpoints under attack by ISIS forces from Sater. These “people” did not protect our American “advisers,” one of whom lost his life trying to protect individuals who are suppose to protect . . . our advisers.

The reality is that guard points within Teleskof are approximately 100-150 meters apart from each other. They are established to provide supporting, and covering fires for the adjacent fighting positions. ISIS expanded the main breach past eight of these points (800 plus meters deep) with no rounds being fired at the ISIS forces. The Peshmerga troops at those 8 points withdrew from their sectors without engaging the ISIS breach elements.  Why?

Once the ISIS elements had entered the city, they moved directly to the Navy Seal compound area in Teleskof—which means that the attackers knew where the compound was located. How?

The successful ISIS breach into Teleskof required the dispatch of additional Navy SEALs to support the SEALs in Teleskof. During this operation to save our SEALs, we lost one of our best, Charles Keating IV.

On 27 APR 16, NEC-SE posted: Kurdish Official Calls Defeating ISIS ‘a huge mistake”

In the article we stated: “What’s more, KRG President Masoud Barzani was working to suppress internal opposition within the KRG even as American soldiers were fighting—and, in one notable case, dying–on behalf of the Sunni Muslim Kurds.

“That ‘notable case’ was Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, a decorated and experienced Delta Force operator who was killed in a raid on an ISIS prison compound where Kurdish prisoners/fighters were supposedly being held. But no Kurds were found in the compound: ISIS had moved them to another location prior to the raid, a fact known in advance to the Kurds leadership but not revealed to the Delta operators for reasons that remain both unclear, and wholly suspicious.”

In conclusion, NEC-SE would like to put the events that took place in Teleskof in perspective. If the armored dozer used by ISIS was moving at a speed of 5 mph (8.05 km) and it covered a distance of 2.5 km from Batnay, (ISIS attack position) to Teleskof trench lines, (ISIS main breach point), that means it took the dozer roughly 18 1/2 minutes to move to the breach point in clear weather and in the early daytime hours as it rumbled along the only high speed avenue of approach in Northern Iraq. As reported, the breaching operation lasted for an additional 10 minutes at the breach point as the bridging assets were laid in place. Finally, ISIS moved an additional 800 meters along abandoned Kurdish positions to enter Teleskof. How is it that for nearly 30 plus minutes, no shots were fired to prevent the breach and its expansion? Other questions that need to be asked include:

  • How did ISIS fighters know the exact location of the SEAL compound?
  • How is it that Kurdish fighters, who had ample time and ability to prevent a breach did not do so, and why do they continue to receive weapons, training, and funding from the U.S. and CF?
  • Given the unreliable 26 year track record of the Iraqi forces—Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish—why does the U.S. continue to send our Special Forces troops and “advisors” to assist the Sunni Muslim Kurds and others groups, only to have them killed due to a lack of security and/or ability of those “partnered forces” to hold their defensive lines against a slow developing breach?
  • How many years does the U.S. Air Force plan on serving as the regional air force for these forces, which would surely be overrun by ISIS in the absence of U.S. Air platforms supporting their defensive lines?
  • Would U.S. and CF troops be in better company partnering with other forces in the region, which were able to deter ISIS probing, and breaches in their respective sectors while receiving no funding or weapons from the U.S. or other CF elements in the region?

One can only imagine what those other forces would be capable of achieving if they were provided with the same U.S. special training and weapons. After 26 years and thousands of casualties the U.S. deserves a better return on its investment in Iraq. Our brave U.S. servicemen and women deserve better partners.

NEC-SC contends that, after 26 years of American involvement in Iraq, we might expect that ISIS could be readily destroyed, Democratic tenants would be supported by tribal leaders, the Iraqi government would be free of any Iranian influence, and Kurdish defensive lines would not be breached from behind. But this has not been the case. Despite our considerable efforts and massive outlays of material support plus billions of U.S. tax payer dollars spend for financial aid, “allies” in the region have failed to stop ISIS or reverse its gains.

NEC-SE can only hope that the United States will eventually awaken to the fact that American blood and treasure is being spilled on foreign soil to further the false narrative that Iraq is a viable unified nation and to support corrupt “allies” who are neither reliable nor capable of achieving our goals for the region.

It is our hope that the U.S. leaders understand that their policies to support this false narrative that Iraq is a whole is killing our boys and girls. If they want proof ask the Kurdish leadership to provide you the video of an ISIS Sapper that says more than our article can.  At this rate we will need more than good luck taking Mosul with our current “enduring partners” in Iraq.

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About Sargis Sangari
Sargis SangariLieutenant Colonel Sargis Sangari was born and raised in Rezaiyeh (Urmia), Iran.  He immigrated to the United States in 1980 at age ten after the Iranian Revolution.  LTC Sangari received a two-year Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship and began his Army service in 1994 after graduating from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, earning a Bachelors of Science in Political Science and receiving a commission in the Infantry.  After completing the Infantry Officer Basic Course, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 506 Infantry Regiment (Air Assault), Camp Greaves and Camp Giant Korea, where he served as a two-time Rifle Platoon Leader.  Upon his departure from Korea, LTC Sangari was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington, serving as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Mortar Platoon Leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Executive Officer, Battalion Motor Officer, and Battalion S3 Air.  LTC Sangari deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor as the principle staff advisor for Chief of Staff Military Operations for U.S. Forces and National Agencies force protection for Implementation Forces (IFOR) and Stabilization Forces (SFOR) and the theater safety officer for all of Theater SFOR.  More information here: