Exclusive: Marine Brig. Gen. Bill Seely over Iraq’s enduring defeat of ISIS
IRAQ: Leading the troops, Marine Brig. Gen. Bill Seely oversees the joint command of Marines and Iraqi forces in Iraq’s counterinsurgency operations against ISIS, termed “enduring defeat.” Speaking with General Seely, he comes across a very amiable, passionate guy who happens to be the Commanding General of Task Force Iraq, which is part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJFT- OIR).
When temperatures soar in Iraq, a land rich in culture and history, Marines and Iraqi forces are out from dawn ‘till dusk fine-tuning the enduring defeat of ISIS. They are out to nullify the chill of terror, so every province and city remains secure. The collective military machinery hums along to stop extremists who come in uninvited and pummel urban populations with fear and death.
Iraq suffers iterations of violent insurgencies.
Extremist objectives are evident in the ashes and ruins left behind. U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General (Brig. Gen.) William ‘Bill’ Seely put it this way,
“I think both the old al Qaeda in Iraq and [newer] ISIS in Iraq is largely, in terms of ideology, the same. And that’s an ideology of hate – that’s an ideology of destruction – an ideology of terror that still resonates among aggrieved and radicalized people throughout the Middle East and further abroad. That’s our challenge.” He adds, “We have to really stop this extremist ideology here that resides in the few remaining terrorists before they can recruit more – find those disenfranchised people that take advantage and exploit.”
According to Seely, ISIS has been pushed back by Iraqi forces from urban centers to obscure locations. The search for any remaining cells is on.
Seely: A Vietnamese American born in war to lead in war.
Seely sought out long ago what he calls “a sense of purpose” and has spent 30+ years giving that back to his country. He started life in Saigon. His father was contracted to build airfields in Cam Ranh Bay and DaNang and met his mother in Nha Trang.
Seely was born premature and very sick and was taken to Third Army Hospital, cared for by Army nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
In late 1970, Seely’s family moved to the States, where he grew up playing baseball, football, and wrestling. A student of the American school system, he earned a Master’s Degree from Oklahoma State University, National Intelligence University, and graduated from Naval War College with distinction.
Military education includes Survival, Airborne, Amphibious, Reconnaissance, Scuba, Weapons and Tactics, Intelligence courses and Command and War Colleges.
A strengthened military on the move to track fractured fighters.
Task Force Iraq is part of a collective composed of 80 coalition partners from 75 nations and 5 Non-State Entities. Seely’s experience and knowledge, like other commanders before him, marries with Iraqi leaders and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to result in an armored approach to terror.
In July 2019, Seely assumed command of Task Force Iraq from his predecessor Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, who owns 37 years of service and commands Marines at every level. According to Renforth, the Iraq mission is to ensure the ISF are resilient and self-sustaining. That they recruit, train, equip, and manage their developing force. Independence and ability then grow, for Iraq to counter current and future threats and sustain stability.
Renforth adds, “Daesh (ISIS) is hiding in the region’s vast deserts which are tens of thousands of square miles in size. These massive, remote areas are difficult to police and people hiding in them are hard to find, particularly if they are only in small groups. ISF continue to fight diligently destroying ISIS, removing their weapon caches, and have liberated over 7.7 million civilians with hard work and effort.”
The geography of command.
Seely oversees partnerships within 7 major provinces which encompass north, south, east, and west territories, including Baghdad; essentially, he covers the majority of Iraq.
He’s seen Iraq evolve first-hand while deploying in 2006-07, 2008, 2015-16. Now, in 2019, he concurs with Renforth on the expansive task at hand to douse the remaining fires of ISIS.
“That is what we were organized, trained, and equipped to come over here and do. That is how we set up our relationship with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces…and not just here, but have extended those operations for the last several years, carrying that fight into Syria,” says Seely.
Iraqi Security Forces ‘take the fight to the enemy’ with help from allies.
U.S. military involvement in Iraq is by invitation, via the prime minister as the elected leader of the parliament. U.S. and coalition mentors function under the Ministry of Defense, and their Chief of Defense, and work with units under the Ministry of the Interior. All lump together to amass in the country’s rising renaissance of security, whether highly-trained Federal policemen, Border Guards, or Iraqi soldiers.
“That unity of effort – unity of command is critical to future success in Iraq,” says Seely.
Task Force Spartan, led by Marine Lt. Col. Ervin R. Stone, is composed mainly of Marines within Task Force Iraq and is based at a central hub called Taqaddum, in Southern al Anbar Province. Various security units congregate, train together there and take what they acquire back out to the towns and villages. Marines with Anbar Operations Command (AOC) have the crucial job of advising and assisting ISF. They are ‘one’ in tactical purpose.
Iraqi generals get together with the staff of Task Force Spartan to plan, for example, when the Iraqis will go to the field. AOC Marines mentor on ‘what is the best way to logistically support them’ ‘when is the best time of day to help them with intelligence’, ‘to help them with other operational planning for fires, or to coordinate strike aircraft’.
“So, we’re right there in partnership as they lead the charge out to the desert,” says Seely.
Headstrong extremist will amount to what avail?
“This is not the al Qaeda of old – this is not even the ISIS we’ve seen four or five years ago,” reports Seely.
“I’ll throw it out there – they’re pretty desperate now – they’re living and trying to operate out of caves in the desert. We’ve had reports at different times they recruit people…kids as young as ten years old,” states Seely.
Daesh or ISIS tries to turn the youngsters into operatives to be used by the insurgent network or gather their own intelligence.
“There was even an open source report that ISIS – no kidding – packed explosives on cows,” continues Seely. “Tried to have the cows walk into a town and then detonate them. Think about ‘how desperate is that’? To try and get an animal hurt and kill somebody.”
Seely relates that you obviously feel for the cow – and you also feel bad that ISIS took away someone’s livelihood. One loses what a cow can do for a family with milk, food, and income.
As an organization – that’s a desperate place to lie in. With the physical caliphate gone – Seely believes ISIS’ current nefarious methods focus back to,
“Everybody has to be like them…to think like them…to the point of they’ve taken that extremist ideology of hate and used it as a method of governance.”
As the ISF embrace and embody the tactical knowledge and experience shared by U.S and coalition mentors, an enduring footprint emerges. On the ground tramped by the hate of tyrants and the love of freedom warriors, the new Iraq shows its face with continuing sacrifice and courage.
“Enduring commitment” – Marines in Iraq.
Who knows better how to run things on the battlefield, but the warriors themselves? Who knows better what it takes to overmatch the enemy long-term, but those doing it?
Plato allegedly said, “Only the dead know the end of war.” Marines know the condition to ease war is difficulty and the condition for war to end is impossible without discipline and commitment. Peace is an elusive creature easily taken away by assuming it will be there without a price. That price is paid daily.
“We always run across Marines, who are heroes in their own right. That could be on a battlefield, [or] being a friend or confidant to some Marine who needs help. I think that’s important,” reflects Seely.
Discipline makes the winning warrior.
Years ago in Fallujah, a patrol came back after a considerable time out in the desert. What does an average person, coming back from a camping or hunting trip hungry, sweaty and dirty do? Their first inclination is to jump in the shower, eat, and clean up the equipment later.
Seely watched his hot, hungry, and dirty Marines with a meticulous focus, clean all their equipment. They painstakingly got their vehicles all set. The unit could have turned around a few short hours later, to leave on the next mission. They were ready to go out with that ‘higher sense of purpose’.
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem,” confirms Ronald Reagan.
Patriot Profiles’ series on “Evolving Iraq.”
Coming soon – Remembering embattled Fallujah and the signs of “Enduring defeat.” Hear more from Brig. Gen. Seely and Brig. Gen. Renforth leading the fight on terror. Plus the complexities of insurgencies, why they begin, how they form and grow.
FEATURED PHOTO: SOUTHWEST ASIA, 2019. U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, conduct live-fire training with heavy machine guns. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is a quick reaction force, working by, with and through partner forces to defeat ISIS. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justin Huffty