Iraqi forces launched an airborne assault on rebel-held Tikrit on Thursday with commandos flown into a stadium in helicopters, at least one of which crashed after taking fire from insurgents who have seized northern cities.
Eyewitnesses said battles were raging in the city, hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein, which fell to Sunni Islamist fighters two weeks ago on the third day of a lightning offensive that has given them control of most majority Sunni regions.
If just a few helicopters made it in, that's not more than a platoon. And Iraq does not have a lot of commandos.
But I would like to again shoot down the notion that Iraq has a million-man army as the article incorrectly states.
The army--which is a counter-insurgency light force for the most part, had fewer than 300,000 prior to the Mosul debacle. The other 600,000+ ground troops are police and facilities security guards.
Those 600,000 are good for guard duty only--and not against threat levels that are too high. ISIS is clearly too high a threat level if they can mass forces to strike.
If the army has 250,000 left, a good proportion of those troops will be needed to bolster the security guard-level forces against the higher threat level of ISIS killers.
Other troops are needed to watch the Anbar front. More are needed to protect sprawling Baghdad.
So I'm not sure how many real troops Iraq has to launch a counter-attack north.
I do know they need more than the 4,000 or so good quality counter-terror forces--if they are the ones who landed in Tikrit, as I suspect--in order to beat ISIL.
And I think I know that using these kind-of special forces as simply reliable infantry will burn them out in missions that they really shouldn't be performing. Iraq needs reliable infantry for missions like this. Or at least they need them to follow the commandos who open the door in order to take over the burden of the fight.
So while the instinct to counter-attack is good, I hope that Iraq finds the appropriate forces to combat the jihadis rather than burn out their few really high quality special forces-type soldiers.