Saturday, October 11, 2014

Asking? I've Been Begging!

You'll recall that the top spokesman for the Pentagon lamented the constant questions about why we aren't helping to defend Kobani in Syria's Kurdish region when we also haven't done much to defend ISIL targets in Iraq. I've begged our government to do just that.

Remember this Pentagon response to the questions of why we weren't doing more to help Kurds defend Kobani in Syria?

So it's easy to get fixated on one town, but I think it's really important for you and for the American people to take a couple of steps back here and look at the larger regional context within -- within which this fight is being made. And the longer-term strategic objectives that we and our coalition members are trying to apply here.

We are not going to be able -- you know, it's interesting. I mean, we're being asked about why we're not or why we won't or why we can't save Kobani. And we're not being asked those same questions about towns inside Iraq. And I don't know why that is, other than maybe there's real-time footage coming out of Kobani or what the difference is. [emphasis added]

This was said on October 8th.

A couple weeks earlier I was practically begging our forces to support Iraqi units being destroyed by ISIL attacks in Anbar:

This is so frustrating. This is exactly why our air power is needed. Why didn't we use it to help that battalion hold their base? We didn't even drop supplies.

The Iraqis claim chlorine gas was used by the jihadis. There is no proof right now, but al Qaeda did use chlorine gas during the Iraq War, so it is plausible.

Is this how we expect to get Iraqis and other Arab states to fight for us so we don't have to commit ground combat units? Because if so, it isn't going to work. ...

I mean, what the Hell are we doing in Iraq desperately seeking a ground force to support if we won't help ground forces already there?

There is no way in Hell that I've been the only one raising this question.

Local Sunni Arabs in Anbar are so desperate for help so they can resist ISIL that they have called for American ground forces!

The jihadist group has been attacking the provincial capital Ramadi, and has seized army bases in the area.

A US official told AFP news agency the situation in Anbar was "fragile". ...

Anbar's provincial council submitted a request to the Iraqi government asking for US ground troops to help fight IS militants, Iraq's al-Sharqiyah TV reported.

There is a reason for this desperation:

Islamic State militants are threatening to overrun a key province in western Iraq in what would be a major victory for the jihadists and an embarrassing setback for the U.S.-led coalition targeting the group.

A win for the Islamic State in Anbar province would give the militants control of one of the country's most important dams and several large army installations, potentially adding to their abundant stockpile of weapons. It would also allow them to establish a supply line from Syria almost to Baghdad, and give them a valuable position from which to launch attacks on the Iraqi capital.

The Islamic State's offensive in Anbar has received less attention than its assault on the Syrian border city of Kobane, which has played out in view of news photographers standing on hills in nearby Turkey. But in recent weeks, Islamic State fighters have systematically invaded towns and villages in Anbar, besieged army posts and police stations, and mounted attacks on Iraqi troops in Ramadi, the provincial capital.

And Iraqis can fight--as this tale of better leadership in Iraq's 17th division at Baghdad tells:

The local military commander, Brigadier Jabbar Karam al-Taee, is a shrewd and effective soldier, who commands the 17th division of the Iraqi army. He and his men hold the key to Baghdad. If they fail to stop IS, the city itself will be in real danger.

But they are not failing: on the contrary, they've staged a remarkable comeback - with the support of American warplanes.

As we drove through the village in his personal Humvee, he showed me where the IS forces had been dug in, and where the American bombs had landed. They had been extremely accurate.

Many of the Iraqi soldiers will be just fine with good leaders and some American fire support.

Heck, even Spain is going back to Iraq by sending 300 troops to train Iraqi ground forces.

But we can't just count on holding the line at the gates of Baghdad. We should have learned the lesson from our 2007 surge offensive in Iraq that the areas around Baghdad must be controlled or they will be a launching pad for terrorist assaults on Baghdad.

And the lines of supply from this belt of territory around Baghdad all the way back to western Anbar and Syria is crucial to control if Baghdad is to be secure.

So again, I'm begging our military to provide effective fire support for Iraqi defenders and the Sunni Arabs of Anbar who desperately want to Awaken again to fight the jihadis.

UPDATE: We are getting a bit more responsive, it seems, including air resupply:

Additionally, U.S. forces "conducted multiple airdrops to help resupply Iraqi security forces at the request of the Government of Iraq," it said, adding the supplies of food, water and ammunition were dropped around Baiji, the site of Iraq's largest oil refinery.

Although I'm a bit horrified that Baiji still doesn't have secure land lines of supply.