Monday, October 06, 2014

Boots Hovering Near the Ground

The Army's best ground support asset has gone into action in Iraq.

American Apache helicopters carried out attacks in Iraq in the Fallujah area:

The defense official said the strikes northeast of Fallujah were coordinated with Iraqi security forces to support their operations.

“It’s a capability we have, that they asked for, and that could contribute to their operations” the official said.

In recent weeks Iraqi security forces have struggled against ISIS forces that have attacked several cities in Anbar Province west of Baghdad. ISIS victories there could pose an even greater security threat to Iraq’s capital.

I wondered why we weren't doing more in this region given the setbacks the Iraqi military has experienced here lately (on top of the massive losses in January, of course).

I'll note that coordinating the Apache strikes with the Iraqis isn't the same as providing ground support to troops in action. We probably just used this as a low flying aircraft in a strike role (telling the Iraqis to stay clear was the coordination) that has limited usefulness.

Even the Air Force, which has more faith in the power of air strikes to compel an enemy to capitulate, wouldn't argue that the meager rate of airstrikes--248 in Iraq and 86 in Syria, according to the ABC article--can be decisive.

Perhaps the helicopter strike was part attack and part terrain familiarization for the crews to pave the way for direct ground support so Iraqi forces under attack by ISIL have hope that they can survive combat with ISIL attackers.