Friday, April 10, 2015

Anbar First?

With Tikrit in Iraq's hands (more or less), does Iraq strike north or west? I've long figured west is the best choice to protect Baghdad and avoid losing a re-Awakened Sunni Arab alliance by leaving them to the tender mercies of ISIL for too long. Iraq seems to be thinking of going west.

This is interesting:

Iraq's premier said Wednesday that the country's "next battle" is to retake Anbar province from the Islamic State jihadist group, his most direct statement yet on Baghdad's target after Tikrit.

"Our next stand and battle will be here in the land of Anbar to completely liberate it," Haider al-Abadi said from a base in the province west of Baghdad, according to his office.

He was visiting Anbar to "check on preparations" for the upcoming military campaign.

Back in October, I figured that Anbar needed attention before Mosul did, when considering where to allocate the US-trained forces we would bolster.

This was based on the Surge-era importance of securing eastern Anbar in order to protect the Baghdad region from that direction.

I'd also like to note that Jordan is shifting forces away from the border with Israel:

Jordan has moved some of its security forces away from its border with Israel to beef up security on its Iraqi and Syrian frontier in recent weeks and months, according to Israeli defence officials.

So an Iraqi offensive west could be supported by a Jordanian offensive east.

That's what I'd do, anyway.

UPDATE: I don't know what our plans are, but Iraq sure seems to want to address Anbar right now:

Iraqi security forces launched a counter-attack on Islamic State in the western province of Anbar on Monday, seeking to reverse an early setback in a new campaign to recapture the country's Sunni heartland.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the new Anbar offensive last week, but Islamic State (IS) then overran two districts on the northern outskirts of the provincial capital Ramadi.

We want to go north:

American officials say it makes the most sense to push further north toward Islamic State’s de facto capital of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

“It’s what makes tactical and operational sense,” said a U.S. military official. “You secure 50% of Iraq and the majority of populated Iraq, then you push west. You push the enemy back into Syria.”

It's a good article, and it notes that Kurdish forces have helped to cut ISIL supply lines from Syria to Mosul. That will degrade the Mosul defenders, although I assume that doesn't mean the city is completely cut off.

I think it makes military sense to deprive ISIL of advanced positions in eastern Anbar that they use to send terrorists into Baghdad.

I think it makes military sense to help Sunni Arabs reject ISIL, after being in their grip for over a year now, to demonstrate to those in the north that it really is safe and worthwhile to reject ISIL after so many of them welcomed ISIL in June 2014.

And honestly, I don't know why we can't have simultaneous--or nearly so--offensives in both places.

We aren't the only ones training Iraqi forces, after all. Australia is sending more troops for that purpose.

Boko Haram shows what happens when jihadi killers face decent troops:

Boko Haram had become accustomed to the poorly lead and inept Nigerian troops and appear to have been surprised by the more effective forces from Cameroon, Chad and Niger. With only about 4,000 full time armed members, Boko Haram lost about half that force to casualties, capture and desertion since the joint offensive began in late February.

Not that they aren't capable of killing those unable to fight back:

Since early 2014 Boko Haram has kidnapped and enslaved over 2,000 young women (most of them teenagers) in the north. Most of these were Christian, who are seen as fair game by Islamic terrorists. Few of these captives have been found and liberated. The recent offensive against Boko Haram resulted in over a hundred of these captive women being murdered by Boko Haram to ensure they were not freed by advancing soldiers.

War on women, anyone? Are microaggressions really important?