Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If You Start to Take Vienna

We plan to defeat ISIL. Eventually. One day.

We have planes in place and we could easily put forward observers and advisers into the field to direct our air strikes.

What we need are trained, mobile core combat forces to lead the advance and host the forward observers.

Since June 2014 following the ISIL offensive that overran the north of Iraq, that's all I've been asking for to defeat ISIL:

Our few special forces and intelligence agents backed by air power smashed the Taliban army in 2001. The French used a tiny military force to blitz their way through the jihadis controlling northern Mali last year.

The Iraqis probably don't have that military capability, unless their counter-terrorism forces are capable of fighting as formed units. That's probably a waste of their capabilities even if they could do it. We don't treat 30 SEALs as a really good platoon of infantry, now do we?

We could organize the general purpose Iraqi units for a plodding assault north. But it will be ugly even if successful.

We need a core of a mobile offensive force that can shatter the jihadis by moving north and calling down precision fire to smash up the jihadis as they try to defend their newly won caliphate.

Nearly 11 months later, there apparently are no core forces capable of leading a mobile offensive to shatter ISIL. The recapture of Tikrit was a success but it did not lead to further gains.

Jordan seems angry enough at ISIL but there's been no news about their ground forces entering the war.

The Kurds are grinding forward but don't seem to have the armaments to provide a really potent core ground offensive force.

Our training efforts don't seem to have put any decent regular Iraqi army troops into the field yet.

And there are no mercenary units hired that could spearhead an offensive.

Mind you, we could be husbanding the decent brigades in reserve while counting on the existing frontline units to hold in order to avoid throwing decent units into meat grinder defensive battles against ISIL that would wreck their offensive potential.

That's possible. Perhaps even likely.

But we are not even supporting the frontline Iraqis from the air in sufficient quantities with sufficient coordination to hold the line until we have gathered enough forces capable of leading offensives.

With the fall of Ramadi in Anbar province, ISIL clearly isn't done taking significant ground.

If you start to defeat ISIL, defeat ISIL. We started to defeat ISIL, but I have no idea what we are doing.

UPDATE: While I sincerely doubt ISIL could capture Baghdad, ISIL has clearly started to take Anbar:

Islamic State militants overran Iraqi government defences east of the city of Ramadi on Thursday, police and pro-government tribal fighters said.

The defensive line was breached at Husaiba, about 10 km (six miles) from the city, on Thursday afternoon after IS fighters intensified mortar and rocket fire.

If ISIL forces Iraq's defenders back to the gates of Baghdad, ISIL may not be able to take the city but they will be able to carry out terrorist attacks rather easily.

Also, after all this time, Iraqi troops not having hand-held anti-armor weapons capable of stopping ISIL's improvised armored vehicles used as IEDs to breach defensive barriers--as we say was the problem at Ramadi--is inexcusable.