Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Between Sitzkrieg and Blitzkrieg

Are we really engaged in a slow, war of attrition to retake Ramadi? I find it hard to believe this is what we've been planning for the last year.

The Iraqi Anbar province offensive is creeping along:

The fighting in Ramadi is currently about cutting the ISIL defenders off from reinforcements and supplies. Then, sometime in August, government forces will move into the city itself. The attack force contains at least 3,000 Iraqi troops that have been reorganized and retrained by American advisors. Thousands of other Iraqi troops are in units the American advisors consider “well led” (by reasonably competent and reliable officers). ...

The battle for Fallujah continues as government forces surround the city and cut off supplies to the ISIL garrison. The problem is that the army, and militias do not always cooperate. There are local Sunni tribal militias and Shia militias from eastern and southern Iraq. ISIL takes advantage of these divisions to break the siege, but given the number of government forces now involved that is more and more difficult. In the last week alone over 200 ISIL men have died fighting the surrounding government forces. While the government forced don’t cooperate, they all seek out and destroy ISIL mines and roadside bombs.

Our military would like to put forward air controllers in the trustworthy Iraqi units pushing on Ramadi.

The offensive is wider than these two cities:

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, the thrust into Ramadi is part of a wider offensive by the Iraqi military into Anbar province that began earlier this month. Dozens of people died on both sides during fighting near Fallujah, Haditha and other locations in the province last week.

But I'm not sure what to make of this:

Shortly before U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made a surprise visit to Baghdad last week, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters that Iraqi security forces were "beginning to isolate Ramadi from multiple directions" in order to "place a noose around the city."

"This is classic maneuver warfare," he said.

It's a very slow sort of maneuver warfare. Classic maneuver warfare requires rapid movement to dislocate the enemy--which is why I've wanted core mobile forces to lead the offensives.

This is siege warfare. The Iraqis are moving their lines closer to the target slowly and carefully, while trying to keep the lines of supply to the ISIL defenders cut.

This is classic siege warfare, in fact.

Unless of course we unleash a Jordanian mechanized offensive supported by American air power from the west while ISIL is focused on Ramadi and Fallujah.

In that case, we might say that the current fighting in the eastern part of Anbar is like the battles for Caen before Patton's breakout. And the new Turkish air strikes against ISIL in Syria are designed to keep ISIL from reacting to the coming offensive in the west.

Given that the Turks seem more interested in bombing Kurds than ISIL right now, let's hope our main effort really is directed to Anbar, since I don't know how much the Kurds of Iraq would be willing to cooperate to liberate Mosul at this moment.