Saturday, July 25, 2015

I Keep Seeing Dots

In the duel between focusing on ISIL in Anbar province or Mosul, I've been an Anbar-first proponent. It sure looks like the focus is going to Anbar despite a head fake to Mosul.

Yet the offensive seems to be going very slowly.

But are there more indications that this front will heat up soon to retake ground and defeat ISIL there?

One indication relies on our past insistence that American-trained Iraqi units be used for the Mosul front. But the Anbar front includes American-trained troops:

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters traveling with Carter that the roughly 3,000 coalition-trained soldiers joined the Ramadi operation in recent days.

The story says that American-trained troops are involved.

So would we split the trained Iraqi troops between two objectives--perhaps guaranteeing insufficient forces for both fronts--rather than switch objectives to one that the Iraqis (and I) consider more important? Do we agree that Anbar is more important now?

Or do we think we have enough trained troops in the pipeline for a Mosul offensive to allow for some to be allocated to Anbar despite our suspiciously loud complaints that we are falling short of recruiting and training?

Another indication is Israel's donation of helicopter gunships to Jordan to fight ISIL:

Israel has given its surplus Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to Jordan to bolster its neighbour's defence against the Islamic State, the Reuters news agency reported on 23 July.

Approximately 16 AH-1E/F Cobras that were retired from the Israeli Air Force in 2013 were refurbished and handed over to Jordan in 2014 in a deal that was approved by the United States.

I've long hoped for a Jordanian mechanized offensive into western Anbar province to complement an Iraqi offensive from the east. Helicopters would be very useful for that. Although they'd be useful for a lot of things that don't involve a western Anbar front, I admit.

Another piece of information is that Turkey will bomb ISIL and allow us to use the Incirlik air base (and others) to bomb ISIL:

In a major tactical shift, Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria on Friday, a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost. A Syrian rights group said the airstrikes killed nine IS fighters.

Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia and borders the Middle East, had long been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group.

In a related, long-awaited development, Turkey said it has agreed to allow U.S.-led coalition forces to base manned and unmanned aircraft at its air bases for operations targeting the IS group.

Turkey has long wanted to focus on defeating Assad, and so didn't want to harm ISIL which has been an effective enemy of Assad.

So did we really convince Turkey to shift their objectives? Or did we convince Turkey that we want to focus on ISIL in Iraq and need Turkish help to keep the Syrian branch from reinforcing the Iraq branch when the hammer falls in Anbar?

That way, Turkish help against ISIL doesn't require Turkey to abandon their focus on Assad. Indeed, Turkish help to keep Syrian ISIL forces from moving to Iraq would actually fit with Turkey's focus on defeating Assad.

By this point, Turkey may believe that Assad is weakened enough to risk helping us in Iraq:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree announcing a general amnesty for military deserters who violated the country's compulsory military conscription law, state television said on Saturday.

Assad must be desperate for manpower if he is willing to risk angering those who answered the call to serve--or the families of those who died in that service.

After all, lack of success against ISIL keeps Iraq's Kurds important to us--which isn't in Turkey's interest to continue, as this action against Turkish Kurd secessionists hiding in northern Iraq reflects:

Fighter jets hit PKK targets in several locations in northern Iraq, including warehouses, "logistic points", living quarters and storage buildings, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office said.

Heck, perhaps the price of admission by Turkey is NATO support for Turkey to establish a buffer zone inside Syria to help anti-Assad forces.

So more dots. The problem is that I'm interpreting what I see to fit what I'd do were I God of CENTCOM. So I could be connecting dots that have no relation to each other.

But it is a lovely picture I've painted, you must admit.

UPDATE: The Turks claim their air strikes are for the purpose of establishing a safe zone:

"We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones," he said.

Turkey has long sought a "no-fly zone" or "safe zone" in northern Syria but met resistance from Washington, which says direct military pressure on Islamic State, not a "safe zone", is the best way to end the region's fighting and refugee crisis.

Ankara struck a deal with Washington this week allowing coalition forces to use Turkish bases for bombing raids against Islamic State, greatly shortening distances to targets and potentially making the aerial campaign more effective.

It was not immediately known whether the agreement would entail the creation of a safe or buffer zone.

Well, some dots are connected, anyway.

UPDATE: Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, a small but competent part of Iraq's military, has made progress toward retaking Ramadi:

Iraqi security forces entered the University of Anbar in the western city of Ramadi on Sunday and clashed with Islamic State militants inside the compound, the joint operations command said in a statement.

The jihadis used the campus as a base.

But as the article notes, the progress has been slow so far.

UPDATE: Yes, the safe zone under the umbrella of a no-fly zone is on:

Turkey and the United States are working on plans to provide air cover for Syrian rebels and jointly sweep Islamic State fighters from a strip of land along the Turkish border, bolstering the NATO member's security and providing a safe haven for civilians.

And NATO is holding a rare meeting to decide on how to support NATO member Turkey:

For just the fifth time in its 66-year history, NATO ambassadors will meet in emergency session Tuesday to gauge the threat the Islamic State extremist group poses to Turkey, and the debated actions Turkish authorities are taking in response.

So some dots were definitely connected.