The government offensive in western Iraq (Anbar province) continues, especially around the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. It is slow going because the government knows that heavy casualties among its forces is not just bad for morale but could lead to many desertions. As much as most Iraqis hate ISIL, they hate getting killed while serving under incompetent and corrupt officers. So, heeding their American advisors, the government is allowing the few competent officers the Americans were able to identify to get the job done and take their time doing it. Thus in July fewer than 500 members of the security forces (including the Kurds and militias) were killed.
Five hundred dead in a month is an awful lot, even if it is less than they are used to suffering. Now, I can see a slow plodding advance as necessary if there is no trained force capable of mobile warfare to lead an advance with our air power in close support.
Remember, only the spearheads have to be mobile. The follow-up troops can be leg infantry and far more numerous--as the Germans showed in 1939-1941.
But that's another issue altogether.
I don't understand the assertion that advancing very slowly is a way to reduce casualties.
Rapid mobile warfare is not inherently expensive in casualties. And by winning a campaign more rapidly, such warfare--even if it suffers higher casualties in the short run--will lower casualties by preventing month after month of "only" 500 KIA per month.
I keep expecting a war of movement to rapidly move into Anbar, especially along the road to Jordan.
And I've complained about granting our enemies that precious commodity, time.
Perhaps a war of movement is planned after Ramadi and Fallujah are secured as a launching point into the more sparsely populated Anbar.
Certainly we plan something (from the Strategypage link):
Without any publicity at all the United States and Britain have brought in more special operations troops to fight ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) in the “ISIL Homeland” of western Iraq and eastern Syria. In Iraq the U.S. has over a thousand special operations troops assigned to train and advise Iraqi forces (both army and pro-government Sunni tribal militias). Aside from their obvious military and cultural (many American Special Forces speak Arabic) advantages the Western troops also bring with them the ability to more accurately and quickly call in air strikes. ... In Syria the American and British commandos have apparently been operating together on raids, scouting missions and assisting the local Kurds and other armed anti-ISIL groups. One reason for keeping the commando presence quiet is that it is largely concerned with collecting more intelligence on ISIL.
This is good. Does this mean we have more troops in Iraq than I thought?
And as the Iran deal debacle plays out, let me at least commend President Obama for taking this step.
Certainly, special forces attached to Iraqi forces will help these guys move faster and more confidently. And direct action will be possible.
In Syria, special forces could tie up ISIL trying to reinforce Iraq if we really do plan a war of movement.
I have to cling to the notion that we plan something more effective than we seem to be doing.
UPDATE: That armored brigade committed in Yemen against the Iranian-supported Shias that I mentioned achieved so much quickly in this post is half UAE and the rest "largely" Saudi, it seems:
All this was aided by some troops from neighboring countries, which sent in a mechanized combat brigade (about 3,000 troops and over a hundred armored vehicles). This unit has come to be called the Arab Brigade because about half the brigade consists of UAE (United Arab Emirate) troops, including many UAE men with family ties to Yemen and knowledge of local dialects and customs. The rest of the brigade is largely Saudi. This brigade has an additional advantage in that they can quickly call down smart bomb attacks from Arab jet fighters overhead.
I remain hopeful that in Iraq we are figuratively fixing ISIL's attention with Operation Goodwood at Ramadi before the Cobra breakout into Anbar.