Monday, September 07, 2015

When Perfect is the Enemy of Good Enough

We set the land-speed record in the Middle East in 2003. Today the Saudis could give us lessons in speed.

The Saudi-led coalition is bombing Houthi positions in Yemen:

Saudi-led coalition jets on Sunday bombed a Houthi military position and army bases in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in what appeared to be further retaliation for the killing of dozens of coalition soldiers two days ago.

Strategypage writes that the Saudis are preparing to move on Sanaa:

Pro-government troops, led by the Arab Brigade, are within a hundred kilometers of the capital (Saana) and preparing to go after the capital and then the Shia homeland in the north. The coalition has called for and received thousands of local volunteers for a new brigade to assist in the final battles with the Shias. Up to 5,000 of these volunteers will receive weapons, pay and a week or so of training. Most of these men know how to use weapons and the training is mainly to make sure the volunteers are physically fit for combat and know the basic rules (mainly to avoid friendly fire). The pro-government forces are rapidly retaking Shia held territory in large part because of 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.

It's premature to declare victory, but this highlights my long-standing call for core forces supported by our air power to lead Iraqi offensives against ISIL; and my complaints that it is taking way too much time to prepare the Iraqis for offensive operations:

I don't understand why it is taking us so long to defeat ISIL when we have allied ground forces that we could help in Iraq. I can understand why it would take longer to defeat ISIL in Syria, but what is holding us back in Iraq?

If Saudi Arabia could organize an Arab Brigade (and Qatar appears to be sending a battalion-sized mechanized task force) to be the core force with their air power; and train sufficient Yemen forces to work with them, how can we be taking so long?

If the Saudi-led coalition succeeds in smashing up the Iranian-supported Shia Houthi and seizing the capital, it will be an embarrassing contrast to our slow-motion build-up that I assume values production of PowerPoint presentations more than production of results on the ground.

And the ongoing ground offensive against Ramadi in Iraq is painfully slow--more than a month after I noted how painfully slow it is.

Not that smashing up the Houthi or ISIL in Iraq ends the war. But putting friendly forces back in charge of the ground and moving on to the COIN phase of rooting out enemies who no longer own the ground would be major progress.

Plus, Sunni rebels will remain a problem in Yemen.

And we'll have to get back to killing al Qaeda in Yemen as we did back when President Obama boasted that our drone camapign in Yemen was a model of American anti-terrorist efforts.

But this at least is making progress in a war. What are we doing in Iraq?

UPDATE: There is a report that Egypt has committed 4 companies:

Reuters cited two Egyptian security sources as saying that four Egyptian units, each with between 150-200 personnel, had been deployed to Yemen. Official Egyptian sources had not confirmed the report at the time of writing.

No word of the composition. The need would be for either mechanized forces or special forces.