Fallujah in Iraq's Anbar province is still under ISIL control after 2 years, and the prospect of taking the city is daunting:
“They have had almost two years to build up the city for defenses, make strong points, set all sorts of booby traps, dig tunnels for ease of movement between positions,” said former U.S. Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, now a foreign policy analyst. “I’d expect they’d fight much more fanatically for Fallujah.”
Don't forget that ISIL made the same kind of defensive preparation in both Sinjar and Ramadi. But the enemy did not hold and die in place in those places.
Do you really think that a round of brutality directed against retreating ISIL gunmen has stiffened ISIL morale enough to get them to die in place in Fallujah when the threat of death while holding the city is very real while ISIL enforcers are far away?
I think we have to consider whether ISIL morale is shaken enough for the Iraqi ground forces (with our air power in direct support) to shatter ISIL's forces with a sharp offensive on the ground in Iraq that makes dramatic territorial gains, rather than the slow clawing back we've seen over the last year and a half.
Will we exploit this apparent enemy problem? Will we even recognize it if it is true?
UPDATE: How solid are the jihadis these days?
Many ISIL members are sensing this danger and desertions are up while veteran troops in contact with ISIL find the enemy less effective and apparently demoralized. ...
A side benefit of the recent ISIL attacks on the Kurds was the capture of many wounded (and unwounded) ISIL fighters. Many of these men, once they realize that their wounds will be tended and they won’t be executed or tortured, talk freely to Kurdish and American interrogators. They report that ISIL is having more problems with desertions in Mosul and has been carrying out more public executions of ISIL fighters caught trying to leave. Some of the recent executions included mid-level ISIL leaders who sought to flee what many consider a hopeless situation.
We really could have a rapid advance once begun in earnest.
Which leaves the lingering problem of the militias loyal to Iran, of course. Always new problems ...
UPDATE: A leader of one of the militia's claims ISIL's morale and capabilities are still high and that our air strikes have been ineffective:
"Many of its leadership have been killed but one should know that Daesh (IS) is still strong," said Amiri, leader of the Badr Organization whose armed wing has been fighting alongside Iraqi security forces to recapture territory seized by IS.
"Their attacks are still daring and swift and their morale is high. They still have money and weapons."
Of course, he's a hand puppet of the Iranians, and so would be expected to dismiss our assistance to the Iraqi war effort.