Sunday, February 14, 2016

Another Dot. But a Big One, You Must Admit

After recapturing Ramadi, our focus is turning the Iraqi military north to recapture Mosul from ISIL at the expense of exploiting the Ramadi success to expand the war against ISIL to the rest of Anbar province. Or is it?

It makes no sense to turn on Mosul in the north when almost all of Anbar province  continues to be under ISIL control, which threatens Baghdad by leaving terrorists within range of the capital who can send in car bombs to the city.

Is our long training effort capable of turning to Mosul while keeping some pressure on ISIL in Anbar? Operations do continue in Anbar:

A statement broadcast on state television said the army, police and counter-terrorism forces had retaken several areas including the town of Husaiba al-Sharqiya, about 10 km (6 miles) east of Ramadi.

"(Our forces) also managed to open the road from Ramadi to Baghdad which passes through al-Khaldiya," the statement added, referring to a highway that links the city to the Habbaniya base where U.S.-led coalition forces are located.

Strategypage addresses the quiet effort going on to advance in Anbar and the improvements in training that the American-led effort has created in Iraqi units that has contributed to the apparent demoralization of ISIL fighters used to scaring Iraqi security forces into panic and retreat through simple "scream and leap" tactics. Do read it all, with bonus material on Iran's influx of money courtesy of the faux nuclear deal that has helped Iran undermine Iraq and the region.

As an aside, Strategypage again notes the problem of corruption and lack of rule of law in Iraq. Well before the surge was even needed, I hoped that military victory would lead to a more civilian presence to create a more fertile ground for real democracy by helping Iraqis achieve rule of law. I will repeat that hope for whenever we get around to defeating ISIL.

So this continued attention to Anbar is good. In this light, I'll mention (again) I've long hoped that Jordan would lead a mechanized assault from the west to complement Iraqi advances in the east of Anbar. The success in and around Ramadi makes me pine for this all over again.

Yet Jordan has not moved. Despite some indications that I thought might have been preparations for an offensive, nothing has happened.

Does this level of presidential interest mean Jordan's role will be finalized?

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Jordan's King Abdullah at the White House on Feb. 24, the White House said on Monday.

Will we turn north for the main effort to capture Mosul while Iraqi forces left in Anbar are helped by Jordan in a secondary effort to exploit the Ramadi success in Anbar, and thus protect Baghdad from a terror counter-attack on the city in response to the pending Mosul offensive?

Every other dot I've tried to connect on this issue has fallen short of creating the picture I've wanted to see since summer 2014. I didn't even bother blogging about recent news that the Czechs were sending large amounts of small arms ammo to Jordan. Perhaps it is for rebels. Perhaps for training.

But hope springs eternal. Now all I need is the change part.

UPDATE: And Kerry is involved, too--hopefully not to muck it up, but to hammer out diplomatic details that will be formalized in Washington, D.C., with the president:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Jordan's King Abdullah over the weekend to discuss the situation in the Middle East[.]

We have a forward element of a division headquarters in Jordan already, I believe. So any military details don't need a high ranking visit from our military. But having the president and secretary of state go sure seems like a lot of attention. Perhaps it is all about the Southern Front rebels. But I like to think it is about a Jordanian mechanized offensive into western Anbar.