Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Preparing for the Day After Mosul Falls

Iraq is looking ahead to their Iran problem, by addressing the Shia militias that are way too influenced by Iran:

The Iraqi government has decided to cut the number of state-financed paramilitary forces due to a shortage of funds as the international oil price declines, a spokesman for a leading predominantly Shiite militia group said Thursday.

Iraq will cut about 40,000 of the 130,000 Shia militia. Clearly, peak ISIL threat has passed.

Well, I don't assume there are 130,000 full-time troops in formation on any given day. But 130,000 are on the payroll.

The Iraqis really need to cut down the size of the rival military force that is not even close to being fully under the control of the Iraqi government.

Which is why the Iraqi government is stiff-arming the existing militias:

[Iraqi] government official and the diplomats said the [Iraqi decision to keep the Shia militias out of the Ramadi fight] was one of a series of moves by Abadi to assert his authority as leader and to distance himself from Tehran and the militias that came to Baghdad's rescue in 2014 and early 2015.

Abadi has begun to push for reconciliation between Iraq's Shi'ites and Sunnis, and for better relations with Sunni Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia, they said.

This is good news, because it must mean that the Iraqis feel a little more secure with our presence to counter Iran's influence that had expanded dangerously after we left in 2011.

And again, keeping Iranian influence at bay was one reason I wanted to stay in Iraq after 2011.

So I'll recognize what appears to be a good thing by the Obama administration even though they are responsible for allowing the bad thing to happen.

But distancing Iraq from Iran and a 30% cut it is just the first stage. Eventually, the whole rotten lot of these militia will have to be disbanded or brought under tight Iraqi government control.

The task will be more daunting than it was in spring 2008 when Iraq executed the Charge of the Knights Operation.

UPDATE: This story on the liberation of Ramadi is related (and who knew Newsweek still exists?) in respect to how soon Mosul will be liberated once the offensive finally kicks off:

Retaking the Anbar provincial capital, an ordeal described by one U.S. commander as “tremendously slow” and “intensely frustrating,” has strengthened the resolve of Iraqi security forces. Still, “they move in fits and starts,” says U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General William Mullen. “They move for a couple of days. They stop for a couple of days. After six months of ‘Why aren’t you moving today?’ it was ‘OK, we really need you to keep moving.’”

This is heartening. I've been complaining bitterly about the slow pace of the war and the slow pace of the Ramadi counter-offensive in particular. I found it hard to believe this was our plan. And behind the happy talk in public, our military people were as frustrated as I was.

Funny enough, this evokes the slow, halting pace of Iraq's army in 1980 when Saddam ordered the invasion of Iran. Iraqi troops seemed to stop and dig in their tanks every time they ran into resistance from the initially heavily outnumbered Iranian defenders in Khuzestan. Times change and Iraq went from Soviet to Western trainers, but Iraqi habits seem to endure.

UPDATE: Burn the militias up doing something useful:

According to a statement by the Joint Operations Command, the "new offensive" began at dawn in a swath agricultural area northwest of the city of Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, with the aim to cut IS supply lines and to tighten the grip around the IS-held northern city of Mosul.

The command says paramilitary forces, mostly Shiite militias, and the Iraqi air force were backing the push on the area, called Jazerat Samarra. The statement did not say if the U.S.-led international coalition was involved in the operation.

Good. Two birds with one stone, I say (in the last update).