Wednesday, February 03, 2016


I would have exploited the Ramadi victory to finish a campaign in Anbar province, but if we are turning to Mosul in the north, it would be nice to get on with it.

American forces to bolster the Iraqis and Syrian rebels mean that our efforts to take Mosul in Iraq and also Raqqa in Syria are serious, as our secretary of defense noted a few weeks ago:

[Secretary of Defense] Carter's broader message signaled the completion of a military plan to help Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces retake Mosul in northern Iraq and to assist the Syrian moderate forces oust Islamic State militants from their headquarters in Raqqa.

He described operations that would send Iraqi forces from the south and Peshmerga forces from the north to encircle and cut off Mosul. But he warned that taking it back will not be quick or easy, and he offered no timelines.

But the speed of doing this is an issue. As I've complained. But that seems to be getting some attention, too:

The United States is willing to deploy Apache attack helicopters and advisers to help Iraq retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State as it considers options to speed up the campaign against the militant group, a top U.S. general said on Monday.

U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, have said they want to accelerate the campaign against Islamic State militants, and have called on allies to increase their military contributions to efforts to destroy the group in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqis are being prepared for mobile warfare:

"It's not about defeating IEDs (improvised explosive devices); it's about breaching obstacles," MacFarland said following a training exercise at the Besmaya base near Baghdad.

The aim of live-fire exercises of this kind is to practice integrating "infantry, armour, engineers and indirect fire to overwhelm the enemy and combine the effects on an enemy force", he said.

Two brigades -- the 71st and 72nd -- have been through the new training, with the latter finishing the final exercise of more than two months of instruction on Wednesday.

During the exercise, 72nd Brigade soldiers combined mortar fire for smoke cover, engineers equipped with mine-clearing charges and bulldozers to open gaps in defences, and infantry in armoured vehicles to provide covering fire and then advance toward the objective.

Which is interesting in light of my ancient call for core mobile forces to help the less-skilled Iraqi units advance against the far smaller but fanatical ISIL forces occupying Iraqi territory.

Even recently, it seemed like the Counter-terrorism Force was still the only Iraqi force capable of leading an offensive. I continued to hope that the Jordanians would provide a mobile force striking from the west to help clean out Anbar.

But because this Iraq War 2.0 has dragged on so long, the coalition training effort may have had the time to train Iraqis for mobile warfare. (and remember, that's what we should have been doing since the end of 2011 instead of leaving Iraq, which then had a counter-insurgency army.)

In that light, I assume this call by the Kurds is more of a bargaining stance to get more for the Kurds who will be needed in a Mosul offensive rather than a sincere push for statehood:

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani has declared that the "time has come" for the country's Kurds to hold a referendum on statehood, a move likely to raise tensions with Baghdad.

We shall see. It would be nice to get on with destroying ISIL in Iraq (and then Syria) before they are entrenched in too many countries and before they can mount too many terrorist attacks against the West.