Monday, May 16, 2016

Appearing Far?

I've been complaining that the build up to liberate Mosul from ISIL is just dragging on way too long. Are we closer than we appear?

How is it possible that we say we won't be able to help Iraq take the city of Mosul by the end of this year after it was taken in June 2014, when in a similar time period after Pearl Harbor (December 1941), we built, trained, and deployed armies, air forces, and navies to invade Nazi-occupied France on D-Day (June 1944)?

It is taking way too long to defeat what amounts to light infantry backed by terrorism holding northwestern Iraq. But is it too much to hope that we really are closer to mounting an offensive than we want it to appear?

I only ask because I read this:

So far, only 18,500 Iraqi troops have been trained by the United States. Experts not only believe the offensive may require up to twice that number of troops, but also question whether the seven-week U.S. training course will sufficiently prepare ISF troops for a major operation.

I wonder if we are as far away from attacking as we seem to be because I don't know why the limited number of troops America has trained is the limiting factor.

Remember, we aren't the only nation training Iraqis. And if you want to know the state of Iraq's trained manpower able to mount an offensive on Mosul, you'd count what America and all of our allies have trained.

To me, perhaps overly hopefully, this highlighting of American training efforts indicates that we are low-balling the troop total and doing that to disguise the ability to begin the offensive sooner than people think we can.

A former ambassador to Iraq thinks that two American combat brigades would help a lot, too:

Jeffrey also says, “a limited commitment of U.S. ground troops — two brigades of 5,000 troops each, reinforced by other NATO forces, along with local allies — could make even more rapid progress.”

I agree. Two American heavy or Stryker brigades could lead an advance of lesser quality Iraqis and fully exploit our firepower (air and artillery). But I remain amazed that after all this time we would need to do this.

I've been calling for core mobile forces since we re-intervened for Iraq War 2.0. How is it possible that we still lack this capability?

It would have been nice to get the Jordanians or Gulf Arabs or even Egyptians to provide two or three mobile brigades early on, but that didn't happen.

Yet since then our coalition has been training Iraqis. The Iraqis are no Prussians, I admit, but ISIL is shakier than their jihadi reputation justifies, I think. The Iraqis should be good enough. The Iraqis managed to fight off fanatical Iranian jihadis in the Iran-Iraq War, after all. It is in them to do.

I guess I just wouldn't be surprised if recent buzz about accelerating the offensive includes hidden Iraqi troops being held out of the fight, meaning an offensive is coming soon, and is more real than the official talk of nothing happening until the end of this year--if by then.

I sure hope so, anyway. Which could be coloring my interpretation of what I read.

UPDATE: An objective I wanted in my Win. Build. Win strategy--bombing in Syria to support the Iraq main effort--has been achieved:

About half of ISIL oil production had been destroyed and other ISIL income sources were also under attack in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Losses have been somewhat heavier in Syria, meaning there is little hope of reinforcements from Syria and that Syria is no longer a safer place for ISIL men to flee to. [emphasis added]

So when the offensive begins, ISIL won't be able to switch significant forces to Iraq to hold off the attack.

Nor can ISIL forces in Iraq safely retreat to Syria in case of defeat.

Of course, given time, ISIL could adapt to the situation our air power has put them in. All the more reason to strike soon, eh?

UPDATE: I was more clear about my objectives for the Syria air campaign here:

Air strikes in Syria would almost exclusively be to support the fight in Iraq by hitting key supplies and personnel of ISIL so they don't affect the Iraq campaign.

So we've got that, it seems.

UPDATE: This is more like it:

The U.S.-led coalition has trained about 31,000 Iraqi security forces to date with another 3,800 currently in the pipeline. Over 1,000 Kurdish peshmerga fighters have completed training over the past month, and another 1,100 are currently in training. Many of those are expected to fight in Mosul, Warren said.

That's a much bigger number. And still we seem to low ball the Kurds by just noting the most recent graduates and those in training.

Really, why would we put our troops in the field to support the Iraqis so early if the offensive isn't planned until 2017? Why just let them be targets?

If I had to bet, I'd say the offensive is much closer than 2017 or even the end of this year.