Monday, August 01, 2016

The End is Nigh

The offensive to take Mosul from ISIL seems likely to take place sooner rather than later. Troops are trained and the jihadis aren't loving death as much as they used to.

The Iraqis have a retrained force ready to go and our ISIL enemies are weaker on the battlefield than their death-loving reputation would have you believe:

The Iraqis have put together a force of over 30,000 troops for the final assault. This includes 24,000 recently trained (by the Americans) and certified as combat ready (at least by Iraqi standards). There are also over 5,000 Kurds and other (like Christian) groups that the Americans have experience with and consider reliable and effective. Iraq has also relented and allowed the Americans to use a dozen or more AH-64 helicopter gunships and about as many HIMARS.

Yet to be determined is the role of the pro-Iran Shia militias, who don't want to cooperate with America (or get our air support).

If it was up to me, I'd expend the militias in frontal assaults on ISIL positions on the road to Mosul in order to bleed the militias and drain some of the fervor from their ranks. Better to have them die killing a member of ISIL than killing our people, as that piece of garbage Sadr has called for, eh?

But then keep the militias out of the city itself.

The Iraqi forces should face 5,000 ISIL defenders trying to hold a large city with 100,000 mostly hostile civilians still around them.

With the defenders left to fight the Coalition-supported Iraqi offensive seeing fellow ISIL members being redeployed to Syria to get out of the way of the long-anticipated offensive, how hard will these ISIL guys deemed expendable actually fight (as Strategypage notes)?

It did not go unnoticed by anyone that in the last few months many of the ISIL defenders in Ramadi and Fallujah were not willing to fight to the death, or even fight at all. This despite ISIL commanders ready to shoot on the spot any subordinate who faltered. The upcoming offensive to liberate Mosul is taking weakening ISIL morale into account and low level combat commanders have been told what to look for (a true morale collapse and not just a feint) and take advantage of it to quickly advance.

Indeed. I noted this back in December 2015:

Note that the jihadis--who proclaim to love death the way their enemies love life--did not stand and die in place for the joy of killing enemies trying to dig them out of the Ramadi city center, regardless of their own fate. Paradise awaits, right?

This comes on the heels of the jihadis declining to fight to the death for Sinjar in northern Iraq last month. ...

But after two major battles where the jihadis declined to die for their cause in a last stand, I think we can say that the primary advantage of the jihadis--their apparent disdain for death--is evaporating. ...

Which means that we really should be able to speed up the pace of operations to exploit what could be shaky ISIL morale right now. Morale is a funny thing. Hit forces when their morale is weak and you can crack them and scatter them, inflicting a major defeat and perhaps ending the caliphate in Iraq.

And I've mentioned it many times since then. Which is why I've urged us to get on with launching the offensive before ISIL morale can recover.

UPDATE: This article suggests and then provides evidence to refute the notion that the offensive on Mosul will take place in October and will benefit the Clinton campaign.

Is it a politically motivated "October surprise" to begin the offensive in early October and complete it by the end of the month?

One, I'd take any motivation to get the offensive moving.

Two, such motivation is hardly new in warfare.

Three, the Iraqis have been pushing the offensive more than our military advising the Iraqis.

Four, it is tough to count on war to benefit your campaign. In summer 2003, Democrats were arguing that the Iraq invasion was designed to propel Bush 43 to reelection in 2004. By 2004, the Democrats were exploiting the ongoing insurgencies to try to unseat Bush.

Further, an October surprise requires you to believe that the offensive won't have any hitches. Perhaps if undertaken by American troops, you could count on that in the short run.

But we are relying on Iraqi troops to move and fight flawlessly; relying on Shia militias not to slaughter civilians or otherwise behave badly; relying on no images of humanitarian collapse and ISIL slaughter of civilians in Mosul in retaliation; relying on no wave of terror attacks in Iraq and elsewhere to distract us from the offensive; and relying on no images--real or faked--of civilians killed by our fire support for Iraqi forces marching on Mosul.

All in all, given the fog of war and friction of war, you risk more bad things happening during an offensive than good things if your motive for the offensive is to affect domestic American politics. It would be far safer to keep things quiet until after the election if politics is your motive.

And five, why would a completely successful offensive in October on the eve of the election benefit Hillary Clinton?

Doesn't it just remind people that the Iraq War continues? That Hillary denied success in the surge offensive when she was a senator and that she was part of the premature withdrawal of American forces in 2011 that led to the need for the October offensive?

Wouldn't it remind people that in the absence of American military forces after 2011 that our plan was to rely on Hillary Clinton's State Department to take up the slack?

Even if the political motivation for the timing of the pending offensive is correct, I don't think that we can assume the public reaction will be to rally around Clinton.