Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Taking Their Queen Off the Board

If the long-telegraphed Mosul offensive is about to kick off in October (or this month to avoid being tagged an "October surprise"), this operation makes a lot of sense:

A dozen US warplanes destroyed nearly 50 targets at an "Islamic State" chemical weapons production plant in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The barrage of airstrikes near the terrorist group's stronghold of Mosul targeted a converted pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and headquarters.

Wow! You can easily convert a civilian pharmaceutical plant into a poison gas production facility? Which is no shock when you remember that Saddam's lads play a big role in ISIL. Fancy that.

But I digress.

Note that the strike was big. Twelve planes hitting 50 aim points is a big effort compared to what we usually see over Iraq and Syria.

This will help prevent ISIL from unleashing chemical weapons as a last-ditch effort to derail the coming offensive. Without their traditional eagerness to die, what does ISIL have left?

UPDATE: Strategic surprise is surely lost:

The operation to drive so-called Islamic State (IS) from Iraq's second-largest city has been long promised and much delayed.

Rumors are that the offensive begins in October.

If we want to at least get tactical surprise, the most obvious thing we could do is to talk about October and then go in September.

The other way would be to come at Mosul from a different direction. Right now the main push from Iraqi forces will be from the south with a supporting Kurdish offensive from the north and east.

Could a combination of a march through desolate terrain southwest of Mosul and an airmobile assault provide an avenue from the west that would hit ISIL's Mosul defenses from an unexpected direction while isolating Mosul more thoroughly than air interdiction of lines of communication to Syria?

Of course, so far it seems like the Iraqis like to leave their enemy room to retreat in order to reduce casualties (in the short run).

So if I had to bet, I'd say main effort from the south with support from north and east; but that the offensive kicks off this month.

UPDATE: And talk of November or even December would be useful if we plan to go this month.

Of course, I've been looking for signs of an offensive for a year and a half now. So take my hopes for a September offensive with a grain or two of salt.

To be fair, a lot of work was done in Anbar to secure Baghdad a bit more from ISIL terror threats.

And there have been advances toward Mosul to reach the current jumping off points.

So we've had those offensive actions. Perhaps I'm being unfair in complaining that the offensive has been delayed for so long.

But I don't understand why we couldn't have helped push north all the way to Mosul at the same time by now. ISIL isn't ten feet tall, especially when we put them six feet under.