Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Radio Silence

We have 3,000 American troops in Iraq (and thousands of contractors, too), yet we cannot send American forward observers to direct American and allied air power (and Iraqi artillery, too) against ISIL forces. That is a handicap that is killing our efforts to bolster the Iraqis, notwithstanding the uneven quality of Iraqi ground forces.

Right now, using drones and aircraft for recon, we can direct air attacks against ISIL targets. This is useful for pre-planned attacks  but does not work when Iraqi forces are in direct combat and need close air support.

I always keep in mind our advisory and training efforts in the El Salvador civil war (largely in the 1980s) that limited our advisors to 55 total and forbade them from direct combat against the communist insurgents.

We trained Salvadoran personnel outside of the country to cope with those limitsand we could triple our advisors with various counting mechanisms that got around the limits designed to keep us from escalating via advisors as we did in the Vietnam War so recently lost.

So at least we aren't under Congressional limits that restrictive.

One thing that was kind of amusing at the time was the parlor game the press participated in when they played "gotcha" by publishing photos of an American advisor in the field with a Salvadoran infantry unit while he was carrying a rifle. Aha! An American in combat! For shame!

Actually, that was pretty irrelevant to the effectiveness of our advisors. The single most important weapon the American advisors carried when they went outside the wire with Salvadoran infantry was a radio to call in air strikes by the Salvadoran air force--especially from AC-47 gunships.

That precise air support--back before precision got really precise in our GPS era--was our key battlefield contribution.

Yet today in Iraq we can't make full use of our far better modern air power to be a force multiplier for Iraq forces--which will do wonders for Iraqi morale.

If we're not going to fully support the Iraqis in combat, we're practicing Intervention Theater (Operation Inherent Resolve? Really?) designed to look like we are doing what we can to win--so don't blame us for failure!--and not truly trying to win.

Let's try to win. Let's put radio-equipped forward observers with  Iraqi forces--which will do wonders for Iraqi willingness to stand and fight.

And for God's sake, regain the initiative from ISIL and start driving them back.