Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Operation Desert Lawn

It's been like watching grass grow in the desert, but the Iraqi offensive we are supporting is finally gaining ground in Ramadi.

Well it's about time:

Iraqi security forces recaptured a large part of the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State group Tuesday, officials said, scoring a significant breakthrough in their fightback against the jihadists. ...

"The liberation of Al-Tameem will greatly help in speeding up the liberation of the city of Ramadi," Rasool said.

"Iraqi forces are ready and close to entering the centre of the city," Irzayij said.

That is in the southwest portion of the city.

Civilians in the city are both hostages that limit our fire support and potential sources of intelligence for Iraqi forces.

Taking back Ramadi from ISIL is just the beginning of what must be done (from the first link):

Liberating it, I think, would be a blow to (IS's) claims they can hold ground and act as a government, as a caliphate," [US Army Colonel] Warren said, referring to the cross-border state the jihadists declared last year.

Iraqi forces have been fighting for months to secure territory around Ramadi, the capital of western …

The city also "provides a platform for the continued clearance of the Euphrates river valley," Warren said.

Clearing the Euphrates River valley will send Iraqi forces northwest.

What about to the west out to the Jordanian border?

I know you are probably getting tired of reading me drone on about this, but were I Lord of CENTCOM, I'd support a Jordanian mechanized offensive that would take advantage of the Iraqi push at Ramadi and points northwest in order to advance east into Anbar province to scatter jihadis and clean that region up.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has more. And our secretary of defense stated we are prepared to use advisors with Iraqi units and attack helicopters to help the Iraqis clear Ramadi.

I sense that Ramadi was ISIL's high water mark in Iraq and that Iraq will begin visibly winning this war from now on.

Whether it is fast or slow may depend on whether Iraq has access to trained mobile forces to be the core of fast-moving offensives.

UPDATE: Might ISIL resistance in Ramadi collapse as it did in Sinjar?

In Anbar, Maj. Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, the head of Iraqi military operations in the province, said his troops were readying to push "toward the government complex and the Houz area" in central Ramadi. ...

Muhannad Haimour, the spokesman for the Anbar governor's office, said he's receiving reports that the IS organization inside Ramadi is collapsing.

"They are trying to flee the city," he said, citing residents who have been unable to escape, "we believe there are only 300 fighters left."

When jihadis can't fight and die in place while inflicting high casualties on their battlefield opponent, their only advantage is gone.

We shall see.

UPDATE: Part of the effort is isolating Iraq from Syria:

US-backed militia offensive against Islamic State in eastern Syria probably aimed at cutting off Mosul from Raqqa[.]

I've mentioned this objective.

I'd be happier with a mobile offensive--or at least the ability to carry out a mobile pursuit if ISIL forces collapse under this grinding war of exhaustion.

UPDATE: General Odierno believes we need American maneuver brigades to really conduct a thorough offensive:

Odierno said he was "surprised" at the lack of conversation about a coalition to fight the Islamic State.

A ground coalition, of course. We have an air coalition.

He accurately notes that the Kurds will only do so much on the ground. They will fight and die to defend the Kurdish region and will step up to a secondary role beyond that, but they won't die for Iraq farther to the south.

So Odierno thinks conventional American forces will ultimately be needed.

He could be right. I keep hoping that Jordan will step up. Others who might are tied up in Yemen. And I imagine Egypt wants to keep their powder dry for Libya contingencies.

I've hoped that if we can't get Arab conventional mechanized brigades that we can train enough Iraqis--and stiffen them with mercenary battalions and our advisors with the Iraqis.

Add in our helicopter, aircraft, and artillery fire support, and we've got an offensive.

We shall see.

UPDATE: Back at Ramadi, the situation is looking good if still slow-moving.

And there are 8,500 Anbar Sunni Arabs fighting against ISIL now in the area, which helps the attack on Ramadi.