Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reputation Matters

I think ISIL's reputation for ferocity is needlessly inducing caution on the Iraq front.

Strategypage highlights an evidence-conclusion mismatch in Iraq that I've been noting for a while.

The conclusion:

While the Americans have doubts about Iraqi forces taking Mosul by the end of 2016 all agree that it’s not a matter of if but when. Retaking Mosul is a top priority for Iraq and all those concerned are cooperating to help make that happen sooner rather than later.

The evidence:

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces are not demonstrating any ability to stop the advance. Although ISIL keeps bringing more fighters into Mosul it does not help a lot because losses and desertions remain high and morale quite low. This can be seen by the increasing use of mass executions of ISIL fighters (often poorly trained new recruits) who flee a battle or otherwise refuse to fight.

Nobody has ever accused the Iraqis of being the Prussians of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. But they are certainly adequate, have the advantage of numbers (although the disadvantage of needing to use a lot of those troops to guard people and places), overwhelming fire support, and growing regret (again) among Sunni Arabs for thinking jihadis might solve their problems with the Shia-dominated government.

And as I've noted before, why do we assume that the evidence of ISIL morale and skill problems doesn't mean that the advance could turn into a rout of ISIL if we could finally get the offensive moving north?

And here's more on ISIL's deterioration:

The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has dropped from roughly 2,000 a month down to 200 within the past year, according to the Pentagon, which says the waning numbers are further proof of the Islamic State's declining stature.

When the nutballs can't recruit, their main advantage--suicidal fanaticism--is gone.

And really, you never believed the nonsense peddled by the Left that killing jihadis just creates more jihadis, did you?

But back to the point at hand. How can we assume that Mosul won't fall this year when we aren't even through April?

This is what ISIL is reduced to on the Iraq front (back to the Strategypage link):

What ISIL lacks in resolute battlefield warriors it somewhat makes up with its continuing use of mines, roadside bombs and booby-traps left behind it areas it is forced out of.

My worry is that ISIL takes this type of coping mechanism to its logical extreme by using the Dihydrogen Monoxide Bomb on the Iraqi government. Why not, when ISIL is already using chemical weapons?

Now that would delay the liberation of Mosul past this year, for sure.

And as I've mentioned before, when you give an enemy time, they have an odd habit of using it to their advantage.

So no, really, take your time.

[As an aside, I begin to wonder if there is reluctance by the administration to escalate the intensity of the war during an election year here. Could this explain the odd reluctance to try to win sooner rather than later?

Or are we legitimately trying to delay victory in Iraq until we can combat growing Iranian influence in Iraq that blossomed after we left Iraq in 2011?]