Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Jordan Front Just Ended

As Iraqi forces pressed ISIL in Anbar province from the east, I've long called for Jordan to hit ISIL from the west. Iraq's capture of Rutbah ends the need for that option:

Lying about 240 miles west of Baghdad deep in the desert, Rutbah sits on transit routes to Jordan and Syria. For that reason it has an “outsized strategic value,” Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman, said in a briefing with reporters Wednesday. Recapturing it helps the economies of both Iraq and Jordan, while denying the Islamic State a “critical support zone,” he said.

The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) that spearheaded the offensive said there was "almost no resistance at all."

Other than Fallujah, this really clears most of western Iraq, ending the need to use a Jordanian forces from the west, which I've been looking for as a core mobile force to lead an advance into ISIL territory.

Although by simply pushing the jihadis out rather than trapping them in a hammer and anvil attack from both directions, the ISIL forces apparently live to fight another day.

The continued lack of ISIL resistance in major objectives is remarkable for a terror proto-state that prides itself on fanatical devotion to Allah.

And again, the CTF seems like the only Iraqi force capable of leading offensives.

I am certainly happy that the Iraqis are making gains in Anbar in order to bolster a re-Awakening of Sunni Arab Iraqis and to help seal off Baghdad from jihadi positions near the city. Do that sufficiently well and the bombings in the capital will decline.

Is the Fallujah-based ISIL force, which could be a source for those bombings, really an exception to recent history of Iraqi ISIL's poor morale or are the Iraqi forces being overly cautious to avoid casualties?

I suppose this victory opens up the possibility that a Jordanian mechanized brigade could be brought in to help on the drive north to Mosul.

Ever since ISIL burned a Jordanian pilot alive, Jordan seemed like they wanted to hit back hard. So far Jordan hasn't really done much more than bomb a bit.

Could that change? Will the Jordan Front change to the Jordanian Expeditionary Force?

UPDATE: The Iraqis have set their sights on Fallujah:

Iraqi forces are heading to Fallujah to launch a long-awaited operation to retake the city from the Islamic State jihadist group, the prime minister's spokesman announced on Sunday.

Good. All along I've said Anbar should be the priority before beginning an assault on Mosul.

UPDATE: Here we go:

The Iraqi army, counterterrorism forces, police, tribal fighters and Shiite militias were taking part in the operation, according to the military.

Eissa al-Issawi, the exiled mayor of Fallujah, said Islamic State militants were retreating from the outskirts to the center of the city Sunday as the operation drew nearer.

Once again the CTF is involved. Are there no other Iraqi units capable of leading an offensive?

Of course, the entire CTF isn't necessarily involved. And we could have expanded the CTF since we sent trainers in 2014.

For that matter, there could be regular Iraqi army units capable of mobile warfare that we are holding out of the fight in order to keep them fresh for the Mosul offensive.

I have serious doubts that the liberation of Mosul really has to wait until 2017.

UPDATE: Well I'll be, there was a Jordan front (note on May 19):

In the east [the west part of Iraq] Iraqi and Jordanian forces launched a joint operation to clear ISIL forces from the area where the borders of Iraq, Syria and Jordan meet. Iraq is now back in control of the main border crossings in this area.

It was way less significant and timely than it could have been. But there it is.