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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ISIS Captures a Key Syrian Air Base

Link:  ISIS Captured a Key Syrian Air Base

This particular engagement between ISIL and regular Syrian Army and Air Force elements should be of concern to The Pentagon.  ISIL continues to expand its arsenal of modern weaponry, and has a budding air capability that includes the use of drones and aircraft.  Although ISIL is in possession of a number of MIG 21 fighters (and possibly some newer models), it is still unclear what they were able to take from the Iraqi Air Force Base that was overrun during last month's darkest days for the Iraqi military.  Is ISIL in possession of Blackhawk helicopters?  Probably not, but if it was in the Iraqi arsenal pre-July, anything is possible.  But the discussion of MIGS and Blackhawks is a bit sensationalized.  The real concern at this time is if ISIL is able to create an air wing exclusively for smuggling weapons, ammunition, equipment, and people.  Analysts acknowledge that ISIL is in possession of advanced artillery, MANPADS, rebuilt T-72 and T-69 tanks, and a variety of other new or relatively new equipment (most of this equipment picked up off the desert floor in and around Tikrit as it was deserted by the Iraqi Army last month).  Its true that ISIL will have difficulty taking full advantage of these new resources.  ISIL is now in possession of equipment that it does not have the expertise to use.  I would expect a full-scale recruitment operation focused on former UK and US servicemen is underway.  The idea is to locate disenchanted and frustrated recently retired (honorably or not) servicemen who have the training in this equipment.  It shouldn't be too difficult in the UK, where it appears ISIL has already had success in setting up a clandestine recruitment element (most likely based out of one or more of the London-area mosques).  As we have seen from Austrian news reports, the number of willing European-based jihadists (many times born in Europe), continues to grow.  I have to believe the same event is taking place in the United States.  We can only hope that Federal Law Enforcement is on top of this internal domestic threat.
If ISIL creates an airborne element (evidence suggests they already have), it will substantially increase its ability to resupply itself.  This is very important when you consider the variety of types of weaponry ISIL utilizes.  Before the conflict exploded into Northern Iraq, ISIL was known to rely on mostly former Syrian military equipment (read Russian-made), including the ubiquitous AK-47.  It will be interesting to see exactly how ISIL makes use of the recent haul of weaponry of US manufacture, that the Iraqi Army left in pristine condition on the intended battlefield outside Tikrit.  Fortunately, we have yet to see ISIL utilizing any surface-to-air weaponry, at least not successfully.  But it is only a matter of time.  And the expansion of ISIL's ability to access arms and ammunition through the use of an air element, will only make it more difficult to cut off ISIL from the support mechanisms it needs to keep its armies supplied.

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