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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Baghdad In The Crosshairs

Links: Iraqi Army Teeters On The Edge
            Original Goals Of The Campaign

"It is the Iraqis in Anbar who will have to fight for Anbar".  So says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  Even though Iraqi provincial governors and a number of military officers have stated bluntly that only U.S. ground forces will stop the Islamic State (IS).  I have a few questions for the Secretary of State, beginning with:
      ~ Where is the air support for the Iraqi Army in Anbar province?  I can't help but think that if the U.S. Air Force re-established itself at Baghdad International Airport with the necessary equipment, then the IS would have trouble holding Anbar province.
     ~ Does a campaign strategy exist for the U.S. air involvement in Iraq?  If so, then why aren't we bombing these bastards day and night?  Nothing about this air campaign, be it in Syria or Iraq, rises to my expectations.  I know what the United States Air Force is capable of, so why aren't we doing it?  I remember a conversation I had once with a CIA pilot, who had flown a bomber in the Vietnam War (for the U.S. Air Force...I don't think the CIA had any bombers at the time).  He told me that at certain times, bombing campaigns over North Vietnamese and Viet Cong territory would leave nothing moving for extended periods.  I'm sure that he was referring to carpet bombing, Agent Orange and all sorts of things we don't do anymore.  But the strategy is sound: Use as much force as is appropriate for the mission, which in this instance is to kill operatives of the IS.....right?

On September 23rd, U.S. Army Lt. General William C. Mayville, Jr., director of operations for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, stated that the overarching goal was to, "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State; first by directly attacking the group in Iraq and Syria, then severing its supply lines and disrupting its supply of arms and money.  Interestingly enough, yours truly was calling for the same strategy in my late-August early-September posts.  I'm flattered that the Joint Staff at the Pentagon reads my blog.  And I hope they're reading it today, because events don't seem to be playing out as expected.  True, the strategy hinges on the training and successful operational actions of three military elements: the Free Syrian Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and the Iraqi Army.  Ideally, those three military elements would form a pincher to surround and suffocate the IS, as the air campaign would continue to harass IS units from the sky and to disrupt supply lines.  First and foremost, its obvious to me that the planners did not envision the difficulty involved in standing up an Iraqi Army.  You can fly in as many instructors as you like, and provide as much modern weaponry as exists, but you can't make a man put his life on the line in combat.  The allies may have some success training and equipping the Free Syrian Army, and the Peshmerga is always a good bet, but this Iraqi Army thing?  It just ain't happen'.  I know the Generals at the Pentagon are beginning to realize this fact, but speaking up is just not an option.  Why?  Because the only alternative to an Iraqi Army on the ground to defend Baghdad (and ideally move offensively against the IS), is U.S. ground forces.

As I laid out last week in my post about the defense of Baghdad, do not expect the IS to attempt some traditional frontal assault, armor et al, on Baghdad.  Lacking any air support, this strategy would be suicidal.  Instead, they will continue with what has been successful before.  No doubt they have already infiltrated the poorer Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad, promising everything that the current "Shia government" has been unwilling/unable to provide.  The IS will occupy Baghdad, piece by piece, neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street (this strategy doesn't need a schedule, which is a major benefit).  In my previous post I outlined a strategy for combatting this subtle IS campaign, but my plan of action depended upon an overpowering air presence by the U.S., French, or other ally.  This is what has me concerned.  The Iraqi military efforts in Anbar province to hold the Hadithah Dam and to attempt to hold Ramadi (Fallujah is a lost cause) should have been accompanied by overpowering air support.  Where was that air support?  Are we to believe that the Iraqi Army deserted its posts even under the cover of Blackhawk gunships and F16s? 

I guess it's possible, and I admit I don't know much about air warfare/strategy.  But I do know this: we are losing the war in Iraq even before our surrogate army has taken the field. The Peshmerga are fighting for their lives in northern Syria and Iraq, and the IS is sweeping up the Iraqi Army in Anbar as it sets its sights on the minarets of Baghdad.  I would have written about the Peshmerga crisis in Kobani, but I just don't have enough information to comment.  The fact that the Turks are prepared to watch the IS smother the Peshmerga and take root in Kobani screams volumes about the absolute BALL-LESS nature of the Obama Administration's diplomacy. I suppose we should now expect this administration to follow precedent and apologize to the Turks for something in the hopes they will lend a hand to the Kurds in Kobani. I hope I am wrong and this administration has learned that in this part of the world too much apologizing is seen as submission and weakness when what we need to be showing is strength and leadership.

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