Tuesday, May 19, 2015


"The loss of the strategically important city of Ramadi has cast further doubt on Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s efforts to regain control of a war that is fragmenting the country. For months, Mr Abadi has sought to strengthen his position against the rising authority of the Shia militias some of them supported by — or loyal to — Iran as those forces played a key role in the campaign to retake the city of Tikrit. But the fall of Ramadi to the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on Sunday has forced Mr Abadi to lean on the Shia militia and volunteer forces he had until recently hoped to sideline. Mr Abadi on Monday met with their leaders to discuss what state television described as the “redefinition of the defence lines” in Anbar. “The fall of Ramadi is more of a commentary on the Iraqi government than on the strength of Isis. [The US] has a partner in Iraq that is very weak,” says Kirk Sowell, a political risk analyst who publishes Inside Iraqi Politics, a newsletter. Surrounded by Isis and other insurgent groups, Ramadi had fought off jihadi advances for nearly 18 months. But by all accounts Iraqi troops there performed poorly when Isis launched its offensive this weekend. Sunni tribal leaders have complained publicly about the way Iraqi troops’ withdrew from the city without putting up a serious fight — reviving memories of the army’s flight from Mosul last June. The tribes also say they lack the heavy weaponry to take on Isis — who are armed with millions of dollars worth of US equipment they looted when they over-ran northwestern Iraq last summer. For now, Baghdad, as well as Iraq’s Shia shrine cities to the south, such as Karbala, and the Kurdish controlled cities in the north, are well defended and out of Isis’s reach. The main strategic consequence of Ramadi’s fall will be to push back the timeframe for retaking Mosul, Iraq’s second city. But the battle for control of Ramadi also offers a sign of what a future Iraqi state might look like. .”
Borzou Daragahi, Erika Solomon, "Ramadi’s fall casts doubt on al-Abadi’s control of Iraq war". The Financial Times. 19 May 2015, in www.ft.com
"War plans cover every aspect of a war, and weave them into a single operation that must have a single, ultimate objective in which all particular aims are reconciled. No one stars a war---or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so---without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is its political purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is the governing principal which will set its course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which is required, and make its influence felt throughout down to the smallest operational detail. We said in the opening chapter that the natural aim of military operations is the enemy's overthrow, and that strict adherence to the logic of the concept can, in the last analysis, admit no other. Since both belligerents must hold that view it would follow that military operations could not be suspended, that hostilities could not end until one or the other side were finally defeated."
Karl von Clausewitz. On War. Edited and Translated by Michael Howard & Peter Paret. (1976), p. 579.
The recent ISIS victory in capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi highlights the fact that the Americans have not entire thought through their operational strategy for this particular military campaign. Regardless of what the Americans would ideally like to occur, it does not appear from current vantage point that a purely American air campaign will carry the day anytime soon against ISIS in Iraq. Not to speak of what is going on in Syria. The fact of the matter is that unless the Americans either: i) devote much more resources to the air campaign, with the concomitant greater likelihood of innocents being killed or wounded in occupied ISIS territories; ii) bring in some outside military force to assist the Iraqis (such as the say the regular Persian military). There at present being no readily available 'outside' force to so employ; iii) introduce American ground forces in sufficient numbers to quickly and effectively overthrow ISIS in a lightning campaign. If I had to choose which of the three above scenarios I would recommend the last one is the one that I would (reluctantly) go for. Which is not to gainsay the strictures that people like Anthony Cordesman have raised against putting American ground forces in harms way 1. Merely that having decided to go to war against ISIS (something which I was in favour of, albeit with scepticism as to how effective a purely air campaign would ultimately be), the Americans will be hard put to allow the continuation of a situation in which ISIS can boast that it is fighting the world's premier Great Power to a standstill. With all that implies in terms of the enormous prestige and the recruits and money following that ISIS will garner as a result. The sad and unfortunate truth of the matter is that the Americans have saddled themselves for a long time to come, with a burden which comes from having overthrown the Hussein regime back in 2003. Twelve years is not nearly long enough a time period to have absolved themselves from the consequence of their (admittedly stupid and irresponsible) actions....
1. See: Anthony Cordesman, "Boots on the Ground: The Realities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria". Center for Strategic and International Security. 13 February www.CSIS.org, wherein he argues that:
" It is important to realize that unless major U.S. combat forces are deployed in significant enough numbers to actually do all or most of all the fighting, local or host country forces will fail if they cannot get emergency support and reinforcements. They also face a very different challenge in large countries, when they face a dispersed force of nonstate actors that is on the scene and knows their weaknesses in detail, and where the real war is less one of short tactical victories and more one of lasting attrition in fighting for control of the population. And, these are wars that local forces must ultimately win. As was clear in Vietnam, and became all too clear in Afghanistan and Iraq, even the best U.S. combat units and a constant series of tactical victories can still fail if the United States and its other outside allies fully occupy an area or the country. Worse, doing it our way can deprive the local forces or host country of popular legitimacy, temporarily suppress sectarian and ethnic divisions, identify the United States as an occupier rather than an ally, and create a culture of military dependency where the local or host country forces never really learn to stand on their own".


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