Tuesday, May 17, 2016


"Less than 10 miles from the front lines in the push toward the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the U.S. outpost, known as Firebase Bell, is manned by about 200 Marines. “Having them here has raised the morale of our fighters,” said Lt. Col. Helan Mahmood, the head of a commando regiment in the Iraqi army, as his truck bumped along the dirt track that divides his base from the American encampment, ringed by razor wire and berms. “If there’s any movement from the enemy, they bomb immediately,” he said. The new firebase is part of a creeping U.S. buildup in Iraq since troops first returned to the country with a contingent of 275 advisers, described at the time by the Pentagon as a temporary measure to help get “eyes on the ground.” Now, nearly two years later, the official troop count has mushroomed to 4,087, not including those on temporary rotations, a number that has not been disclosed. The troops are moving outside the confines of more established bases to give closer support to the Iraqi army as it prepares for an assault on the northern city of Mosul — putting them closer to danger.... But the battle for Nasr was a faltering first step for the 5,000 freshly trained Iraqi troops in Makhmour, and an indication of the level of hand-holding by U.S. forces that will be required as these forces move toward Mosul. The Iraqi troops have recaptured a cluster of hamlets and villages in the vicinity of Makhmour, though reports were mixed on how heavy the Islamic State presence was there before the Iraqi advance".
Loveday Morris, "Third U.S. combat death comes as American troops edge closer to the front lines in Iraq". The Washington Post. 3 May in www.washingtonpost.com.
"The power of the Islamic State is waning. With its loss of Ramadi and Palmyra over the past several months, and the steady advance of U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria and Iraq, the group is shedding territory. It is also losing recruits to casualties and desertions, as its finances are being squeezed by coalition strikes on bulk cash storage sites and oil refineries. Meanwhile, the coalition campaign to eliminate high-value battlefield targets is succeeding. Yet, defeat does not appear imminent. The Islamic State still controls key territory, including Raqqa, the capital of its caliphate; the Iraqi city of Mosul and large swaths of territory in the surrounding Nineveh province; and hardscrabble Sunni enclaves in Anbar province, such as Fallujah, Hit, and Haditha. Furthermore, though the coalition has deprived the Islamic State of hundreds of millions of dollars, it is likely to find new, creative ways to replenish its diminishing war chest. For Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, surrender is out of the question. And given the Islamic State leadership's horrific behavior and stated objective of establishing a caliphate governed by sharia, a negotiated settlement is a non-starter. In the past, insurgencies that have come to an end in this way featured moderate leaders, insurgents open to compromise, and governments willing to accept insurgents as legitimate negotiating partners. The Islamic State and its opponents share none of these attributes".
Brian Michael Jenkins and Colin P. Clarke. "In the Event of the Islamic State's Untimely Demise...". The Rand Corporation. 11 May 2016, in www.rand.org.
The situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq currently is not as dire as at it appeared at one time. Nor has the situation improved as much as one would like. The hideous and monstrous ISIS is still in existence. Still shadowing, if not necessarily in actual control of large areas of both countries. Unfortunately, as can readily be seen from the above referenced reports the Americans and their allies have not yet gone beyond 'baby steps' in destroying ISIS. Especially, in Syria. Indeed if one were to employ the 'progress' seen so far in Iraq, it will be years and years before ISIS is destroyed in Syria proper. Allowing this organization of terrorist thugs to commit more crimes and (more importantly) act as a clarion call for Islamic and Muslim extremists worldwide. Make no mistake: the defeat and utter destruction of ISIS will be the very greatest defeat that the West can inflict upon Muslim extremism. Just as Hitlerism and Fascism were dealt blows that neither movements has yet to recover from by the unmitigated defeat inflicted by the Allies in the Second World War on respectively Germany and Italy; so if we wish to extirpate ISIS and its various clones, the destruction of the movement in its current base in Syria and Iraq is a necessary first step. And as the American military analyst Anthony Cordesman, has recently noted, this will involve going beyond the hesitant and two steps forward and one step back tactics that have so far been employed by the current American Administration:
"The Obama Administration did not act decisively at the points in the conflict when it might have prevented a long war of attrition, and its real world “strategy” in both Syria and Iraq has been one of slowly escalating U.S. involvement in what amounts to creeping incrementalism. It has been far too slow to provide an adequate train and assist mission to rebuild the half-finished Iraqi Army that Iraq’s former Prime Minister—Maliki—effectively corrupted and destroyed in his search for power and control after U.S. forces left at the end of 2011.... This raises a far more critical issue about the future. The United States now faces least bad options that are almost certainly far worse than when the Obama Administration began its military interventions in Syria and Iraq. Acting incrementally and indecisively has its costs—just as acting too quickly and decisively, and without proper analysis and planning, did in the case of the previous administration. The question remains, however, does the Obama Administration have any real strategy to deal with the least bad options it still has, the challenges raised by DNI Clapper, and the issues outlined in this analysis? Or, is it still largely reacting to events and riding out its time in the office? 1
In short, if the West is to continue with its half-hearted strategy that it has been employing so far in both Syria and Iraq, look for ISIS to remain in control of x amount of territory in both countries for quite some time to come. Regardless of the fact that it is being forced to give-up territory and losing men and materials to the American air campaign. Unfortunately, by prolonging ISIS existence, the current American administration is allowing ISIS to spread its poisonous ideology throughout the region and indeed further afield. With consequences which no one can predict, but which surely are none to the good.
1. Anthony Cordesman, "U.S. Strategy and the War in Iraq and Syria". The Center for Strategic and International Studies. 13 May 2016 in www.csis.org.


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