This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Taking the Lead: If Not Now, When?

"There hasn't been a great enthusiasm [evident among allied European or Arab nations in support of ground operations against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]."
"I think they [Arab nations] would have the credibility and, frankly, come without some of the baggage of western forces to be on the ground."
General Joseph Dunford, U.S. chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
More than 11,500 Iraqi soldiers and volunteers have received US training [Reuters]
More than 11,500 Iraqi soldiers and volunteers have received US training [Reuters]
"We're hitting some targets, but air strikes alone are not going to win here. We've got to take that territory away from them."
"It's been a year [since the U.S.-led air strikes began]. They're still in Mosul, they're still in Ramadi, they're still in Raqqa, those are areas we have to go after in order to be able to defeat [ISIL] ultimately."
(former) U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta
It's a matter of both scorn and general agreement that the U.S.-led air strikes against ISIL haven't been a great success. There have been some battles won with the air strikes enabling the Iraqi military for example, and the Kurdish militias as other examples, in taking back territory from Islamic State or stopping them from acquiring new territory, but the terrorist jihadis are more than holding their own. Their position may have been pared back here and there, but it remains robust and belligerently active. The war is nowhere near being won.

Of the two, the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga, it is the Kurds who have been more dauntless and determined. But it is in their interests to remain in their Kurdish-administered territory, to keep it secure from the predations of Islamic State, and leaving the far less successful Iraqi regime's business of retaining their geography to themselves. And the Iraqi military has been notoriously lacking in both courage and military precision in stopping Islamic State's advance.

During its eight-year occupation of Iraq, the US spent $25bn training and rebuilding the Iraqi military [Reuters]

In acknowledgement of this, Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari insisted his country has no wish to see foreign ground troops fighting ISIL. Iraq, after all, has Iran's Republican Guard to give military aid and Shiite militias under Iran to help mount those battles against ISIL. What Iraq wants from the west is commitment to train Iraqi troops. Iraq also wants assistance with logistics, troop training and reconstruction. Oh, and of course, equipment.

All of which the Iraqi administration seems to feel is funding well spent on the part of the West, and since all of this does not represent a direct Iraqi financial investment, it can be readily dispensed with, as in instances where the Iraqi military flees in panic when faced with oncoming hordes of ISIL fighters, leaving technically advanced, expensive military munitions and vehicles behind as a gift to the jihadists who know how to use them, and do so.

The other inconveniences such as the level of corruption in Iraq's military, echoing what prevails in the general society up to and including the government, along with poor leadership, all serve to complicate the responsibilities heaped on the West to solve problems that are relevant to, and roil the Middle East. Yet Mr. Al-Jaafari insists his forces require training in intelligence-gathering and help with the improvised explosive devices so beloved of jihadi terrorists.

The fortifications that ISIL has constructed around those cities and towns that have fallen to it mean that Western combat engineers are required to teach the Iraqi military best-practise methodology in breaching those fortifications. The one country whose troops in appropriate numbers have in the past attempted to bring a semblance of order to an otherwise-unruly Middle East is no longer interested in mounting such on-the-ground enterprises.

The U.S. has instead been attempting to convince Europe and Arab nations to bolster resources for a ground war against ISIL. The United States has, after all, thrown $500-million to the winds of frustration, an investment that paid off with a bare handful of Syrian forces to fight Islamic State. Testimony in September by General Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command informed a Senate armed services committee that "We're talking four or five" actively going on to fight, after that exorbitant amount of funding had been spent/wasted.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visits a training exercise in Baghdad [Reuters]   

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

() Follow @rheytah Tweet