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, July 25, 2017

From Mosul to Raqqa

"[Canada's All-Source Intelligence Centre, gathers and analyzes data with the U.S.-led coalition] so we can develop legitimate military targets that need to be defeated."
"[Since ISIL] does not respect international borders, our assessments consider Daesh activity in Iraq and Syria."
"They used small drones -- ones that we would buy commercially -- and know how to drop munitions from those drones. They would use drones for surveillance and monitor the Iraqis and our tactics and strategies."
"[ISIL has] lost more than 65 percent of the land [it had dominated for its caliphate in Iraq and Syria, which had] resulted in the freeing of millions of people and significant reductions in their revenues."
"The key part is that Daesh is on the defensive. [But despite their defeats ISIL forces] are not surrendering in great numbers. That is not the way they operate."
Brig.-Gen.Daniel MacIsaac, Kuwait

How then, do they operate? As jihadists whose end goal really is the end in the sense that they court the status of shaheeds, for that equates with honour, jubilation and adulation in Islam; to become a martyr is the status they seek. Their initial goal when cornered is to escape so they can continue being feared and celebrated warriors of Islam, if at all possible. When that is not feasible, reflecting a situation inimical to survival, they fight to their honourable deaths.

This is the barbaric ideology that celebrates its gloating penchant for gruesome atrocities that make for such eye-capturing, heart-thumping attention in gory theatre that they excel in; videos of terror-in-action atrocities that gained them their notoriety and fear-factor so irresistible to the recruits their mastery of social media has gained them over the years.

With their defeat on the battlefield, outnumbered but not outfoxed, their public relations machinery has undergone an expert turn in convincing recruits to remain where they are; simply operate from wherever they happen to be. Use any weapons at hand. Any action, any attempts serve to strike fear into the minds of their targets, irrespective of meeting with success or failure.

Their proficiency both in the geographic field, mining territory to slow down the advance of their enemies, holding civilian populations hostage, killing those no longer of any practical use, or suspected of abandoning the sinking ship, and ensconcing their fighters and sharpshooters underground in expansive tunnelworks used to cache weaponry, reflects sharp minds at work, skilled in the tactics of underground guerrilla warfare.

A car bomb exploding next to Iraqi army vehicles during fighting to liberate Mosul
A car bomb exploding next to Iraqi army vehicles during fighting to liberate Mosul Credit:  Felipe Dana/AP
Threat assessments and targeting information for Islamic State targets are now turning from Iraq to Syria where the focus is being transferred. The future of Raqqa and of Islamic State hang in the balance. Even with the certainty that defeat on the battlefield will represent only a hurdle, not the end of the practised killing machine that ISIL represents. As a Sunni militia it can still learn a few techniques from a Shiite counterpart, in the Syrian regime.

The nine-month battle in Mosul close to completion, Raqqa, the ostensible ISIL headquarters, beckons.

As for the All-Source Intelligence Centre, different branches of the Canadian military are represented from intelligence, artillery and communications systems experts to geomatic engineers capturing and interpreting data from cameras, remote sensors and global navigation satellites. The maps they create from those data sources are analyzed by the coalition to identify potential threats and to select attack targets.

"Daesh command and control centres as well as combatants, installations or anything else that is essential to Daesh operations", represent the typical targets the units identify, according to Brig.-Gen. McIsaac. "Fairly routinely" the Royal Canadian Air Force operates reconnaissance and refuelling flights over Syria where the airspace is complicated with the presence of Russian and Syrian fighter jets, along with the threat from Moscow that U.S.-led coalition aircraft may be targeted.

Crews on the RCAF CP-140 reconnaissance aircraft were "significantly involved" identifying targets for allied warplanes striking Mosul "until a few months back, when we shifted to another area", that area unspecified for obvious reasons. Canada's propeller spy plane has flown ten-hour missions, equipped with cameras and sensor arrays where on-board analysts at consoles behind the cockpit search for places where enemy fighters may establish themselves in a compound, a neighbourhood, an industrial area, making bombs.

Under Brig.-Gen. McIsaac's command is also a military surgical hospital in Erbil, Iraq, treating coalition troops and civilian workers, and a small helicopter detachment, along with a recently added RCAF C-130J Hercules aircraft to transport cargo and personnel between coalition bases. Brig.-Gen. McIsaac emphasizes that ISIL is "not only brutal. It is intelligent and creative", citing vast quantities of rockets, mortars and improvised explosive devices it produces, as well as armoured cars turned into vehicular IEDs.

Worse, its adoption of unmanned aerial devices in the hands of a terrorist organization. An estimated 4,000 ISIL fighters remain in Iraq, so along with the 20,000 estimated ISIL fighters in Syria, it may take quite a while to wrap up the conflict with Islamic State.

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