It was supposed to be President Obama’s October surprise to bolster Hillary Clinton on national security in the weeks leading up to the election. Instead, it’s faltered and slowed to a grind which, as I somewhat estimated, will drag on for three to four months, if not longer. It was the finally declared offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, held by ISIS for some two years. One of the problems with the operation is that it had been telegraphed for so very long. Only a REALLY dumb enemy would not be prepared for this inevitability. And what’s worse, this is an enemy that, much like what our Marines and Soldiers faced in the Pacific during World War II, is not about surrender; it’s willing to fight to the death. And sadly, not just theirs, but others’.
There have not been wide reports about what’s happening with Mosul, but ISIS has been striking back with mass waves of suicide attacks…not just there. ISIS has unleashed a torrent all across Iraq, evidencing a scorched-earth policy, Islamic jihadist style. If and when Iraqi and Coalition forces ever completely clear Mosul of ISIS fighters, what they may find will be a grisly and barbaric picture of the savagery of these demented and deranged Islamists. As reported by Reuters, A few weeks ago, a person inside Mosul began to send text messages to Iraqi military intelligence in Baghdad.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, “has become intemperate,” said the early November message, written by an informant inside the city who has contact with the group but is not a member of it.
“He has cut down on his movements and neglects his appearance,” the message read. “He lives underground and has tunnels that stretch to different areas. He doesn’t sleep without his suicide bomber vest so he can set it off if he’s captured.”
The text message, which Reuters has seen, was one of many describing what was happening inside Islamic State as Iraqi, Kurdish and American troops began their campaign to retake the group’s northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.The texts, along with interviews with senior Kurdish officials and recently captured Islamic State fighters, offer an unusually detailed picture of the extremist group and its leader’s state of mind as they make what may be their last stand in Iraq. The messages describe a group and its leader that remain lethal, but that are also seized by growing suspicion and paranoia.
Defectors or informants were being regularly executed, the person texted. Baghdadi, who declared himself the caliph of a huge swathe of Iraq and Syria two years ago, had become especially suspicious of people close to him. “Sometimes he used to joke around,” one text said. “But now he no longer does.“The number of executions is a clear sign Islamic State is beginning to hurt, said Karim Sinjari, interior minister and acting defense minister with the KRG, which controls the Kurdish area in northern Iraq.
As well, he said, many of the group’s local Iraqi fighters lack the “strong belief in martyrdom that the jihadis have.” “Most of the die-hard Islamists who are fighting to the death are foreign fighters, but their numbers at the frontline are less than before because they are getting killed in battle and in suicide attacks,” he said.”
The foremost important strategic objective is to cordon off ISIS, and that means preventing any more influx of foreign fighters. That’s something that should’ve been done two years ago…then again, ISIS should never have been allowed to form. We must also interdict any flow of resources and material that enables ISIS to sustain itself. The problem on the ground is that there are so many competing entities that may not be able to employ an effective outer cordon around Mosul, and indeed Raqqa. We should have constant aerial surveillance that can track any movements, convoys and routes that would enable support to ISIS. This is what we term old school siege warfare.
The great asset is that we can have the cellular contact with those inside the city of Mosul, but it may not be long before ISIS seeks out these means of communications. And that’s why we can expect a massive killing field before ISIS falls in Mosul. I would suggest we implement a strategic psychological operation using loudspeakers and leaflet drops in order to undermine the few, or maybe not so few, ISIS fighters remaining in the heart of Mosul. It would be a great means by which we delegitimize al-Baghdadi and the Islamist ideology used by ISIS.
I recently read where the all female Kurdish units were singing towards ISIS positions — driving them nuts. Of course that tactic, a psychological operation, made ISIS fighters disclose their fighting positions as they poured in fire to get the Kurdish Valkyries to stop singing. Heck, I think we should blast some Richard Wagner at those chuckleheads! The good thing about the Kurdish women’s tactic is that we get target location — and that is where, if they were employed, attack aviation (helicopters) would inflict massive damage.
I don’t have the order of battle, assigned troops, for the offensive operation against ISIS in Mosul. However, what I do know is that it’s because of an insidious strategic blunder by an intransigent ideologue that ISIS exists. And it’s because of a weak, dismissive president that ISIS was able to flourish. Folks ask, can ISIS be defeated? Of course they can, but the greater question MUST be, can the global Islamic jihad be defeated? Yes, it can, but it will require American leadership and the precision-like employment of our weapon systems in concert with willing regional partners. And those regional partners must come to know that we are a nation of its word.
ISIS will not be defeated before the next 64 days, when we have a transition of political power in America. It’s a strategic imperative for the incoming Trump administration to be ready to assume the battle in what we in the military term a “forward passage of lines.” Our men and women in uniform are looking for someone who will embrace a simple word that has been missing, oft called “nuanced.”
That word is victory. And a quick crushing and immediate defeat of ISIS will be necessary to send a clear message to Islamic jihadists globally…you are about to get smoked like a cheap cigar.