It should come as no shock to our readers that the Third Iraq War President Obama initiated has already faltered. As predicted, the strategy (or lack thereof see: http://www.blackboxwire.com/2014/10/11/islamic-extremism-and-what-lies-ahead-part-ii-the-war-on-isis-and-syria/) did not achieve the desired results so now the Department of Defense (DoD), no doubt testing the waters for the White House, is requesting boots on the ground. As we warned, mission creep is a dangerous thing and would plague this operation. What started with just a handful of “advisors,” grew into airstrikes in Iraq and then Syria, then over a thousand troops “on the ground,” and now US troop levels in Iraq will soon reach 3,000. When this new batch of advisors fails to stop the growth of ISIL, expect Obama to retract another “promise” and have “no choice,” but to commit US combat personnel to the fight in Iraq. Soon, just like in Vietnam, Obama will be steadily sucked into another full blown war in Iraq that the US will neither win nor be able to afford.
In testimony last week, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), told the House Armed Services Committee he would recommend abandoning Obama’s oft-repeated promise against committing ground troops to combat in Iraq. Further, contrary to President Obama’s previous dismissals of ISIL as a major threat, it now appears the DoD believes that ISIL is a superior army to Iraq’s standing army. In fact, it seems the White House has been wrong about everything in respect to ISIL. Now, according to the CJCS, Iraq will need an additional 80,000 troops to dislodge ISIL. To achieve this number, the US would have to send in its own ground troops or provide thousands of troops to train the Iraqis. To conduct this training and equipping would take close to a year and tens of billions of dollars based on estimates from actual previous war time timelines and costs. Confusingly, during testimony, no one questioned why the over half-million Iraqi army soldiers already trained and equipped were not sufficient to counter ISIL and how an additional 80,000 troops would make a decisive difference. What should be clear is that the old school counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy of training and advising host nation forces to win a war on the cheap doesn’t work and never has worked. It is high time that someone gets in front of Congress and testifies to this reality before the US charges headlong into the abyss of war once more.
General Dempsey went on to make half promises to assuage fears of a full blown war. “I just don’t foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent,” Dempsey said. However, he caveated saying should the Iraqi military prove unwilling to take back “al-Anbar province and Ninewa province, I will have to adjust my recommendations.” This double speak is political code for saying the Iraqi military is completely incompetent and there is no way they will dislodge ISIL without the US doing the fighting. From this statement it is easy to conclude Dempsey is conducting the political preparation of the battlefield for drastically increasing the number of US military personnel involved in the Third Iraq War.
Suggesting a major future escalation, General Dempsey also described Mosul as potentially the “decisive” battle of the war against ISIL, an assessment backed by General Lloyd Austin, the US Central Command chief who is running the war. Dempsey went on to say, “I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by US forces, but we’re certainly considering it.” Of course Dempsey fails to mention that even at the height of the war in Iraq, US forces failed to pacify Mosul and as we pointed out, it is one of the primary reasons it became the first major city to fall to ISIL. General Austin also implied as much last month when he said any Iraqi-led campaign was months away because of the insufficient combat effectiveness of the Iraqis, which is again code for the DoD signaling US personnel will need to fight this battle. The generals comments demonstrate the simple minded “strategic thinking,” at the root of US military failures since the end of World War II. Declaring Mosul as the Center-of-Gravity for ISIL will rank with blunders such as General Petraeus’ claim that taking Marjah (Operation Moshtarak) would lead to the Taliban being routed and defeated in Afghanistan. Of course, after almost a full year of fighting in and around Marjah, zero decisive gains were realized and the Taliban continues to operate with near impunity across Helmand Province and most of the rest of Afghanistan to the present day. Mosul would be no different aside from being a far costlier strategic defeat for the US. Both Generals Dempsey and Austin utterly fail to grasp that it isn’t just ISIL in Mosul, it is Mosul. The population in Mosul is very supportive of ISIL and what we consider Sunni extremism. As demonstrated during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the population of Mosul (before the days of ISIL) quickly turned hostile to US forces and inflicted daily casualties on American forces. To truly pacify Mosul, we would need to carry out a true war of attrition across the entire region, which we have proved time and again we are politically incapable of. As such, ISIL will retain its control of Mosul and Sunni extremism will not be dislodged irrespective of the numbers of forces we train and the boots we put on the ground.
Going forward, you can rest assured that the US and Iraqi army will continue to be bogged down attempting to defeat ISIL. As we increase the numbers of US forces we will not see a requisite return in battlefield victories. Instead, we will only see growing debt for another undeclared war in Iraq that placates the defense industry trying to protect its exorbitant budget lines. We will also begin to see more US casualties. Mark my words, it won’t be long before ISIL begins to employ the strategy of infiltrating the Iraqi army and killing US advisors just as we saw in Afghanistan. Iraq has no choice but to allow Sunnis into its military if it is to stand any chance of reunification, but in doing so, will open itself to internal attacks. US air attacks will also continue to increase, but only achieve further polarization of the civilians on the ground in Syria and Iraq against the US, which it sees as destroying vital stores of food and fuel. In all, you should have no doubt that the US will be “forced” to become more heavily involved and in doing so, totally undermine any chance of strategic success in Iraq.
By Guiles Hendrik
November 18, 2014