By Sal Bommarito
A New York Times story has, at long last, provided some insight into the progress of the ground war against ISIS. Unfortunately, the news is disturbing and foretells future complications.
From the outset of the ISIS crisis, this blog has strongly urged the U.S. to increase its employment of military force and consider the use of ground troops. The latter is not feasible based on the President Obama’s decision and public pronouncement that he will not approve any significant increases in the number of U.S. boots on the ground.
The current plan is to use Iraqi government soldiers supplemented by Shiite militiamen to do battle with ISIS. To be clear, the preponderance of fighting in Iraq is taking place in Sunni populated areas. This is to be expected because ISIS is a radical extension of the Sunni sect and has sought assistance from their fellow Sunni Islamists.
In recent days, announcements have been made that a counter offensive by Iraq was imminent but not immediate. However, the Iraqi government decided to move much sooner to the surprise of American generals. The result has been anger that the Iraqis acted without informing the U.S., and correspondingly that the U.S. response to the war has been “sluggish.” Comments by a high-ranking Iraqi official include the following. “American estimates of how long it would take to drive the Islamic State from Mosul [are pessimistic].” “The Americans continue to procrastinate about [the liberation of the country].”
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the Iraqi force of 30,000 consists of two-thirds militia fighters. Some say this fact accounts for the excessive brutality of the group. Also, Iran soldiers and support personnel are intimately involved in the hostilities alongside the Iraq soldiers. Iran’s assistance to Iraq is likely to make Iraqi Sunnis uneasy and unification of the country more problematic if ISIS is defeated.
Interestingly, the U.S. has limited its participation in the conflict principally to air strikes and some training. Yet, it resents the growing influence of Iran in the ground fighting.
It appears also that U.S. air strikes are not occurring with greater frequency because of concerns about collateral damage, the killing of innocent bystanders. Apparently, the Iraqi soldiers, the militias and the Iranians are not so concerned with collateral damage, especially if the innocents are Sunnis.
It comes as no surprise that the U.S. is losing control of the ISIS war in Iraq. The more intimate bond exists between Iran and Iran on the ground, something that will surely carry over to and influence post-war deliberations. A civil war is inevitable after ISIS, and Iran is going to encourage and support the further oppression of Iraqi Sunnis.