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Tags: Islamic state | Iraq | airstrikes | urban warfare

US, Reliant on Iraqis, Faces Tough Road in ISIS Fight

By    |   Friday, 19 September 2014 07:18 AM

The American strategy to roll back the territorial gains of the Islamic State (ISIS) will be difficult and complex as advisers try to train and coordinate airstrikes with Iraqi forces, The New York Times reported.

Military officials say that, despite the White House's insistence that there will be no American troops on the ground, American special forces will likely be needed to mount a successful campaign in the urban regions.

"There is no one in this building who does not know that clearing out the cities will be much harder," a senior Defense Department official told the Times. "That's when the rubber is going to meet the road."

While challenges await in pulling together a competent coalition to fight ISIS, the  president's plan to train and equip Iraqi ground forces is being questioned by Democrats in Washington.

According to The Hill, while Congress approved President Barack Obama's plans to train Syrian rebels, the testimony of top officials about the military strategy raised concerns that it has not been well-thought-out. Gen. Martin Dempsey, for example, said he would not rule out the use of combat troops, contrary to insistence by Obama that there would be no boots on the ground.

"I find it pretty disturbing that we are having this hearing after we've taken a vote, because I don't think that the plan that I have seen was detailed enough to make me believe that your plan will work," California Rep. Loretta Sanchez told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a hearing Thursday.

To date, Iraqi forces have not been effective in the fight to regain control of key cities such as Mosul and Falluja. The United States in 2004 struggled with the challenges of urban warfare in Iraq as it battled to retake Baghdad and other cities, so the challenge of relying on Iraqi forces to do so will be even greater.

Officials also said that assembling a credible fighting force on the ground will be difficult and take time.

It will involve training a coalition of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish fighters and local Sunnis to work in partnership to mount the counteroffensive. Pentagon planners estimate it would take eight to 12 months to train the first 5,400 fighters. Just 26 Iraqi brigades are currently considered battle ready.

David Shedd, acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that it was "very difficult to measure the size and capability of the truly committed."

By contrast, the CIA has estimated that ISIS has between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters, one-third of which are in Iraq.

Some military officials question whether the plans outlined by President Barack Obama will be sufficient to achieve the territorial strategy to counter the militant group in Iraq.

"Unfortunately, the strategy in many ways will be made up on the fly," Gen. James Mattis, a retired Marine and former head of Central Command, told the Times. "It would be better if clearly defined political end states were objectively and persuasively conveyed at the outset."

Meanwhile, Franc showed its commitment to fight ISIS conducting its first airstrikes Friday against the militant group.

Rafale fighter jets accompanied by support planes struck the depot in northern Iraq on Friday morning, and the target was "entirely destroyed," President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement. Iraq's military spokesman said four French airstrikes killed dozens of extremist fighters.

"Other operations will follow in the coming days," the French statement said.

U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the French action.

"The French were our very first ally and they are there again for us," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Normandy. "It just reminds me why these relationships really matter."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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The American strategy to roll back the territorial gains of the Islamic State will be difficult and complex as advisers try to train and coordinate airstrikes with Iraqi forces.
Islamic state, Iraq, airstrikes, urban warfare
Friday, 19 September 2014 07:18 AM
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