"Expect them to learn quickly from these mistakes. Many Islamic State commanders are former Baathist officers who have seen U.S. firepower in action and understand how to respond to it. Some are veterans of almost three years of Syrian bomb strikes and are comfortable with quickly taking cover at the first sight of aircraft overhead. Recent images show they are dispersing their newly acquired U.S. tanks, Humvees and artillery. They also are beginning to hide their command posts in villages and digging in their small units. Their supplies are being stuffed into houses, where they cannot be spotted from the air. It's an old tactic that works. Just ask the Israelis.
Recent history suggests there will be strategic consequences from seeking to blunt the Islamic State advance through airpower alone. First, the effectiveness of pinpoint strikes will diminish quickly; it generally takes only a few weeks for a disciplined force to become inured to the psychological effects of such firepower." Scales
Scales has this exactly right. Skilled and determinied troops quickly learn to protect themselves from the more obvious effects of tactical air. They hide. They disperse. They mass for operations and then disperse again. They become more and more attentive in seeking opportunities to attack low flying aircraft such as SU-25s and helicopters.
The scale of the high altitude air attacks against IS forces is insignificant as a detrrent to further IS advances. The Director of Operations of the Joint staff publicly made that clear this week. What the US is actually achieving with the present air attacks is the creation of an informal training program for IS in dealing with hostile tactical air. As Scales says, this program of air attacks will quickly be seen as ineffective and the temptation to escalate will grow steadily stronger.
Escalation would be just fine for some people, people like Sarah Palin, Peter King and John McCain but most Americans will be very unhappy if there is an increase in the level of direct US participation in Iraq combat. We have "been there, done that" and don't want to do it again. No amount of conference room scheming in Washington is going to change that. WINEP and ISW can moan and groan about it all they want but there is not going to be a renewal of the US war in Iraq if the American people have their way in this. Actually, Obama is walking along a fine line concerning the provisions of the War Powers Act. Has he fully complied with the law? Will he fully comply with the law?
More heavy armaments and training for the Pesh Merga would "sell" in the United States, but it will not "sell" as well in Baghdad where the new government will inevitably resist arming the KRG enough to make Kurdish independence more likely. The State Department and NSC staff (same kind of people) will side with Baghdad in this. A different strategy for rolling back IS must be found, something different from air attacks and guns for the Kurds. pl
"Leaders of Iraq's Sunni Muslim tribes threatened on Friday to rebel against the Islamic State, the first indication that a change of government in Baghdad might allow a new prime minister to rally the country's divided ethnic and religious groups against the Islamist extremists.
But the Sunni offer to battle the militants came with strings – possible autonomy and the withdrawal of Iraqi military forces from Sunni areas – that would be difficult for a Shiite-led government to grant, and Shiite politicians in Baghdad showed little enthusiasm.
US officials have predicted since the Islamic State began its sweep through much of central, western and northern Iraq, often with the collaboration of Sunni tribes, that a more conciliatory government in Baghdad, coupled with harsh rule imposed by the Islamists, would move disaffected Sunnis to rebel." Sydney Morning Herald
A strategy of splitting off the Sunni tribal groupings from IS is what should be adopted. These tribal groupings are made up of large numbers of people who live in villages and substantial towns. Do not think of nomadic Beduin when you think of Sunni tribesmen in Iraq. Some will argue that the authority of tribal leaders is not what it was. That may be but I would argue that an approach to the Sunni tribes is really the "only game in town" as an approach to pushing IS back to the north and west of Baghdad.
An added benefit in such a program might well be defection of some Sunni arab military experts from IS to the tribes.
The major problem in trying to make this idea work will be the questionable willingness of yet another Shia run governnment in Baghdad to empower Sunni tribes. Will the Shia government merely seek to trick the tribes into doing what they cannot themselves do in the belief that they can later renege on any promises of autonomy and representation? That may well be the case.
In 2006 DIA published a manual and study of the underlying potential for resistance among Anbar tribesmen to AQI domination. The book played a role in the first "Awakening." You can download it here. pl
The DIA Anbar tribal study linked to below has been released to the public by DoD public relations.