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11 March 2017


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October 2016.


IS adopted the 'walking through walls' or 'aboveground tunneling' urban warfare tactic in Mosul so they'll probably use it in Raqqa as well. From Reuters 2/28/17 rpt, "Mosul caught in 'strange and terrifying' battle as Islamic State foreign soldiers fight to the end"


The families cowered in basements, huddling in the dark as war raged overhead between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants fighting for control of the streets of Mosul.

Above ground, soldiers from Iraq's Rapid Response division move from house to house through the same openings Islamic State militants smashed through the walls in preparation to defend their last remaining stronghold in the city's west.

The passageway led them through living rooms and gardens, into a kitchen with a pot of lentil soup on the counter -- the scenes of domesticity highlighting the chaos of war that is intensifying as Iraqi forces advance.

See the Reuters article for photo of a 'wall tunnel.'

Here's a more detailed explanation of the tactic, taken from a paper titled "Lethal Territory" by Israeli architect Eyal Weizman:

The maneuver conducted by units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, as inverse geometry, the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of microtactical actions.

During the battle, soldiers moved within the city across hundred-meter-long “overground-tunnels” carved through a dense and contiguous urban fabric. Although several thousand soldiers and several hundred Palestinian guerrilla fighters were maneuvering simultaneously in the city, they were so “saturated” within its fabric that very few would have been visible from an aerial perspective at any given moment.

Furthermore, soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors.

This form of movement, described by the military as “infestation”, sought to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares.

Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic, movement became constitutive of space. The three-dimensional progression through walls, ceilings, and floors across the urban balk reinterpreted, short-circuited, and recomposed both architectural and urban syntax.

The IDF’s strategy of “walking through walls” involved a conception of the city as not just the site, but the very medium of warfare — a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.


IS strategists seem to have done a lot of thinking and study of urban warfare tactics.

Also of interest in the Reuters report is the conclusion/theory from Iraqi military commanders that IS fighters in Mosul will fight to the death because most left seem to be foreigners, and so they can't melt into the larger populace the way local fighters can.

If this theory holds true, I am wondering if many of the foreign fighters in Mosul were transferred from Raqqa; if so, it might mean the resistance could be lighter in Raqqa than Mosul. Of course that's a number of 'ifs.'


Agence France Presse, March 11 - 5 PM - Daily Star (Lebanon)


BEIRUT: Three hundred families of ISIS fighters have fled the extremists' self-proclaimed Syrian capital of Raqqa in 24 hours, as rival forces encircle the city, activists said Saturday.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "300 families of foreign fighters of ISIS have left the city of Raqqa since dawn Friday to take refuge in the province of Deir al-Zor to the east and Hama to the west."

The northern city of Raqqa is the target of advancing Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces as well as Syrian government troops supported by Russia.

The Britain-based Observatory's head, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said that ISIS families were using the only remaining escape route, on boats across the Euphrates River to the south.


Alba Etie

USIA is the federal governments propaganda arm. What don't you understand? pl


Alba Etie

Once again, to equate American diplomacy with the administrative budget of the State Department is a great fallacy. Leaving aside the USAID and USIA portions of what loosely can be grouped together as the State Department budget the truth is that the internal bureaucracy at Foggy Bottom does not contribute much to American security. It is a large pettifogging mass of people who spend their time writing papers for each other. In the last several decades actual diplomacy has been practiced by the Secretary flying about the world in person talking to people. In this the Secretary is assisted by a fairly small group of assistants. There are some things that are irreducible in their necessity. Consular and passport services would be among them but a lot of the rest of what the State Bureaucracy does is busywork. pl


Pundita TTG et al

I am dismayed to learn that IS in Mosul has fought the way that Antique School planners would pretty much always advocate. "Tunneling above ground" is a good way to describe both the offense and defense in situations like this. You could actually see that IS was doing this in the CNN near disaster when Arwa Damon and crew nearly bought the farm inside Mosul. IS came out of buildings on all sides of them. They got there by "above ground tunneling." The offensive as a form of combat is the more decisive mode, but the defensive is actually the stronger tactically. In soldier terms this means that the side that is up and moving instead of down and shooting when contact is made is going to lose a lot of people. Trump and Mattis should think this over carefully before they commit to a ground battle in Raqqa an Arab city of 300,000 inhabitants. pl

The Beaver


Spinmasters at US Information Agency



Tillerson is probably going to be far more effective diplomatically than the various political appointees at State have been the last few years. If the guys at FP are this upset then the administration is doing something right:

"The news stories are based on leaks, of course, but the very fact that many people in the State Department are willing to express their dismay is a troubling sign. More importantly, these press stories tell everyone in Washington, including foreign embassies, that Tillerson is ineffective. Even if these descriptions are incorrect, by influencing widespread perceptions they undermine him. The fact that Tillerson has not been meeting with reporters, and even temporarily halted the daily departmental press briefings, has contributed to the sense of his being peripheral."

Troubling to the Borg is that their influence with Trump and his SOS isn't what it once was. What they object too is Trump's policy, not Trump's appointee. This verifies not only that view but also the betrayal of duty and obstruction by employees of the Federal government (at least at State) to the policies of the President. They should be fired asap.



Raqqa will not happen until at least after 16 April date set for the Turkish Constitutional Referendum.

In the meantime, airfields in the Kurdish Cantons of Syria are being improved and lengthened. And probably also in Jordan? Just in case Erdogan kicks us out of Incirlik once an SDF campaign starts against Raqqa.

With the latest Flynn drama, I do not believe there is any chance that the Pentagon will accept Turkish help in Raqqa. Same same for Joint US/Russian ops in Raqqa, although coordination will increase.

After Raqqa and after Idlib, what then? The long pole in the tent for Assad is going to be the Turkish enclave around al-Bab and the area in the southeast down close to the Golan Heights.


Fehrenbach's 'The Battle of Anzio' is also worth reading.


Although I regret he never wrote a book on the 36th 'Lone Star' Division at the Rapido River.


Colonel, I'm curious; why do you think the 82nd air borne div was chosen to
deploy over the 101st Screaming Eagles?



The 101st has not actually been an airborne division for many years. It is a helicopter mobile force with a vey large logistical tail. pl


"But I wonder how well Trump's psyche will hold up when paratroopers from the 82nd start arriving at Dover AFB in significant numbers. "

He didn't care in 1968, why would he care now?

The Twisted Genius


The 101st Airmobile, the 82nd Airborne and the 10th Mountain Div are all organized pretty much the same. The prime difference is that the 82nd can be parachuted in. The other two divisions are full of dirty legs. Once on the ground, all three are more or less the same. The 82nd was probably chosen for this mission because it was that division's turn in the barrel.



ISIS wasn't around then either. Maybe their adherents here can look forward to a pardon like Carter gave the draft dodgers the next time a Democrat gets elected president.



I wish they would tell me before they do things like making these three divisions the same. pl

The Twisted Genius


The differences seem to be slight. Each brigade has 3 infantry battalions, a cav squadron, an engineer, artillery and a support battalion. I don't know if the cav squadrons are air or armored. The 3/4 Cav with the 25th Div in the 70s had 2 air cav troops and 1 ground cav troop. So our entire division had 3 M-551 Sheridan tanks period. At the time, the 82d had a battalion of Sheridans. Those were odd things.


Yes, although the military term "infestation" is also apt -- as in a termite infestation. The house looks sound from the outside but inside it's chewed into labyrinthes. Then the fighters can pop out anywhere, like ghosts in a horror story.

I once read that IS built at least some of the underground tunnels in Raqqa on existing smuggling tunnels; that may be one reason they chose the Raqqa region.

At any rate the US needs to hire Bedouin smugglers and even children in the region who worked or still work in the oil smuggling trade. Pay them to locate the IS tunnel entrances and swear their secret will be safe afterwards. They probably already know where most if not all those tunnel entrances are.

Don't offer them the moon for the job; find someone who really knows the ways of the bazaar to bargain hard on the price per tunnel entrance location. If the Americans show up with suitcases stuffed with millions of dollars in payment the Bedouins won't believe they're sincere.

Also get help from Israeli and Egyptian military engineers who've specialized in finding smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Egypt.

But at all costs find the underground tunnel entrances in Raqqa. And take up indoor tunneling. If IS is fighting like ghosts, give them a ghost war.


Curses, banned again.



Why do you think you are banned? You are not. pl


Here's some graphic and telling footage from Palmyra c.o Russian Tv


The report says Isis is now pushed out 10 km and only comes out at night....but didnt stop murdering pilgrimage devotees

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