The Lessons of the ISIS Convoy

Many saw on the television clips of the US air force and Iraqi air force decimating a convoy apparently leaving Fallujah headed to Syria. There are many questions here. But also there are some fairly certain conclusions.  The US air force was said to be reluctant to attack the convoy because ,allegedly,  families were among the ISIS fighters fleeing Fallujah. This will always be an issue with US forces fighting counterinsurgency war. The tactic of the ISIS to shield themselves with civilians has been a barrier to the destruction of the ISIS from the beginning.  One can view videos every day  of normal life in Mosul and Raqqa. Markets functioning, kids going to school,  internet working, training centers operating, etc. Below is a very good clip of the convoy being ripped apart by Iraqi Air force aided by the US air force.

In world war II we had no reservations about bombing civilian cities in Germany and Japan. It was called total war. Against the ISIS we fight a war of pinpricks, which in the end will be far more costly in human life that massive destruction of the ISIS centers. Critics may rage against the war of liquidation waged by the Sri Lankan forces against the rebels but in the end it saved thousands of lives that would have been lost had the war been allowed to drag on for years.


Berlin in 1945

There can be little doubt that the majority of the  Sunni population of Anbar province  are either supporting, or at least not resisting the ISIS. There is no way the convoy could have gotten so far  along the hyway unless the Sunni tribes permitted them to pass without being molested.  There were also some evidence that certain elements of the Iraqi army  in the area did not attack the convoy.  Loyalty of some elements  of the Iraqi army is still suspect.  Or perhaps among the soldiers of the Iraqi army there is still a fear of the largely mythical prowess of the ISIS fighters. The war  is not well covered by the media as they know the American people are not much interested in what happens in Iraq.

But from the meager amount of information we have it foretells a long and bitter struggle in Iraq. As a recent article in the web site Naqash,  (’s-Cities-Are-Free-But-Extremists-Still-Shelter—And-Attack—In-Surrounding-Desert.htm

pointed out very presciently , that the ISIS is likely to give up the cities, if pressed by overwhelming Iraqi forces, then melt back into the desert supported and covered by the Sunni Arab tribes who inhabit the region. From there they can continue to launch attacks on the Iraqi army and civilian targets  forcing the Iraqis to spread out their army over the entire area to protect the civilian population of Baghdad and vital installations all over Iraq. Dams, power stations, oil installations, pipelines,  bridges, isolated Iraqi units will be the targets.  No place in Iraq will be protected from suicide attacks, hit and run attacks.

There can be no question that the objective of the ISIS is not to create or maintain a tiny patch of desert around a few cities. The concept of a caliphate centered in Iraq and Syria is still the objective. There4 strategy is simple, wear down their enemy who will begin to seek accommodation to end the terrible toll on the civilian life in Iraq and Syria.

The empty words of Iranian  military leaders that they will defend Baghdad are of no consequence, They will be unable to stem the insurgent war, and are likely to relearn the hard lesson of Turkey…intervening in the Arab world is the proverbial tar baby. once in it  is  very hard to get out.

About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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