Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Login

Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using
 

Email

 

Rudaw

Kurdistan

The effectiveness of the American-led air campaign against ISIS

By Paul Iddon 24/2/2016
Photo from Operation Inherent Resolve
Photo from Operation Inherent Resolve
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—It was in defense of the Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil that the United States carried out its first air strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in August 2014. In the preceding two months the group had become infamous following its seizure of Mosul and the surrounding areas, as Iraqi Army units simply abandoned their arms and vehicles and fled, and subsequent declaration of a caliphate which straddles the Iraqi-Syrian borders shortly thereafter.

Since that time the US has established a coalition and under the banner of Operation Inherent Resolve sought to destroy ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. Relying heavily on precision airstrikes the coalition seeks to bolster ground forces in both countries in hopes of rolling back and eventually destroying the caliphate. And it appears to be having an effect on ISIS.

Rudaw English recently spoke with one US military official involved in coordinating the air strikes and the larger anti-ISIS campaign. He is optimistic about the incremental successes the coalition have had against the group to date.

“We’re leading a coalition of more than 60 countries and we have been doing it for 18 months now,” he explained, “During the last nine months ISIS has lost Baiji, they lost Sinjar, they lost Ramadi. We’ve been there every step of the way with more than 6500 airstrikes. And while there is still a long road ahead and Daesh [ISIS] is still a viable enemy we feel good about what the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces have been able to achieve so far. They have had a tough up until now but have proven themselves on the battlefield.”

More generally the official sees more clear indicators that American-led efforts are afflicting mortal blows. He pointed out that early on in the war ISIS was able to apply constant and direct pressure on the front-lines of the Peshmerga, “This has steadily transitioned into more indirect fire, like rockets and mortars. That’s generally a sign that the enemy is weaker because they believe if they fire mortars they can move before they can be intercepted by the Peshmerga or by us through our airstrikes.”

That’s not the only indicator of a weakened ISIS. Before, the official pointed out, “ISIS was moving in platoon formations. They were well trained and well disciplined. As a result of our continuous airstrikes coordinated with Peshmerga operations against them we have seen that change. The attrition rate caused by these strikes have forced ISIS to change its tactics. They are no longer moving in platoon formations but instead in smaller groups, who tend to be less trained and less disciplined.”

Add to this the broadening of coalition targets to include assets related to ISIS’s financial base to economically cripple the group. This also, the official argues, has produced results which indicate that the group is being exponentially weakened.

“We’ve seen open source reports of Daesh cutting salaries in half, taxing locals in their territories, selling stolen properties,” he added, “The pressure has led to an increase in paranoia, you can see open source reports which show that they are increasingly executing people who don’t abide by their commands, arresting people they suspect of espionage. These are all signs of the damaging effects our airstrikes are having on them.”

When ISIS declared its caliphate from Mosul in the summer of 2014 Iraq-analyst Michael Knights noted that they went overnight from being, “the world’s richest terrorist organization to the world’s poorest state.”

This proved to have substantial strategic ramifications for the coalition. Relying heavily on airpower alone to fight a non-conventional and elusive adversary using guerrilla tactics can prove extremely difficult. However, as the US military official pointed out, in its attempts to carve out a state ISIS has had to act more like a conventional army and come out into the open to fight to defend their territory.

“Daesh cannot just fight in an unconventional manner all the time and expect to successfully defend their territory so they have to come out and fight,” he explained, “and we weed them out through airstrikes, we weed them out through successful ground operations by the Peshmerga and then we strike them. We’ve had a lot of success.”

All of this is done under strict rules-of-engagement with military lawyers reviewing targets before coalition airpower are authorized to strike. “There are all sorts of things we look for when we conduct airstrikes,” he added. “Of course we want to minimize the risk of civilian casualties so our strikes go through a very rigorous approval process.”

This, he said, doesn’t necessarily hamper the effectiveness of the coalition to cripple ISIS, “We’re able to accomplish everything we need to accomplish under the rules-of-engagement we adhere to. This I think is clearly evidenced by the successful weakening of the group and the successful offensives we’ve supported in recent months.”

Comments

 
Gerebert d'Aurillac | 25/2/2016
Whatever the I.S. may do is irrelevant as Gorran and the PKK intend to kill the KRG and frustrate the Kurdish independence.
Kurdish Unity | 25/2/2016
The only loser of this war is the Kurdish independence.Suddenly, everybody has turned to be enemy of the Kurds: The USA,EU,Nato and the entire world.May all the enemies of the Kurds succumb to the barbarian I.S...They deserve it.
8347 Views

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Rojhelati Kurmanc | 4/28/2017 6:04:24 AM
NATO and Israel should attack Iran, you will also get support from Kurds, Baloch, Arabs, Majority Iranians and Gilaki in Iran. Entire arab sunni...
Iran’s Kurdish opposition call for boycott of May elections
| 4 hours ago | (1)
michel.kinnis | 4/27/2017 3:21:49 PM
POTUS Trump is not Housein Obama !! He will help the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq to Prevent Iran to come through to Syria and Lebanon. Israel says...
Rojhelati Kurmanc | 4/28/2017 5:48:43 AM
Turkish trolls working hard, how are you doing "Berivan".
After Turkey struck YPG positions, US says it's asked Ankara to stop
| yesterday at 12:07 | (11)
Dutchman | 4/27/2017 1:27:18 PM
Israel has a right to defend itsself against terrorist groups like Hezbollah and its parners in crime: the Assad regime, Iran and Russia. Putin knows...
Rojhelati Kurmanc | 4/28/2017 5:45:05 AM
The kurds in Libanon have no rights in Libanon. Israel should remove the arabs in Israel and put in the kurds instead. Arabs never took the deal to...
Israeli warplanes strike Lebanese Hezbollah weapons cache near Damascus, reports
| yesterday at 12:52 | (3)
T.I. | 4/27/2017 11:18:15 PM
Merkel knows that the EU can't influence or contain Turkey (Erdogan) through "engagement", what she's really saying here is no matter how bad Turkey...
Mohamedzzz | 4/28/2017 5:12:34 AM
Angela Merkel is right, all Muslim countries look guidance from Turkey and an upset Turkey can bring a lot of trouble, with or without adhering to EU.
Merkel calls it a mistake for the EU to turn its back on Turkey
| 13 hours ago | (3)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Kurdish MPs ask European parliament to support reactivation of their parliament 13 hours ago |

Kurdish MPs ask European parliament to support reactivation of their parliament

Kurdish parliament has been blocked since October more
Kurdish referendum needs parliamentary mandate, PUK and Gorran 22/4/2017 | (5)

Kurdish referendum needs parliamentary mandate, PUK and Gorran

KDP insists the referendum doesn't need a more
Surviving two genocides: Families escaped Halabja attack only to face Anfal 21/4/2017 | (2)

Surviving two genocides: Families escaped Halabja attack only to face Anfal

“How can I not be worried? My heart burns in pain more
0.235 seconds