Monday, December 28, 2015

The Real Story On The Battle For Ramadi And Why It Matters


The latest headlines about the key battle between ISIS and the Iraqi Army are talking about the 'liberation' of the ISIS held city of Ramadi...including the map above, which I include for reference purposes. The truth is something rather different.

It only took 600 ISIS fighters to capture Ramadi from a much larger army of fully armed and equipped Iraqi troops when the predominately Sunni city fell to ISIS last May. The current battle underlines how disparate the two forces are. Ramadi has been held for months against the attacks of large forces of US equipped Iraqi troops by a fairly small number of ISIS fighters. The way the current battle for the city is shaping up tells us quite a bit.

There are an estimated 300 ISIS fighters who are in Ramadi pitted against 10,000 Iraqi troops and Iran-armed militia forces aided by US air cover. So far, the best the Iraqis have been able to do is to 'liberate' about half of the city. The well publicized flag raising occurred in the city's government compound, and while that plus a few major neighborhoods are now liberated, even the Iraqi military is quietly admitting that about half the city, much of which is now a heavily damaged ghost town is still under ISIS control. Even more telling, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Belawi, one of the chief Iraqi commanders admitted that the ISIS troops whom were dug in at the government compound pulled out in good order and escaped rather than being killed or captured.

Since there's nothing much left to plunder in Ramadi and a lot of the population left when the US led airstrikes began, this suggests to me that what ISIS had planned here is a delaying action, with a small number of troops ordered to hold off the Iraqi forces and inflict the maximum amount of Iraqi casualties as they retreat in force. If that's what ISIS has planned, they seem to have succeeded so far.

That doesn't mean that this isn't a setback for ISIS, merely that it's not quite the dramatic victory it's being painted as. One could argue that Russia's Vladimir Putin is doing far more damage to ISIS by targeting its oil shipments and refineries, where a fair amount of ISIS's wealth derives from.

What the battle really underlines is how poorly the Shi'ite army the American taxpayer spent billions of dollars to train and equip performs, even when they outnumber the enemy by better than ten to one and are much better armed and equipped.How the Iraqi army will perform when the fighting moves up to Ninevah and Mosul is anyone's guess.

Another point worth mentioning is that the Shi'ite dictatorship we put into place in Iraq has little or no respect or gratitude for American efforts on their behalf. The Shi'ite Iraqi government made a point of not mentioning the key role US airstrikes played in whatever progress they have been able to make against ISIS. The Iraqis would not have taken Ramadi without our air power.

This attitude is something I saw coming a long time ago. Americans should perhaps keep this in mind the next time anyone starts blathering about 'nation building' or 'Arab democracy.'

No comments: