In some of his first statements as President of the United States, Donald Trump has said that “it is time to eliminate ISIS” and “wipe them off the face of the Earth,” adding that “we have no other choice” but to do so. While this news sounds great and is something I think everyone would happen to agree with, that the Islamic State needs to be defeated, it is the logistics of actually pulling it off that are truly frightening.
While Donald Trump did not come out and directly say “we are going to send in US soldiers and engage in two new ground Wars in Iraq and Syria,” if you have been following the situation, there is really no other way to interpret his statements. If you are not exactly caught up to speed on Iraq and Syria, I do not really blame you – most Americans are not.
Wiping out ISIS in Syria
For the purposes of this article all you really need to know is that there has been a Civil War inside Syria dating back to 2011 and while there has indubitably been some crossover, in 2017, the Syrian Civil War is essentially a separate conflict from the presence and subsequent War against the Islamic State in the country.
All “nationalistic pride” aside, it has been the Russian military which has led the largest charge against the Islamic State on the ground over recent years – not the United States. Dating back to 2014 not only has the IS lost tremendous amounts of territory inside Syria and the surrounding countries, but it has gotten to the point where some are now suggesting that the Islamic State could be on the verge of complete collapse inside Syria.
As it stands today, January 23, 2016, even though the IS has recently re-captured Palmyra, the IS only has one true remaining stronghold left in the country – “ar Raqqah” or Raqqa, Syria. This also happens to be the largest city by population the IS remains in control of, in any country.
On November 5th, 2016 the battle to retake Raqqa from Islamic State control officially began and yes, US ground troops had already been deployed around the city – even if Obama refused to actually call them “US ground troops.” On November 15th 2016, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made an unannounced visit to Iraq where he briefed his commanders on the newly formed strategy to retake Mosul from Islamic State control. At the same time, Carter also took the opportunity to announce that the US would also be further engaging in Raqqa, Syria against the IS for the same reason.
Following Mr. Carter’s visit to Iraq last November I wrote the following article and before you continue reading this article, you really should read that first: https://altmedi4.com/2016/11/14/you-might-not-be-familiar-with-raqqa-but-here-is-why-you-will-be-hearing-a-lot-more-about-it-over-the-coming-months/
How has the situation developed since the time of that ^^^ article
Even though the United States had already deployed “advisors“/ground troops in Syria, Ash Carter made the decision to move in more. However, in the weeks following this decision it appears as though Ash Carter got cold feet, or “gun-shy” if you will, about actually using the troops in battle once they did arrive.
To set the logic of this up for you, logistically speaking, even though Carter made the decision to deploy troop into Iraq and Syria on the same day, it took longer for the troops to arrive in Syria than it did Iraq.
What did we learn very quickly in Mosul before troops reached Raqqa?
The situation in Mosul was actually much more bizarre and worse than anyone expected. For example, this picture:
I will spare all you off the graphics for the following, but here is a short list of facts outlining the first week(s) of Battle in Mosul:
- According to US estimates, more civilians (1,000) were killed than Islamic State soldiers (900).
- The IS protected their front lines with human shields, defenseless people
- When the citizens of Mosul were notified to evacuate, the Islamic State sealed off every exit into and out of the city, and executed anyone they found trying to leave.
- The IS then carried out public executions in the middle of the streets to deter people from trying to leave
- There were even reports of IS soldiers trying to desert in the middle of battle being shot in the back and executed in front of their fellow soldiers.
Read more, including citations/sources for the information above: https://altmedi4.com/2016/10/28/unfortunately-the-battle-to-defeat-the-islamic-state-in-mosul-is-proving-to-be-just-as-bloody-as-anticipated/
Getting back to Ash Carter and Raqqa, it has been suggested that part of the reason Mr. Carter was hesitant to fully in Raaqa over recent weeks was a direct result of how poorly things had gone in Mosul. To this very point, in one of his last days in office, a little after a month after deciding to send more US troops into Iraq and Syria to begin with, in an article published by Military Times, Ash Carter warned Donald Trump and James Mattis that “more US troops will not fix Iraq or Syria.”
Despite this proclamation however, it does not appear as though Donald Trump or the man who replaced him as US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, share Carter’s convictions on this matter.
In fact, at his confirmation hearing in front of the US Senate, not only did Mattis agree with John McCain that the United States needs to fight Russian interests and fight harder in Syria, but, about Raqqa specifically, Mattis added that the US’s military strategy “needs to be reviewed and perhaps energized on a more aggressive timeline.”
Combing the fact that there are more US troops inside Raqqa today than there was two months ago, along with Mattis’s statements to engage more agressively in Syria/Raqqa, on top of Donald Trump’s intentions to wipe ISIS off the face of the Earth, is there really any doubt about what the US is going to do here?
Don’t expect to read/hear about whatever this decision will entail, as Donald Trump has also promised, no longer will the United States announce our military intentions before we act – something which President Obama became famous for doing. If the US does indeed begin a full ground assault inside Syria or Raqqa, you will only hear about it after it has started.
Wiping out the Islamic State in Mosul
If you have read the article up this point and read the two previous articles about Mosul linked above, then I am not going to repeat myself. Instead, here is a chronological update of on the ground developments in and around Mosul, Iraq since the time of my last article on this matter.
12/28/16 | US forces bomb the last remaining bridge across the Tigris River, which divides the Eastern side of Mosul with West side: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/last-bridge-iraqs-mosul-out-action-after-us-led-air-strike-1165273323
1/9/17 | It appears as though the bridge bombing the week before might have been a bit of a mishap. On January 9th, coalition forces reached and officially gained control of the bridge for the first time and immediately began repairs upon it: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraqi-forces-reach-tigris-river-latest-mosul-advance-1022933801
1/14/17 | Iraqi forces announce they have liberated Mosul University as forces continue their advances inside the Eastern end of the city: http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/military-mosul-university-fully-liberated-by-iraqi-troops
1/18/17 | After 3 months of battle, Iraq’s top commander, Staff General Talib al-Sheghati, who heads the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), announces that the East side of Mosul has been completely liberated: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/top-iraq-commander-announces-liberation-east-mosul-1926536159
1/22/17 | ISIS blows up landmark hotel on the edge of the Western end of the Tigris river, in preparation for the Iraqi Army’s attempt to cross the river for the first time – the IS did not want the Iraqi Army to use the building as any type of headquarters for base operations once they did arrive: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/blows-mosul-hotel-iraq-prepares-attack-western-bank-tigris-404246489
What must be noted is that the Battle for Mosul has already taken much longer than was anticipated and Iraqi forces contend that liberating the Western end of the city may be far more difficult than the East.In October 2016, Iraqi forces initially estimated that it would take 3 months to liberate the city and 4 month later now, the toughest half of the battle remains in front of them.
This is disheartening considering that Mosul has already received more support from the US military than Raqqa has, meaning the Battle for Raqqa could be far worse and far more bloody than Mosul has turned out to be. None of this is to mention the humanitarian crisis which surely awaits the people of these cities as these battles continue to unfold and/or when they come to an end.
Even in victory, it will take years for these people to return to any semblance of a normal quality of life.
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