The U.S.-led coalition’s effort to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has begun, according to the top U.S. envoy in the fight against the extremists.Seems like an odd sort of offensive. How are they going to “squeeze” the Islamic State soldiers in the city without starving the inhabitants? or is this announcement just a political move, designed to reassure some people and threaten others?
“It’s already started,” Brett McGurk said on Wednesday at a speech at the American University of Iraq in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimani. “It’s a slow, steady squeeze.”
The coalition is conducting almost daily air strikes against ISIS personnel and infrastructure in the city. Iraqi forces are stationed just kilometers from the militants’ stronghold and the Kurdish Peshmerga have recaptured territory from the group north of the city.
McGurk’s statement suggests the coalition does not plan to bring about the collapse of ISIS in the city by a rapid and large mobilization of troops. The current plans seem to involve patiently encircling the group and cutting it off from the outside world before a major invasion. “The formula is working,” McGurk said. “It’s slow, but it’s working.”
Colonel Steve Warren, the U.S.-led coalition spokesman, also recently mentioned how the campaign to retake Mosul. “Preparations to take Mosul are happening now,” he tweeted on Tuesday, “including precision air strikes by coalition forces.”
When did the U.S. military start announcing its campaigns over Twitter?
And here's a weird detail:
Those strikes have started targeted ISIS’s financial infrastructure and cash reserves, and U.S. officials estimate they’ve destroyed “millions” of dollars.So we're bombing the mattresses where they hide their cash?
To be fair, the use and possession of large amounts of cash is sort of necessary given their situation. Banks aren't exactly an option for them at the moment, so the organization has to actually physically possess legal tender, and they need a large amount of it. You have to store all that somewhere, though, and if people find where you keep your reserves and bomb them, then they can really hurt your finances.
That said, I'm rather against bombing as we so often do. It kills huge numbers of civilians, even with modern "smart" bombs, which just further radicalizes the locals against us, perpetuating the fundamental issues which caused this situation.
If we really wanted to take the city quickly we could - we did exactly that sort of thing plenty of times during the second World War. We're just not willing to invest the manpower and to risk the threat of losses that a full scale urban sweep would require. Even more than that, I suspect we're afraid to project the sort of image that would result in - city streets full of tanks, huge numbers of soldiers going building to building, house to house, systematically clearing them all, rounding up militants and civilians alike to be sorted out later in massive prison camps... not a pretty picture, even if it would probably be the most effective option. (Also not a cheap picture either.)
I don't see at all why it's an odd sort of offensive. Slowly surrounding and squeezing a city sounds like the way Grant took Vicksburg, and the way most medieval sieges worked as a matter of course. It sounds sensible, determined, and patient. It also is the best way to take a city if you want to take it relatively intact, and minimize civilian casualties. Yes, slowly squeezing will make the civilians hungry, and some will die, but there is no war (none) without civilian suffering, and, as far as I can see, no getting rid of ISIS without lots of civilian suffering, war or no war. Aren't you (John) carping just a little?
I am carping mainly because I wonder why these announcements are being made. When generals tweet their battle plans, I suspect some other agenda. If it is just to scare ISIS and reassure the populace of Mosul, ok, but I have to wonder if there are not deeper political things going on.
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