American troops might be deployed to Anbar province, Iraq to help the Iraqi government retake Ramadi, which fell into ISIS’ hands last May. What was disconcerting about this victory was that it showed the terror group has “tactical awareness” when executing their assaults (via Military Times):
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he is willing to send American helicopters and troops to Anbar province to help the Iraqi military forces close in on and seize Ramadi from Islamic State militants.
"The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister [Hader al-] Abadi," Carter told lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
His comments came amid reports that the Iraqi security forces have advanced into downtown Ramadi and seized a key military operations center.
Hundreds of U.S. troops are deployed in Anbar province, but their mission has been limited primarily to inside-the-wire training activities at Al Asad Air Base and Taqaddum Air Base.
Around the time Ramadi fell, ISIS was able to reinforce their front lines by evading surveillance drones and airstrikes. Moreover, they unleashed U.S.-made military vehicles on Iraqi government forces, retrofitting them to be virtually unstoppable delivery vehicles for bombs. These “Vbieds” is what caused the Iraqi army to flee the city last spring.
Make no mistake; this fight to retake Ramadi could be brutal and tedious:
In the area around Ramadi, American commanders so far have opted against providing similar support for the Iraqi forces, partly because it is far more dangerous terrain, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters Wednesday.
"Not the case here [in Ramadi], just because of the way ISIL kind of occupied it. You have to think of it as a series of ink splats on that map. ... The roads aren't really safe. The Iraqi security forces take a lot of risk every time they move, because the enemy, although largely fighting as a conventional army, let me be perfectly clear, they continue to employ insurgent tactics when it suits them," Warren said.
"So, frankly, for force protection reasons ... we've decided to keep U.S. forces here in Anbar and other areas around here, and inside the bases," he said.
In a tacit conceit that ISIS being “contained” is a grossly premature conclusion, the Obama administration has proposed building a string of bases from Africa to the Middle East as a place where surgical strikes and intelligence gathering against ISIS can be carried out (via NYT):
As American intelligence agencies grapple with the expansion of the Islamic State beyond its headquarters in Syria, the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East.
The bases could be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group’s far-flung affiliates.
Administration officials said that the proposal for the new basing system, presented to the White House this fall by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey during his final days as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not intended to be a specific Pentagon proposal to combat the affiliates of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The officials said that it was meant primarily as a re-examination of how the military positions itself for future counterterrorism missions, but that the growing concern about a metastasizing Islamic State threat has lent new urgency to the discussions.
On the airstrike front, we have killed at least 350 ISIS fighters in Ramadi, including their finance minister, whom Col. Warren said, “exhausts the knowledge and talent needed to coordinate funding within the organization.” Yet, it’s still unnerving that 40 percent of our aircraft don’t find any ISIS targets to bomb, possibly because they never receive the confirmation to drop their payloads.