Wednesday, March 4, 2015

D-Day at Mosul

There are many US governmental circles that are throwing nothing less than hissy-fit with respect to the so-called official release of information on the upcoming invasion attempt of Mosul this spring. It’s simply “the art of war”, another layer of deliberate misinformation and disinformation – the sort of information that extends beyond the battlefield to the media – social media – more than ever before. Of course the precise figures on the mobilizing invading force and estimated militant defenders are top secret as well as the actual assessment of ISIS capabilities. The difficult part in any battle is the execution. And no matter how well-planned and well-prepared and inspired the personnel, nothing ever goes according to plan. As boxer/philosopher Mike Tyson infamously stated, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

The comparative numbers appear quite overwhelming in favor of the invading force of 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops  vs. 2000 ISIS fighters in Mosul but it’s far more complicated. The critical components are each army’s personnel composition and the will to fight.  With respect to the Iraqi army, its soldiers are mostly Shiite who are attempting to invade a mostly Sunni populated city. Despite the support of American technology and air power, it’s a question of will because the battle is taking place on ISIS home turf, an urban environment that the defenders now know intimately.

The unusual figures publicly supplied by western governmental sources makes you wonder to what extent it’s misinformation and/or disinformation. According to these reports, there are an estimated 2000 ISIS fighters defending Mosul. That figure seems suspiciously unusually low for an occupying force in a city of about one million, the same population as San Jose, California. These 2000 fighters could comfortably occupy one building such as the entire Waldorf Astoria Hotel which has 1400 rooms. If true, this means that ISIS has the tacit, even if reluctant, support of the population, who may not be enamored with their rule, but who are far better than the ruthless Shiite government who governed them until recently.

ISIS is far from this monolithic force, rather a compilation of disparate components whose reasons for joining may not hold strongly under pressure or perhaps may stiffen.. Only under the withering fire of battle will ISIS’ fighting grit be revealed. Is the hardcore, true believer component of ISIS’ indigenous fighters willing to die? Will the foreign fighters, those misfits, outcasts, psychopaths, adventurers, find themselves in too deep, “cut and run” when the going gets tough? Or perhaps do these foreign fighters welcome their destiny as martyrs in one grand bellicose blaze of glory finale? We can’t under-estimate this component because even in the last days of WW II Berlin, the chancellery was fanatically defended by non-German SS troops.

Additionally, it would not be surprising if ISIS forcibly recruits young Mosul male residents to the battlefield or perhaps if ISIS obtains volunteers. In other words, ISIS has more sympathizers than is publicly acknowledged a factor which provides it with the determined will to fight hard.

With respect to the battle terrain, urban guerrilla warfare is a nasty undertaking, an arduous block-by-block slugfest where everyone and anyone can be an enemy combatant. One clever defensive strategy used throughout history is luring part of the Iraqi army into the city with no or minimal resistance - then cutting them off and pinning them down.  Either they must fight their way forward, retreat back or the Iraqi soldiers outside the city must fight their way in to rescue their comrades.

It goes without saying that Iraqi army POWs will be mercilessly executed. These horrific acts have always happened historically but in today’s globalized social media for anyone with a handheld device, such horrific executions appear shockingly psychologically visceral and can profoundly affect even military operations on how or whether they will continue.

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