it is time for a Trump - Putin summit to sort out the Battle against ISIS
its time to think about the way forward
Abstract to Executive Summary sent to President-elect Donald J Trump
The battle for Mosul and Raqqa, the eastern and western frontiers of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria, respectively, will play out over the next several months. However, the possibility of a steady advance by Coalition-supported Iraqi forces in both ISIS-controlled cities will from time to time be slowed significantly by the continued use of civilians as human shields and chemical weapons by ISIS.
And, progress in the battle for Mosul is also conditioned by the fact that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have committed only two battalions to Mosul. Although there are Kurdish, Turkish and Shiite militias actively engaged in freeing villages surrounding Mosul from ISIS control, only the Iraqi Security Forces will enter Mosul and engage ISIS directly.
The main thrust of the burden of the battle for Mosul is therefore being borne by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The Iraqi Security Forces ability to carry the fight into Mosul proper continues to be effected by the ability of the reduced size US forces to make up for the Iraqi Forces glaring under capacity in logistics, which results from the fact that the Iraqi Security Forces are very much still in the process of capacity building. Therefore, unless there is a change in battlefield realities, the battle for Mosul will be much slower than if it were conducted by Coalition Forces. The length of a battle is not without consequences.
The decision to open a second (western) front against the contiguous territory held by ISIS stretching from Mosul to Raqqa may induce ISIS to elect to shift assets from Mosul, which ISIS cannot fail to understand that they will lose ultimately, to Raqqa or elsewhere. Such an undertaking would only make strategic and tactical sense, however, if ISIS believed they would stand a better chance of retaining Raqqa or a desert location by exploiting very real tensions between Kurdish and Turkish forces within the anti-ISIS alliance, within Syria.
ISIS may also choose to regroup in the desert e.g., Deir ez Zour, as well as attempt to maintain a presence in western Iraq near al-Qa’im, and simply abandon Mosul where there is at present little chance for ISIS to exploit tensions between the Coalition forces currently engaged in the battle for that city.
A Trump Administration, the US, must somehow maintain both the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the western front and the Iraqi Security Forces in the east of ISIS-held territory, to prevent ISIS from reforming after its loss of Mosul and Raqqa. In short, if the US is to assist local forces to defeat ISIS, it will be necessary to ensure there is the wherewithal to dislodge ISIS by carrying out operations beyond Mosul and Raqqa.
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The battle for Mosul (2016) by Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, with Turkish Army and Shiite militia participation, rages on against a territorially expansive, formidable and well-nestled Islamic State militia.
The first battle for Mosul, the capital of the Ninawa Governorate of northern Iraq, was fought in 2004 following the American invasion of Iraq a year earlier.
Realities on the battlefield, such as, the forced involvement of civilians as human shields, the fact that Mosul is now for all practical purposes surrounded by liberating armies to the north, east, south and west of the city, have reached a stage where all sides should stop and think about the way forward.
It should also be noted that there is no binding arrangement between the members of the multifaceted coalition that has assembled to take Mosul from ISIS, especially concerning how the war should best be conducted. In addition to the lack of an immediate detailed plan for conducting the liberation of Mosul, neither is there sufficient forward planning as to what the long-term goals are beyond a rather vague statement concerning the defeat of the Islamic State and ending their control of the long suffering city.
This does not bode well for the establishment of a lasting governance regime. As it stands the fight against ISIS will be followed by a fight between the temporary coalition partners engaged in the battle to wrestle control of Mosul from ISIS.
There is no discernable consensus between the liberating forces as to who will control the city and the surrounding areas once the Islamic State has been dislodged from Mosul.
The conduct of the campaign to free Mosul has to contend with not only the forced involvement of so many civilians, but an equally challenging decision is to whether the goal is to capture and imprison the vast majority of ISIS fighters, or alternatively to kill the vast majority.
Irrespective of the decisions made in these three areas, they each require a considerable amount of forward planning and facility preparation. We will take a closer look at the implications of the battle for Mosul in relation to the safety of the civilian population of Mosul as well as the decision to attempt to capture and imprison as opposed to the decision to simply kill the vast majority of ISIS fighters.
If, for example, is was the intention of the coalition to press ahead into Mosul proper, inspite of the fact that ISIS militants continue to use the civilian population as human shields, then there are going to be a lot of civilian causalities? And, if so, one should have an idea as to what constitutes an acceptable level of collateral damage, civilian causalities, before the battle commences?