Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sophisticated Tactics Key to #Isis Strength

A report at the Financial Times, via Mike Shedlock, "Divided Iraq Inevitable; Isis Targets Baghdad Green Zone; Obama's Inane Weapon's Proposal."

It's a lot of cut-and-paste, but here's the interesting part on ISIS, from FT:
“They [Isis] are going against a supposedly professional military force with a speed and ferocity that has the Iraqis taking to their heels,” says Patrick Skinner, a former counter-terrorism officer at the Central Intelligence Agency and now analyst at the Soufan Group. “The Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] are mind-crushingly inept.”

Of immediate concern is the seizure by the jihadis of a range of high-grade military equipment. A force once lightly armed with an arsenal of shoulder-held missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks, Isis is now far more comprehensively kitted out, thanks to its raids on the depots of the Iraqi army’s second motorised division.

Identifying exactly what the jihadi group has in its armoury is complicated because it has been wildly embellishing its capabilities for effect on social media. But even a conservative list – corroborated by intelligence and military officials – is worrying enough. It includes unknown quantities of M114 Humvees, other armoured personnel carriers and Stinger missiles, as well as a huge cache of explosives and small arms and an unspecified number of M198 155m howitzer artillery pieces with a conventional range of 22km.

In July 2012, Isis – then still known as al-Qaeda in Iraq – began the first of two intensive insurgency campaigns that paved the way for its current fight.

“These were intelligent campaigns in design: well-resourced, prepared, executed and adapted,” says Jessica Lewis, a veteran US army intelligence officer who served in Iraq and is now research director at the Institute for the Study of War. “These are not things I might associate with a terrorist organisation. These are things I associate with an army.”

All of which raises questions about just how big Isis is. US intelligence officials posit a central fighting force of 3,000. Military and intelligence analysts put the minimum size of Isis’s larger force at 7,000 to 10,000. “They are not spreading themselves too thinly,” says Ms Lewis.

“They have matched personnel to their objectives carefully.”

As to what those objectives are, Isis’s attack pattern now seems to point squarely in one direction.

“Isis has uncommitted forces proximate to Baghdad,” says Ms Lewis. “They always meant to establish control. They always meant to break the state. They want Baghdad.” And specifically, she adds, the government-protected Green Zone...