The US is about to face a big test in Iraq
Friday, 14 August 2015 15:40

Shafaq News/ We're about to see how successful US troop training has been in Iraq, Military and

Defense News said.

Iraqi security forces, trained and backed by the US, are preparing a final assault on the Sunni city

of Ramadi, a senior coalition official told Jim Michaels of USA Today.

The newspaper called it "the first significant test of American-trained forces against the Islamic

State" terror group (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh).

A Pentagon spokeswoman described the operation as "a slow, methodical, deliberate advance

on the city" about 80 miles west of Baghdad.

About 10,000 troops, 3,000 of whom were trained by the US, will participate in the operation,

according to USA Today. It's likely that Iraqi forces will outnumber ISIS fighters, but it's unclear

exactly how many militants are in the city.

ISIS forces captured Ramadi in May and the militants have been entrenched in the city, located

about 80 miles from Baghdad, since then. Shia fighters backed by Iran planned to take back

Ramadi soon after the city fell, but ISIS still has a hold on the city.

Ramadi fell after ISIS militants overran the city with suicide car bombs. Even though ISIS was

outnumbered by Iraqi soldiers, the Sunni terror group was still able to seize control of the city

when troops protecting it fled.

Now that ISIS has spread out throughout Ramadi, it might be hard to rout them.

"Despite being outnumbered, the militants' defensive posture provides an advantage: They can

fire from bunkers and other concealed locations, and it will be difficult for the coalition to

bombard the militants, who can hide in an urban setting," USA Today noted.

The loss of Ramadi to the terrorists has had ripple effects throughout Iraq — many Sunni

residents of Ramadi who have tried to flee the city have been turned away as they reach

Baghdad, and some Sunnis are reluctantly supporting ISIS for their own survival because they

feel like they've run out of other viable options.

Michael Knights, an Iraq analyst, wrote in Foreign Policy this week that the war against ISIS in

Iraq has been "slowing down."

"The best that can be reasonably expected in 2015 is the stabilization of the cities of Ramadi and

Fallujah," Knights wrote. "No one even talks about liberating Iraq’s second-most populous city,

Mosul, anymore.

Mosul is a major stronghold for ISIS in Iraq that used to be a top priority for the US' plan to

defeat ISIS.

"At this rate, the United States will still be in Iraq when U.S. President Barack Obama leaves

office — an outcome no one, especially the president, wants," Knights wrote.

With a diminished US presence in Iraq and tight restrictions on what US forces are allowed to

do, it will be hard for troops to make quick progress against ISIS. The US train-and-equip

program has been slow going and air strikes have had a limited effect because of a lack of

spotters on the ground and strict rules of engagement, Knights wrote.

Brookings Institute fellow Charles Lister recently wrote a similarly negative assessment of the

war on ISIS. Lister noted that "progress thus far can best be described as a series of loosely

linked tactical gains, rather than a significant strategic advance."

"The stated coalition objective is to 'degrade and destroy' IS as a militant organization, but it

remains a potent armed force capable of capturing valuable territory and inflicting considerable

material damage on its adversaries," Lister wrote. "... IS is clearly a determined enemy and

poses a potent threat that the current coalition strategy is failing to effectively 'degrade and