The PJ Tatler

How We're Not Degrading and Destroying ISIS in One Chart

Despite weeks of air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army continues to advance with little sign that they have been slowed down.

Fox News reports that ISIS is making steady progress in conquering Anbar province in Iraq — the same province America shed a lot of blood and treasure in pacifying during the Iraq War. There are reports that IS is closing in on Baghdad, as their forces are just a few miles from the airport.

And in Syria, the Kurdish border town of Kobani is being overrun, as defenders continue to issue pleas for assistance. Here, too, American air strikes have been ineffective in halting the IS advance.

Waves of U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State fighters appear to have done little to stem the terrorist army’s advance in Syria, and now the militants are close to overrunning key positions on the outskirts of Baghdad.

With the world’s eyes on the terrorist army’s siege of the Syrian border city of Kobani, where U.S.-led airstrikes are backing Kurdish fighters, some 500 miles southeast, Islamic State fighters are within eight miles of the Iraqi metropolis. The Islamic militants have reportedly infiltrated the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib, not far from the runway perimeter of Baghdad’s international airport. The suburb is perhaps best known to the west as the site of an infamous prison operated by the U.S. military during the Iraq war.

“Daash is openly operating inside Abu Ghraib,” an Iraqi soldier told McClatchy news service, using a common Arabic term for the Islamic State. “I was at the 10th Division base there two days ago, and the soldiers cannot leave or patrol,” he said. “Daash controls the streets.”

Islamic State’s proximity to the airport is especially worrisome, because they are now armed with shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles with a 20-mile range, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. The weapons, which Islamic State has grabbed up along with tanks, helicopters and fighter planes as it has seized up vast territory in northern Syria and Iraq, could allow the militants to shut down the airport.

Baghdad is guarded by some 60,000 Iraqi soldiers, but the much smaller and extended Islamic State army has sent them scurrying in the past, raising questions about their discipline and U.S. training. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf expressed rare confidence in Iraq’s military on Friday, saying it is capable of defending Baghdad.

“There are places where [the Islamic State] continues to make gains in Iraq,” said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We talked about Hit. We talked about Ramadi. We talked about Fallujah, which is still in contention right now. That’s worrisome, because it’s close to Baghdad.”

The buffer zone that protects Baghdad for now includes much of Anbar province, a key region between Baghdad and Syria. But the Iraqi army’s performance under fire has done little to build confidence.

“The situation in Anbar is really critical,” Falih Al Essawi, deputy head of the Anbar provincial council told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Iraq’s military in Anbar is “continuously losing.”

It is believed (hoped?) that Baghdad itself is in little danger at the moment. Even if Iraq’s army collapses there are several hundred thousand Shia militiamen and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who would fight to the bitter end to save the Shia regime’s capital.

But it raises the question why air strikes are so ineffective? Maybe this chart from BBC compiled from CENTCOM daily reports will shed a little light on the matter:

0000000Two months of air strikes and this is all we have to show for it? Those “armed vehicles” include the ubiquitous “Technicals” — pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in the truck bed. How smart is it to use a $3 million smart bomb to destroy a used Toyota Tacoma?

In fact, air force pilots are complaining that targets to shoot at are hard to come by:

Within the U.S. Air Force, there’s mounting frustration that the air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is moving far more slowly than expected. Instead of a fast-moving operation with hundreds of sorties flown in a single day—the kind favored by many in the air service—American warplanes are hitting small numbers of targets after a painstaking and cumbersome process.

The single biggest problem, current and former Air Force officers say, is the so-called kill-chain of properly identifying and making sure the right target is being attacked. At the moment, that process is very complicated and painfully slow.

“The kill-chain is very convoluted,” one combat-experienced Air Force A-10 Warthog pilot told The Daily Beast. “Nobody really has the control in the tactical environment.”

Does this sound like an Obama operation or what? No one in control, half measures, slow and deliberate when speed and overwhelming power is called for.

Sounds like the rollout of Obamacare.

Call it a “Sham War” or a “Phony War,” it’s not working. If we’re really set on degrading and destroying Islamic State, we’re going about it in a strange way.