Sunday, May 29, 2016

ISIS under pressure in both Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi special forces near Fallujah. AFP.

ISIS is under pressure after three major battles have erupted. AFP. In central Iraq, special forces and other troops are preparing to assault the city of Fallujah. The troops have arrived and are scheduled to attack soon. Thousands of civilians are trying to escape from the city. In the north of Iraq, Peshmerga forces are attacking villages in the Mosul area. 5,500 fighters are attempting to secure the road between Mosul and the Kurdish capital of Arbil. Three villages have already fallen. In Syria ISIS has been attacked by rebels and Kurds near Raqqa. However, ISIS launched an offensive of their own near Aleppo.

My Comment:
Major happenings in both Syria and Iraq. It seems as though ISIS is coming under extreme pressure right now and are being attacked on multiple fronts. It seems likely that the terror group is going to lose quite a bit of territory soon. I'm going to go through each of the regions ISIS is involved in right now in both Iraq and Syria. 

First, ISIS is essentially doomed in Fallujah. That was always the case because Fallujah has been surrounded for quite some time. After being pushed out of Ramadi, ISIS lost their ability to backup the troops trapped in Fallujah. Indeed, ISIS has largely been pushed out of central Iraq, with Fallujah being the last holdout. They still have operational capabilities in the area, the massive suicide bombing campaign in Baghdad is proof of that, but they just don't have the forces to relieve or evacuate Fallujah. 

I think that the fighters trapped in Fallujah know that they are doomed. They are unlikely to surrender so I expect them to fight to the last man. I expect the battle of Fallujah to go much like the battle of Ramadi went. With special forces pinning down ISIS fighters so that US led airstrikes can destroy them. This will cause massive damage to the city and will extract a heavy toll on the civilian populace. And even when (if?) Fallujah is liberated expect the city to be booby trapped and for ISIS snipers to be left behind.

I guess it is possible that the special forces will be overwhelmed with taking the city. These fighters have been involved in many of the most recent battles and have to be close to exhaustion. The regular Iraqi army has proven time and time again that they are basically useless, so if the special forces falter, it is likely to be the Shiite militias that back them up. If that happens, expect a slaughter of civilians in Fallujah...

In the north, ISIS is coming under attack by the Kurds. Iraqi forces in the area have already demonstrated that they aren't competent, so once again it has fallen to the Kurds to fight ISIS. I think that this battle is more of a reaction to ISIS attacks in the region. Remember, ISIS had just launched a major offensive in the area early this month. That attack was pushed back but not before ISIS had broken out and even killed a US Navy SEAL.

My guess is that Kurdish moves in the region are more about protecting their territory instead of taking back the ISIS capital of Mosul. Taking back Mosul is a tall order for the Kurds, given how well defended it is, but securing the highway between the city and the Kurdish capital is a lot more doable. It also protects their territory from ISIS attacks and may discourage ISIS from launching anymore attacks in the area.

In Syria, the ISIS capital of Raqqa is under considerable pressure. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In the south Syrian forces, with Russian support, have taken back the city of Palmyra and may be moving north to secure the capital. To the north, Syrian rebels and Kurds, backed by the Americans, are moving south. 

The good news for ISIS is that the Syrian led assault to the south has fallen apart. Indeed, ISIS was almost able to encircle the city but were stopped in the end, but not before they were able to destroy four Russian helicopters on the ground.  Though ISIS is not able to withdraw troop from the region to fight the Kurds in the north, at the very least some of the pressure has been relieved. 

This is allowing ISIS to attack to the west near Aleppo. Though that battle has been back in forth, with villages changing hands several times, it shows that even under immense pressure, ISIS is still able to conduct offensive operations. 

And ISIS is still a very capable terror organization in both Syria and Iraq. In both countries ISIS has been launching major terrorist attacks in rear areas such as the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and the Alawite enclaves on the Syrian coast.

Globally, ISIS is having a mixed bag of luck lately. Their fortunes have certainly reversed in Iraq and Syria. And efforts to expand in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan have largely been unsucessful. Even their affiliates in Nigeria, Boko Haram have lost most of their territory. But it isn't all bad news for ISIS. They are still expanding rapidly in Libya and they are growing more and more active in Egypt. And Libya is being used as a major infiltration point for ISIS trying to enter Europe...

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