Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad

Gary Anderson

Now that Americans are dropping bombs on the forces of al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, it may be appropriate to examine his warfighting style.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.

Like the prophet Mohammed from whom he claims descent, al-Baghdadi sees himself as a soldier-Imam and recognizes no difference between fighting, governing, and religion. This allows him to flow seamlessly between mediums. If we write him off as a mere terrorist, we make the mistake of underestimating him. He is generally considered to be a crackpot by serious Islamic scholars, but he controls a tract of land that includes most of al-Anbar province, much of eastern Syria, and Iraq’s second largest city; that makes him a serious player in the region. However, we should also beware of making him out to be ten feet tall. If we are going to deal with him, we need to understand how he fights and governs as well as his strengths and weaknesses.

There is both military art and science behind al-Baghdadi’s recent successes. His approach is different from western military leadership practices, but it is not unique in history. He seems to have borrowed some elements of the warfighting styles of the Prophet Mohammed and Genghis Khan as well as the some political-strategic approaches of Lenin and Hitler. Whether these were adopted from a study of history or the serendipitous outcome of pure talent is somewhat irrelevant. To date, al-Baghdadi has achieved significant results. We can’t fully understand his thought process but we can study his methods and the principles he employs. These are discussed below.

KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR ENEMY.  Like the forces of Genghis Khan, al-Baghdadi’s army consists of a small group of professionals; they are largely comprised of veteran foreign fighters. To enhance unit cohesion, al-Baghdadi appears to keep them in national units. This also helps internal communication as the chance of confusion due to dialects is reduced by keeping countrymen together.

Al-Baghdadi has surrounded himself with loyal, battle hardened sub-commanders who he trusts enough to send on independent missions. This reliance on commanders empowered to make decisions based on the intent of the overall commander allows agility unheard of in Damascus and Baghdad where commanders are judged more on perceived loyalty to the leader than on competence. This is a great tactical advantage for the self-proclaimed Caliph.

Al-Baghdadi will employ suicide bombers when it serves his purpose, but he appears to use more expendable local volunteers or “draftees” for such missions as combat experienced jihadists do not appears to be viewed as expendable for suicide missions. Although they would likely welcome eventual martyrdom, Baghdadi uses them for more high value combat operations.

Regarding understanding enemies, al-Baghdadi has four categories of opponents that he is simultaneously dealing with. The first is the Syrian Army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies. Second are the loosely organized moderate Syrian rebel militias. A third grouping are the Jihadist Syrian rebels who claim allegiance to al Qaeda’s main arm under Baghdadi’s rival Ayman al-Zawahiri. Finally there are Shiite forces of the Iraqi army which include both the regular Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias. Al-Baghdadi appears to modify his tactics to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of various categories of foes. To date, he has bested most of his adversaries. His only significant tactical setback was the failure to take control of the Baji oil fields from Iraqi regular force commandos.

PRACTICE MANEUVER WARFARE. The army of the newly proclaimed Caliphate is well versed in the theory and practice of maneuver warfare. Maneuver Warfare is not just about movement. It is about putting of all of your force’s effects where they will do the most damage to the enemy. Al-Baghdadi has proven adept at the key tenants of maneuver warfare:

Avoiding Surfaces and Exploiting Gaps. Al-Baghdadi understands the concept of striking the enemy where he is weak and avoiding his foes’ strengths; this is true of physical military capability as well as the exploitation of enemy moral weaknesses. He exploits reconnaissance and intelligence to gauge whether an operation is doable. In Mosul, al-Baghdadi judged Iraqi army leadership to be rotten to the core and was able to take the city with a main force of about 800 men routing thousands of Iraqi government security forces after their leaders fled. However, when Iraqi government commandos provided steadfast resistance at the Baji oil fields, al-Baghdadi’s commander on the scene recognized a surface and moved on to softer targets.

Attack the Enemy’s Moral Cohesion. Through the selective use of terror, al-Baghdadi has gotten inside the opponent’s decision cycle. Iraqi government commanders in Baghdad found themselves issuing orders to subordinate leaders who have left the field. Junior soldiers woke up to see their commanders boarding mini-busses and panicked fearing the fate of fellow soldiers who had previously surrendered only to be massacred. This deliberate use of terror is selective as was the case with Genghis Khan. He massacred the populations of the first cities of any region that he attacked, and the word got around that resistance was futile. The great Khan conquered many cities, but based on his reputation, he had to lay siege to very few.

This moral and morale superiority has allowed fast moving jihadist flying columns traveling in light trucks that can mix with civilian traffic to strike their enemies where his forces are weak or non-existent. The collapse of whole provinces more closely resembled Hitler’s blitzkrieg through France and the Low Countries than the guerrilla war that Americans experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is also similar to the tactics of Genghis Khan who made advancing Mongol forces seem to be much larger  than they were and to be everywhere at once. Fear induced reporting turned battalions into regiments, regiments into divisions, and divisions into “hordes”.

Use of Terror and Psychological Warfare as Supporting Arms. The previously mentioned use of executions to induce the enemy run rather than stand and fight is a form of tactical psychological operations. On the strategic level, al-Baghdadi makes adept use of information warfare to include sophisticated humor. After his forces captured much American material, Baghdadi’s propagandist personnel photo chopped Michelle Obama’s famous picture holding up a placard with the “# Bring back our girls”. The modified ISIS Twitter hash tag read “# Bring back our Humvees”. His sophisticated internet and social media based recruiting campaign has brought foreign fighters flocking to his banner to include many European Muslims and a considerable number from the United States. The fact that these volunteers hold passports from the countries in question is an ominous omen for the future.

The great Khan spread his propaganda message by rumor and fifth column plants disguised as merchants; al Baghdadi uses the social media and the web. His web site recently posted a video with graphic and horrifying images of government soldiers and Shiite militiamen being executed. This is obviously having a chilling effect on the morale of the government security forces.

Employ Useful Idiots as Fifth Columns and Auxiliaries. Here, al-Baghdadi has skilfully used tactics that he may well have learned from reading about Hitler and Lenin; like them, he has used Sunni unhappiness with the Shiite/Alawite governments in Baghdad and Damascus respectfully to create alliances of convenience that swell his ranks, provide intelligence, and potentially incite local uprisings that force government foes to be looking for potential enemies in all directions.

Recent interviews with Sunni sheikhs and former Baathist officials fighting alongside Baghdadi’s forces indicate that they think they can control al-Baghdadi in the end. This sounds frighteningly similar to comments by German conservatives about Hitler in the early 1930s and Russian liberals about Lenin in the immediate aftermath of the 1917 revolution. Once the usefulness of these partners had diminished and the two dictators consolidated power; many of the collaborators found themselves in concentration camps, in front of firing squads, or on the wrong end of a rope.

A recent Washington Post interview with citizens of the heavily Sunni Baghdad  district of Amiriyah in Baghdad indicates that many are prepared to rise up as a fifth column in support of advancing Caliphate forces if they decide to move on the Iraqi capital. This probably says more about the incompetence and stupidity of the Maliki regime than in does about al-Baghdadi’s genius, but the intelligence provided is in itself a valuable force multiplier for the jihadist leader.

Use Mission Orders to Enhance Operational Security. Telling subordinates what to do, not how to do it, is a basic tenant of maneuver warfare; but it also allows Baghdadi to command and control his forces with an absolute minimum of cell phone and radio communications that are subject to American intercepts which can be provided to Iraqi security forces. Baghdadi makes extensive use of runners and motorcycle messengers to keep his opponents in the dark.

American commanders talk a good game about Maneuver Warfare, but many take advantage of technology and secure communications to micromanage. It is not unusual for an American Colonel to be tracking squad sized units on his computer; worse still, it is not unusual to require American squad and platoon sized units to submit detailed patrol plans three days in advance so they can be plotted into computers. Baghdadi can simply say; “take this town and let me know when you have it”. It doesn’t make him a good guy, but he is a very effective military leader. Contrast this with Maliki and Karzai who will move or fire a commander who appears so competent or popular that he might become a competitor for power.

Use the Tools at Hand When Appropriate. The forces of the Caliphate, formerly known as ISIS, have made wise use of captured equipment. Al-Baghdadi has resisted the temptation to use captured American supplied armor because he obviously realizes that it will be vulnerable to Iraqi government airpower and American armed drones should the Obama administration authorize their use. Tanks armored vehicles also use fuel and require sophisticated maintenance. However, they make great propaganda fodder.

However, Baghdadi’s forces used bulldozers to tear down fences and cover advancing ISIS troops to rout regular Iraqi defenders until the commandos arrived to stabilize the situation. There are indications that he has used captured Iraqi army vehicles to mix in with Iraqi forces and sew further confusion.

The Caliphate’s recent capture of a Hussein era chemical site gives the western and regional observers more reason for concern. AQI was playing with chemical weapon precursors years ago. Although the Iraqis say anything there is dormant, they have been wrong about so many things for so long that their credibility on this subject is questionable.

MAKE WAR SUPPORT ITSELF. Baghdadi’s forces have used captured fuel, food, and money to support their army. Like Napoleon’s Grand Army, they have lived off the land and are now levying taxes on the populations that have come under their control. This frees them from the onerous challenges associated with maintaining long lines of communication and hoards of support troops and allows their forces to be much more agile. 

This loot has probably made the Caliphate the richest jihadist organization in the world. This largesse frees the Caliphate from being beholden to other Jihadist groups and Sunni governments. It is this kind of independence that allows al-Baghdadi to thumb his nose at Zawahiri and al-Qaeda central.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESSES. Although Baghdadi has proven to be a formidable foe, he is not ten feet tall. His movement has exploitable weaknesses. At the present time, no single regional actor would be able to defeat him. Neither the Iraqi nor the Syrian armies have the wherewithal to engage in full scale urban combat to expel the forces of the Caliphate from urban enclaves such as Mosul, Fallujah, or Tikrit. Even if they are supported by Iranian Quds forces or Lebanese Hezbollah, the regular armies of Iraq or Syria will lack the capability to clear urban areas defended by Caliphate forces. None-the less, against a skilled western military force, these weaknesses are very exploitable.

Governing is More Difficult than Conquering. The Caliphate’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), found this to be true in Iraq, and modern Jihadists have done poorly in ruling almost any time they take control of an area. A recent poll in the Gaza strip reveals that eighty percent of residents are dissatisfied with Hamas governance to include the delivery of services. Jihadist rule in the areas of Iraq, Somalia and Mali that they briefly controlled were equally disastrous.

Their rigid imposition of Sharia law was one of the key factors that caused Sunnis in Iraq’s al Anbar province to turn against AQI in the Anbar Awakening in 2006-7. In Mosul, it initially appeared that the Caliphate had learned the lesson of not being too rigid in imposing their version of Sharia; however, in recent weeks, al-Baghdadi’s administrators have cracked down hard; this is particularly true in the case of women and Christians. Eventually this will wear heavily on the populations under Caliphate rule; if they crack down too hard on the proud Sheikhs and former Baathists that are now the Caliphate’s allies, the potential for “Awakening II” much more likely. There have been recently manifestations this in attacks on Islamic State fighters following the Caliphate’s ill-advised destruction of thr Tomb of Jonah. It is hard to see how small numbers of jihadists can long maintain control of cities such as Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit without the support of the tribal system. Napoleon and the Prophet Mohammed allowed considerable latitude among their allies as long as they did not interfere with overall governance. It remains to be seen if Baghdadi has that level of wisdom. The recent exile of Christians from Mosul contrasts sharply with Mohammed’s relative tolerance toward Jews during the first Jihad when he treated them as allies as long as they kept within the basic moral guidelines of their religious practice.

At Least, We Know Where They Are. If they expect to govern; the Caliphate’s leaders will have to have fixed offices, police positions, and operate infrastructures such as electric sub-stations, cell phone towers and water infrastructure. Unlike insurgencies and normal terror operations, it will be more difficult to hide among the population; this will make conventional targeting much easier.

POTENTIAL KEY MISTAKES. The real challenge for al Baghdadi will to avoid some key mistakes made by conquerors in the past; some had spectacular success early and disastrously failed later. Others have known when to quit.

Overreach. Napoleon and Hitler both made this mistake in attacking Russia. Julius Caesar limited his military reach, but overstepped his political bounds after winning a succession of civil wars; he was eventually assassinated by his colleagues in the Roman Senate. Stalin was smart enough not to push his luck too far. His decision not to advance into Denmark in May 1945 avoided so angering the western allies in a way that would risk military confrontation with them.

Culminating Point. This is the tactical manifestation of overreach. It is outrunning your supplies or having such long lines of communications that you have more troops guarding your rear than at the tip of the sphere. Army’s that live off the land, such as that of the Caliphate does are particularly vulnerable to scorched earth tactics. For example; if al-Baghdadi ever takes it into his head to invade Iran to finish off the Shiites once and for all, he will be in trouble if the Iranians adopt a scorched earth policy. He will then have to develop a conventional supply system which will be vulnerable to air interdiction.

Inciting the Americans. This would be the ultimate mistake for al-Baghdadi. He has made the obligatory threats to attack America required of a good Jihadist, and he knows that the American people think they are tired of war. The reality is that most of our country has never experienced war; many

Americans are just tired of hearing about it. It is one thing to attack a diplomatic outpost or US military installation overseas, but a 9-11 style attack on the American homeland would be a game changer, as probably would be the use of chemical weapons or a dirty bomb on American soil.

As previously mentioned, with the possible exception of the French or British, only the Americans have the experience and skill in urban combat and the technology to root the Caliphate’s forces from their urban strongholds and destroy Baghdadi’s ability to wage conventional combat. Al Baghdadi will have to carefully weigh the glory that might be obtained by a successful strike on the American homeland with the potential consequences. If he does this, he will risk being pushed back into operating out of safe houses and being again relegated to terror attacks after the American destroy his conventional military capability.

IS AL-BAGHDADI A ONE MAN SHOW? We Americans have had an obsession with destroying jihadist leadership cadres. In many cases, we have merely culled out older leadership only to see it replaced with more ambitious and competent leaders. That raises the question of how indispensable al-Baghdadi is to his movement. Mohammed’s death slowed jihadist momentum for years while his successors fought for power, and the Sunni-Shiite split still divides Islam today. The possibility of al-Baghdadi’s jihad imploding is one potential outcome if we are successful in eliminating him. Jihads have a bad tendency to turn inward on themselves and this one seems already to be doing so with the Zawahiri-Baghdadi split. An intramural fight for control among Baghdadi’s would-be successors would undoubtedly weaken the movement. But there is another scenario.

The Genghis Khan model is another potential outcome. Like the great Khan, Baghdadi has stressed initiative and independent action among his subordinates. If he designates a successor, the potential for internal conflict may be lessened. When Genghis died, there was a reasonably smooth succession; and the Mongol Hordes rumbled on.

The region and the rest of the world would undoubtedly be better off if al-Baghdadi suddenly dies, but there is no guarantee that his demise will be the end of his Caliphate or its army. We would be wise not to underestimate this self-declared Caliph. Those who dismiss him as a mere terrorist do so at the risk of their reputations. Baghdadi may not be a Napoleon or Genghis Khan yet, but he owns territory that he has taken. In the neighborhood he lives in, possession is nine tenths of the law.

For the moment, we have to assume that al-Baghdadi and his Caliphate will remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future; but we also need to realize that, sometime in the future, we will come to blows with the organization. When that time comes, the more we know about how they think and how they fight the better off we will be.

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs where he teaches Red Teaming.

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Three facts no one seems to factor in:

1. Obama is a muslim. He is closely associated with the people that have planned this whole scenario. He is NOT our friend. (If you think everything that is happening in the middle east AND America just came out of thin air, Glenn Beck told us EXACTLY what would happen and is happening back when he was still on FOX! He knows Obama's boss'playbook)

2. He has a senate that will follow him into hell.

3. If our troops were allowed to fight without having their hands tied behind their backs, we wouldn't be needing to have this conversation.

I respectfully disagree about the Americans being tired of "hearing about it." I wrote this on another thread and it goes here too:

And the American people are not so much tired of war, as wary that our involvement never brings the benefits promised. I am so tired of this blaming the American people for being tired when they are simply more resilient than they once were and are less likely to be railroaded into something rash.

If only the DC consensus were evolving.

ISIS wants to involve the US, they are baiting us just as Al Qaeda hoped to bait us to do something rash. So, whatever we do has to balance many things:

1. How much domestic maneuver room the President has. These are the wages of sin for the DC consensus which fear mongers continuously. The story of crying wolf.

2. Presidents must factor in domestic will, because they cannot extend campaigns if they don't have them. And the attempts to manipulate the people via information operations has backfired dramatically on the military, especially given the behavior during the Afghan surge. Americans are wary because of the many ways in which they have been manipulated "for their own good." We are all neocons now, I suppose, eh DC consensus.

3. The contradictory policy toward Syria, Russia and Iran which parallels our contradictory policies in AfPak, where we supported both insurgency and counterinsurgency. And so we both support and work against ISIS in complicated ways. The President must have room to right this, but it is likely domestic interest groups will work against this.

4. Avoid being baited by ISIS so that we inadvertently spread more disorder, as we took the bait by Al Qaeda.

5. At this point in time, Drucker trumps Kraemer. This remains a consistent weak link intellectually for many a military intellectual. Sometimes, Drucker trumps Kraemer. Al Q types purposely hope we forget this, so that we bleed cash and break our economies, which is our real strength. But if you spend your life treating the American people like a piggy bank that owes you, well, then, it's hard for the military-industrial-Washington Consensus crew to understand where money really comes from.

And so on.

Thoughtful piece. Thank you.

Col. Anderson writes:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.

That was my original impression, too, but Juan Cole's comment is worth noting:

Ibrahim al-Badri, a run-of-the-mill Sunni Iraqi cleric, gained a degree from the University of Baghdad at a time when pedagogy there had collapsed because of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and international sanctions. After 2003 he took the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and turned to a vicious and psychopathic violence involving blowing up children at ice cream shops and blowing up gerbils and garden snakes at pet shops and blowing up family weddings, then coming back and blowing up the resultant funerals. This man is one of the most infamous serial killers in modern history, with the blood of thousands on his hands, before whom Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy fade into insignificance.

http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/caliphates-baghdadis-grandiosity.html

I should add that Joas Wagemakers is also (I believe) an Arabnist and respected scholar, and proposed the view that al-Baghdadi is a reputable scholar on Jihadica:

Apart from al-Baghdadi’s family background, he is also a scholar of Islam according to al-Athari, having obtained an MA-degree in Qur’anic studies and a PhD in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and having written a book on tawhid (the unity of God). This com[b]ination of Islamic knowledge and Prophetic descent makes him a special man indeed, al-Athari claims.

http://www.jihadica.com/al-qaida-advises-the-arab-spring-the-case-for-al...

Whether that represents Wagemakers' own estimation of al-Baghdadi's credentials, or only that of al-Athari who may be presumed to wish to view them in the best light, I cannot tell.

Hence, from my POV, the importance of considering both versions...

This then begs an interesting question and point---if he studied that deeply say before we entered Iraq in 2003 then he must have been aware of the Salafist resistance efforts directed against Assad and he must have been aware of the Islamic Army of Iraq led by Mashhadani as the IAI and QJBR were from a personnel level extremely intertwined as early as 2001/2002.

If he was that well trained in Islamic studies he must have come to the attention of the Iraqi Intelligence Service at least prior to 2003 who kept a good check over those students due to the Salafist movement.

Secondly, with that level of Islamic studies he would have been at least a spiritual advisor (Amir) to Zarqawi and company in Mosul were he was captured and one wonders the reason he was targeted by the US in 2005? But in 2006 there was indications that the existing Amir to AQI had in fact left Mosul for Syria under pressure from JSOC. So did al Baghdadi assume this role thus his capture?

Thirdly, if he had that level of Islamic studies then what was his role inside the Abu Ghraib and then Bucca prisons especially among the foreign fighters and AQI fighters who had been captured, and why was not his importance then seen by the US intel community in 2005/2006?

Meaning basically how did he fly under the radar for 4 years while in prison? His Islamic education would have made him an automatic religious leader inside both prisons and that must have come to the attention of the MPs and the intel personnel working in those two prisons.

Outlaw:

Such questions are well beyond my competence, but I'd be very interested to hear comments from others. My point in commenting was merely to suggest we shouldn't neceassarily take the statement that Baghdadi "holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary" without further examination.

Major General Qassem Suleimani. Defending against the Jihadi pickup truck swarms, accompanying suicide attacks, and their 20mm/23mm anti-aircraft guns has been done successfully since 2012 up in Syria.

The key tactics for defense go to architectural adjustments: the checkpoints are moved out away from common areas and main defenses. Instead of defending at the walls, perimeter defense gets tight out 10 kilometers. That is demanded by the effective range of 120mm rifled mortars. At gun positions, defenders need earthworks to match the anti-aircraft guns.

al-Qusayr model defense works well enough against repeated waves of Jihadi assaults. Since the ISIS incursion in June, these forces have lost four battles as well as failing to take the big oil refinery.

-- At Tikrit to a 3,000 man counterattack after the perimeter defense was put in place;

-- the Al-Sahra Air Base to first-rate use of small arms and artillery;

-- at Samarra to a very strong defense; and

-- to another 2,000 man counterattack by Kurdish forces near Rabia and Sinjar.

al-Baghdadi as a new Ghengis Khan ? Really? Where did that come from? What these AQI-ISIS forces did was to figure out an attack scheme that exploits suicide bombers and the AA guns. Beats the band stomping on local militias.

Then they ran into Suleimani at Samarra (where he was sleeping in the cellar at the al-Askari Shrine) and Tikrit, just like al-Qusayr. At Tikrit their invasion force collapsed under counterattack.

The Mongols were a nation. AQI-ISIS is not. The Mongol horses were the main battle tanks of their age. AQI-ISIS pickup trucks, not. And Suleimani is the real thing for military and political matters as he has proved over 35 years. More likely than a Caliphate of more than temporary existence, a powerful counterattack this fall has prospects of rolling up the No Defense AQI-ISIS and setting up what is effectively a Shia Cresent some 1,500 miles across, spanning land from Beirut to eastern Iran.

For Sunni in the area that has to be better than domination by Sharia-loving psychopaths.

And this is exactly why the KSA is in the hegemony fight with Iran using IS as the tactical element.

"......and setting up what is effectively a Shia Cresent some 1,500 miles across, spanning land from Beirut to eastern Iran."

The "Green Crescent" which many commenters here state is really nothing---was put into play by Khomeini in 1979---but not the 1500 miles you talk about--rather from Pakistan (and some say beginning in India) over AFG over Iran over Iraq and on to Syria and into Lebanon.

And has driven since 1979 the KSA to attempt to contain it.

Your comments are interesting but in fact IS is expanding even deeper into Syria and Assad's army is again on the losing end.

Some Iranians may dream of extending a Shi'a ""Green Crescent" into Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, but given that the Shi'a are a minority in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a minority within a minority in India, it hardly seems a realistic or credible aspiration.

Is there any hard evidence suggesting that ISIS is a "tactical element" of Saudi policy, or that they are in any way under Saudi control?

Dayuhan---simple Google together the KSA, funding, AQ, Qatar, and ISIS.

It's well known of course that individuals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States do channel money to ISIS and other such groups, mainly via Kuwait. It's also well known that one of the key elements in the ongoing spat between the KSA and Qatar is the Saudi view that the Qataris are too willing to channel funds to extremist groups that the Saudis view as a threat to their security. The extent to which ISIS currently depends on those funds is debatable, as suggested here:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/saudi-funding-of...

Although Saudi donors and other private contributors were believed to be the most significant funding source for the original forerunner to ISIS, the importance of such donations has been marginalized by the group's independent sources of income. This income, which is now estimated to overwhelmingly exceed private donations, is generated by activities such as smuggling (of oil, weapons, antiquities), extortion (e.g., the group levies around $8 million per month in "taxes" on local businesses), and other crimes (e.g., robberies, counterfeiting). The group's June 11 seizure of Mosul's central bank alone netted tens of millions of dollars (though U.S. officials note that the $400 million figure often cited in connection with the heist is not accurate).

I see no evidence to suggest that ISIS is in any way controlled by the Saudi government, or that it is an instrument of Saudi policy.

Dayuhan---will flip the argumentaion on it's head for you.

One would in theory argue that the Islamic battle cry "Allah Akbar" is what used mainly in AQ, IS, and other Salafist videos right?

So if the Islamist battle cry is used say by Russian Chechens in a Russian SF unit (being shouted in a Russian separatist released battle video inside the Ukraine) does that point to Russia supporting Islamists?

No, it points to Russia using Islamists for its own puirposes, and Islamists being willing to be used... though whether the Chechens in question are actually Islamists or just using a traditional battle cry remains an open question. Either way, I don't see the relevance to the question under discussion.

Of course the Saudi leaders know that ISIS is fighting the Shi'a, and they presumably approve of that. They also know that ISIS dreams of taking Saudi Arabia and disembowelling them, and they probably disapprove of that. They know that Saudis fighting with ISIS are likely to try to come home and make a mess, and they probably aren't very excited about that either. What they can or are willing to do about it is another question.

Dayuhan--just an example of one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist---the KSA has always been tied into the AQ/IS fight as money always gets one's attention these days and if the IS takes on Assad and the Iranian/Iraqi Shia militia's then score one point for the home team KSA.

It is not rocket science these days--and sometimes simple is really what it is all about.

Just as the Russians fight Islamists they also have the loyalty of Islamists who fight in the Russian Army.

One of the fundamental and unique problems when dealing with organizations that declare themselves the vanguard of Sunni Islam is the availability of vast amounts of untraceable money that originates from the KSA. Of the 2000 Royal princes there are probably a hundred who are plotting to overthrow the current leadership of the Al Saud. And those boys and girls know how to party and splash the cash like no other.

Literally billions of dollars of cash can be passed to whoever they choose. The Dept of Zakat and Tax is never going to question anything the Royals are doing – they are too busy hounding Filipino maids and Pakistani construction workers.

This is a unique arrangement for an irregular force. One week they may choose to ‘swim among the people’ to avoid airstrikes and the next week slaughter the very same people who sheltered and fed them to create the ‘terror’ they need to stick on YouTube.

In order to survive/thrive they don’t need to tax the general population for food, shelter, manpower or intel in a sustainable way. Unlike all other guerrilla armies thru history the Saudi model allows you to simply buy it.

In the unlikely event these proxies exhaust the coffers of their Royal patrons they can then tap into the vast wealth of the Saudi commoners.

There are many very wealthy businessman in the KSA who secretly harbor political ambition. For example the world’s biggest construction company is a Saudi entity. The name of the owner escapes me at the moment but perhaps a few folks around here will know it.

RC

By a long shot a very interesting article.

Not to be funny, I would like to point out that if sharia is not that popular in Syria and Baghdad, Mr. Gary Anderson would potentially be taking soccer lessons from a modern and friendly fellow who is otherwise known as Al-Baghdadi.

A question most practitioners, including Gary, have failed to ask is why in a modern world someone would embrace armed jihad.

These are not the times of the good prophet, when jihad was an important way of acquiring material benefits.

At the moment, to enrich oneself, one has to focus on studies, training etc. This is not just American dream, but the essence of embracing modernity.

However, if a community swaps quite a bit of modernity for sharia, the equation changes dramatically. Now, self-empowerment is not that much of a priority and the community as a whole starts to develop a regressive outlook.

This is what creates conditions for people to embrace armed jihad.

In other words, jihad is NOT the real problem, but sharia is!

No kidding, we can turn this thing around in a matter of few years by focusing on you know what.

Here are two articles of mine that explore this angle in greater detail.

http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/node/1556

http://www.albanygovernmentlawreview.org/archives/pages/article-informat...

I don’t find it surprising our UW opponents of the past 50 years use Mission Command, but I know for a fact they are very surprised that we don’t use it.

For sure as MF suggests there is a possibility Mission Command would not be suitable for a peer on peer conventional war but the Germans invented Auftragstaktik (Mission Tactics) as a command philosophy for large conventional forces. Furthermore it was meant to be embraced by Generals as well as Sergeants and not just a tool for the highly experienced and resourceful individual or a Command that had a large Staff to fall back on.

How it works in a guerrilla army is a ‘company’ commander will make his way to HQ and get a short meeting with the boss. He might have been summoned there or he may have put forward a possible objective for his ‘company’. There is a brief description of the objective and then a request for money, food and ammo is put to the boss.

If there is agreement on the mission he is sent out with a requisition chit for money, food and ammo. He spends the next week/month haggling with no end of assholes to get what the boss signed for. Finally he gets half of what he was promised and he returns to his men and they attempt to carry out the mission.

There may be a hundred of these ‘company’ commanders doing this every month through this particular HQ. The idea someone is going to tell or advise the 'company' commander (who was probably born in a hut overlooking the enemy FOB/COP) how and when he goes about his task is a no-brainer.

The boss’s next input will be after the mission is completed and the 'company' commander is sitting in front of him with good news/bad news and perhaps details of another mission.

Obviously not everyone is suited to this form of duty. If they are foolish enough to bullshit their way into a mission command they will not survive. Whether they are killed outright or their company is wiped out, either way they won’t be meeting the boss again. This law of the jungle approach might not be for everyone’s taste but then it discourages those who are not leadership material and blocks one of the paths careerists and micro-managers use to poison the chain of command.

GA wrote:

‘Al-Baghdadi will employ suicide bombers when it serves his purpose, but he appears to use more expendable local volunteers or “draftees” for such missions as combat experienced jihadists do not appears to be viewed as expendable for suicide missions.’

In my experience this has always been the case for all suicide attacks. I would go even further and suggest most suiciders are mentally handicapped – some severely so. They are recruited on that basis. On top of that many are completely stoned most of the time - including the terminal phase of their attack. As a consequence I would suggest they are not a indicator of the ideological make-up/conviction of the regular fighters.

RC

Great analysis by Gary Anderson but ... no mention of the Kurds?

Is it not interesting that it appears that al Baghdadi seems to have read the JCoS's own article referencing Mission Command from 2012.

All the points the author makes about his command and leadership style and how his field commanders operate comes right out the article---and we could never get the attention of the Force in 2012/2013 to fully understand the significance of Mission Command---appears Baghdadi fully understands and practices it.

"Use Mission Orders to Enhance Operational Security. Telling subordinates what to do, not how to do it, is a basic tenant of maneuver warfare; but it also allows Baghdadi to command and control his forces with an absolute minimum of cell phone and radio communications that are subject to American intercepts which can be provided to Iraqi security forces. Baghdadi makes extensive use of runners and motorcycle messengers to keep his opponents in the dark."

Secondly, the IS and the Sunni Coalition are making great use of "swarm tactics" which were first used against us and we as well then did not grasp the significance of them---we just defined them as "complex attacks" and left it at that. Discussing the concept of "swarm attacks" seemed to be not of a high interest either at the national training centers nor in the various school houses.

But if one goes back in and looks at the 1st Cav Baqubah attacks in 2007 one sees the beginnings of "swarm attacks".

And again look at the large scale attacks on the prisons that IS/Sunni Coalition conducted in 2013/2014 and you will see them again.

Also if one looks at the various AQI and Sunni insurgency campaigns from 2004 until 2010--they fully understood maneuver warfare far better than we did ---go back and plot every attack region by region and you will notice an ebb and flow that kept the US Army constantly adjusting and moving troop units around to confront the various ebbs and flows.

They remained always in place or close by and we were always on the move--once we moved away to other locations they then restarted the ebb and flow all over again.

It is as if one does not want to recognize just how the IS/Sunni Coalition have been fighting since before 2002 as it would in fact challenge the concept of COIN that made us comfortably feel we were winning.

Just look at the early reports coming out now on how the IS adjusted quickly and changed tactics when they were bombed.

The Force has argued since 2008 that it is an "adaptive thinking" Force---IS and the Sunni Coalition takes it to a new height.

Al Baghdadi is worth a case study for incoming new officers at West Point.

Would be interesting to see what was in his Bucca prison files and why his ability was not seen by the intelligence community.

Use Mission Orders to Enhance Operational Security. Telling subordinates what to do, not how to do it, is a basic tenet of maneuver warfare; but it also allows Baghdadi to command and control his forces with an absolute minimum of cell phone and radio communications that are subject to American intercepts which can be provided to Iraqi security forces. Baghdadi makes extensive use of runners and motorcycle messengers to keep his opponents in the dark.

American commanders talk a good game about Maneuver Warfare, but many take advantage of technology and secure communications to micromanage. It is not unusual for an American Colonel to be tracking squad sized units on his computer; worse still, it is not unusual to require American squad and platoon sized units to submit detailed patrol plans three days in advance so they can be plotted into computers. Baghdadi can simply say; “take this town and let me know when you have it”.

Outlaw, your career and NTC experience is indisputable. However, I believe some of your mission command philosophy results from artificialities of NTC and your independent SF ODA experience where everyone is competent and you are left largely to your own devices. Is that the case in Big Army where multiple units with varying levels of individual and unit experience must be synchronized with one another towards a larger objective?

In regular platoons with 2LT leaders who will lack future wartime experience, some things must be spelled out. In addition, if a battalion commander provided nothing but mission orders in a battalion operation, his/her companies would not be synchronized in their actions or in time and space. The company commanders could attempt to synchronize on their own but lack staffs to do so. At BCT level you start to get to the point where individual battalion commanders have earned greater trust and they have staffs to assist and perform MDMP and planning coordination. At division level, mission orders issued to experienced BCT commanders is somewhat the no brainer.

As for technology, perhaps you can reflect on the use of Blue Force Tracker in OIF and perhaps NTC. Awareness of the relative positions of friendly and reported enemy positions allows some level of self-synchronization using BFT to avoid fratricide and maneuver to gaps within the unit lane while avoiding surfaces. At Objective Peach during the march to Baghdad, the lead battalion commander could see on COP screens that the rest of now TRADOC Commander General Perkins BCT was still far away turning around on dikes that were too soft. That allowed him to take the initiative to set up a hasty battalion defense and defeat an Iraqi regiment the next morning.

The same applies using UAS/RPA. You, the Marine author, and many others complain about micromanagement from above. However, that fails to acknowledge the value of having an FSO and ALO watching the same video and being able to bring in artillery and airpower to assist the ground unit. The JTAC whether with the unit or in the TOC can also use the same video effectively and the assistant S-2 can update the COP to show accurate current locations of enemy forces. Reflect on the problems at the Battle of Nasiriyah where fratricide resulted from lack of situational understanding with no full motion video overhead to assist the Marines.

The NTC experience where the OPFOR invariably wins is largely due to their extensive experience on the terrain and numerous repetitions of similar battles. In the case of ISIS/ISIL/IS they are largely improvising and defeating forces that either run due to lack of motivation or run out of ammo in the case of the Pershmerga Kurds. Let's be clear that if typical UAS/RPA operations were in place over NTC, and airpower and actual fires could be brought in based on that video, that no OPFOR victory would be assured. ISIS/ISIL light truck swarms would be devastated and competent Iraq APC cannon and machine gun fire coupled with ample RPGs would be capable of defending.

Taking the initiative when no orders are available and communication is hampered is one thing. Adapting to "no plan surviving contact" based on the commander's intent is commendable. But expecting error free planning and synchronization using excessive mission orders at lower echelons where no staffs exist is a potential recipe for future disaster. That may be one errant overreaction in the overuse of PPT CONOPs required to be sent days in advance. But another explanation is that you can't use your "God gun" to bring that patrol back to life or that two man OP that you boldly emplace at NTC where nobody will actually die and Soldiers won't lose legs from IEDs.

With recent war experiences saying otherwise, perhaps it isn't unreasonable for lieutenants with just one combat tour to get a review from Captains and Majors with multiple deployments to point out any potential problems. Maybe that leads to designation of a main effort for scarce enablers. Maybe it allows synchronization and fratricide avoidance of one patrol with others nearby. Perhaps it allows FSOs to plot fires and potential battle captains to determine air targets and reconnaissance objectives for overwatch from above.

MF---you are right to a degree that I have a rather "colored view" of MC and Rant Corp is also correct but only to a degree.

What RC uses as an example might well fit AFG but it is not the Iraqi model---the author is correct on how he uses the MC concept when talking about the IS/al Baghdadi and the Sunni Coalition.

This is why we the Force "never did get the Iraqi insurgency"---or simply put "we never did understand fully what we were seeing".

Did you ever receive a full briefing that hey commander the enemy here goes through his own target recon, target acquisition, recon phase, planning phase and attack and recover/refit phase---and oh by the way commander he does it on a 14 day targeting cycle.

And oh by the way commander disturb that targeting cycle and you will get at least 14 days of peace and quiet as they reset. By the way some BCTS did get it and did disturb that only forced the insurgency to go to multiple targets to do a workaround.

By 2010 the current Sunni coalition and AQI had become a good adapting beast.

Due to the overabundance of belief in COIN and what the Force interpreted in COIN-we have all the time in the world--most operations took time because along with security ops we had rebuilding the economy, society, and infrastructure that we had to focus on---the insurgent did not and did not care either---but he did constantly attack infrastructure.

The insurgent had us under constant surveillance 24 X 7 and would note immediately our position changes-knew about our raids in advance, had an early warning mechanism for raids and practiced in general a pretty good opsec.

Did they know we were monitoring their cells---yes and they even came up with one time pad concepts, code words and a lot of the time used runners because it was a greater form of opsec.

I could tell you how they detected the first use of our jammers and how they went about detecting the jamming ranges and frequencies--using surveillance, and an internet tea shop, drinking tea, and using Google/Facebook where a young soldier posted his gun truck and proudly announced---"hey I am safe now we have IED jammers"---and the list goes on and on.

The use of swarm attacks takes a high level of MC among the often different participating fighting groups and you might be surprised how detailed they would often go into their ops planning cycle.

And by the way in typical SF fashion they kept their selected targets under surveillance right up to the attack to see if anything changed---if it changed the target was off the table and recycled for a later time.

What the author alludes to though is actually MC as the way the JCoS envisioned it---commanders intent fully understood, trust in the commander/between each office/NCO and open dialogue---then if everything goes totally south then the junior officer/unit even with no radio contact could continue the fight.

There is a voice recording of a famous WW2 German Tank Commander telling his staff and junior commanders before they raced to the Channel---"see you at the end of the railroad station"---what he meant was the last rail station on the French/UK channel coast and then he turned loose his tanks and his Division raced to the channel.

Notice that is what the author is alluding to---this was already being practiced by the current Sunni coalition and AQI starting in mid 1990s for the Sunni Salafists and 2004 for QJBR.

Can and could MC be implemented in the Force--I actually participated in an attempt to train this into Commanders/Staffs---some got it and vastly improved and others failed because the commander could not give up his power for a number of reasons which I would call the culture of the current Army.

Example--take the current Army "values" notice there is no mention of the single word "trust"---many say it is implied--if implied why was it not written?

Al Baghjdadi "trusts" his field commanders and issues intent and then it is up to them much as RC correctly in a nice way writes about.

Al Baghdadi is the key understand him and you will understand his tactics especially if one is ready to go back and recall everything we "saw" but did not take the time to "understand"---it was all there and in front of us.

But again it did not fit the narrative of COIN.

Example--who would have thought that 350 "apparently band of "murder crazed jihadi's" driving around a mountain range using mobile mortar teams and snipers would destroy of the myth of the superiority of the Peshmerga as a fighting force, and cause panic to break out in the political leadership of the western world?

But those tactics were already being practiced by 2008 by the Sunni insurgency and AQI--we just did not see the "swarm" attacks as such-- we declared them simply "complex attacks" and moved on.

MF--check exactly what the IS is up to as of this morning--the bombing had not impressed them at all--they are still moving on Erbil, have expanded their land control against Assad beating his army there badly in the last weeks and expanded their control up to the Turkish border--so there is something we either "missed" or they are just executing via MC what they have learned since the mid 90s and what they learned from the Force.

Example--who would have thought that 350 "apparently band of "murder crazed jihadi's" driving around a mountain range using mobile mortar teams and snipers would destroy of the myth of the superiority of the Peshmerga as a fighting force, and cause panic to break out in the political leadership of the western world?

But those tactics were already being practiced by 2008 by the Sunni insurgency and AQI--we just did not see the "swarm" attacks as such-- we declared them simply "complex attacks" and moved on.

MF--check exactly what the IS is up to as of this morning--the bombing had not impressed them at all--they are still moving on Erbil, have expanded their land control against Assad beating his army there badly in the last weeks and expanded their control up to the Turkish border--so there is something we either "missed" or they are just executing via MC what they have learned since the mid 90s and what they learned from the Force.

The news I watched this morning and the last few days, as well as a number of articles to include ones posted here (US Airstrikes Helped, But Kurds From Syria Turned Tide Against Islamic State) in SWJ Blog seem to indicate the Kurdish PKK and Peshmerga are doing far better than you describe. TuffsNoteNuff also added impressive detail that disputes the notion that swarming small trucks are the cats meow. I recall an ad hoc HMMWV attack in "Lions of Kandahar" by a group of SF HMMWVs racing into a village on line to surprise insurgents. However, those are uparmored systems relative to the bulk of pick-ups running around out there under ISIS/ISIL control.

In addition, perhaps you are forgetting that General Dempsey's entire division back in 2004(?) had to return to Iraq because of a Shiite militia threat rather than a Sunni domination. The 2008 Battle of Sadr City also was against Shiite militias. If those militias had not stood down for a time and had not been defeated in other battles, the coalition would have had far greater problems. In many cases defeating both the Shiite and Sunni fighters required large coordinated formations of Big Army and USMC armor and other Army and Joint enablers...not just SF/SOF on horseback or in small teams practicing mission command over small areas.

Did you ever receive a full briefing that hey commander the enemy here goes through his own target recon, target acquisition, recon phase, planning phase and attack and recover/refit phase---and oh by the way commander he does it on a 14 day targeting cycle.

And oh by the way commander disturb that targeting cycle and you will get at least 14 days of peace and quiet as they reset. By the way some BCTS did get it and did disturb that only forced the insurgency to go to multiple targets to do a workaround.

Great, but I get the impression that you believe that mission command should be hands off of lower echelons by higher to allow expedited, improvised operations all the time by lower level commanders. The problem is that our military has a targeting process as well. You SF/SOF guys and small wars have embraced this find fix finish exploit assess disseminate process. That is based on small target sets that can be identified piecemeal. The Big Army still relies on decide detect deliver assess because too many targets exist in big wars to allocate enough ISR and fires to engage them all so prioritization must occur ahead of time (decide).

That process also takes time just as it does for the threat. If every little small unit is running around wherever it chooses, how do you "deliver" without fratricide of ground or air targets. The JAOC/CAOC goes through a 3-day cycle to build an air tasking order spelling out where aircraft will fly. There also is an airspace control order that requires time to build to safeguard joint airspace. If every BCT is out there firing artillery haphazardly into the air wherever and whenever it wants, airpower is not going to want to come support you or Big Army. And how is that BCT artillery going to know it can fire safely if it has no idea where the friendly ground force is and is going? Doesn't coordination of all this take time at echelons above platoon leader??

The insurgent had us under constant surveillance 24 X 7 and would note immediately our position changes-knew about our raids in advance, had an early warning mechanism for raids and practiced in general a pretty good opsec.

Did they know we were monitoring their cells---yes and they even came up with one time pad concepts, code words and a lot of the time used runners because it was a greater form of opsec.

OK, but I get the impression that you think this improvised mission command technique is superior to our secure radio and network communications to include satellite comms. Isn't our system far better? Admittedly, comms may be degraded by the threat, but a jammer is an emitter, and as you point out our ability to monitor and triangulate threat comms and fires is incredibly impressive. Wouldn't you rather have ours than theirs? Doesn't that require technology?

As for constant surveillance, isn't an aerostat and long endurance medium altitude UAS/RPA about as good as it gets. Can't we see those spotters and runners at times and target them accordingly or at least report them? They can get away with somewhat covert spotters because they are not in uniform and our ROE is more restrictive. As you point out, when we patrol, the bad guys know where we are at all times. Whatever started out as the reconnaissance objective of the patrol is altered by our presence until after we pass by when the bad guys take over again. In addition, the enemy is far more likely to initiate actions that thoroughly ruin whatever reconnaissance we hoped to accomplish by using IEDs, ambushes, and harassing distant fires.

If time exists to provide overhead support and manned aviation for patrols and priority missions whether dedicated or standby, then the enemy ability to disrupt our ground action is degraded. However, as with artillery and fast mover support, UAS/RPA and Army Aviation support require advance knowledge of where ground forces will be and who the priority is for direct and general support. That takes time and higher level coordination of task and purpose to assign the right asset to the correct mission. It cannot be done by letting small units do whatever they want whenever they want to do it.

MF--see this is the problem when multiple commenters comment on multiple fronts--

1. the comments concerning the Peshmerga and PKK are in fact correct--losses for both were just in trying to stop them especially in Diyala were placed at 170 KIA and over 500 WIA---and they actually did not stop the IS---sounds like a meow to me

if in fact the Peshmerga were such great fighter then why the international scream to arm them---were not there reports before IS crossed over that the Peshmaerga units had stood down a ISF division up north over an oil disputed zone and border zone?

2. while IS has everyone looking north and northeast the IS circle is growing tighter around Baghdad which has always been their main goal

one Shia commander defending his Shia shrine north of Baghdad living behind a layered circular defense bunkered in--- is victory right? everywhere else the ISF has "cleaned out" IS in fighting was abandoned and the IS returned later to reoccupy---this is and has been the way the ISF has fought since even when we were there.

on top of this the ISF is now firing indiscriminately into civilian areas using artillery, hellfires, and dropping the Assad proven barrel bombs and that I guess will win friends on the Sunni side since it is Sunni civilians being killed not IS fighters.

3. in a running series of fights with the Assad army who has been evidently declared the winner over the Sunni insurgent groups there and he held an election recently virtually declaring that---his victorious army has been suffering defeat after defeat in the last two weeks with IS expanding their control---that is again what a meow I guess?

4. IS recruitment numbers are going through the roof based on their battlefield successes and that is a good or bad thing? And you have not see nor heard the Sunni tribal leaders pulling back their support of the IS.

And if you have been following my critique of the Army's understanding and attempt at implementing MC in the Force-which included several articles of min on the subject on Tom Rick's Best Defense and my comments here at SWJ on MC related articles then you know my position which has never changed.

Trust, trust, trust---it was and still is missing in current command staffs and with commanders at the BN and higher levels.

Did I miss somewhere in the written Army Values the written word trust?

Or do you think the Force has fully implemented what the JCoS wrote about MC in his 2012 article?

IMO it has not simply because one cannot go to full MC without changing the culture.

Reference your comments on surveillance---just a side comment---go back and count the sheer numbers of different ISR assets thrown into the field in both Iraq and AFG that cost the US taxpayers Billions with a really big B.

End results on the apparent successes--as one can see in AFG they are still throwing IEDs at us in ever larger amounts and numbers, they are still attacking us and in Iraq--we know see the results.

Again while we spent the money and deployed these sheer numbers of ISR assets have you seen a discussion on whether it was effective or not--I have not.

What has on the other hand proven to be an effective ISR asset over and over is the simple insurgent with two eyes, a mouth, and a cellphone.

Simple but effective---and that is not a meow.

Regarding understanding enemies, al-Baghdadi has four categories of opponents that he is simultaneously dealing with. The first is the Syrian Army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies. Second are the loosely organized moderate Syrian rebel militias. A third grouping are the Jihadist Syrian rebels who claim allegiance to al Qaeda’s main arm under Baghdadi’s rival Ayman al-Zawahiri. Finally there are Shiite forces of the Iraqi army which include both the regular Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias.

It isn't in the above quote and maybe I missed it, but no mention of the Kurds is in this analysis? Anthony Cordesman, Fareed Zakaria, and a host of others seem to acknowledge how the Kurds are important and could be a trusted ally in an Iraq that otherwise is fraught with peril to any U.S. service member or diplomat venturing outside the wire. If there is one group not seemingly affected by the idea of jihad and hatred of Americans, it is the Kurds. In addition the Kurds have ample access to north and northeast Syria as well. Even Turkey seems to recognize them as a potential ally and oil trading partner after years of previously attacking Kurd guerillas.

There isn't much use in talking about maneuver warfare because if we really did go beyond the current few token air attacks, maneuvering ISIS/ISIL/IS would get obliterated out in the open. They already appear to be going to ground and blending back into the population to hide from airpower. In addition, it is pretty clear that we will never again have a strong maneuver presence in Iraq, even in safer Kurdish areas. The bombs dropped to date and seemingly planned are a tiny fraction of those hundreds of thousands of tons of ordnance dropped in Desert Storm, and tens of thousands in the first OIF and OEF. If we are unwilling to place ground troops in Iraq or support them with greater air and missile attacks (to include GMLRS) then this problem will just drag on.

We could help arm the Kurds. However, the news seems to say that Kurd requests for arms from the U.S. are being rejected unless they go through the Iraqi central government. We know where that dead end leads with Maliki in charge. Now with this new guy al-Albadi being nominated as Prime Minister of Iraq, perhaps the Kurds will get more arms and airpower support from the Iraq Army. But it may take time the Kurds don't have.

I'm more concerned that academia in general and the State Department in particular does not take Dr. Anderson's lead in acknowledging that jihad as a motivating ISIS/ISIL/IS factor actually exists. The State Department appears filled with idealists overly influenced by academia who can't get things done from the confines of university campuses, think tanks, green zones, and embassies. How long have we been trying to fix Israel diplomatically?

Yet U.S. and coalition presence in the Sinai and a new and former Egyptian leader seem to keep the peace there...despite years of Multinational Force and Observer "occupation" on the ground there. Add Balkan Islamic areas, Kuwait, and now Jordan and Turkey that all are general areas that some believe are too dangerous for U.S. troops to be somewhat permanently stationed as we continue to do in Korea and Germany. Do we see the same level of anti-American feeling in these other Gulf area lands?

Funny thing is the coming Presidential race of 2016 may pit Hillary the Hawk against Rand Paul, the Republican/Libertarian quasi-isolationist. Who knew that the Democrat might actually be the better friend to the military and future world stability.....