Small Wars Journal

A View From the Other Side of the Hill

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 3:07pm

A View From the Other Side of the Hill

Gary Anderson

How is the Islamic State looking at the situation in Iraq and Syria? It is impossible to be sure, but they are fairly transparent in their public statements; this is a group that generally does what it says it is going to do: The following is an approximation of how I believe they view their situation based on some research for a book I am writing on the subject. Sadly, no jihadists were harmed in the writing of this piece.

From: Plans Section; Headquarters, Army of the Caliphate

To: Military Secretary of the Caliph


GENERAL SITUATION. The Caliph’s first strategic goal has been achieved. We have accomplished political and military control of most of the Sunni majority regions of Iraq and a large portion of northern Syria.

The second objective of eclipsing the weak leadership of al Qaeda Central as the leading force in worldwide Jihad is also proceeding well. Jihadists in Nigeria, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan have sworn fidelity to the Caliph. Those in Libya and Nigeria are holding political and military control of significant territory.

The third strategic objective of diminishing American influence by dragging her into a winless conflict is succeeding well. Recent reports indicate that the American military leadership is frustrated with their President’s refusal to let them use all aspects of military power is creating a “go all in, or go home mentality”. This indicates demoralization, and their president publically admitted recently that they still lack a coherent strategy. The diminished American influence through war weariness envisioned by Sheikh Osama was diluted by his weak successors, but we are proving to be worthy inheritors of his vision.

The fourth strategic goal of discrediting the apostate Iranians, and encouraging regional Sunni-Shiite conflict, is also working well. With Sunnis and Shiites openly fighting in Yemen and Syria, we are positioning the Caliphate to become the leader in a general world-wide anti-Shiite Sunni coalition.

The goal of the total control of Sunni-Majority Syria remains a strategic objective, but the Assad regime remains a “useful idiot” in that it keeps the apostate rebels that might align with the west and our rivals in al Qaida al-Nusra group occupied. When you enemies are at each- others’ throats, it is generally best to leave them be; this approach gained us Palmyra without a fight.

The Most Likely Enemy Course of Action. The Americans will likely continue air strikes that have proved to be ineffectual, and to incrementally add trainers. They may finally decide to provide forward air controllers which will provide us the opportunity to capture some as hostages. Air controllers will be annoying and increase casualties among our troops, but the risk is acceptable. As they incrementally increase their troop levels, we can continue to search for opportunities to create a catastrophic casualty producing event that might eliminate their presence in Iraq entirely due to adverse public opinion over American involvement in a fruitless endeavor as was the case in Somalia and Lebanon.

The Most Dangerous Enemy Course of Action. If the Americans commit large numbers of ground combat troops to destroy our regular light infantry formations and retake major population areas- such as Mosul, Fallujah, and Ramadi- it would be a serious setback as our regular foreign fighting cadres are our strategic center of gravity. This would buy time for the Americans to retrain the Iraqi Army to a point where it might at least be able to defend the cities in Sunni populated areas if the Iraqi government makes concessions to the Sunni population. This is highly unlikely, but it might force us to withdraw to Syria to preserve the Caliph’s regular army. Unlikely as this is, we have prepared contingency plans as part of due diligence. The worst possible scenario is would be for the Americans to continue the attack into Syria in order to take our capital at Raqqa. This would force out regular army to make a last stand, and it would be inevitably destroyed. This scenario is highly unlikely given present American leadership

CONCLUSION.  The present strategy is working well. It has made the Caliphate a major player on the world scene. Our operational maneuver warfare approach of probing for weaknesses and exploiting them is working well. It has gained us Ramadi and Palmyra while the Americans, Iraqis and Kurds pursue “bright shiny objects such as Kobane and Tikrit. We have the initiative, and they react. We are preparing plans to extend operations to Lebanon and Jordan to further stretch American airpower. These will be presented in a separate document.

RECOMMEDATION. Continue the present strategy. Praise to God; we are winning.

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who teaches Alternative Analysis (Red Teaming) at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.


Mark Pyruz

Wed, 07/29/2015 - 1:31am

There are serious flaws in the Colonel's attempt at an ISIL rendering.

For one, ISIL thinkers would never refer to their territorial gains within the context of national states. Given the tactical situation on the ground and the internal politics of these regions, their's is actually a far more complex space than "Iraq" or "Syria".

Second, there is no mention of the ultimate strategy of ISIL, which is to present itself as the preeminent defender of Sunnis in the region, against external players that include the Iranians and Americans.

Third, and this is the most serious flaw in the Colonel's attempt: ISIL is not concerned about a large American military footprint in the regions of its control. While they may not be actively encouraging it per se, they do see potential advantage in such a development.

Rather, I would say the Colonel's real aim in this exercise is a transparent attempt at indirectly advocating a large American military footprint in the region, to fight ISIL. An Operation Iraqi Freedom redux, if you will, with an Operation Syrian Freedom thrown in for bonus.

My opinion is that such a course of action would potentially be even more detrimental to American interests the second time around.