Well, I suppose we ought to discuss the big news today, that US warplanes have begun airstrikes upon ISIS forces in Iraq.
In addition to Makhmour, areas around Sinjar were hit by strikes, according to Iraq’s al-Sharqiya television station, which cited Babaker Zebari, chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces. The brief Pentagon announcement Friday morning did not mention any other targets than the artillery piece.
In a statement delivered at the White House late Thursday, Obama said the United States would use targeted attacks against extremist convoys “should they move toward” Irbil, where the United States maintains a consulate and a joint operations center with the Iraqi military. “We intend to take action if they threaten our facilities anywhere in Iraq . . . including Irbil and Baghdad,” he said.
As usual, Obama can’t simply set a course and follow it. So far, the results have been one piddly little strike against a single artillery piece.
I shudder to think of what the Rules of Engagement (ROE) are for this little venture. I can guarantee they aren’t in line with any contemporary thinking on how to plan and execute an air campaign.
First off, you have to decide what you want your campaign to accomplish. Any reasonable person, looking at the spread of ISIS across Iraq since June, and the horrors of its barbarity, would have figured bombing the everloving crap out of it wherever and whenever it was found would be a good start. Instead, we’ve decided we’ll only poke at them when they advance on Irbil.
Good campaigns are based on good intelligence. ISIS has been on the rampage for months now. Presumably at least some of the several hundred US forces deployed to Iraq are gathering intelligence on the ISIS order of battle, their locations, chain of command, communications and logistics networks, and their intentions. Key players in the movement, certain bits of infrastructure that ISIS depends on, any air defense assets and armor should all be high priorities. Coordination with friendly forces on the ground to both prioritize targets and to avoid friendly fire are important steps as well.