Challenges in fighting against ISIS

Reuters reports: At the start of the Islamic State offensive, Iraq’s air force was largely limited to attack helicopters and a handful of propeller-driven Cessna light aircraft firing Hellfire rockets.

By the end of June, however, Russia and Iraq announced a deal to supply the Iraqi air force with Su-25 attack jets. Simple, slow and unwieldy but heavily armored, they are ideal for attacking troop concentrations in the open.

A second batch of Su-25s arrived in July bearing the camouflage patterns and markings used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies said after examining assorted photographs. Neither the Iraqi nor Iranian governments have commented on their origin, or who is flying them.

Iraqi military officer Colonel Ali Abdulkareem said the jets halted the Islamic State’s advance on Baghdad last month.

Although Iraqi pilots were less experienced than their American counterparts and the weaponry less accurate, coordination with ground forces was improving, Abdulkareem said.

But it won’t be easy to defeat Islamic State in Iraq.

The U.S. air campaign appears to have provoked even more anger from the Islamic State against the Kurds. The Islamic State released a video on Thursday in which it showed 15 Kurdish prisoners and the apparent execution of one of the men. Three of the prisoners urge Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani to end his military alliance with the United States.

“What we are fighting now is a well-trained and well-armed terrorist army,” said a senior Kurdish official. “They are very clever in their fighting, we have to admit. They want to make us busy on many fronts. They come to one front, they want all of us to focus on that front, and then they penetrate through another front.”

Taking back ethnic Sunni areas looks difficult. During the 2007/08 “surge”, U.S. troops worked closely with some Sunni groups against al Qaeda. Some of those they trained now fight with Islamic State, say Sunni fighters and tribal leaders. [Continue reading…]

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