The New York Times reports: More than three months into the American-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria, commanders are challenged by spotty intelligence, poor weather and an Iraqi Army that is only now starting to go on the offensive against the Islamic State, meaning that warplanes are mostly limited to hitting pop-up targets of opportunity.
Weekend airstrikes hit just such targets: a convoy of 10 armed trucks of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, near Mosul, as well as vehicles and two of the group’s checkpoints near the border with Syria. News reports from Iraq said the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been wounded in one of the raids, but American officials said Sunday that they were still assessing his status.
In Iraq, the air war is tethered to the slow pace of operations by the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces. With relatively few Iraqi offensives to flush out militants, many Islamic State fighters have dug in to shield themselves from attack.
The vast majority of bombing runs, including the weekend strike near Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, are now searching for targets of opportunity, such as checkpoints, artillery pieces and combat vehicles in the open. But only one of every four strike missions — some 800 of 3,200 — dropped its weapons, according to the military’s Central Command. [Continue reading…]