Donald Trump, Prophet of Doom, is Ready to Write Off Mosul

by Mark Sumner –

battle-for-mosul

First Donald Trump said that Aleppo had already fallen, which would be news to the 400,000 people still living in the city. Now, after months of mocking the United States in general, the military in particular, and daily rolling his eyes over the idea that we would allow ISIS forces in Mosul to know that an assault was on it’s way, Donald Trump is ready to declare defeat.

The attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb. VOTE TRUMP and WIN AGAIN!

The problem with Trump’s statement isn’t just his running down the United States and implicitly cheering for ISIS. It’s that he’s wrong. The attack on Mosul is proceeding well.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces are within five miles (eight kilometers) of Mosul, commanders said Sunday, after days of fighting and sweeping territorial gains in the operation to free the key Iraqi city from ISIS control.

A coalition of 100,000 troops have been closing in on Mosul since Monday, liberating surrounding communities village by village and making quicker-than-expected gains.

The battle has even made for some unlikely allies, as the Kurdish Peshmerga over the weekend received assistance from Turkish troops and artillery.

Trump’s “disaster” is not a disaster, but even that bit of armchair generalship wasn’t Trump’s worst call in this fight. Taking Trump’s advice in the battle planning? That would have been a real disaster.

Donald Trump has constantly harped on the idea that by letting the ISIS forces know that we were planning to attack Mosul, the United States was being dumb.

In Wednesday night’s debate, Donald J. Trump excoriated the American-backed Iraqi military offensive to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State, saying it had forfeited “the element of surprise” and allowed militant leaders to slip away.

“Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves when they see the stupidity of our country,” Mr. Trump added, invoking two of the greatest American commanders from World War II.

The only thing wrong with that is everything.

First, ISIS doesn’t control a huge area where choice of target involves looking for weak spots and timing opportunities. This isn’t D-Day, where forces might have been landed anywhere along hundreds of miles of sea coast, and it wasn’t a night raid with a few dozen men.

ISIS currently controls two cities. One. Two. It has Mosul in Iraq, and the much smaller Raqqa in Syria. ISIS used to control several other cities, including Ramadi, Tikrit, and Falluja. What happened to those? ISIS lost them to the same people now coming for them in Mosul.

When there are only two important points left to attack, you can’t surprise anyone. And when you’re allied with Iraqi forces and one of those remaining points is in Iraq, and the Iraqi president has daily made the capture of that city critical to the future of the nation, predicting where the attack would come is about as difficult as counting to one.

There’s also the issue that, this being Iraq, hiding a large build up of forces is little short of ridiculous.

Moreover, it would be impossible to hide a force of about 30,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops that have been massing for weeks on the outskirts of Mosul, gradually encircling the city while conducting artillery fire and airstrikes to soften up enemy defenses in advance of the main ground offensive.

The total forces now surrounding the city number about 94,000. They’re gradually closing in between 5,000 and 7,000 ISIS fighters thought to be still in the city.

Which leads to Trump’s declaration that letting ISIS forces know we were coming was “dumb” because it allows ISIS fighters to make a run for it. Which was … totally on purpose. What’s worse than fighting 5,000 dedicated extremists in tight urban conditions where they’ve had time to dig in and plant an unknown number of IEDs and other traps? Fighting 10,000. It’s much easier for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to deal with ISIS in areas where they’re forced to fight in the open, or where they haven’t had time to establish defenses, than it is to assault a prepared position. Reducing the number of fighters in the city, where they have to be fought house to house among the civilian population, was a long, long way from “dumb.” It’s exactly the plan.

Robert Scales, a retired Army major general and former commandant of the Army War College, said the unfolding Mosul campaign is a course in Military Operations 101 that American and Iraqi armies have followed for years.

A large allied force approaches the objective (Mosul, in this case) from multiple directions, establishes a loose cordon around the city, and peels away the outlying towns and villages, all the while opening an escape route for refugees and people who do not want to fight, General Scales said.

It’s a strategy that achieves success. It wins.

Doing it Donald Trump’s way would have meant throwing a much smaller, less coordinated force into a situation without planning where they faced a larger force of dug-in fighters and a much larger number of civilians were caught in the fire zone. That would have been a real disaster.

It’s enough to make George W. Bush’s strategery seem like genius.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos