By Scott Taylor
Last Thursday the Canadian Armed Forces staged a news conference to update journalists on the activities of the Canadian soldiers deployed to battle Daesh (aka ISIS) in Iraq. The only problem is that no one from Canadian Special Operation Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) was present to explain the recent exploits of our elite commando trainers.
There are approximately 200 members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) along with an undisclosed number of the secretive Joint Task Force 2 currently deployed in northern Iraq as trainers for local Kurdish militias.
The mandate for these Canadians specifies that they are not to be involved in combat.
However, when photographs appeared on the Internet last October clearly showing Canadian commandos firing rocket launchers and blowing up Daesh evildoers on the front lines, Canadian senior brass scrambled to explain to the Canadian public that this was not combat. Firing rockets and sniper rifles at Daesh was, according to the best spin they could put on it, self-defence.
At the time those photos were taken, the allied forces — including the Kurds under Canadian mentorship — were engaged in an all-out offensive against the Daesh-held city of Mosul. The question begged: How could Canadians be engaged in self-defence when they were part of an offensive? But I digress.
That major effort by the allied forces to recapture Iraq’s second-largest city began with a lot of fanfare last October 16. Assisted by the overwhelming air armada of the U.S.-led alliance, a massive horde of anti-Daesh fighters were mounting the ground offensive to drive the Islamic zealots from their last stronghold in Iraq. Allied commanders warned that this would be a lengthy campaign, one that could drag on for weeks or even months, despite the fact that the allied force was estimated to outnumber the holed up Daesh fighters by at least ten to one.
In the past three and a half months, Daesh has indeed put up a fanatical resistance. With superior numbers and the sophisticated weaponry supplied and operated by western elite soldiers such as Canada’s commandos, the allied forces have methodically advanced into the city.
At time of writing, the eastern half of Mosul is now considered to be liberated from Daesh. Unfortunately, this means that the fight from here on in will only get more intense.
Mosul is a pre-dominantly Sunni-Arab city, wherein most of the other minorities — Shiia-Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Chaldeans, etc. — lived in the now-liberated eastern part of Mosul. Daesh remains bunkered down in the Sunni Arab sector on the west bank of the Tigris River.
You can call Daesh evil incarnate, but you would be totally unwise to consider them in any way cowardly. They are obviously fanatical about their cause, and given their relatively small numbers, they must still have support among Mosul’s Sunni Arab population.
Contrast the plodding advance of the current allied push — and the extremely high casualties being inflicted by the Daesh defenders — to the whirlwind attack by Daesh in June 2014. A mere 800 lightly armed Daesh fighters rolled into Mosul, against a far superior Iraqi Army garrison, which promptly abandoned their U.S.-supplied weapons, vehicles and munitions, forgot their years of training by U.S. Special Forces, and simply ran away.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, American soldiers were able to capture all of Iraq in less than 25 days as most of Saddam’s soldiers simply surrendered or deserted rather than fight.
There were battles fought in some of Iraq’s urban centres including Baghdad, but the city of Mosul capitulated without a whimper.
It is evident from the resolve of the Daesh defenders that Iraqis can put up one hell of a fight when they are committed to their cause. The same cannot be said for the assortment of Kurdish militia, Shiite Arab militia and Iraqi government troops that comprise the anti-Daesh ground forces.
To paraphrase U.S. General Westmoreland of Vietnam war fame, “Why can’t our Iraqis fight like their Iraqis”.