By Scott Taylor
Now that the long-anticipated offensive to recapture Mosul has begun, the media coverage has become akin to that of hometown sports reporting. The tone is all rah-rah for the allied forces and abject contempt for the Daesh evildoers. Given the allied forces’ overwhelming superiority in weaponry — including a virtual air armada of combat aircraft and drones, plus an estimated 10-1 advantage in manpower — the end result is not in dispute.
Everyone knows that, now that the attack has begun, Daesh will be defeated. The only questions are how long will the diehard fanatics be able to hold their ground, how many innocent human shields will perish, and how many allied fighters will become casualties.
To be fair, it seems most media outlets are reporting it is Kurdish and Iraqi security forces who are conducting the attack on Mosul, thereby recognizing the two very distinct entities. In all the footage of the fighting shown to date, it seems that both these factions are pointedly displaying either very large Kurdish flags or equally large Iraqi flags atop their armoured vehicles. For those who are students of history, this practice seems rather foolhardy, given that armies stopped using large coloured flags on battlefields during the First World War due to the fact that it contradicts the concept of camouflage.
The U.S. has been training Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers since their invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Canada has committed hundreds of special forces trainers to Kurdish units since the fall of 2014. So why, then, does it appear from the news videos that the Kurds and Iraqis are more a rabble of cannon fodder than the vaunted “special forces” they are proclaimed to be?
Few if any of them are wearing helmets as they group together in an assortment of various uniforms. And in what seems to be an attempt to impress the cameraman, some of these soldiers have loosed off a few rounds from their assault weapons, unaimed, from the hip, at a very distant target. Tactics for one videoed attack involved a small mob running over open ground and then all of them huddling in a group behind the same wall, like the Keystone Cops. These are not the weapon-handling skills and fire and movement tactics of NATO standard armies, so what exactly have our Canadian trainers taught them?
American special forces soldiers are on the ground assisting in the allied attack, and one can surmise that our Canadian commandos are there on the front line as well. As much better trained, actual special forces operatives, their activities are being conducted unobserved by amateur videographers. It will be the professional skill of the NATO special forces in conjunction with the U.S.-led allied airpower that will ensure Daesh’s defeat in Mosul.
That is the scary part. Despite the fact that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed at the start of the Mosul offensive that this is a “unifying operation” for the country, it is in truth anything but. The red, white and black Iraqi flag brandished by security forces loyal to the Baghdad regime is seen as a symbol of the Shiite Arab-dominated south. Bolstering this symbolism is the fact that the Iraqi regular army units are supported by ill-disciplined Shiite militias that were trained and equipped by Iran. The flags with bright red, green and white stripes and a yellow sunburst centre represents the state of Kurdistan, which of course has yet to be formally recognized.
On their own, it is unlikely that the Kurds or Iraqi Shiites could actually drive the Sunni Arab Daesh zealots from Mosul, which is predominately populated by Sunni Arabs.
By having our foreign commandos and western combat aircraft tip the balance in this battle, we are likely setting the stage for a vicious multi-factional bloodletting in the wake of Daesh’s defeat.
But no sense wasting time discussing those details now. The game is on, and so far the hometown squad(s) are kicking Daesh’s butt. Go team(s)!