Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Military Won't Reveal Scope of Coalition Ground War Against ISIS

    Since August 2014, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has reported on what quickly became daily coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq and later in Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The number of strikes each day has ranged from just a few to as many as several dozen. However, the daily press releases also include the following statement: "Ground-based artillery fired in counter-fire or in fire support to maneuver roles are not classified as a strike as defined by CJTF-OIR."
    While CENTCOM gives detailed reports on the number of airstrikes, intended targets (fighting positions, IEDs, warehouses, mortar positions, erc.), and the apparent success or failure of strikes, CENTCOM does not provide details on strikes involving ground-based artillery.
    When questioned about the frequency of such actions and the conditions under which they take place, a CENTCOM press official replied that CENTCOM does not provide such information because the "use of ground-based artillery for counter-fire and support to maneuver forces reflects the conditions on the battlefield" and too much "detail could potentially provide useful information to the enemy."
    To give an idea of the ground-based activity, however, the CENTCOM official did say that in the thirty days preceding June 13, "[c]oalition artillery has fired four times into the city of Fallujah in support of Iraqi Security Forces operations." During the same time, CENTCOM reported no fewer than eighty-one air strikes in and around Fallujah. The Iraqi armed forces launched an effort to retake Fallujah from ISIL on May 23 backed by coalition strikes.
    CENTCOM did not indicate where the ground-based artillery taking part in the Fallujah operation is located, but in March, the Military Times reported that "U.S. troops in Jordan launched a GPS-guided rocket artillery attack into Syria" using a "truck-mounted, guided-missile system with a range of up to 185 miles." The long range of such ground-based system gives the Obama administration room to continue to assert that the fight against ISIL does not include "boots on the ground" even though coalition forces are clearly part of the ground war targeting the Islamic State.

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