Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Air War So Far

News reports on the war on ISIL have been very sketchy so when I came across this summary of the air war at Strategy Page I thought it'd be helpful to post it since it gives some idea of what's going on:
Since August 2014 allied (mostly U.S. but also NATO and Arab) air strikes in Iraq and Syria have destroyed nearly 3,500 targets during some 1,700 separate attacks using about 5,000 smart bombs and missiles. This destruction included nearly 300 military vehicles (about 20 percent of them armored), nearly 700 bunkers and other fortifications plus over a thousand buildings.

In addition over twenty command posts, at least a hundred checkpoints and nearly as many parking lots and assembly areas were hit and destroyed or made unusable. Over 270 oil industry targets were destroyed. More than 700 civilian vehicles were hit, nearly half of them because they were armed (like the pickup trucks with heavy machine-guns mounted on then and often called “technicals”) or carrying men who obviously were. At least fourteen boats were also destroyed, as these were often armed and used for transportation on the Euphrates River.

Not all nations, for political reasons, are hitting targets in both countries. In Iraq the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are flying while in Syria it’s the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). American warplanes have flown most of the missions and in December alone American warplanes carried out 26 percent of all the air strikes so far. That averaged about 15 American air strikes a day in December.

Extreme measures are taken to avoid civilian casualties, which means a lot of military targets have to be left alone because ISIL uses civilians as human shields. For this reason it’s important to have friendly, and competent, troops on the ground to positively identify enemy targets that have a very low probability of causing civilian casualties if hit.
There was no data on the number of enemy casualties, but such a pounding must be taking a serious toll on ISIL's morale. Hopefully, the Kurds and Iraqi ground troops will be able to push them back across the Syrian border and bottle them up there. The trail of civilian slaughter they've left behind is one of the ghastliest atrocities since the Nazi holocaust, a horrific crime which ISIL would love the chance to duplicate.