Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by Luke iMan in ,    No comments

Coalition air forces have now conducted nearly 3,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria since Operation Inherent Resolve against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began more than six months ago. But although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have retaken some territory, notably Tikrit west of Baghdad, ISIL remains in control of large areas. The situation in Syria is very confused, with independent reports suggesting that Islamist extremist groups have gained ground. Some Iranian troops are deployed in Syria, and Iran advised and armed the Shia militias that accounted for two-thirds of the force that retook Tikrit. 

In the first days of April, airstrikes by fighters, bombers and UAVs continued at an average of 10 per day over Iraq and five per day over Syria. Targets were almost 100 percent tactical, according to U.S. Central Command, including anti-aircraft guns, artillery pieces, excavators and vehicles, plus “checkpoints, command and control facilities, fighting positions, military garrisons and staging areas.” Canada extended its mandate to include Syrian airstrikes, joining Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the U.S. in that effort, plus possibly Qatar. Six other coalition partners—Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the UK—are limited to striking only Iraq. 

Centcom gave mixed signals on progress last month. On March 5, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin told Congress that the counter-ISIL campaign was still “in the early stages.” But on March 26 a spokesman said that “the tables are turning. Iraqi security forces are gaining ground.” The same day, Austin was back in Congress stating that ISIL could no longer seize and hold new territory in Iraq, although the group had greater freedom of movement in Syria.

The Jordanian F-16 shot down over northern Syria remains the only known coalition casualty. Its pilot was subsequently murdered by ISIL. The U.S. moved V-22 Ospreys used for combat SAR into Iraq following criticism from Arab partners that they were stationed too far away in Kuwait.

Meanwhile, another air war got under way over Yemen on March 26. With F-15s, Tornados and Typhoons, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition that also comprises Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the UAE. Aircraft from all of these countries are trying to reverse the takeover of Yemen by Shia rebels backed by Iran.

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