Islamic State Fighters Attack Iraqi Air Base/U.S. Marine Outpost — Wearing Iraqi Military Uniforms; Attack From Three Separate Vantage Points
Never underestimate the cleverness of a determined adversary. London’s TheDailyMailOnline, is reporting in its February 13, 2015 edition, that “Iraqi forces killed eight Islamic State militants…disguised in Iraqi military uniforms,” during an attack against an Iraq’s Ain al-Assad Air Base/U.S. Marine outpost, yesterday in Iraq. The militants attacked,” the DailyMailOnline noted, “after poor weather halted coalition airstrikes.” ” The militants attacked the air base, while senior Iraqi leaders were present,” according to ABC News. I had written earlier that militants had attacked from two different directions, based on a Reuters News Service report; but, the Islamic State attack used three avenues of approach — not two — according to the latest information from CNN. Iraqi officials have since called for reinforcements, in the aftermath of this attack; which will enhance security in one way; but, open the door, and/or increase the chances for infiltration/betrayal…as well.
There are a couple of ways to look and understand this attack; and, what the ultimate motive was — for the Islamic State. First, the Islamic State knew that the attack against the U.S Marine outpost was very likely suicidal at this point; but, just the mere fact that they attacked; and, took the fight to the enemy — shows bravado, and has no doubt already shown a positive propaganda value — as the organization flouts the fact that they ‘attacked’ the the equivalent of Satan — in their warped minds. In essence, the Islamic State wanted to change the narrative — after no doubt taking a beating from Jordanian airstrikes — in particular.
But, this attack could also be part of a larger strategy/campaign, aimed at probing the vulnerabilities, and weaknesses of the Iraq and U.S Marine outpost…as the group assess what went wrong, what went right; and, what might be a more successful attack — down the road. This is a time-honored practice among insurgents, and adversaries that are weaker in all aspects of their combat might verses their opponent — so, they use the “dying from a thousand cuts,” strategy in the hopes of wearing down their adversary; and. also hope to erode public support that the adversary may have at home Short ‘harassment,’ quick in and out attacks on U.S. outposts; and, then just as quickly disappearing, became a staple of The Viet Cong playbook. North Vietnamese commanders placed a great deal of emphasis on learning from their mistakes; and, stressed adaptability — in an effort to improve their battle techniques — and, inflict maximum damage on their opponents. In one of the more famous quotations an exchanges from the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh was confronted by a U.S. Army Colonel at the Paris Peace Talks at the conclusion of the war. The U.S. Army Colonel famously remarked to Ho Chi Minh something to the effect, “you know you guys never won a single battle over us [Americans.] Without missing a ‘beat,’ Ho Chi Minh responded, “while that may be true — is it is also irrelevant.”
Obviously, the dense jungle terrain of Vietnam made ‘disappearing’ much easier to do in that conflict; but, one would expect the Islamic State to seek other ways — such as digging tunnels underground –or, wearing Iraqi or perhaps even Marine uniforms — to both disappear; blend in, and/or, hope to succeed in digging underneath these kind of outposts. Utilizing tunnels is a time-honored practice in the Middle East, as the adversary adapts to the environment and terrain that they are confronted with. If they can’t do a Beirut, Lebanon, Marine Barracks-type truck bomb on the surface; they may well seek to tunnel underneath U.S. and Iraqi positions — as an alternative above ground. This technique is easier said than done; and there are new sensors and technologies that can help early discovery of such an effort; but, one would have to assume that the Islamic State is exploring all options — to score a ‘spectacular’ hit; which would be a propaganda bonanza for the group — if they were able to pull something like this off.
So, you can bet that the Islamic State took away some lessons-learned from yesterday’s failed breach of the Iraq/ U.S. Marine outpost; and, it certainly…..won’t be the last. V/R, RCP