ISIS is now in the process of taking Baghdad. Our pathetic excuse for military intelligence does not recognize that fact, because it does not understand how light cavalry operates. ISIS cannot take Baghdad by assault, so U.S. analysts think Baghdad cannot fall. It can, and at present it is on the way to doing so.
ISIS is encircling Baghdad with light, fast-moving forces just as American Indians, who were also irregular light cavalry, encircled a wagon train. The Indians shot in arrows. ISIS is shooting in mortar shells, rockets, and the poor man’s Predators, suicide bombers. ISIS’s object is to get the Shiite forces defending the city to come out into the open countryside, where light cavalry can and will cut them to ribbons. They do not have to come out very far; ISIS is now eight miles from the Baghdad airport.
Punishing Baghdad with bombardment may or may not get the Shiites to make that mistake. So I expect ISIS to undertake other operations to compel them to do so. A thrust at Karbala or even Najaf is likely. ISIS is already south of Baghdad. To those who think Najaf is too far, I would point out that irregular light cavalry warfare advances and retreats in vast sweeps. It is not about taking and holding ground. It is about destroying the enemy’s forces. The elements of the coalition that is ISIS that are holding ground and providing local government are Baathist. They know how to do those things. The Islamic puritans provide the light cavalry. Both are necessary to ISIS’s success: they are the cheng and the chi.
As ISIS encircles Baghdad, it will try to cut off the city’s supplies. Light cavalry cannot undertake a mortar siege, but they can raid supply lines. Shiite forces detailed to guard those lines will find themselves in the positions of the Turkish infantry facing Lawrence of Arabia’s light cavalry. You may recall that did not end well.
What about America’s overestimated air power? ISIS is countering that in a number of ways, some obvious, some quite creative. As I predicted, it has learned the standard countermeasures quickly: dispersion, camouflage, movement at night and in bad weather. I think it is also using the stuff we mistakenly think of as “combat power”: tanks, artillery pieces, APCs, etc. (we leave out maneuver and velocity) as decoys. ISIS may have come up with the best decoy of all, in the form of two or three jet fighters (or rumors thereof, which work almost as well). Every U.S. flyboy will fixate on them, hoping to be able to claim a kill. The cat will go for the catnip rather than the mouse.
I think ISIS may also be decoying us on the operational level with the siege of Kobani. That siege makes little sense except as a deception. As an operatioal Schwerpunkt, it is a dead end, although it works to paralyze the Turks on the mental level of war by pushing them into bed with the Kurds, whom they loath. That isn’t enough of a benefit to justify what even a small siege costs ISIS. But if, as I suspect, ISIS’s real operational and strategic Schwerpunkt is Baghdad, then the price ISIS is paying in Kobani is easily worth it. All last week air strikes intended for Iraq were often diverted to Kobani. Air defenses come in many varieties, not just missiles and guns.
When will Baghdad fall? Probably within a few months or not at all. Light cavalry cannot sustain a status quo. Its power is in its dynamism. If a situation stabilizes, it must alter its objective or fail. However, once the fall of Baghdad begins, it will culminate very fast. The tipoff we have reached that point will be when the Shiite infantry leaves Baghdad to engage ISIS in the open. It will be slaughtered, because with forces so intermixed, only our A-10s will be able to operate effectively. You know, that airplane the Air Force hates and wants to scrap.