Hawaii Intelligence Digest, 09 March 2017, 20:50 hrs, UTC, Post #136.
Accessed on 09 March 2017, 20:50 hrs, UTC.
Author: BBC correspondent Paul Donahar.
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The United States has sent 400 more marines to support Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces trying to capture the ISIS/ISIL capital city of Raqqa. The marines have set up an artillery emplacement to fire shells into the Islamic State city. The marine artillery unit is using M777 howitzers, which can fire 155mm rounds about 20 miles (32 km).
The marines will be used in a support role to prepare SDF fighters for an assault against Raqqa–something that could happen in the coming weeks. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS/ISIL fighters remain in the city, which is slowly being cut off from road and river transport.
BBC correspondent Paul Donahar provides an update on the current Raqqa offensive:
“Does this still signal an escalation in US involvement?
It is not yet clear but the deployment comes as President Donald Trump considers a new plan to defeat IS that was submitted by the Pentagon late last month.”
“The Associated Press news agency reports that Mr Trump wants to give the Pentagon greater flexibility to make routine combat decisions in the fight against IS.
Commanders on the ground were frustrated by what they considered micromanagement by the Obama administration, it adds.
The US is also said to be preparing to send up to 1,000 troops to Kuwait to serve as a reserve force that can be deployed to fight IS in Syria and Iraq if necessary.”
“How is the campaign to capture Raqqa going?
Col Dorrian said the SDF’s operation to encircle the city was going “very, very well” and might be completed in a few weeks. “Then the decision to move in can be made,” he added.
“Earlier this week, the SDF cut the main supply route connecting Raqqa to IS-held territory to the south-east in Deir al-Zour province.
The New York Times meanwhile cited US officials as saying there were an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 militants inside Raqqa.”
The two main urban centers held by Islamic State forces (west Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, east Syria) are under continuous attack as allied forces continue to advance into territories claimed by ISIS/ISIL. With the capture of west Mosul and Raqqa, the Islamic State will be cut in half. Although ISIS/ISIL fighters can still mount terror attacks in Iraq and Syria, this may be the beginning of the end for ISIL/ISIL as an effective fighting force. With most escape routes cut off, militant leaders may fall back to the desert and resort to independent guerrilla attacks to conserve fighters and supplies. Expect Islamic State leaders to call for more attacks by terrorists residing in the UK, France, Germany, Turkey, and the United States. This is where the debate over immigration and travel bans becomes important. Governments will mount more counter terrorist raids in-country and try to cripple the social media recruitment efforts of jihadists. Such efforts are already underway in France, the UK, and Pakistan. Sooner or later, such steps will be taken in the United States. This war will last a long time.
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Hawaii Intelligence Digest