An Airborne A2D2 / Anti - ISIS OPLAN
Updated: Jul 10, 2019
In June 2014 the Islamic State - took over the Iraqi city of Mosul. Mosul was the second largest city in Iraq, home to over a million people. The fall of Mosul coincided with the Northern Iraqi offensive which began in June. At this point the Islamic State was a potential risk to the destabilization and a possible future assault on Baghdad. In September 2014 the CIA estimated that the Islamic State had 20 – 30 thousand fighters in Iraq and Syria. Looking in hindsight, what could the international coalition have done differently besides committing to a gradual land based, re – offensive to take back territory. The international coalition against the Islamic State comprised of nations with their military GDP reaching many billions of dollars. The lack of intensity and volume of operations against the Islamic State in relation to "all" available operational resources of the international coalition against the Islamic State is due much to political concerns and not on military practicality.
If there was ever a plan to account for the most ergonomic and efficient method to defeat the Islamic State by factoring time and casualties, this plan would be a theoretical approach I believe merits discussion. This plan draws on inspiration from previous historical airborne assaults namely the Tabqa offensive, and applies modern resource considerations against fighting the Islamic State. This plan would be an airborne assault into the enemy's rear positions, focusing on dispersing troops into the areas held by the opposing forces. The general concept of the plan is to dislodge troops into mountainous terrain throughout the Islamic State held territory. The next stage of the plan would involve setting area denial weaponry throughout the held and neighboring terrain, thereby preventing the Islamic State from being able to maneuver freely in those regions. This would thereby lead to the group to suffer losses in their maneuverability, and also subsequently their territory.
The battle of Taqba was comprised as a back bone the use of specialized operation forces and Arab airborne infantry in a continuous direct-action attack on the Islamic State's rear and line of logistics. In recent history, large scale strategy level airborne assaults are rare. In view of western military forces, airborne operations often occur on a tactically level. The most infamous example of an airborne assault was portrayed in the movie Black Hawk Down. The battle of Tabqa is an example of a larger scale, combined arms, airborne assault. The benefits of airborne assaults however are more relevant today then in the past. Modern surveillance and electronic tools of war allow for forces to operate at night, while able to conduct surveillance and coordinate precise fire support. This is especially effective when the opposing forces, such as the Islamic State do not have the same resources.
Besides the benefits of using airborne methods to attack the Islamic State's rear, there are also the concept of area denial. Islamic State forces are highly mobile, their use of asymmetric tactics and strategies are well documented. The use of vehicle borne improvised has caused major problems with forces fighting against the Islamic State. Area denial against the Islamic State therefore becomes a challenge, especially against the use of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices. Weaponry which is effective against vehicle borne improvised explosive devices include automated firing platforms and laser guided anti tank rockets. However given the state of the Iraqi security forces and other groups fighting the Islamic State, often times these group lack precise weaponry needed to defeat vehicle borne improvised explosive devices causing significant casualties.
The forces which conduct area denial operations would also benefit for operating in highly elevated terrains. Elevated terrain allows the force conducting area denial a relatively better view of the area they are operating in, and also makes defensive operations easier to conduct. Elevated terrain also provides kinetic weapons more opportunities then on non elevated terrain. In conducting an area denial operations, having a good view of the battle space is important for electronic surveillance systems. Elevated terrain can allow for forces to hold ground in the enemy's rear by conducting a hedge hog defense. Hedge hog defense is a defensive strategy that utilizes multiple linking defensive points to delay or cause an attacking force to experience significant difficulties. A hedge hog defense would be an important tool especially against the use of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices.
On a strategic note; airborne, area denial not only is beneficial on a tactical level, but as part of an overall operational strategy. Area denial and rear operations can provide the international coalition more ergonomic opportunities in engaging the Islamic State's entity. Harassment operations and area denial, would mean that the Islamic State would have their line of supply constantly harassed or made ineffective. This would be especially relevant if the Islamic State is operating a complex line of supply for different fronts and for transporting oil as part of their economic initiatives. Area denial and rear operations would also be relevant if the Islamic State requires strategic mobility as a method of attack against different targets. If an area denial operation is successful, this would limit the opportunities the Islamic State has to conduct different offensive strategies and reduce morale.
Besides area denial, troops conducting the airborne assault can use the elevated terrains as bases for future attacks against the Islamic State targets. These operations may not necessary be conventional in nature, but intrusion operations designed to harass the Islamic State forces. Intrusion operations can also benefit from the opportunity of attack at night. The outcome of having a continuous area denial and intrusion campaign would also benefit the en actor in that if done correctly, it allows leap frogging to other strategically relevant position in the Islamic State's rear. When an area has been sufficiently pacified, and that Islamic State activity has reached a acceptable threshold, this provides the opportunity to conduct attacks on the next strategic positions in the rear. This would be in analogy, similar to leap frogging from hill to hill.