Al-Baghdadi is Desperate

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently released a video in what appears to be a desperate call. As translated on CNN, “God’s enemies, from the Jew, Christians, atheists, Shiites, Apostates, and all of the world’s infidels have dedicate their media, army, and munitions to fight Muslims and the jihadists.” The 32-minute video is first video since late 2015 and there has been no confirmed sighting of Baghdadi since he declared the Caliphate in July 2014 in Mosul.

Spokesman Col. John Dorrian stated, "But it is quite clearly an effort on the part of (ISIS) to communicate to their fighters. This is probably excellent evidence that their command and control and ability to communicate directly with their fighters and control them has been severely reduced."

The video, in which al-Baghdadi addressed the estimated 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, was reported on CNN on Thursday November 4, 2016. This is the same day Iraqi led coalition entered the streets of Mosul. This desperate plea by Baghdadi is a clear indicator of the progress of the Iraqi forces and the decline of the ISIS stronghold in the city.  

Only the Iraqi and Kurdish forces will enter Mosul, the rest of the coalition will play a supporting role.  The Iraqi force progress in Mosul thus far includes the establishment of a safe evacuation route for civilians near the front lines. Challenges for the Iraqi and coalition forces include the use of tens of thousands human shields, booby traps, suicide bombers, snipers, and a strong resistance from ISIS forces.

This change of pace in ISIS controlled territory can have a major impact on our national security. This operation will be the greatest test of President Obama’s strategy of aiding foreign militaries from the back lines instead of leading the fight from the front lines. As we have learnt from previous wars, successfully rebuilding the city will be vital to ensure long-term stability. This does not need to be accomplished by the United States but whoever takes charges of that effort, and I presume that to be the Iraqis, should take the lessons learnt from previous United States’ efforts. Obama has had mixed results with his “leading from behind” doctrine and as I previously said Mosul will be the greatest test of this method to date.  

If the efforts in Mosul fail I can honestly say I have no clue as to what will happen in regards to our national policy regarding the war on counter terrorism. Using the transcripts from the final debate lets analyze potential courses of action for President-elect Donald Trump I’m going to take specific parts of Trump’s response for the sake of this article and it is not my intention to skew or alter in anyway his words or the meaning of them by. During the debate, Chris Wallace asked, “Will you put U.S. troops into that vacuum to make sure that ISIS doesn't come back or isn't replaced by something even worse?”  Trump on gave no real indication of his plans for Mosul or what he would have done differently. Most of his response when to criticizing Hilary and the current administration’s handling of ISIS and Mosul.  He stated:

Let me tell you, Mosul is so sad. We had Mosul. But when she left, when she took everybody out, we lost Mosul. Now we're fighting again to get Mosul. The problem with Mosul and what they wanted to do is they wanted to get the leaders of ISIS who they felt were in Mosul. About three months ago, I started reading that they want to get the leaders and they're going to attack Mosul. Whatever happened to the element of surprise, OK? We announce we're going after Mosul. I have been reading about going after Mosul now for about -- how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They've all left.”

Trump’s only argument, in the final debate, as to how he would have handled the situation differently and in the future was that he would keep American intentions secretive. This was to ensure that the targets would remain in Mosul as well as to not give ISIS time to prepare for a new battlefront.

Although American intentions regarding Mosul have been well known for some time, there is no need to announce actionable intentions far in advance. The two counter argument to this course of action is to reduce the number of civilian causalities and that it is nearly impossible to move ten-thousand troops without the enemy understanding the intentions of a move that big. The first counter argument is weak because it is possible to warn casualties in a shorter time frame in a way that prevents your enemy from fortifying or fleeing. For example,  Israel warns Gazan civilians in areas it’s about to target via leaflet, phone, and via missile strikes without explosive in what they coin the “knock on the roof” method. These warnings are sent in Arabic and Hebrew and occur shortly before the strike. Yes, casualties still occur for a variety of reasons such as ignoring the warnings, not leaving fast enough, and being forced by Hamas to act as a human shield to prevent the strike from occurring. The second argument is also weak because although accurate knowledge is everything. Knowing, from the source the intentions of the troops move, especially far in advance, gives ample opportunity to prepare, flee, and ambush the front line.

Mosul is important for Obama’s legacy. Success in Mosul can change the face of American warfare and policy for the good or bad. If the operation is successful, Trump will have to consider utilizing the same or similar approach while in office if a similar situation arises. If it fails Trump can and will do what he thinks in necessary for success.