Effective Support or Over Reliance on Airpower in Iraq?

Air Force commandos need to walk a fine line in delivering airstrikes to support the Iraqi advance against ISIS, between providing effective support and having the Iraqi Army rely too much on coalition support, an Air Force Tactical Air Control Party officer said on Friday. The airman, who spoke on background about how the US employs air power in Operation Inherent Resolve, said US joint terminal attack controllers in Iraq and Kuwait work with Iraqi officials to approve every airstrike that helps the Iraqi troops advance in their ground operation. US airmen, who number in the dozens and are located in “strike cells” far removed from the front lines, help the Iraqi Army plan. However, the majority of strike targets come from Iraqi troops on the frontline as opposed to US intelligence and surveillance. “We don’t want to tell them what would be a good target for their operation,” the Air Force officer said. “It defeats the purpose of emboldening their army.” An Air Force team gets Iraqi approval for strikes, which go through an extensive vetting process. But too much reliance on Americans in the fight could be “hindering their fortitude,” he said. It’s the Iraqi Army’s fight, with US support. Airstrikes are needed to “get them to act” without relying too much on US troops. ISIS has proven to be a “frustrating” enemy to fight, because they take the easy way and rely on innocent civilians for cover. “They’re in a city. If you hide your rifle, you are a civilian. How do you get around that?” the officer said, expanding that it takes patience and sustained intelligence to develop and ensure effective targeting.