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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Evil ISIS isn't flying high flags these days but evaluating damage is difficult and success is even more difficult to imagine

Kobani, Syria: Kurdish and local forces appear to be taking back parts of the city (from ISIS,the Islamic State).  

Thankfully Kurdish fighters (including women) appear to be providing some credible statistics.

“How long we hang in there? That is the metric ISIS is watching.”  Ret. Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger

ISIS in Syria and Iraq is impacted by devastating air strikes to demolish this evil extremist Islamic movement.  Obviously, coalition forces waited too long to begin attacking the aggresive Islamic State. Although air bombings appear to be taking a toll on the dark robed ISIS advancements, evaluting the impact is difficult. What I want ot know is, where are the group's leaders? Surely, they're being picked off, or they'd be heard or video taped.

Daily Beast Reports:

Pentagon Doesn’t Know How Many People Killed in ISIS War

The American military may have launched hundreds of airstrikes on Iraq and Syria. But  who was on the receiving end of those bombs?

Pentagon leaders agree, to a person, that the U.S. war against ISIS is succeeding. The problem is, no one can actually prove it.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Deborah Lee James, the Secretary of Air Force, said ISIS (the Islamic State - which isn't really a state, at all) can't fly its flag over stolen U.S. tanks with the bravado it once did. 

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the campaign is working because ISIS hasn't gained significant ground in the six months, since airstrikes began. 

In congressional testimony, press conferences and interviews in between, the leadership often offers an amalgam of anecdotes to illustrate positive momentum.

Nevertheless, no one put forth statistics on the impact of the strikes—what percentage of ISIS equipment, personnel or revenue sources have been destroyed by the barrage of U.S. and coalition air strikes, even as leaders like James said told The Daily Beast they have asked for that breakdown.

As James, whose air forces has conducted 60 percent of the strikes and 90 percent of the drone war, explained: “I don’t think [those numbers] exist.”  (So, who's cares?  ISIS is so evil they don't deserve the validation of statistics, IMO.)

“We are disrupting and degrading,” she added. “What does that mean? They are not quantified.”

Granted, James is in an office in the Pentagon, and not on the front lines. But the inability to measure progress in the ISIS campaign is widespread. In a war fought largely from the air and in places no one can safely go, the impact is as opaque as the war itself, making it difficult to measure whether the U.S. and coalition effort is working.  (IMO, count the number of days when no ISIS leadership isn't seen or heard from....that's a statistic, too.)

“We don’t have the ability to count the nose of every guy we schwack,” as Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby told reporters Tuesday, using military jargon for killing. “That’s not the goal.”

Presumably, that also means the Pentagon can’t count how many civilians it has accidentally killed in the name of riding the region of ISIS. (Well, this is sad, but ISIS also uses collateral damage to deter Coalition aggression).

On Tuesday, U.S. Central Command said it had investigated 18 charges so far of civilian casualties from the start of the air campaign against ISIS. Three of those cases are pending.

“I cannot give you a specific number of ISIL fighters [killed],” Kirby noted, using the Pentagon’s preferred acronym. “We just know it is hundreds —several hundreds.”

Meanwhile, progress in this war continues to be measured on fluid standards—where ISIS is trying to go, whether it can go there and if local forces can fend them off. It is not a decisive war, with a single, signature victory, but a war of attrition. But there is no consensus of the attrition of ISIS looks like. 

Success—and failure—are in the eye of the beholder. 

In the northern Syrian city of Kobani, for example, which according to the Wall Street Journal, has seen 31 percent of U.S. and coalition strikes, Kurdish and local forces appear to be taking back parts of the city. But how much they have regained or how durable their hold is remains unclear. Kirby said that while the Kurdish forces control the majority of the city, it “remains contested.”

Breaking the will of ISIS, the military argues, is not a statistic. And too much of a focus on numbers can obscure strategic truths. Take the chief metric of the war in Vietnam—body counts, which ultimately did not answer whether the strategy was working.

Ret. Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Daily Beast such thinking constricts how the U.S. thinks of war.

“You are applying western metrics to someone who is not losing that metric against you,” referring to ISIS, Bolger said. “How long we hang in there? That is the metric ISIS is watching.”

Julie's note- So, it's obvious the US led coalition against the evil ISIS will be in this fight for a very long time.

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