By Robert Tollast.
The US Department of Defence has reported 11 air strikes in Iraq, usually indicative of 24-48 hrs of activity.
Coalition aircraft normally conduct air strikes along three fronts in Iraq, the Euphrates front, which cuts across western Iraq to Syria and covers the western flank of Baghdad, and includes the ISIS occupied cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, as well as outposts of anti-ISIS forces, such as Haditha and Habbaniyah.
The northern-central Tigris front stretches up to Kurdish territory and includes the contested oil refinery at Baiji, as well as the now liberated Tikrit, Saddam’s home town.
The third front is along the “Green line” which divides the Kurdish region from contested Iraqi Arab land, and includes Kirkuk, Sinjar and Makhmur, where Kurdish forces frequently repel ISIS attacks.
On the Tigris front, the low number of strikes at Baiji –targeting “a motorcyclist”–could suggest ISIS are being worn down in an attrition battle at Baiji, and dispersing. Alternatively, this could be due to the Iraqi air force having recently conducted some 15 strikes in Salahaddin with their new F-16s.
In Anbar, strikes reported were also particularly low–possibly indicating ongoing problems with the offensives against Ramadi and Fallujah. A number of strikes in Syria targeted an ISIS “staging area” in Raqqa, and “excavation equipment” which is often used by ISIS to create defences or for clearing a path for suicide attacks.
(Source: Office of the Secretary of Defence)