By Simon Kent.
The US Department of Defence has announced that a further 18 air strikes have hit ISIS in Iraq in the past 24 hrs.
While it is hard to assess the significance of the recent strikes in the wider campaign, a couple of the announced aerial attacks stand out, possibly indicative of the current battlefield stasis.
Firstly, a large number of strikes are concentrated in Anbar across the entire length of the Euphrates to the west of Baghdad up to the Syrian border, indicating that ISIS is seeking to maintain pressure on this front and willing to expose units to aerial observation.
Disappointingly for the coalition, Rawah, Ramadi and Baghdadi on the Euphrates still see repeated air strikes, indicating a persistent presence of ISIS fighters after well over a year of combat in these towns, while continued strikes near Habbaniyah (where US advisers are based) show that ISIS are occupying ground (if only temporarily) near one of the main staging areas for Iraqi forces.
Nonetheless, as more Sunnis are reported to be joining govt. forces in the vital province of Anbar, there may be limits to how much ISIS can operate in the open. The comparatively large number of recent strikes may force the group to change tactics and disperse.
The full list of strikes in Iraq was as follows:
— Al Baghdadi, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building.
— Near Beiji, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
— Near Habbaniyah, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two buildings.
— Near Kisik, one airstrike struck an ISIL mortar firing position.
— Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL mortar firing position and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
— Near Ramadi, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL building.
— Near Rawah, one airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit and an ISIL encampment.
— Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and an ISIL mortar firing position and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL light machine guns.
— Near Tal Afar, one airstrike struck an ISIL mortar firing position.
— Near Tuz, four airstrikes destroyed 13 ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL vehicles.
(Source: US Department of Defence)