Defence Secretary Ash Carter on Monday pushed back against President-elect Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that the offensive against Mosul is a “total disaster” because US and Iraqi forces didn’t keep the operation a total secret beforehand.
“It’s actually important that the enemy know that and that ISIL [knows] that we intend and will destroy them,” Carter said at a forum hosted by The Atlantic Magazine and the venture capital firm 1776, according to the Washington Examiner. “There are secret tactics involved there, but the fact that we’re going to Mosul and Raqqa is clear because they’re the two biggest cities.”
Throughout the campaign, Trump has cited Gens. Patton and MacArthur while calling for the “element of surprise” to be used in battlefield operations. “Why can’t they win first and talk later?” he told ABC News. “Why do they have to say three months before the attack, we’re going in?”
But as Carter and many military strategists have pointed out, it’s quite obvious to ISIS that their two biggest cities of Mosul and Raqqa will need to be defended against Iraqi, Syrian, or US forces at some point. The defence secretary’s comments also bring to mind the importance of “information operations,” where forces attempt to psychologically torment an enemy before an attack.
The US military uses tactics like blasting Arabic messages over loudspeakers urging ISIS fighters to surrender, or drops leaflets saying much the same thing. This is the kind of thing every military does before large battles, since it often works pretty well to get at least some enemy fighters to surrender — and those fighters turn over intelligence.
“The information campaign was very effective and as important to this operation as the actual combat offensive to liberate the city,” retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Sattler and Col. Daniel H. Wilson wrote in a historical analysis of the campaign to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004. “We stole the strategic communications initiative from the enemy and never gave it back.”
It’s even instructive to look back on how ISIS took Mosul in the first place. It wasn’t a sneak attack at all. While logistical and political concerns contributed to the defeat of Iraqi security forces, the terrorist group was incredibly effective in using social media to “strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.”
President-elect Trump again refused to give any plan for defeating the terrorist group in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday, insisting that he needed to keep the element of surprise. For months, he has repeatedly refused to provide even general themes on how he would defeat ISIS, using the need for surprise as cover to avoid the fact he doesn’t really have a plan, according to numerous national security experts.
“There’s a lot of policy yet to be written in the Trump administration,” Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who served as the right-hand-man to Gen. David Petraeus, told Business Insider. “I have no idea how the fight against ISIS is going to play out. He hasn’t indicated that he has a plan. I doubt that he does.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.