The argument between the US Central Command and Iraq’s senior staff and air force chiefs has not so far filtered down to the lower ranks, but it is already throwing the coalition offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State off track, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report.
American generals advance these complaints:
- The Iraqi pilots flying the F-16 attack planes are not adequately trained and therefore lack full control of the plane’s in-flight systems.
- They are short on aviation discipline to the point that they often present a hazard to coalition aircraft, especially the Americans.
- They are slapdash about targeting. Their hit-or-miss sorties have left scores of Iraqi troops dead on the ground.
- When given specific missions, they often turn around and release their bombs and rockets too soon, thereby wasting ordnance, as well as missing out on their missions.
The US officers are so frustrated with their Iraqi comrades’ performance and handling of their duties that they have shut them out of the CENTCOM aviation control room, which manages the air campaign over Mosul.
The Iraqi generals have an even longer list of gripes against the Americans:
- The US officers manning the control center cancel too many Iraqi air force missions, claiming they are unnecessary.
- The cancellations are sometimes issued after the Iraqi flights are already airborne and nearing their targets. The air crews then have to return to base with their ordnance intact.
- The Iraqi air force senses it is being pushed out of the air campaign over Mosul and prevented from conducting aerial combat missions.
- Air support requested by Iraqi ground forces is often refused by US officers at the control center.
- The Iraqi Special Operations Golden Division was forced to curtail its advance on Mosul for lack of Iraqi air force support.
- Insufficient Iraqi aerial activity has left ISIS fighters free to move large groups of fighters from one combat sector to another, and facilitated the exit of jihadis from the Mosul war zone to Syria or Anbar in western Iraq.
Given this state of relations between the American and Iraqi high air force commands, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources find it hard to see how the Mosul campaign can last much longer or get very far.