I thought it was fishy when the Pentagon claimed that it had lost 25% of its territory, and noted at the time that we had been hearing about the Islamic State losing for months. Then days after the announcement about the Islamic State losing territory, we heard that it was besieging Ramadi, a key city near Baghdad. And now this. Has Baghdad Bob become the Secretary of Defense?
“Exclusive: Pentagon Map Hides ISIS Gains,” by Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, April 22, 2015:
The U.S. military presented evidence that it was beating back the so-called Islamic State but it doesn’t even count coalition setbacks.
The Defense Department released a map last week showing territory where it is has pushed ISIS back, claiming that the terrorist group is “no longer able to operate freely in roughly 25 to 30 percent of populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once could.” This was touted as evidence of success by numerous news outlets.
Pushing ISIS back is clearly a good step. But the information from the Pentagon is, at best, misleading and incomplete, experts in the region and people on the ground tell The Daily Beast. They said the map misinforms the public about how effective the U.S.-led effort to beat back ISIS has actually been. The map released by the Pentagon excludes inconvenient facts in some parts, and obscures them in others.
The Pentagon’s map assessing the so-called Islamic State’s strength has only two categories: territory held by ISIS currently, and territory lost by ISIS since coalition airstrikes began in August 2014. The category that would illustrate American setbacks—where ISIS has actually gained territory since the coalition effort began—is not included….
The map also shows areas where ISIS is “dominant,” as opposed to the terrorist group’s operational reach—the areas where it can inflict violence….
“ISIL’s own doctrine says it must gain and hold territory. This map shows they are not achieving their stated goals,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told The Daily Beast, using the government’s preferred acronym for the terror group.
But Warren seemed to acknowledge that the map isn’t entirely accurate.
The document “was not meant to be a detailed tactical map—it is simply a graphic used to explain the overall situation,” he said.
The entire battlefield of the ISIS war isn’t depicted, however. For some reason, the Pentagon’s ISIS map excludes the entire western side of Syria—which, coincidentally or not, is an area where ISIS has gained a significant foothold since the U.S.-led bombing effort began last year.
Western Syria is also an area dominated by the Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad. The United States has insisted that Assad must leave office, but has not elucidated a clear strategy for how to compel this to occur.
Jennifer Cafarella, a fellow specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War, said that while the map, as presented, looked accurate, she would “highlight that the map doesn’t extend to include western Syria, where there is growing ISIS presence… the map cuts off, essentially ignoring ISIS in the Syrian-Lebanese border region and Damascus.”
ISIS gains in the area excluded from the Pentagon’s map should be noted, Cafarella continued, because “they are a forward investment for ISIS that will create long-term opportunities for further expansion into zones in which coalition airstrikes are unlikely, at least in the near term, to penetrate..”
Since airstrikes began in August, ISIS has also shown its force on the northeastern suburbs of Damascus, near Qabun. More recently, ISIS made international news through a violent takeover of the area surrounding a Palestinian refugee camp called Yarmouk, which U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described as “the deepest circle of hell.”…