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The Future of War is in Cities – The Study of War Should Follow Suit

Courtesy of Alessandro Grussu/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 23 May 2017.

On March 17th, a US airstrike killed nearly 300 people in the densely populated area of western Mosul. This deadly attack – along with other reports of mounting civilian casualties from US airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen – are raising questions about whether the Trump administration has relaxed the rules of engagement.

Since entering office, President Trump has sought to reduce the constraints on the use of force imposed by his predecessor. For instance, he has designated parts of Yemen and Somalia as “areas of active hostilities,” giving the US military greater latitude to carry out airstrikes and ground raids. His new plan to defeat ISIS is also expected to include “recommended changes to any United States rules of engagement and other…policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law.” So far, both administration and military officials have denied that a formal change in the rules of engagement has taken place. But human rights groups are saying that even the perception of declining concerns over civilian deaths can have a “detrimental strategic impact” on the fight against ISIS, with dire humanitarian consequences.

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The Future of War is in Cities – The Study of War Should Follow Suit

Courtesy of Alessandro Grussu/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 23 May 2017.

On March 17th, a US airstrike killed nearly 300 people in the densely populated area of western Mosul. This deadly attack – along with other reports of mounting civilian casualties from US airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen – are raising questions about whether the Trump administration has relaxed the rules of engagement.

Since entering office, President Trump has sought to reduce the constraints on the use of force imposed by his predecessor. For instance, he has designated parts of Yemen and Somalia as “areas of active hostilities,” giving the US military greater latitude to carry out airstrikes and ground raids. His new plan to defeat ISIS is also expected to include “recommended changes to any United States rules of engagement and other…policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law.” So far, both administration and military officials have denied that a formal change in the rules of engagement has taken place. But human rights groups are saying that even the perception of declining concerns over civilian deaths can have a “detrimental strategic impact” on the fight against ISIS, with dire humanitarian consequences.

» More

Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL

152-mm howitzer 2A65 «Msta-B» in Saint-Petersburg Artillery museum

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 11 January 2016.

Amid Russian air and cruise missile strikes, civilian casualties, proposed no-fly zones, air-to-air shoot-downs, and new surface-to-air missiles in Syria, relatively few news stories have discussed the introduction of Russian artillery into the theater. Though the introduction of artillery may seem less significant than aerial attacks, remember that Napoleon observed: “With artillery, war is made.” By reintroducing artillery to Syria to support combined arms operations, the Russians may have revealed something about the war they and the Syrians envision. Together with increased air attacks, the Syrians and their Russian advisors seek to revitalize combined arms forces, and artillery is critical to their vision of such forces. Artillery is particularly important for offensive operations, providing a continuous presence that current Russian air deployments cannot sustain. The Syrian ground forces are now taking and holding ground, fighting urban and village battles where they must, but posing a threat of encirclement and maneuver where they can.

The Syrian military was once a large, well-equipped, Soviet-model Arab army capable of executing combined arms operations. While not often victorious, it was usually competent. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) was not then the principal internal guarantor of Bashar al-Assad’s regime — that was the responsibility of other military and security organizations. Primarily oriented against Israel, the conscript-based SAA drew on all sects and functioned as a key secular institution of a largely secular state.

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Russian Airstrikes in Syria: November 25 – December 2, 2015

Russian Airstrikes in Syria (click to enlarge). Map: Genevieve Casagrande & Jodi Brignola/Institute for the Study of War

This map was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 4 December, 2015.

Russian air operations in Syria continue to pursue the preservation of the Assad regime. Spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve Colonel Steve Warren commented on Russia’s most recent statements regarding its operations in Syria, stating that “Everything they are doing is to support Assad, to keep Assad in power… Every time the Russians conduct an operation that extends or helps extend Assad’s hold on power is yet another day that Syrian civilians will suffer under the boot of Bashar al-Assad.” » More

Russia’s Recent Airstrikes in Syria

Russian Airstrikes in Syria from 23 October – 1 November, 2015 (click to enlarge). Image: Genevieve Casagrande/Institute for the Study of War

This map was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 2 November, 2015.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) discontinued the release of daily airstrike reports from October 28 – November 1 amidst multilateral talks on the Syrian Civil War held in Vienna on October 30 and continued reports of civilian casualties. Nevertheless, credible local sources continued to report airstrikes in Dera’a, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo from October 31 – November 1. Russian airstrikes predominantly targeted rebel-held areas in Aleppo Province in conjunction with regime ground offensives against ISIS in the southeastern countryside of Aleppo and rebel forces southwest of Aleppo City. Local activist reporting claimed that Russian airstrikes and regime forces killed 64, including 28 children in Aleppo on October 31 alone. » More

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