For prior parts in this series, see:
This final article in the Islamic State's al-Naba' newsletter series on the insurgent tactic of temporarily taking control of areas deals with the issue of withdrawal. The article notes that circumstances can vary and unexpected obstacles may arise for a withdrawal plan during an expedition. However, some general guidelines are given.
- The organization of withdrawal may vary. For example, it could be that the groups that assault first should be the first to withdraw, or the groups that launch the deepest incursion into an area should be the first to withdraw.
- The need to secure exits. Some exits are to be held at all costs, while others can be used in the framework of diversion operations. The loss of other exits may not be deemed a major problem.
- Islamic State supporters in an area should have safe shelters for groups that cannot withdraw or groups with wounded who cannot be evacuated easily.
- Withdrawal should ideally done under cover of diversion operations that mislead the enemy.
- Withdrawals can be affected by enemy responses: e.g. if it is expected the enemy will bring in reinforcements to surround the mujahideen, a reserve force should exist prepared to break the siege, or the mujahideen should organize as strong groups capable of a break out by force.
The article concludes that the series is not presenting a comprehensive one model program for insurgent operation, but is just illuminating general principles on one of the methods of operation. Commanders should devise continually innovative ways of implementing the method so that the enemy do not devise effective counter-tactics. Finally, the article stresses the need for 'hearing and obeying' of the leadership for expeditions.
Bringing down towns temporarily as a method of operation for the mujahideen 4
The withdrawal plan is no less important than the attack and assault plan, and may be more important in some instances, as it is an important part of the stages of the operation as a whole, as its objective is not to hold to the land and defend it, and especially as the mujahideen in the stage of the assault are organized, active, in good health and lightly burdened, but at the time of the withdrawal they may be compelled to implement it with less organization, just as they may also be tired out from working for hours, and there may be injured and wounded among them and their burden may be heavy in what they hae from prisoners and spoils that God Almighty has granted them in their expedition.
Thus among the assignments of the amir on his giving agreement on the attack plan is that he should also give consideration as to the withdrawal plan in relation to it. And just as it is necessary to make available the information and guides for the mujahideen during the assault, it is also necessary to guide them to the means of withdrawal and its timing, how they will be given the order to do so, and the boundary by entry of which they will be outside the danger area of operations that the enemy will be expected to cover in pursuit of them.
And as is the case that when the attack plan is decided, the mujahideen expect the possibility of the occurrence of changes to it because of incidental events that face them, or mistakes that occur during the implementation, or surprises whose cause is lack of intelligence information or its outdatedness, or changes in the enemy's situation that have reduced its usefulness, so they must take into account the existence of a great likelihood that there will be obstacles that prevent the implementation of the withdrawal plan as it has been put in place. So the amirs are compelled to make an effort according to the available information and capabilities to realize the best thing possible of circumstances, and implement the best of what is in their hands from procedures to secure the withdrawal in an appropriate manner.
Organizing the withdrawal
And the withdrawal plan is affected by multiple factors, among them the attack plan itself, for this plan may be put in place on the basis of it with a retroactive effect: that is, every group withdraws from the place it assaulted, following the safe path and organization, in that the first of the groups in the assault should be the first to withdraw. Or the organization may be according to the degree of incursion, in that the groups that have penetrated most deeply into the area should be the first to get out from them, while the group that has control over the exits should remain holding to them until it is sure that the exit of all of the groups that will follow this path has been secured.
And likewise the organization of the withdrawal depends on the nature of the mujahideen and their burden, so there should first be pulling out of the groups that are overburdened with injured, that the groups on whose shoulders fall the burden of removing the prisoners and spoils, and the groups that are most worn out from the battles, and then the last to be pulled out should be the active in the fighting, with few burdens and most capable of withdrawing and transferring.
And all these matters are subject to the organizations of the expedition, its aims and results, as there may occur an incident that pushes the mujahideen to change the organizations put in place, but generally speaking, the presence of organization that may be modified remains better than the lack of existence of organization absolutely: something from which chaos in withdrawal may arise, being a cause of reduction of gains of the mujahideen from the expedition, or the realization of gains for the enemy, on account of which they may brag before their supporters with false claims about foiling the expedition and inflict damage on the attacking mujahideen.
Securing the exits
And as we have spoken previously on the issue of holding the entrances to secure the assault, it is necessary to secure the exists until the end of the attack and the going out of the last of the mujahideen from the area, or in order to prevent the enemy from entering them until the withdrawal of the brothers from it is completed. And in accordance with the withdrawal plan put in place previously, the amir of the expedition sets out the exits that will be held by any means and until the last moment, and the others in which diversion is sufficient, or whose loss does not impact the course of the operation because the paths leading to them from the outside are secured by units cutting off the route for example.
It is beneficial when there are supporters for the mujahideen in the area that safe shelters should be secured within the region to which the mujahideen who have not managed to withdraw for some reason can come to take refuge, or to shelter the wounded whom it has been difficult to evacuate, and that is so that they can remain in them until it is possible to get them out from the area by a safe means.
And the preference is that the withdrawal should be under cover of diversion operations, inside the attack zone or on its peripheries, in that some of the units complete the clash operation and give the impression to the enemy that they desire to attack new areas, while the mujahideen carrying out the attack will have begun to evacuate the area gradually that does not result in a sudden stop to the clashes. Then the distraction units withdraw by an appropriate way after receiving the order to do so when the safe withdrawal operation is completed.
Avoiding the enemies on the way
And likewise the plan is affected by the extent of the force of the enemy and the speed of its response to the attack and the nature of this response, for if it is expected that the enemy reinforcements will resort to attempting to surround the area to besiege the mujahideen inside it, it is preferable that there should be a reserve force on the outside of the area prepared to break the siege upon them, or that the exit of the mujahideen from the area should be in the form of strong groups that are capable- by the permission of God Almighty- of breaking the siege and getting out of it by force.
And if it is expected that ambushes will be put in place on the paths, it is preferred for a reconnaissance force to precede the mujahideen to explore the route, and that the withdrawing forces should be in the form of strong groups organized in a way that makes them capable of striking the ambushes.
And if it is expected that aircraft will enter, it is preferable for the brothers not to withdraw in the form of convoys but rather in a dispersed sense that prevents their direction from being defined to pursue them and strike their convoys, and likewise camouflage against aircraft by concealing armed elements on the vehicles as far as possible.
As for if the enemy are weak and dispersed and the attack is in an area remote from their main forces, the mujahideen will have their own free space for the timing and method of withdrawal, and these matters are all subject to the assessments of the mujahideen before and during the attack.
What we have put forward in this series is a representation of ideas drawn from the different experiences of the mujahideen, and it is not a unified model for work to be implemented in its entirety, for the object of putting forward these ideas is to draw attention to this important method of the methods of fighting against the disbelievers and apostates, and give an overview of its most important aspects. This is so that we may leave to the amirs of the mujahideen in every field consideration as to what is appropriate or them, and build on these principles innovative plans that may continuously surprise the enemies, and prevent them from expecting a set method of attacks by the mujahideen for which they devise counter-plans they continuously develop.
And what must be affirmed here is the importance of leadership and hearing and obeying, for these operations, in view of their great speed, require high precision on the part of the unified leadership for the different groups of the mujahideen. And this matter cannot be realized except through making available the system of "hearing in contact" through active contacts between the amirs and soldiers, and the realization of obedience on the part of the mujahideen in general to the expedition's leadership, from the moment they set out from their bases until they return to the safe areas, and the amir announces the end of the expedition.
So any act of disobedience or unjustified slacking in implementing the orders on the part of the mujahideen in one of the groups may lead to that whose consequence is not to be commended from the ruining of the work of other groups, or exposing them to danger, or even making the expedition fail in its entirety, and preventing the mujahideen from picking its fruit for whose sake they have expended much sweat, wealth and blood.
And by good preparation and appropriate implementation of the expedition, its aims can be realized by the permission of God Almighty. And God indeed supports the one who supports Him. Indeed God is powerful, mighty. And praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.