(CNN) – As the U.S. military and its allies have attacked ISIS, a new video is out. It shows some of the methods the group uses in battle. But is it legitimate? Or might there be another reason for the release of this recording?
Recruits crawl through simulated barbed-wire, with trainers firing at them. They line up to have their torsos kicked. The last man gets the honor of a knee to the body.
A fighter drags a cloth mat, with a rope fastened to it, to rescue a wounded comrade. As they’re pulled away, they’re fired at.
This is the latest ISIS propaganda: a video called “Blood of Jihad”, showing fighters in basic training.
“Is this anything they would use in Anbar right now, anywhere on the battlefield?”
“Almost never. This type of hand-to-hand fighting, with automatic weapons, mortars, artillery, vehicles, almost never really occurs. Throughout this entire video, what you have is a staged set of exercises. You look at them and this really isn’t a training exercise. It’s a video exercise.” “Propaganda.” “Exactly.”
But somehow, ISIS has captured most of Anbar province, and come within just a few miles of Baghdad International Airport. What tactics have they deployed?
Iraq combat veteran Douglas Ollivant says on the battlefield, ISIS has previously used what he calls a “react-to-contact drill”; that means in a firefight, they make initial contact against their enemy, using the smallest number of fighters possible: maybe three or four.
“And then put down fire. Because those three or four guys can then keep 20, 30 of the enemy focused on them.”
Then, Ollivant says, a larger group of ISIS fighters comes around, flanking the enemy on one side, finds a weakness, attacks it.
“This is something the U.S. Army Ranger regiment has really practiced for years. It’s been their hallmark.”
But now in Anbar, they’ve shifted tactics, recruiting locals to do much of the fighting.
They surround remote outposts, with few Iraqi soldiers in them, and launch non-conventional assaults.
“Almost all of what they’ve done is a combination of terrorism; it is the use of indirect fire to soften up positions. It’s to assault key positions with suicide bombers. And then close in using automatic weapons.”
Analysts say ISIS has been much more flexible on the battlefield, in Anbar and elsewhere, adapting its tactics to specific targets, while the Iraqi forces have been static. Tied to their positions, not re-supplied, abandoned; it’s allowed ISIS to pick out the weakest links in the Iraqi army, and overrun them.