The Islamic State’s military force currently numbers a few thousand — maybe 15,000 tops. It is armed with American and other military hardware. It lacks an air force, despite having captured a Syrian airbase in August. The aircraft that IS captured are mostly out of date, and some do not function. There is no evidence that IS has the pilots to fly those aircraft. At any rate, American pilots are far better trained. Any IS pilots that might take to the skies would not stay there for long.
The Obama administration is not planning a decisive move to crush IS quickly, according to the Washington Post.
The Obama administration is reportedly preparing a campaign to destroy the Islamic State militant group that could outlast the president’s remaining time in office, according to a published report.
The New York Times, citing U.S. officials, reported late Sunday that the White House plan involves three phases that some Pentagon officials believe will require at least three years of sustained effort.
The first phase, airstrikes against Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is already under way in Iraq, where U.S. aircraft have launched 143 attacks since August 8. The second phase involves an intensified effort to train, advise, and equip the Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and any Sunni tribesmen willing to fight their ISIS co-religionists. The Times reports that this second phase will begin sometime after Iraq forms a new government, which could happen this week.
The third, and most politically fraught phase of the campaign, according to The Times, would require airstrikes against ISIS inside Syria. Last month, the government of Bashar Assad in Damascus warned the Obama administration not to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria without its permission.
This might work over time — airstrikes did work, over the course of years, in Bosnia.
But do we have the time? IS is gathering western recruits through its social media campaign daily. It is subjugating Iraqis and Syrians to brutality, sex slavery, mass murder and crucifixions daily. IS is threatening the west and its western recruits could travel to the US, UK and Europe at any time to begin conducting terror strikes.
Putin is likely to see this campaign as half-hearted, less than adequate, and ultimately subject to mission creep that resists putting troops on the ground in Iraq now, only to be forced to do so later, once IS simply morphs and finds ways to either avoid airstrikes or turn them into propaganda wins for itself and defeats for the west.
The Obama administration is in the process of cutting US military forces down to a level not seen in roughly 100 years. The United States once had a strategy in which it could fight two wars in separate parts of the globe simultaneously. We can no longer do that, not with our current force size. The whole world knows this.
Putin will see this air campaign as indecisive, and one that is likely to bog US and allied forces down in the Middle East, again, while he moves with a freer hand against Ukraine and then other former Soviet states. The United States military is the heart of the NATO deterrent. Without it, NATO is hollow.
If the plan is to defeat IS, it would be better to build a strong coalition including US, European and regional forces and go in and crush them swiftly, destroy their brand, kill or capture their leadership, and let IS’ destruction serve as a warning to other challengers.