Tags: Barack Obama | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | War on Terrorism | ISIS | airstrikes | counterterrorism

Officials: ISIS Fight Will Take More Than Just Missiles

Officials: ISIS Fight Will Take More Than Just Missiles
Gen. James Mattis. (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 11 September 2014 08:01 AM

Military and diplomatic officials say that the success of President Barack Obama's strategy to "degrade and destroy" the Islamic State (ISIS) will require significantly more than just bombs and missiles.

According to The Washington Post, there is a wide range of uncertain and challenging political variables that will impact the outcome of the president's four-point strategy, announced in an address to the American people on Wednesday night.

Among them, developing a strengthened Iraqi army; managing a cohesive coalition of European and Arab allies; and mounting an air campaign without ground support.

One U.S. general involved in war planning told the Post that the challenges will be "harder than anything we've tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Confronting the group in Syria will be even more difficult, officials said. Specifically, the strategy will require finding a way to weaken ISIS and build up a moderate Syrian opposition without indirectly enabling the brutal regime led by Bashar al-Assad to gain more power.

The general said that the difficulty of executing a successful strategy in Syria "makes Iraq seem easy."

Meanwhile, the development of an operational plan in Syria is still in the making and complicated by a lack of intelligence, given that U.S. drones have not long been flying over areas of the country controlled by ISIS.

"Figuring out where we can strike ISIL so that it weakens them and empowers a more moderate Sunni group instead of the government — you have to think that one through," Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense, told the Post. "I'm not sure we know yet how to pull that off."

The mission will bear no comparison to the launch of the Iraq War, when thousands of U.S. troops tore through the country and overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime in three weeks.

"This is the most complex problem we've faced since 9/11. We don't have a precedent for this," the general told the Post.

The president said in his speech that the campaign will more closely resemble the counterterrorism missions America conducted in Yemen and Somalia, which relied on drone strikes and ground fighting by native forces.

The Post noted that both campaigns took years to conduct and involved far less formidable adversaries than ISIS.

A military campaign based exclusively on air power was not the top choice of military leaders, who instead recommended sending a contingent of American Special Operations forces to advise and help Iraqi army units, two military officials told the Post. Instead, Obama announced that 475 troops would be deployed to assist Iraqi and Kurdish fighters with training, intelligence, and equipment.

"The American people will once again see us in a war that doesn't seem to be making progress," Marine Gen. James Mattis said of the decision not to send ground troops to assist with combat. "You're giving the enemy the initiative for a longer period."

Supporters of the president's approach, however, believe it would be unwise to send combat troops, as they could undermine the motivation of the Iraqi military and the country's new government to take responsibility for helping to roll back the territorial gains achieved by the militant group.

"We cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region," Obama said in his address.


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Military and diplomatic officials say that the success of President Barack Obama's strategy to degrade and destroy the Islamic State will require significantly more than just bombs and missiles.
ISIS, airstrikes, counterterrorism, Iraq
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2014-01-11
Thursday, 11 September 2014 08:01 AM
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