Last week we heard President Barack Obama address the nation to deliver his strategy on fighting ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. However, many people walked away wondering what the strategy truly was. President Obama claimed multiple times that the United States and its allies would be going after ISIL via airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. President Obama also claimed he would be arming the Free Syrian Army, the Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi army. However, President Obama also said that there would be no combat troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria to fight ISIL.
We already know that President Obama has sent over 1,000 U.S. Special Forces soldiers to serve as security personnel and training and logistics for the Iraqi army. So the strategy seems to be to launch airstrikes on key ISIL territories and then allow the Iraqis, Kurds and Syrian rebels to retake lost territory. However, questions remain on the strength and legitimacy of all three of those groups.
So far in Iraq we have seen many Iraqi soldiers either turn and run when facing ISIL fighters, quit their jobs and go home, or even join ISIL. A recent report from the CIA claims that ISIL could have a force 31,500 strong. From what we have heard thus far, the Iraqi military does not seem strong enough to be able to fend off a force as large as ISIL by themselves. We then wonder about the strength of the Kurds. We know they are courageous and strong, but do they have the numbers to be able to fight such a large ISIL army? If ISIL decides to focus on attacking the Kurds only, we have to wonder how long the Kurds alone could fend off an ISIL attack. We then also look to Syria. In a hypothetical situation, the Iraqi military and the Kurdish military regain some ground from ISIL in Iraq, so could we rely on the Free Syrian Army, who are in a three front war, to take land back from ISIL?
The President’s current plan seems to rely on quite a few hypotheticals. A lot of things would have to fall into place in order for the President’s plan to work. Several nations around the world, including the United States have committed Special Forces soldiers who are most likely attempting to fight ISIL on the ground. However, I would not be surprised to see in the future a full commitment to combat troops on the ground to fight ISIL. ISIL thus far seems unfazed by the opposition they have faced thus far, and may be able to hold it off without incurring too much damage. I believe if we are to truly wipe out ISIL the United States military will have to be more involved in the process.
In order to defeat ISIL we will also have to focus on fighting them in other parts besides Iraq and Syria, including here in the United States. A report came out last week confirming the concerns many Americans have had for quite some time, that ISIL was looking to exploit the current issues at the southern border. The report stated that fighters were actually waiting in Mexico to come across the border to cause problems. Many would not be surprised to see ISIL forces in the United States already due to the crisis at the southern border.
We must also deal with fighters that have left the United States and Europe to go fight for ISIL in Iraq and Syria. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 Americans and Europeans fighting for ISIL. Each of them have passports that would allow them to come back to their home countries. Many are concerned these fighters could come back and start a new terror cell in their home countries or come back to launch an attack in the name of ISIL. Several lawmakers, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz have proposed legislation to prevent these fighters from coming back on American soil. This same proposition has been discussed in Europe as well. The truth is, there may not be a fool proof solution, but something does need to be done fast to address that issue.
Another key point in the defeat of ISIL will be the public relations battle currently being waged. The Obama administration has for some reason refrained from calling this a “war” against ISIL. The word that they prefer to use is “mission.” If we are to defeat a cancer like ISIL we must first acknowledge that it is a dangerous cancer, and then come up with strategies to destroy it for good. There have been times in which members of the Obama administration do not seem to be in tune with each other. We have seen Secretary of Defense Hagel say one thing, and then Secretary of State Kerry say something different that contradicts other statements. The United States must acknowledge that the world is fighting the evil that is ISIL, and that the fight is a war. This is not a mission that we chose to have, ISIL has declared war on us. ISIL has beheaded two American citizens and one British citizen. ISIL has declared that their plan is to kill anyone who does not agree with them.
It is time for President Obama and Congress to come up with a strategy that would destroy ISIL once and for all. If we do not, then ISIL will continue their rampage around the world, striking countries that are considered to be key American and European allies in the region. Hopefully the administration sees the issue as what it truly is before this happens.
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