EXPANDED U.S. AIRSTRIKES: JETS AND DRONES
A broadening of ISIS targets by American warplanes and drones is already underway, with a new charge of rolling back militants’ territorial gains in northern Iraq. ISIS has control over a third of the country by some estimates, with strongholds extending into Syria. U.S. airstrikes began Aug. 8 as a limited operation to protect U.S. personnel and installations in Erbil and helping avert a humanitarian disaster on Mt. Sinjar. Now they have helped to push militants from the critical Mosul and Haditha dams and beyond. U.S. forces have conducted nearly 150 airstrikes since Aug. 8.
TARGETING SYRIA SAFE HAVENS
The White House acknowledges that ISIS cannot be defeated without rooting out it’s strongholds inside Syria, and that doing so will involve military force. But who exactly will execute that military campaign and when it will happen remains unclear. Unlike Iraq, which has directly requested U.S. help, Syria has warned against U.S. intervention.
NO US TROOPS IN COMBAT
There are already about 1,000 U.S. troops on the group in Iraq to protect the American embassy in Baghdad, the consulate in Erbil and provide advice and assessment to Iraqi and Kurdish security forces. But Obama says there will be no American troops directly involved in ground combat. Period.
President Obama has demonstrated that any military campaign will be led by the U.S. but involve a host of allies that bring different resources to the table. Who will be involved in this coalition of the willing?
The U.S. convened an anti-ISIS coalition of western powers on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Wales last week. It included: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
We can add the Arab League in that coalition I think.
Arab League votes to combat Islamic State group and other extremists in region
Citing U.S. officials, the Times 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.