Twice this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding the run up to a major expansion of military operations against Islamic militants in Iraq, Syria and possibly elsewhere in the region. On Wed., President Obama provided a broad description, but little depth, on how the U.S. would be mounting a multinational effort to begin going on the offensive. These efforts would include the deployment of even more U.S. soldiers, an increasing tempo of airstrikes on Islamist ground positions and work to further train and equip the Iraqi military and Syrian rebel forces.
Despite administration claims there will be no U.S. boots on the ground, more than 1500 U.S. soldiers are already in Iraq, along with hundreds more from within the special operations community. AlertsUSA sources within the Department of Defense say these numbers could realistically grow to more than 5000 before the end of the year.
Defense analysts and retired U.S. military leaders all convey the same message that a significant contingent of U.S. ground forces will ultimately be needed in order to defeat the Islamic State. News reports late this week indicate that military leaders pressed for this option with President Obama but were overruled.
The bottom line is that It is impossible to defeat the enemy using air power alone. Further, anyone within the U.S. military can tell you that in order wage an effective campaign of air strikes, you often need assets on the ground such as Forward Air or Joint Terminal Attack Controllers identifying and marking targets. They can't just be hunted from above.
Next up is Syria. Since President Obama's national address discussing the formation of a broad coalition, several traditional allies including the UK and Germany, have made clear they will not be participating in any military action in Syria. Further, the nation of Turkey, a NATO partner who shares a common border with Syria and Iraq, has also made clear this week they will not allow air strikes into either country to be launched from their territory.
And late this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed the idea of airstrikes in Syria, warning that the strategy may target not only areas controlled by Islamic State militants, but it will also serve as avenue to quietly launch attacks on Syrian troops in order to weaken the government of Bashir Assad. Readers will recall that exactly one year ago President Obama was on the verge of launching air strikes on Syrian government forces following accusations of the use of chemical weapons, but decided to punt to COngress at the last min.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
For starters, it is clear that the U.S. is again entering into what could turn out to be multiple years of additional overseas warfare against a well funded, well armed enemy. Where is the funding coming from you ask? The initial bulk is reported to have come from having overrun the Iraqi Central Bank in Mosul, as well as other smaller banks early in their campaign. This is being continually replenished from the sale of oil from fields now under their control. Their large supply of arms has come, in part, from weapons depots taken when Iraqi military bases were overrun. These weapons depots were prepared for the Iraqi army by the U.S. and paid for with American tax dollars.
As the Islamic State is recruiting new radically-minded individuals from across the globe, it is to be expected that conflict will spread to other areas in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia, which is the grand prize.
It is also highly likely that the U.S. homeland, as well as that of our allies, will experience an increasing tempo of attempted terrorist attacks, not to mention the targeting of U.S. citizens and interests elsewhere in the world.
AlertsUSA again stresses to readers that despite a lack of any recent large scale terror attacks on the homeland, this is not for a lack of trying (see this and this). As the U.S. is now repairing to engage the Islamic State in earnest, now is not the time to grow complacent. Don't operate out of fear, but be ready. AlertsUSA strongly recommends maintaining an appropriate level of situational awareness when out and about and to be prepared for emergencies.
As always, AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor the growing tensions in this region and will immediately notify service subscribers of new U.S. force deployments, changes in threat posture or any other related developments which signal a change the overall terrorism threat picture, as events warrant.