Photo Credit: REUTERS / Larry DowningAfter weeks of back and forth, on Wednesday night President Barack Obama outlined his strategy for “degrading” and “destroying” the Islamic State, and on the 13th anniversary of 9/11, Americans were able to finally wake up in a country that had a strategy for the most recent Islamist threat.
The problem is that the strategy — to provide logistical support for Iraqi forces, limited air strikes, and a strong Free Syrian Army — is a foolish strategy that is unlikely to succeed.
The president’s strategy calls for U.S. air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in support of Iraqi army forces and the Free Syrian Army rebels who are fighting the Islamic State on the ground. Obama made it clear that the U.S. military commitment will be limited to air strikes, as he will not order U.S. ground forces into either Iraq or Syria.
Instead of ground forces, however, the president said that the United States will increase training and logistical support for those armies on the ground, but herein lies a critical flaw: The Iraqis have not proven to be a reliable partner in the war on terrorism. And this, despite ten years of U.S. military training and equipment provided by the United States.
In Iraq, the Islamic State has swept Iraqi forces in a number of recent engagements, with many Iraqi units simply abandoning their posts and refusing to fight. This problem is not one that can be solved through additional training. Even with the added power and confidence-boost of air strikes, a root issue is sectarianism. On a number of occasions, the Iraqi army failed to fight the Islamic State not simply because of bad officers and cowardice: Sunni units simply did not want to fight fellow Sunnis, even if they were extremists.
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