Column: Only American Ground Troops Can Defeat the Islamic State

Photo Credit: APTwo months ago, President Obama authorized bombing Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq. One month ago, President Obama authorized bombing Islamic State forces in Syria. His plan: couple American air power with indigenous ground forces.

“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines,” Obama said last month, “is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” I disagree with his use of the adverb “successfully.” But Yemen and Somalia are exactly what we’re getting.

Disordered and violent spaces, desultory and pinprick strikes, incompetent and wary allies, determined and implacable enemies—this is the Greater Middle East of Yemen and Somalia, this is the Greater Middle East of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

The Islamic State continues to hold territory and make gains. The Pentagon, Rowan Scarborough reports, fears that the terrorist army is planning to capture Baghdad International Airport, using it as a base for urban warfare in the Iraqi capital. In the east, Islamic State forces have laid siege to the Kurdish town of Kobani, held at bay only by a slapdash increase in U.S. airstrikes. “I am fearful that Kobani will fall,” General Martin Dempsey said this week. You’re not alone, general. Why don’t you do something about it?

I must know better than to ask such questions. Dempsey’s boss, President Obama, is more interested in avoiding the use of large numbers of ground forces than he is in actually seeing the Islamic State defeated. So he leaves the heavy fighting to our “partners.” But the partners are confused, inept. They are silent. And the enemy is gaining.

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