US President Barack Obama recently promised to crush and destroy the radical Islamist group known as ISIS (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”, also referred to as “ISIL” and “IS”)
ISIS is a group of Islamic Jihadists that Osama Bin Laden kicked out of Al Qaeda for being “too extreme” in their methods. In recent months, ISIS has seemingly come out of obscurity to seize major portions of northern Syria and Iraq, and now controls towns on the outskirts of Baghdad. In the process, the group has slaughtered thousands of Christian and other minorities within those countries, as well as beheading multiple captured US and British journalists.
In what some have accused of being a belated response, Obama ordered a series airstrikes against certain ISIS targets, but also made abundantly clear that he would not commit any US ground troops to fight the Islamist group. At first the airstrikes seemed to have some limited effect in helping overwhelmed Kurdish forces in regaining some ground in Iraq. But now according to reports coming out of the Pentagon, airstrikes have been very limited in their scope and have greatly slowed due to a lack of targets without US forces on the ground to identify viable targets.
Military experts have been railing against what they perceive as a grossly ill conceived and ineffective strategy against ISIS. Retired General James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps 2006 – 2010 and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently stated that, “I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding,” suggesting that without boots on the ground, that ISIS could not be defeated.
In the last several days, ISIS has laid siege to the strategic town of Kobani Syria which sits directly on the Turkish border. Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been waging a desperate battle to hold the town against overwhelming and better equipped ISIS forces. The Kurds in Iraq and Syria have long fought against various Islamist groups, and they hope to eventually establish an independent Kurdishstan, something which would help western interests and serve as a stabilizing force in the region. Interestingly, the Peshmerga has a large number of female soldiers who are said to be quite fierce fighters.
But the Kurds are a fairly small minority within the Islamic world, and have been greatly weakened by decades of battle with Islamists, and the US and western nations have been hesitant to provide substantial aid as of late. The Peshmerga is known for being exceptionally tough and effective, but lack heavy weapons, tanks and artillery, armament ISIS currently has in abundance from seized sources.
Reports coming out this morning indicate that overnight, ISIS has taken control of major portions of the town of Kobani and that the entire town will soon fall to ISIS control. As pictured above, the black flags of ISIS have been seen being placed on many rooftops throughout the city in the last 48 hours. Since the fighting started in Kobani, large numbers of inhabitants of the city have fled hoping to escape an inevitable genocide from ISIS.
Esmat al-Sheikh, leader of the Kurdish Kobani Defence Authority, told Reuters that, “We either die or win. No fighter is leaving, The world is watching, just watching and leaving these monsters to kill everyone, even children…but we will fight to the end with what weapons we have.”
In response to the fighting, Turkey has placed tanks along the border near Kobani. The Turks have a complicated stake in the fighting because they want to prevent ISIS from attacking Turkey, yet they recently welcomed the opening of an ISIS consulate in the Turkish capital and also exchanged 180 jihadis with ISIS for 46 captured Turks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is known as Obama’s best friend among world leaders, and Turkey is a member of NATO as well as having pledged to join Obama’s “coalition” to fight ISIS. However, to date Turkey has not committed any forces or resources to fight ISIS. Turkey’s main interests are toppling Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and preventing the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, both shared goals with ISIS. Reportedly Turkish citizens have been protesting in response to their government standing by while Kobani fell to ISIS since Turkey has pledged to fight them. Kurdish leaders have been urging Turkish leaders to allow weapons aid to come in from Turkey, but thus far Turkey has given the Kurds no support.
According to reports from NBC this morning, it seemed that the US was “sitting by and watching ISIS take Kobani.” Col Ralph Peters recently said in an interview with Megyn Kelly in regards to the importance of Kobani that, “It is important symbolically and practically. It extends the caliphate, and the Islamic State caliphate. It’s real and it’s now no matter what the ‘president’ says. It extends it right up to the borders of Turkey, secures a vast stretch of Northeastern Syria. It really is the battle for Syrian Kurdistan.”
Col Peters went on to say that, “But our ‘president,’ who launched this phony air campaign, basically to absolve him of any blame, to get his party through the November elections, this air campaign has been paltry from the start. He warned them we’re coming. He hit empty buildings in the dead of night, empty camps. We’re sending in jet fighters with small yield, low yield precision munitions, basically guided hand-grenades to blow up individual pickup trucks, to kill three terrorists here, four there.”
As NBC Reports, according to David Schenker, director of the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “We have not ostensibly degraded the capability of the organization — we have put them on notice that we will target them, but we have not prevented the movement or the offensive of ISIS.” Schenker added, “I do not see this in any way as a degrade-and-destroy operation — what I see it as is a limited containment operation that hasn’t had a great deal of success so far.”
In an interview on The Today Show this morning, former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta strongly criticized Obama, the president under which he served. Panetta said that Obama having taken out all US forces from Iraq and created an unstable situation which allowed ISIS to infiltrate. Panetta also insisted that if Obama is serious about the fight against ISIS, that ground forces must be used, and that using airstrikes alone would continue to fail.
The fall of Kobani signals that ISIS is not being deterred by such limited US and western offensive. It is clear that without US and or western boots on the ground, that the Kurds will continue to lose more and more territory, eventually becoming so weakened as to become a non-factor in the fight against radical Islam. For the west to contiue turn its back on the Kurds would be major mistake. For the US to continue to allow ISIS free reign in Iraq and Syria for fear of putting “boots on the ground” would mean a far greater effort and loss of life in the future for American forces if ISIS continues to build momentum and strength.
ISIS is poised to depose Assad and take over all of Syria. They are continuing to take over more territory in Iraq. There are also reports that ISIS is working to undermine the Lebanese military in order to take over Lebanon. Pakistan, a nuclear power is also vulnerable to ISIS and could fall as well as Jordan.
If the west wants to defeat ISIS, it must get serious and fast, or the long term consequences will be catastrophic.
By: Javan Browder
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