By Sal Bommarito
The ISIS conflict is filled with more contradictions each day. U.S. generals are still “considering” what contingencies might cause them to recommend ground force deployment. Iraqis and Syrians located in different parts of their countries are supportive and against the U.S. and ISIS.
The president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military. He has indicated on several occasions that there will be no deployment of U.S. ground forces into either Iraq or Syria, while simultaneously doubling the number of “military advisors” just a few days ago. Nevertheless, senior commanders including Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other high-ranking soldiers have speculated about the moment to use American foot soldiers. Dempsey postulated to the House Armed Services Committee about events that would force him to recommend the deployment of troops to the president.
Certainly, enough military personnel, military experts and military talking heads have warned that the U.S. will not be able to defeat and degrade ISIS without ground soldiers. The only way to root out ISIS fighters from populated areas is with this additional capability. Also, qualified soldiers are needed on the scene to provide U.S. bombers with quality targets. Currently, pilots identify targets from the air. The former will result in many more successful bombing sorties and less collateral damage.
In spite of all this mumbling behind his back, the president is still willing to bet the war on indigenous ground forces that are supposed to do very difficult work sometime in the future. Many people in the know have indicated that the Iraqi Army is not and will not be up to the task of facing off against ISIS. And, the proposed training of moderate rebels to repel ISIS in Syria has not even begun. In the meantime, ISIS is digging in to their positions, often in populated areas. New recruits are pouring in and ISIS is providing services to civilians in cities they have overwhelmed as a precursor to establishing an Islamic State. The New York Times reported on the aforementioned civilian services along with some very different perspectives among Iraqis about U.S. bombing and ISIS occupation.
The ISIS war is beginning to feel like an extended conflict with no end in sight as neither side is making any definitive moves to assert itself. The U.S. is continuing with a somewhat anemic battle plan: bombing runs are much fewer than other conflicts in the region in the past several years. The targets being hit by U.S. are not worthy of the high tech munitions being employed to blow up trucks and other soft targets.
If no body bags are sent back to the U.S., Americans will probably not object to a standoff in the Middle East. But, it’s likely that the new Congress will start asking tough questions about the mission, the direction of the war and the likelihood of defeating ISIS.