By Sal Bommarito
Recent developments in Ramadi, Palmyra, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan lead me to believe that the U.S. government is not being totally honest or realistic with the American public. After each new incident, the administration says the ISIS threat is not that serious, or that setbacks are to be expected in a “long-term” conflict. Frankly, many Americans and the press are becoming increasingly skeptical about the rhetoric from Washington. Do our leaders have a moral obligation to be truthful in such situations, or do they have the latitude to spoon-feed us with information in an effort to minimize political upheaval at home?
What was the original battle plan of the U.S. relating to ISIS? The Obama administration has steadfastly said it would not commit ground troops to fight the insurgents. The U.S. would exclusively provide air support to the Iraqi government and train Syrian moderates that opposed both Syrian leadership and ISIS.
Unfortunately, our leader, his generals and his aides miscalculated the determination, resourcefulness and popularity of the enemy. And so, air strikes have not been effective as most bombing missions return with unused armaments (reaffirmed yesterday in a comment by Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). The enemy has imbedded itself among innocent civilians so the risk of collateral damage from bombs is great. Did the administration respond to this development? No.
The president said he wanted the Iraqis to fight their own war. This comment was made before ISIS routed Iraqi soldiers at the outset of the war. After ten plus years of providing arms and training, the soldiers ran from the enemy. Since then, government forces have had limited successes, but only with the aid of Shiite militia groups, with whom the U.S. refuses to fight with because of their strong affiliations with Iran.
This issue is further complicated by the fact that Shiite fighters, be they Iraqi or Iranian, are fighting ISIS predominantly in Sunni territory. The president believes that the Iraqi government could engage Sunni tribes to help fight ISIS. Promised weapons to Sunni tribesmen have not been forthcoming and Shiite soldiers have acted aggressively towards Sunni citizens.
A late breaking comment by Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, was “What apparently happened [in Ramadi] was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.” This occurred in spite of the fact that Iraqi forces outnumbered ISIS fighters.
In Syria, the situation is equally unstable. The U.S., with help from Arab nations, was supposed to train and arm moderate Syrians to fight ISIS. The problem is that it is difficult to determine the ultimate goal of this group. Do they want to fight the insurgents (in conjunction with the Syrian army), or do they want to oust the Syrian regime? Moreover, will the group use armaments provided to them by the U.S. and its allies against the U.S. at a later date?
Is the ISIS conflict moving along satisfactorily? You decide, but do so understanding that the Obama administration may be stretching the truth.