National Security

The JV Team Takes on ISIL

The results of having no strategy are becoming painfully apparent.

Oct. 9, 2014

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” the commander in chief told us in August regarding countermeasures against ISIL. That was despite months of warnings about the rise of this terrorist threat in the Middle East. No wonder Barack Obama blamed faulty intelligence for his own unpreparedness. Weeks into airstrikes against ISIL positions, Obama still has no real strategy. In fact, he hasn’t even named the operation.

Perhaps he hasn’t named anything because things aren’t going well. Earlier this month, the U.S. almost mistakenly bombed “moderate” rebels in Syria, Iraqi forces did wrongly drop supplies to the enemy and the Obama administration announced that standards for civilian casualties don’t apply.

Just yesterday, we reported State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki’s difficulty naming gains against ISIL. In fact, just the opposite – ISIL has nearly overrun Kobani, a strategically important and largely Kurdish city on Syria’s border with Turkey. Kurdish militia fighters backed by U.S. airstrikes are engaged in a bid to hold the city, but ISIL controls a growing portion of it after a three-week siege. The administration’s response to its possible fall is essentially, “Yeah, whatever. It’s not important.”

The Obama administration, meanwhile, is preemptively blaming “our partner and friend” Turkey for the fall of Kobani. “There’s growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to act to prevent a massacre less than a mile from its border,” said an anonymous administration official. “This isn’t how a NATO ally acts while hell is unfolding a stone’s throw from their border.”

Turkey has indeed been reluctant to commit its own ground troops for many reasons. First, the Syrian Kurds under assault by ISIL are allies of Turkey’s Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK – a militant separatist group. Helping them isn’t what Turkey wants to do. Second, Turkey’s chief desire is the ouster of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and it considers the U.S. focus on ISIL to be a distraction. Finally, Turkey knows Obama won’t have its back, because he’s dead set against U.S. ground troops.

Rear Admiral John Kirby warned, “Airstrikes are not going to save the town of Kobani.” He added, “We should all be steeling ourselves for [the] reality” that Kobani will fall. And if that happens, a Kurdish official warned, “we should expect to have 5,000 dead within 24 or 36 hours.”

Kirby implicitly acknowledged the foolish limits placed upon the U.S. military by the president. This became an American military operation once we launched airstrikes, and any gains ISIL makes are now against the U.S. That makes recruitment easier, among other bad consequences. It’s astounding that the Pentagon is having to concede territory to ISIL because Obama is so uncommitted to victory that he’s unwilling to even name the operation, much less make it a successful one.

Maybe Obama should call it Operation JV Team.

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