January 16, 2015

Inherent Resolve Is Not Achieving Success

ISIL is at bay in Iraq, but it’s gaining ground in Syria.

Operation Inherent Resolve launched last fall with the objective of controlling ISIL in both Syria and Iraq through the limited use of force – airstrikes on their strongholds while using coalition forces where possible. There would, however, be no American “boots on the ground,” because Barack Obama stubbornly and politically refused to repeat what he sees as George W. Bush’s greatest error.

Inherent Resolve seems to be having some degree of success in Iraq, where ISIL has been fought to a virtual stalemate after a period last year where it appeared ISIL would be able to march into Baghdad with little resistance. Instead, Kurdish forces have maintained control in the northeastern section of the country while Iraqi troops control much of the rest. The only part of Iraq that seems to be safely in ISIL’s hands is the western frontier bordering Syria.

Since the focus of Inherent Resolve is mostly on Iraq, though, the situation in Syria is deteriorating. While we’ve kept the wolves at bay in the strategic town of Kobani, ISIL has gained ground in Syria to such a degree that around one-third of the nation is considered ISIL territory.

With more and more of the Syrian population under ISIL control, the prospect of recruitment for a push into the major Syrian population centers increases. Tipping the balance toward ISIL also spells trouble for Russian-supported strongman Bashar al-Assad, and could perhaps set off a wider proxy war.

The ISIL expansion is blamed on a lack of “strategic coordination between coalition strikes and moderate forces inside Syria,” said Coalition for a Democratic Syria adviser Mouaz Moustafa, “meaning that the Free Syrian Army and aligned groups cannot use the strikes to retake territory.” Having a safe haven in neighboring Syria also gives ISIL an advantage in Iraq, much as the Taliban was able to use Pakistan as a haven during the American incursion in Afghanistan.

Speaking of Afghanistan, as U.S. forces depart that nation, the influence of ISIL is beginning to show there as well. A renegade general once held at Guantanamo and released in 2007 has surfaced as a leader supporting the nascent ISIL effort in that nation. Mullah Abdul Rauf is reportedly recruiting from the ranks of the Taliban, with skirmishes breaking out between the two sides in Helmand province, which is controlled by the Taliban in their fight against the current Afghan government.

One has to question whether the tactics of Inherent Resolve are succeeding in the face of ISIL’s increasing influence, particularly as their terror spreads to Europe. While al-Qaida in Yemen claimed credit for the Charlie Hebdo attack, a smaller attack in a Paris kosher market and another incident in Belgium were credited to ISIL sympathizers. It’s a shame that our nation’s resolve went wobbly when the current occupant of the Oval Office came to town, but that’s what leading from behind will do.

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