The United States and allies continued airstrikes against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Monday. These strikes mark the extension of an offensive aimed at containing and eliminating ISIS.
In order to effectively take down ISIS, the airstrikes already in motion are necessary, but the nations that make up the coalition must ensure that the affected citizens aren’t resentful of the coalition. They must also provide a resolution that won’t allow for such terrorist groups to spring up again.
While the use of airstrikes gained bipartisan support, there is discord about what is needed to destroy ISIS without being dragged into another war in Iraq.
“The best strategy is to take the aggravation that these communities have towards ISIS and try to get the communities to kick them out,” said William Reno, a Northwestern political science professor. For Reno, this strategy is “much better than sending ground troops.”
President Obama announced on September 10 that an international coalition is needed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. It is especially important for the coalition to be made up of Arab nations as a way to gain the trust of the people the U.S. is trying to keep safe in Iraq and Syria. Not only are they culturally similar, they have a better understanding of how ISIS operates.
ISIS emerged in 2013 from factions of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and was able to operate in Syria because of the disarray from its civil war. It quickly gained ground along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys in those nations and used captured oil fields, resources, and military equipment to advance its goal of creating an Islamic state.
ISIS’s use of social media to spread its message and gain recruits from a number of nations, including the United States, makes a particularly potent threat. The group has succeeded in spreading the videotaped executions of two American journalists and a British one. On Wednesday, an Algerian jihadist group linked to ISIS executed a French hostage.
One possibly vital yet controversial player in the fight against ISIS is Iran. The nation possesses the largest Shia population in the Middle East, making it one of the strongest opponents of Sunni-run ISIS. The U.S. has expressed hesitations to work with Iran to combat ISIS and the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has criticized the U.S.for pursing a strategy that doesn’t require much sacrifice.
The problems with the specifics of the plan aren’t limited to just foreign nations. Disagreement has cropped between President Obama and members of Congress, as well as a number of military officials. Gen. Martin E. made it clear to the Senate Armed Services that he believes American troops might be needed on the ground in Iraq. This might pose a problem because the U.S. population doesn’t want a repeat of the drawn-out war the U.S. just finished in Iraq. The Obama administration has been careful not to call this new strategy against ISIS a war.
“If you use more U.S. military force, the people who complain about ISIS will see themselves as being attacked by the U.S. as well,” Reno said. “Then the U.S. becomes another part of the mess on the ground.”
In order to effectively bring stability it is necessary to make sure that, once ISIS is taken down, the region it controlled won’t just be passed to another rebel faction. The U.S. left Iraq in a time when it was in a fragile state with a weak government and a distressed population, which allowed ISIS to crop up. The turmoil in Syria also proved an ideal breeding ground for ISIS.
It’s important to protect the innocent civilians of both Syria and Iraq. In a region where it isn’t always well received, the U.S. cannot make the mistakes of its past and incur more resentment on itself.
That is why it is necessary for an coalition to include allies from the region and for the rebels the U.S. is aiding to be vetted thoroughly so that they won’t turn against the U.S. like in the past – see the Afghan rebels trained to battle Soviets in the 1980s.
Before the U.S. can effectively bring peace, it needs to ensure the safety of the people ISIS oppresses directly, by extending humanitarian aid. Only by ensuring the safety of those most affected will the U.S. be able to garner the trust and support necessary to accomplish the goals it shares with these people.
The U.S. cannot forget that we are fighting in a land that is not its home. It must protect the people of Iraq and Syria but it must also ensure that the people can protect themselves. This battle cannot become the second part of the Iraq war.