President Obama has been scrutinized over his “lackadaisical” strategy to degrade and deter the Islamic State. Last month, Obama deployed 50 special operations forces into Northern Syria to aid the rebel groups in combating the Islamic State (IS).
This deployment of troops is what the United States needed to effectively deter and ultimately defeat IS. However, these special operations troops need to have the ability to conduct whatever they believe is necessary on the ground to combat the jihadists by having the ability to expand their mission.
Currently, the number of special operators deployed is an insufficient response to the expanding reach of the so-called caliphate. The downing of the Russia Airbus A321 claimed by Wilayat Sinai, an IS affiliate group located in Egypt, to the attack in Beirut that was claimed as revenge on Shiite Muslims, which the Islamic State views as apostates, to the horrific attacks in Paris. More ground troops need to be deployed with a combat role, not a supervision role, to help stop the growing global reach of the Islamic State.
On December 1st, Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified before the House Armed Services Committee announcing a shift in the military strategy previously pursued by the administration. The U.S. military will send “a specialized expeditionary targeting force” to increase raids in Iraq.
Carter added: “they will help us garner valuable ground intelligence, further enhance our air campaign, and above all enable local forces that can regain and then hold territory occupied by ISIL.”
The previous military strategy pursued by Obama’s administration has not put IS on the defensive. However, Carter said U.S. military operations inside Iraq and Syria have gone beyond what has been previously said and will continue to increase. “These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders.”
The raids within Iraq will be done by “invitation of the Iraqi government and focused on defending its borders and building the Iraqi Security Forces’ own capacity.” Elite American forces will also “be in position to conduct unilateral operations inside Syria.”
When asked if these special operators would be limited to Syria, General Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs Chairman, replied, “Our operations will be intel-driven. The enemy doesn’t respect boundaries; neither do we.” Carter said, “This is an important capability because it takes advantage of what we’re good at…and it puts everyone on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night when someone’s going to be coming in the window.”
Carter noted that in Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces supported by U.S. and coalition air campaign have retaken Sinjar and cut off “the main line of communication between Raqqa and Mosul, the two largest cities under the Islamic States’ control.”
General Dunford said operations enable us to acquire important intelligence in the fight against ISIS. In addition, Dunford announced the attack against Mosul, the ISIS held Iraqi city, would come “months from now since Mosul is not a focus for Iraqi Security Forces.“
The task of retaking Mosul will be much tougher than the battle for Ramadi. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have called for U.S. troop presence in Iraq to be raised from the current 3,500 to 10,000 and increasing firepower by Apache helicopter attacks.
This increase of a new targeting force able to operate in Iraq and Syria, help aid ground forces, and have the ability later on to conduct raids and other operations on their own, will perhaps turn the tide and put IS on the defensive. The U.S. is not going to defeat the jihadists by supporting ground troops and conducting air strikes alone, ground forces need to be implemented, which now will be.