What a surprise! ISIS outflanks ObamaPresident Obama's 'strategy' for stopping ISIS crumbled between his White House speech on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. Some excerpts....
ISIS is busy neutralizing the Syrian factions that might make common cause with the United States. On Thursday, Breitbart London reported that several dozen leaders of Syrian rebel factions opposed to ISIS, who were gathered at a meeting in northwestern Syria, were killed in a massive explosion on Wednesday.
Huffington Post on Friday evening summarized reports that ISIS has signed a non-aggression deal with a separate group of rebel factions in Syria, nominally so that all of the factions can continue to fight the Assad regime.
According to the Dubai-based Arabic news site Orient News, one of the signatories to the agreement is the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), a group that has received U.S. support and has been touted as a likely partner for a U.S. strategy to oppose ISIS in Syria.
The SRF has been losing ground in recent weeks, suffering a major blow when one of its top commanders was killed at the end of August. At the same time, the SRF was reported to be fighting alongside al-Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra in southern Syria, including the battle for the crossing point with Israel in the Golan over which the rebel factions claimed control on 27 August.
Now it appears that the non-aggression pact with ISIS was brokered by Jabhat al-Nusra. None of this comes as a surprise to those who’ve been following along with Patrick Poole at PJ Media. On 3 September, Poole outlined the continuing cooperation of factions in the Free Syrian Army with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra – cooperation that has resulted in a flow of U.S.-supplied weaponry to the latter two armies. On 9 September, he expounded on a report from the Los Angeles Times that one of the “vetted moderate” groups, Harakat Hazm, is quite open about fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra.
The U.S. has already given this group anti-tank missiles. Appended to Poole’s analysis is the tweeted text of an alliance agreement concluded by “vetted moderate” faction Harakat Hazm and other similar groups with Jabhat al-Nusra. The text was tweeted on 8 July.
It’s not just credible, it’s highly bloody likely that some of the rebel factions – including U.S. client SRF – have indeed made a pact with ISIS. The fact that it won’t be worth a bucket of warm spit ought to serve not as an encouragement to U.S. delusions of a meaningful alliance in Syria, but as a warning.
In fact, ISIS hasn’t sat still. Once Obama made his speech on Wednesday, the option of mounting coordinated attacks on ISIS’s strategic rear in Syria immediately became a major threat posed by the U.S. If we could do it effectively, we could force ISIS to defend its rear: shift resources away from the campaign in Iraq, and perhaps even rework its overall strategy.
So ISIS promptly took out nearly 50 opposition rebel leaders and signed its non-aggression agreement with America’s potential partners in Syria.
Remember that ISIS doesn’t have to show good faith over time with any of those Syrian factions. It just has to preempt their cooperation with the United States. The mechanism for that is straightforward. We’re an easy read – ponderous making decisions, easily spooked, committed to at least perfunctory public transparency – and our president is a slow learner.
If ISIS can prevent anyone in Syria from cooperating with the U.S., ISIS can concentrate its effort in Iraq, where our forces on the ground will be: small, scattered, un-concentrated, embedded with local groups which may not all be fighting for the same objectives. Remember this also: Obama is determined not to overlay an obtrusively coherent U.S. framework on this operation. Kurds fighting in northern Iraq and Sunnis fighting along the Euphrates in Anbar – each with a separate ill-defined connection to the struggling Shia-majority government in Baghdad – will have the lead.
Even in Vietnam and Somalia, I don’t think we’ve ever backed into anything with our hindquarters flapping quite so egregiously in the breeze. Military success doesn’t just happen. It’s as much a matter of political will, and a coherent strategy and operational plan, as it is of training, expertise, and weapons superiority at the tactical level. Assuming we do go ahead with the plan-deficient, few-boots non-war the Obama administration has been proclaiming for the last 72 hours, I am very concerned that American troops could find themselves vulnerable under fire and fighting for their lives within weeks.
I would actually feel better at this point if we weren’t enlarging our footprint in Irbil at all, but instead planned to just keeping flying strike-fighters from Kuwait and Qatar. There are sound operational reasons to be gravely concerned about Obama’s decision to dismiss the advice of his military leaders and go with a toxic brew of half-measure objectives and exposed deployment situations.
The rapid, cynical, homicidal initiative shown by ISIS in seeking to neutralize Obama’s Syria option is a pretty good indicator of what we’ll be up against. Pundits and officials who are vocally criticizing the president are not just showing partisan sour grapes. This is real, and it’s bad.
Read the whole thing.
That last link is particularly important. Obama is playing electoral politics again.
In his war speech last night, President Obama was at strikingly adamant about what the US mission to "degrade and destroy" ISIS would not entail: American ground troops in a combat role. The 475 additional personnel being deployed to the region are only authorized assist with "training, intelligence and equipment." Direct American intervention will be limited to a protracted campaign of airstrikes, in Iraq and -- for the first time -- Syria. The Washington Post reports today that when the president tasked military leaders with devising the best strategy to defeat ISIS, the Pentagon presented a plan that involved a limited number of combat "boots on the ground." They were rebuffed, in favor of a more politically-palatable light footprint approach:
Such a mission was not the U.S. military’s preferred option. Responding to a White House request for options to confront the Islamic State, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said that his best military advice was to send a modest contingent of American troops, principally Special Operations forces, to advise and assist Iraqi army units in fighting the militants, according to two U.S. military officials. The recommendation, conveyed to the White House by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was cast aside in favor of options that did not involve U.S. ground forces in a front-line role, a step adamantly opposed by the White House...Recommitting ground combat forces to Iraq would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans. But Austin’s predecessor, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, said the decision not to send ground troops poses serious risks to the mission. “The American people will once again see us in a war that doesn’t seem to be making progress,” Mattis said. “You’re giving the enemy the initiative for a longer period.”This turn of events was inevitable, given the instincts and priorities of the Oval Office's current occupant. According to the New York Times' bureau chief in Baghdad, the Obama administration has serially misled the American people about on-the-ground realities in Iraq in order to protect a politicized "receding tide of war" illusion. The president shrunk from his own red line in Syria last year due, at least in part, to heavy domestic pressures, ultimately resorting to a fake "solution" that has since collapsed.
Having ignored and dismissed ISIS for years, the president has finally been pressed to play catch-up with events. Public opinion has turned sharply in favor of intervention, likely spurred by grisly images of beheaded American journalists broadcast around the world, but most are still wary of ground troops. Obama -- once again leading from behind with no discernible strategy beyond 'win the current news cycle' -- is giving the public what it wants at the moment. Nothing more, nothing less. Following that "best military advice" would have required the president to forcefully make the case that a limited American ground force was vital to victory. He clearly had no appetite to do so, as it would have entailed further eroding his anti-war cred and infuriating his core base ahead of an election.Read it all.
I've seen a lot of commentary on this, but the bottom line is that the military is horrified at Obama's 'strategy,' and the guy who is supposed to advocate for the military in the White House - Chuck Hagel - has been predictably silent.