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The United States vs. ISIS

Updated on July 18, 2015

Path to Terror

In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Sunni terrorist organization al Qaeda, specifically the Iraq faction, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was born. Abu Musab al-Zarqaw pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2004, and unofficially became the leader of AQI. He was responsible for hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq following the U.S. invasion.

In 2005, Al-Qaeda's deputy leader at the time, Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq War. The plan included expelling US Forces from Iraq, establishing an Islamic authority as a caliphate, spreading the conflict to Iraq's secular neighbors, and clashing with Israel, which the letter says "was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity"

By 2006, AQI joined forces with smaller Iraqi insurgent groups under an umbrella organization called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC). On June 7th, 2006 a US airstrike killed al-Zarqaw, but did very little to slow the organzation down. Months later, MSC united with three smaller groups and six Sunni Islamic tribes to form the "Mutayibeen Coalition" with one goal in mind,

" rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists and the crusader occupiers, ... to restore rights even at the price of our own lives... to make Allah's word supreme in the world, and to restore the glory of Islam...".

One day later, MSC declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

A study compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies in early 2007, reported the Islamic State of Iraq planned to seize power in the central and western areas of the country and turn it into a Sunni Islamic state. The group built in strength and at its height enjoyed a significant presence in the Iraqi governorates of Al Anbar, Diyala, along with Baghdad.

President George W. Bush announced in early 2007, that an additional 5 U.S. Army Brigades would be deployed to Iraq to provide security to Baghdad and Al Anbar Province, while also extending the tours of Marines, and Army troops already fighting in the area. Once the troop surge was completed, US Forces totaled around 170,000.

The United States was at a huge advantage after the troop build up, giving US Forces more manpower for operations to dismantle Al-Qaeda all together. Within that year, more than a dozen high level Al-Qaeda targets were either captured, or killed. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was reported to have lost many of its secure military bases in Anbar province and Baghdad.

During 2008, a series of U.S. and Iraqi offensives managed to drive out insurgents from their former safe havens to the area of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq described itself as being in a state of "extraordinary crisis".

The Islamic State of Iraq, had over-stepped their authority in many territories across Iraq, this can be attributed to the groups violent attempts to govern its territory which led to a backlash from Sunni Iraqis and other insurgent groups, along with a significant decline in the groups power.

On 18 April 2010, the ISI's two top leaders, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid near Tikrit. In a press conference in June 2010, General Odierno reported that 80% of the ISI's top 42 leaders, including recruiters and financiers, had been killed or captured, with only eight remaining at large. He said that they had been cut off from Al-Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a man once held in US custody, was appointed the new leader of the Islamic State, officially renaming the group to ISIS. It would be hard for any terror organization to bounce back as many times as the Islamic State has, but al-Baghdadi saw an opportunity with the conflict in Syria to regroup, and expand the group's growing ranks of extremist fighters.

June 2014, ISIS proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate, and the group renamed itself the "Islamic State." As a "Caliphate", ISIS claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, which has also been rejected by all Muslim nations around the globe. The Islamic State crossed into Iraq during the June, and July months of 2014, beginning their takeover of the country.

The Islamic State Today

If the situation in Iraq wasn't already frustrating enough, it's about to get a lot worse. It has been just over a year since the Islamic State (ISIS) started their blitzkrieg rampage through northern Iraq, seizing Mosul and Tikrit along the way. As the World watched thousands of US funded, and trained Iraqi security forces flee South, the Islamic State pushed deeper into Iraq, capturing the strategic city of Ramadi along the way. The Islamic State has their sites set on Baghdad, and is continuing a build up of forces to reach that goal.

Since the capture of Ramadi this past May, an estimated 2,000 ISIS fighters have continued to build up the cities defenses along with rigging explosives everywhere. Things are now moving at a snail's pace, and the longer it takes the Iraqi government to launch an effective combat operation to retake Ramadi, the more time ISIS has to secure strategic areas along with funneling in thousands of foreign fighters.

One thing is clear about the ongoing situation in Iraq, and that is the Iraqi security forces are not effective to fight ISIS on their own. ISIS has all the momentum at the moment, and the group is continuing to grow in numbers. The CIA released a rough estimate earlier this year saying ISIS had a force of upwards of 30,000 men, with 20,000 of those fighters flowing in from foreign countries to join the "caliphate".

"We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice." The Fight Against ISIS

President Obama addressed the United States from the State Room of the White House on September 10, 2014. The President outlined his plan to ultimately destroy ISIS. Mr. Obama called ISIS a “cancer,” but promised no U.S. ground troops would be involved in the fight. Obama was quoted on the following:

“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy."

“Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense.”

“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”

Obama also shifted $25 million in military aid to the Iraqi forces, which included Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq fighting ISIS. Also $500 million in funds authorized by Congress, were going to be used to train, and equip Syrian fighters. Obama announced within a 3 year period, the US intended to train 5,400 fighters annually, with about 3,000 fighters to be ready by the end of this year to fight ISIS.

A summit of leaders from more than 40 nations gathered in Paris who all pledged to use “whatever means necessary” to defeat ISIS.

  • Saudi Arabia took part in rounds of airstrikes and agreed to hosting American training of the so-called moderate Syrian rebels, the key to the U.S. strategy for fighting ISIS in Syria.
  • United Arab Emirates has carried out airstrikes.
  • Bahrain took part in airstrikes.
  • Jordan also pledged to use airstrikes.
  • Qatar has played a supporting role.
  • Australia is contributed eight F-18 fighter jets, plus special forces to advise Iraqi troops.
  • Belgium sent 6 F-16 fighter jets, as well as 120 pilots, support staff and C-130 cargo planes.
  • Britain voted to join the coalition.
  • Canada has sent troops to Iraq to serve as advisers to Iraqi security forces.
  • Czech Republic has provided weaponry to the Iraqi Army, including L-159 fighter jets, and 500 tons of ammunition to Kurdish forces, in coordination with Canada.
  • Denmark offered up four operational planes and three reserve jets, plus 250 pilots and support staff that will be deployed for a year.
  • France carried out airstrikes along with reconnaissance and training Kurdish security forces after providing them weapons.
  • Germany sent military trainers to help Kurdish forces.
  • Italy provided $2.5 million worth of weaponry to Kurdish fighters and has given assistance in the refueling of planes as support to the airstrikes.
  • Netherlands committed six F-16 fighter jets.

What has been accomplished?

It has been almost a year since President Obama outlined his plan to defeat the Islamic State, a year since 60 nations pledged to destroy ISIS, and a year since not much has actually been accomplished.

Over 5,000 US airstrikes have taken place in Iraq, and Syria this past year, which has done very little to push the Islamic State back. The $500 million Syrian training program that planned to train 5,400 Syrian fighters annually, with 3,000 fighters to be ready by this year surprisingly has only resulted in fewer than 100 moderate fighters being trained, which is a pathetic number.

The harsh reality of this entire situation is that ISIS continues to gain territory in Iraq and Syria, while also expanding its radical influence along with presence across the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia amidst the top nations of the World's best efforts to contain them. So what the fuck is actually going on?

ISIS has continued to make steady gains in Iraq and Syria. Also the group still controls the city of Mosul and captured the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi. ISIS gained control of the strategic Syrian city of Palmyra, all the while still expanding into Libya, and executed the group's first attack in Saudi Arabia.

ISIS is able to pay it's fighters more, and has set up social welfare services that provide a war torn population with everyday necessitates, like electricity, food, water, and social services. Shockingly, ISIS also has been providing medical services in captured regions. The coalition airstrikes have been a giant fluke, with a typical strike having to be approved by multiple levels within a chain of command before actually taking place. Whenever an airstrike kills innocent civilians, ISIS uses that opportunity to further spread their propaganda.

Tehran is now a major player in this ongoing cluster fuck, and is slowly emerging as the first line of defense against ISIS. The Assad regime in Syria is going to have to become dependent on Iranian proxies and cash to stop ISIS from advancing. Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Republican Guard’s Quds force had this to say about President Obama,

“Mr. Obama, you have not done a damn thing in Iraq, you have no will to confront ISIS,"

Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Iranian proxy, vowed on May 23 that his men would fight “wherever necessary” in Syria to roll back ISIS gains. The Iranians, an intelligence official in the region says,

“have been more responsive, more flexible and more effective than anyone else. It’s a simple fact.”

Mistake were made, but were lessons learned?

Republican criticism was high over Obama’s decision to withdraw all US Forces from Iraq in 2011. Mr. Obama was so hell bent on getting re-elected that he ignored military advisers advice that a residual force of between 16,000 and 24,000 troops was needed to conduct counter terrorism work and train Iraqi security forces.

In August of 2011 Obama said,

"Having ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops so far, we’ll remove the rest of our troops by the end of this year, and we will end that war."

All the gains that the US made during the Iraq War are slowly evaporating, and becoming a hot discussion topic: Would ISIS be around if a residual force was kept in Iraq?

Now more then 4 years since the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama and members of Congress are now uncertain on whether the United States has to re-emerge militarily to save the gains made during the Iraq War. The situation in Iraq is a grave one, becoming more dire by the day. It's obvious Iraq needs more help then originally anticipated. Obama has his sites set on ending the war in Afghanistan for 2016, and giving the Taliban an official end date for US Forces in the country.

The president’s announcement exactly when we’re going to withdraw from Afghanistan, instead of making it based on conditions on the ground, to tell the Taliban, is a mistake, I would hope that the president would take some of the lessons that we’re seeing happening in Iraq and not repeat them in Afghanistan.” -said Sen. Kelly Ayotte

It easy to put all the blame on the current chaotic situation in Iraq on George W. Bush, along with the 2003 invasion of the country, but Obama isn't scotch free. His handling of the troop withdrawal may have won him another four years in the White House but the side effects of not keeping a residual force in place are coming back to haunt that poor decision.

Should the US have left a residual force in Iraq?

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Would you support US ground troops going back to Iraq?

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Where are we today?

President Obama updated the Pentagon's top brass on the situation in Iraq, and on the fight against ISIS Monday July 6, 2015.

He emphasized the long term effort, and the importance of local forces as keys to stopping the terror group's rise. Obama said the coalition is going after the "heart" of ISIS when it comes to both monetary and human resources. And he took the opportunity to prod Congress to confirm Adam Szubin as Treasury Department under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, to aid the effort to stop money flowing to ISIS.

"If we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across North Africa, we'll be playing whack-a-mole and there will be a whole lot of unintended consequences that ultimately make us less secure," Obama said.

"The strong consensus is that in order for us to succeed long-term in this fight against ISIS, we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress. It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like ISIS, but then as soon as we leave see that void filled again by extremists," Obama said.

The President also added that the fight agaisnt ISIS was a generational struggle, saying, success depends on "Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, rejecting warped interpretations of Islam and protecting their sons and daughters from recruitment."

It very clear that President Obama doesn't have a plan B to defeat ISIS, and his original plan A is falling apart with every day that passes. As ISIS continues to thrive, and grow it's starting to look like US ground forces will one day, in the coming years, put their boots back on Iraqi soil. It's honestly becoming inevitable at this point. The surrounding Muslim nations need to step up big time in this fight against the spread of terror, a thing I agree on with Obama, this just isn't a US problem anymore.

With all the resources, weapons, money, and power the coalition forces have it's a damn shame that not more has been accomplished during this first year of offensives against ISIS.

© 2015 nolamaddog


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