Sunday, October 26, 2014

Distracted Again?

The air campaign in Syria against ISIL is not a distraction from attacking ISIL in Iraq.

While we have reason to worry about whether we can mesh all the moving parts across two incompatible fronts in Syria and Iraq to achieve victory over ISIL in a matter of years (without helping Assad survive), I find this criticism of our actions nonsense:

The U.S. air campaign has turned into an unfocused mess as the U.S. has shifted limited air strike resources to focus on Syria and a militarily meaningless and isolated small Syrian Kurdish enclave at Kobani at the expense of supporting Iraqi forces in Anbar and intensifying the air campaign against other Islamic State targets in Syria. As of October 20th, the United States had flown some 310 strikes in more than 2½ months of air activity in Iraq, and 231 in Syria. It began its strikes in Iraq, however, on August 8th, escalated to major air strikes on the Islamic state and an Al Qaeda element in Syria on September 22nd to October 3rd, and then let the Kurdish crisis in Kobani dominate the air campaign after October 5th.

Given the vast capabilities of our air power represented by our Air Force, Navy air and missile assets, Marine Corps aircraft, and even Army drones and armed helicopters, the notion that our Iraq fight is handicapped by a focus of our "limited air strike resources" on Kobani is nonsense.

Kobani is both a target of opportunity to kill jihadis as they expose themselves and a necessary fight to prevent ISIL from gaining a propaganda victory and to keep the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq in the fight against ISIL. This is no lack of focus.

If we aren't doing enough with air power in Iraq, it is because we have chosen to do less in Iraq.

Obviously, we have limits on our air strike assets. We haven't even begun to approach that limit.