We would really love it if Sunni Arabs would reject ISIL and join us in defeating ISIL. But there is a problem of trust:
“It is a pervasive view throughout Iraq and throughout the region that we are simply disengaged, that we are not prepared to exercise the kind of weight that might actually make a difference,” said Mr. Crocker, now dean of the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University.
“And in the case of Iraq and Anbar, we are dealing with individuals, groups and tribes that remember a very different U.S. engagement. They know it, they lived it, and now the level of bitterness and mistrust is profound,” he said.
This spreading perception that the U.S. isn’t really interested in defeating Islamic State has undermined local resistance to the militant group in Anbar in recent months. It represents a major obstacle to recruiting local Sunni tribes—one of the U.S. strategies in the war—provincial leaders say.
“If you want to help someone, do it with strength to achieve results, not with drip-drip-drip as if you expect them to die anyway,” said Sabah Karhout, chairman of the Anbar provincial council. “The Americans are playing a very shy role—and if this American support had not been so shy, the Sunni tribes would not have gone over to the side of ISIS.”
Apparently, our resolve isn't inherent after all, when you are sitting in Anbar province.
Which is one reason I've argued that Anbar should take priority over Mosul.
It's funny, really. Anti-war activists kept telling us we were horrible in how we fought the resisting Sunni Arabs during the Iraq War. If their fevered war crime fantasies are accurate, we slaughtered them from the air (from 2004-2001, we averaged under one air strike per day). Yet the Sunni Arabs turned against al Qaeda during the Awakening to side with us in our 2007 Surge offensive.
Then we walked away from Iraq in 2011 and the Sunni Arabs turned--again (after they teamed up the first time in 2004)--to alliance with jihadis to resist the Shia majority that did not carry out our promises to be more inclusive.
Mind you, the Shias had some justification for mistrusting some of the Sunnis, but the Iraqi government stiff-armed all the Sunni Arabs because the Iraqi government needed to appease Iran which did not walk away from Iraq.
And now our tentative effort against ISIL to defeat ISIL--after the Sunni Arabs of Iraq experienced our more forceful efforts in 2003-2006 against them--deters these local Sunni Arab tribes from turning on ISIL in a re-Awakening. Their own experience with what we can do tells them we aren't serious based on what we are doing now.
Yes, we are still struggling to find (or train?) core ground forces that can be the spearheads to exploit our air power and drive ISIL back from their conquests.
And recall Nigeria's recent experience with and without core ground forces:
While Boko Haram took heavy losses over a thousand of the Islamic terrorists fled with weapons and vehicles and have been on the run, and rampage, ever since. Boko Haram leaders went public after the May defeats to proclaim that Boko Haram was still intact and active and seeking revenge for recent losses. While Boko Haram violence is less than it was before the May defeats, the group has made good its promise to keep killing. Now it’s up to the government to respond effectively. That will be difficult because the May victories were made possible largely because of South African mercenaries and more competent troops from neighboring countries (mainly Chad, Cameroon and Niger). The Nigerian military is as inept and unreliable as ever, especially when compared to forces from neighboring countries.
But no, really, we can just take our sweet time about any objective. I'm sure the Sunni Arabs will wait patiently--ready to clobber ISIL--for us to decide to help them effectively.