Is There a Clear Solution to Stop ISIS?

In the face of the current ISIS offensive in Anbur Province, an area in western Iraq that encompasses about a quarter of the country, the United States along with NATO countries are considering the move to retrain the Iraqi military. At the same time, analysts are wondering if ground troops are in fact necessary along with airstrikes. The Iraqi military has taken the brunt of ISIS advances into Iraq and has subsequently been routed from their engagements with ISIS.

With most of Anbar Province lost to ISIS forces, Baghdad faces an exposed flank to the west where ISIS forces are mustering in what appears to be a plan to siege Baghdad. As of right now their intentions seem to lean towards the conquering of Amariyat al-Falluja which would give them the means to transport soldiers and provisions from ISIS controlled Babil Province to Falluja which lies just outside of Baghdad. That being said the United States and NATO look to revitalize the failing Iraqi military and police forces.

A campaign to retrain the Iraqi security forces would require thousands of foreign advisers from NATO counties and the United States on top of the 1,500 advisers already stationed in Iraq. In addition to the retraining of security forces, the United States and coalition members requested that a national guard service be created for Iraq’s protection against ISIS in major Sunni areas. The United States is hoping that the fact that many citizens from Western Europe and Australia were victimized by ISIS, and that some have also joined with ISIS betraying their own country will invigorate a sort of global “Rally Around the Flag” movement to help send troops to train Iraq security forces.

While sending advisers in the wake of ISIS advances seems like a good idea, we cannot ignore past historical events, and I find it hard not to draw parallels to Vietnamization. As you may know, Vietnamization was a policy by the United States to train southern Vietnamese forces and equip them to deter the North Vietnamese. The subsequent withdrawal of American troops left the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) without the means to hold their own against North Vietnamese. Like Vietnamization, one could argue that the initial withdrawal of American troops in Iraq leaving behind a “trained’ Iraqi Security force is similar to Vietnamization in that after the Iraqi’s lost most American support they were routed by ISIS. The notion that Obama wants international advisers to return to Iraq to retrain the security force reminds me again of Vietnamization.

At the same time, the return of advisers and retraining could impact ISIS resolve. It has been theorized that ISIS has been trying to strategically deter from Western intervention. Their continual territorial gains, efforts to weaken public support for Western intervention through the media, and publicly condemning U.S. airstrikes by threatening to execute more Westerners could all be seen as a bluff. ISIS simply wants to avoid any Western boots on the ground because they know that Europe and the United States have the means to upend ISIS.

It can be argued that a supplemental ground force is necessary, despite past historical events and the notion that “history repeats itself”. There are 487 airstrikes to date and yet ISIS shows no signs of stopping their advances. If Obama wishes to meet his vow of destroying ISIS I believe he needs to fully commit an intervention ground force. Whether that be NATO troops, or a coalition of trained Iraqi’s and NATO advisers, the Western world cannot rely solely on airstrikes.

I’m interested to hear what everyone else thinks about a solution to destroy ISIS. Do you think airstrikes alone are enough to stop ISIS completely? Should NATO send advisers to retrain the Iraqi army, who has already shown its weak resolve against ISIS, and what should be done this time around?

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8 thoughts on “Is There a Clear Solution to Stop ISIS?

  1. By far my favorite post thus far about the impact and possible solution to ISIS. It seems that airstrikes are not enough by any means, however utilizing that technology saves lives- it brings a trade off. My concern about sending in troops to retrain the Iraq military is that the general public will not fully understand why or how this will be done. Meaning, I believe many will think the that US sending in troops will bring more trained terrorists against the US…far fetched but the general public may not know the extremes of ISIS.

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  2. I think we should send in private military soldiers. The old black water has been to Iraq, even though they committed crimes, I think they would get the jib done real quick. The U.S. government, as well as the citizens of the U.S., are very tense on sending ground support. They are leaning more towards the continuation of airstrikes. It would be risky to send in troops, but it is war, and war is risky. The question is, is this war worth it? Is it in the U.S.’s national interest to fight back with more force?

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  3. Ground troops seems to be the most viable option. Supporting military regimes such as Kurdish fighters does go a long way, but sending in more troops to fight could prove very beneficial. Drone strikes simply are not enough. I would argue for making better relations with nations in the area to try and get a better coalition that’s right there in the heat of the battle, but retraining Iraqi troops doesn’t seem like a very bad idea since they are directly in the region.

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  4. All interesting points. Does anyone have any thought’s on Frank’s suggestion about private military contractors?

    In addition, summing up some political science research, I’d like you to think about two points:

    – what is the success rate of destroying violent insurgent movements? This post gives you some context: http://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2014/09/30/how-can-isis-be-degraded-or-destroyed/

    – dealing with ISIS will require more than a military solution. Political science research has found (in a variety of contexts) that one root cause behind scenarios like ISIS’ current advances is a lack of government capacity. This post provides some more thoughts on how to deal with ISIS politically: http://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2014/09/12/what-to-do-about-isis-for-starters-think-political-as-well-as-military-strategy/

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  5. I agree with you that it is reminiscent of vietnamization. I think sending in private military companies would be a good idea (In agreement with the above comment). However, one problem I can see with sending in Blackwater is that Human Rights NGO’s would have a field day if a suspected crime was committed. Although, if human rights violations are committed against ISIS fighters themselves, does it really matter after all the violations they themselves committed?
    Another point I would like to make is that we have all these drones, so why does the government not use them to make more accurate strikes against ISIS? It would be a much better use for the drones then having them patrol US airspace and almost colliding with airliners.

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  6. Definitely an interesting discussion going in in this thread. I just wanted to comment on a few things that have been mentioned particularly about PMC’s and government capacity. I think that though it may not seem very useful to retrain Iraqi forces that it’s necessary not only for the military strategy moving forward but for the political defeat of ISIS/IL. I think deploying PMC’s would be less wise than investing in further training of Iraqi forces because at the end of the day the goverments failure to curb this extremist activity and territorial advancement is a key factor in ISIS’ success. As we discussed about two weeks ago in class, successful democratization is an important piece of the puzzle to avoid uprisings and reduce the chances that such militants providing salaries and other benefits to average citizens will look appealing. I definitely agree with Professor Karreth that we should be looking at solutions that will focus on extending legitimate government capacity but I don’t personally think PMC’s are a good idea in this case or prove particularly useful in the same way that enabling present actors would be.

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  7. The message the President wants to send to the rest of the world is that he will destroy ISIS, not a separate company under contract. To use a PMC could be seen as cowardice hiding behind a hired army instead of using the United States armed forces. I think he would rather continue air strikes than hire PMC’s to do the job. Not only that but PMC’s cost a lot of money, and there’s a lot of work that goes in with their contracts. The US armed forces are already a part of the government and the action to send them to war is simply at the will of Congress. In addition, there is a lot of negative connotations that come with PMC’s. They’ve been known to allegedly commit war crimes and all around I think the general public views them in a negative way. It’s not something the President would want to risk at this point, and there isn’t enough desperation to use them in my opinion.

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