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?