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Operation Inherent Resolve - Background

As of early 2015 coalition states conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition states conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

By December 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were down to about one mission against ISIL targets each month. Bahrain stopped in the autumn, and Jordan stopped in August 2015. Other reports were that UAE stopped in March 2015.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posed a clear threat to US National Interests, the people of Iraq and Syria, and ultimately, if unchecked, a growing threat to the region and US homeland. ISIL expanded its reach into large sections of Iraq resulting in the collapse of Iraq security forces in Western Iraq.

Operation Inherent Resolve encompassed American and coalition operations against Da'esh, the Islamic State, which seized control of substantial portions ["large swathes" in media jargon] of Sunni Arab territory and population in Iraq in Syria in 2014. The central flaw of the American strategy is that it was focused on Da'esh, which was a symptom, rather than Iran, which was the cause.

With the draw-down and withdrawal of American forces in Iraq, Iran emerged as the principle sponsor of the Shiia government in Baghdad. The sectarian policies of the Maliki government created fertile ground for Da'esh in Sunni provinces, and the Abadi government formed in August 2014 made no more than cosmetic changes.

As the Arab Spring in Syria descended into violence, the Alawite government of Bashar al-Asad increasingly came to depend on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian proxy Hizbollah. In the process, the war took on an increasingly sectarian dimension, pitting Sunni against Shiia forces, providing fertile ground for Da'esh.

From 2013 to 2015, the CIA had trained about 10,000 fighters within a covert program to train, arm and fund a moderate opposition to Assad. The secret program was the main step the US is taking against government forces in Syria.

The air campaign against the Islamic State insurgents began in August. Initially, Obama used congressional permission granted by the 2001 Authorized Use of Military Force. Then-President George W. Bush cited that law more than a decade ago to retaliate against al-Qaida after its 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people.

On 15 October, 2014, more than 2 months after the start of US airstrike operations against ISIL, US Central Command officials finally announced that henceforth, US military operations in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists had been designated as Operation Inherent Resolve. The operation name would apply retroactively to all US military actions conducted against ISIL in Iraq and Syria since airstrikes against ISIL began 08 August 2014 in Iraq, officials said.

According to US CENTCOM officials, the name Inherent Resolve was intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the US and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community. It also is meant to symbolize the willingness and dedication of coalition members to work closely with friends in the region and apply all available dimensions of national power necessary -- diplomatic, informational, military and economic -- to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

The US would deploy an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq to advise and train the Iraqi military to bolster its ability to counter the threat posed by militants associated with the so-called Islamic State, the Pentagon said November 07, 2014, says after the mid-term election. No longer overly concerned about the reaction of the anti-war Democratic base, the Defense Department said the forces will be in non-combat roles, establishing training sites and to set up “advise and assist operations centers” outside Baghdad and Arbil. There were then about 1,400 US military and diplomatic security personnel in Iraq.

 Syria Air Defenses Map

Only half the remaining Iraqi Army units were considered fit to fight by late 2014. The US found that Iraq’s military forces were weaker than original assessments had indicated, and about half of the 50 or so combat brigades in the Iraq forces would need to be disbanded or totally reorganized, and the other half would take a year to several years to build up into fully effective combat units.

"We're going to need about 80,000 competent Iraqi security forces to recapture territory lost, and eventually the city of Mosul, to restore the border,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a congressional committee in Washington on 13 November 2014. Other estimates indicated the US planned to train nine Iraqi brigades and 3 Peshmerga brigades.

"American attempts to reorganize the politics of other countries by the sword have foundered on nationalist resistance to outsiders, unreliable local allies, deeply embedded cultural practices, and the inherent crudeness of the military instrument," Barry Posen, director of MIT University's security studies program, recently wrote in The Atlantic magazine. He argued that airstrikes already had stalled IS expansion, which he said could explain why IS has begun to focus on "theatrical attacks" abroad.

Posen believes the US should establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria, deploy more special-operations forces, step up intelligence operations and intensify strikes on IS oil interests. He also advocates pressuring Saudi Arabia into using its "clout and resources" to counter IS's "poisonous message."

Terror expert and author Jessica Stern argues that the U.S. should take a lesson from George Kennan, the U.S. diplomat who in 1946 argued in favor of "patient but firm and vigilant containment" of Soviet Union expansion. "ISIS, too, will no doubt eventually collapse as a result of its equally false utopian promises and difficulties delivering even rudimentary human needs, such as health care," Stern wrote in a separate Atlantic essay.

In the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on 02 December 2015 that " a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian war ... is widely accepted to be the only way to ensure the isolation and defeat of Isil in the country."

Jonathan Powell is the author of Terrorists at the Table. He was former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff from 1995 to 2007 and the chief British negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007.

In December 2015, Powell argued that "A political strategy to deal with ISIS is thus ultimately likely to mean negotiations with the core leadership, however much we despise the group’s methods.... Even if some of the hardline leaders of ISIS, particularly the foreign fighters, want nothing less than their full demands (including ushering in the apocalypse), other more moderate leaders will, under military pressure, be prepared to settle for more modest gains.... Past experience tells us... that it would be sensible to open a secret channel now so we can communicate with ISIS and put ourselves in a position to negotiate once we have arrived at a “mutually hurting stalemate” in which both sides realize they cannot win militarily."

James F. Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, dismissed the idea of negotiation with IS in one word: "madness."

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry said "There's no negotiation with ISIL, there's nothing to negotiate... For a whole philosophy or idea or a cult, whatever you want to call it, that frankly comes out of the Stone Age, they're cold-blooded killers, marauding across the Middle East, making a mockery of a peaceful religion."

"Definitely outside the realm of practicality," echoed Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a Jihad-Intel Research Fellow at the Middle East Forum who recently leaked an IS administrative blueprint to London's The Guardian newspaper. "Theoretically, ISIS does allow treaties with outside powers, but the terms that they impose are so stringent that I think it would be impossible that they could negotiate with any government," he said.

IS forbids external relations with any state hostile to "Islam's spread," a broad definition that would likely be applied to all Western governments.

Some analysts say the group may already be floundering. "IS planned for every contingency but one," said Musa al-Gharbi, Managing Editor for the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC). "They anticipated that a lot of people would either begrudgingly accept their occupation or actively endorse it," he said. "They did not expect to see this mass exodus of Sunni Arabs of their target demographic, in numbers of hundreds of thousands, from areas that were already sparsely populated." Their flight is a strong counter to the IS narrative of caliphate as a utopian ideal, al-Gharbi said, and it has cost IS dearly in dollars and cents.

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Page last modified: 11-03-2017 16:49:42 ZULU