Several days ago, I noted the half-heartedness of President Obama’s air campaign against ISIS. I suggested that ISIS’s march towards Kobani presented a golden opportunity to degrade that outfit, inasmuch as it was traveling in large numbers through mostly open terrain. Instead, our air sorties appear to have been intermittent and limited.
Max Boot quantifies the half-heartedness of Obama’s air campaign against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. He does so by comparing it to the bombing campaign against Afghanistan that began almost 13 years ago to the day. Quoting from a study by RAND’s Benjamin Lambeth, Boot says:
[D]uring the 75 days of bombing between October 7, when Enduring Freedom began, and December 23, when the first phase of the war ended after the collapse of the Taliban, some 6,500 strike sorties were flown by CENTCOM forces altogether, out of which approximately 17,500 munitions were dropped on more than 120 fixed targets, 400 vehicles and artillery pieces, and a profusion of concentrations of Taliban and al Qaeda combatants.
According to Central Command, in the 59 days between August 8, when the campaign started, and October 6, the U.S. has conducted 360 strikes utilizing 955 munitions.
To summarize, we dropped 17,500 munitions in Afghanistan and 955 in Iraq/Syria. According to Boot, U.S. strikes against ISIS are so rare that Centcom has actually taken to issuing press releases to announce the dropping of two 500-pound bombs.
Things look even worse if one considers the nature of the munitions dropped in the two campaigns:
[T]he U.S. was dropping heavier bombs from heavier aircraft such as the B-52 in Afghanistan which have so far not been utilized in Iraq/Syria. Moreover, the effect of strikes in Iraq/Syria is not as great because Obama has refused U.S. Special Operations personnel permission to go out into the field alongside indigenous forces to call in airstrikes as they did so effectively alongside the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
Are there obstacles that prevent us from launching air strikes in Iraq and Syria of the magnitude of what we did in Afghanistan or even greater? Boot sees only one: “the lack of will exhibited by the commander in chief who has claimed as his goal the eventual destruction of ISIS but refuses to commit the resources necessary to achieve that ambitious objective.”