Yesterday, President Obama authorized the dispatch of 1,500 more troops to Iraq. They will join the 1,400 already there. U.S. troops will be authorized to go beyond Baghdad and Erbil, but they still will not be allowed to go into combat.
Notwithstanding the dispatch of the additional troops, Obama’s response to ISIS remains woefully inadequate. Max Boot explains:
Most credible estimates suggest that [Obama] will need to dispatch at least 15,000 personnel and that they need to be given the freedom to accompany indigenous units into battle so as to improve their combat capability and more accurately call in air strikes.
Moreover US troops need to be sent to make direct contact with Sunni tribes in Anbar Province instead of working exclusively through Iraqi Security Forces that are compromised by Iranian infiltration. Obama also needs to order an increase in the bombing campaign which so far has been desultory and far short of the kind of sustained air campaigns the U.S. waged in Kosovo (1999) and Afghanistan (2001).
But Obama’s response in Iraq looks robust compared to his plan for countering ISIS in Syria. There, current plans call for the training of 1,500 members of the Free Syrian Army next year (assuming it still exists next year). As Boot notes, ISIS is estimated to have some 30,000 fighters. Moreover, the Free Syrian Army must also combat the Assad regime and the Nusra Front, which recently routed it in Northern Syria.
In short, Obama’s response to ISIS remains pathetic. To say that it consists of half-measures is to give him too much credit.
Unfortunately, this has been Obama’s consistent pattern when it comes to fighting our enemies, as Boot reminds us:
Remember when [Obama] ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan but sent fewer troops than needed and saddled them with an 18-month deadline that severely hampered their effectiveness? If he were going to take ownership of the Afghanistan War, Obama would have been well advised to do it right–to send enough forces to make victory likely.
But that’s not what he did, apparently for fear of offending his electoral base–as if his hard-core voters would have bolted if he had sent 150,000 rather than 100,000 troops to Afghanistan.
The same impulse, alas, is visible today in Syria and Iraq where Obama continues to do just enough to say he is doing something–but not enough to win.