As the United States nears the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda, the U.S. military has intensified attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in western Iraq. The bombings of the Islamic militants mark the start of an escalation in a plan set by President Barak Obama for destroying ISIS.
Following the brutal killings by ISIS of two American Journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Obama and an outraged Vice President Joe Biden vowed to bring the terrorists to justice. The bombing campaign is the first phase of the plan. According to Obama, the next phase will be to an offensive move which will lead to the ultimate defeat of the terrorist group.
During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Obama made it clear that U.S. efforts to hunt down ISIS will not be hampered by international borders. This may indicate that the U.S. bombings will move into Syria. The President also stated that the U.S. will not stand by when American citizens are threatened and “will go after folks who are trying to hurt us wherever they are.”
According to Obama, there will be boots on the ground, just not U.S. boots. Currently, U.S. attacks are supporting the Iraqi troops on the ground. This round of bombings, which are protecting U.S. interests in the region, have been similar to previous strikes in the region, targeted at ISIS controlled dams. The earlier strikes were in an attempt to protect Mosul Dam from the Islamic terrorists. The weekend strikes in the current phase were focused on the Haditha dam.
Sitting on the Euphrates River, the potential loss of the Haditha dam to the ISIS militants could threaten both Iraqi citizens and U.S. facilities and personal near Baghdad. Fear that without the surgical air strikes, a ground campaign against the Islamic militia could damage the facility or that ISIS may attempt to destroy the dam and send water down the Euphrates, flooding areas downriver causing dangerous problems to the already fragile infrastructure in the region.
The U.S. led air strikes that intensified during the weekend were the first reported strikes outside of northern Iraq following a month of attacks from the air against ISIS. The attacks by the U.S. military have nearly reached 150. According to Chuck Hagel, the U.S. Defense Secretary, the strikes on ISIS occurred at the request of the central Shi’ite Muslim-led central government in Baghdad.
As the U.S. led strikes from the air continue, the plan is to have troops from countries like Turkey and various NATO allies placing the actual boots on the ground in Iraq. With the air attacks shifting into an intensified offensive mode, there has been no statement made indicating if U.S. ground troops would be utilized in the case of the fight against ISIS will move into Syria. Biden did make a comment after the Sotloff murder that the U.S. would follow ISIS to the gates of Hell to bring them to justice.
By Carl Auer