US wants to win this war by outsourcing it
If it were possible to summarize the U.S. strategy in one sentence it could be: “To win a war against Islamist radicals without actually fighting on the ground.”
This has nothing to do with a proxy war, not any longer. This is now something a level up; perhaps it would be more correct to call it a “remote-controlled war.”
The Barack Obama administration wants to win this war by providing state-of-the-art technological support in the form of intelligence and air force support - including planes, missiles and drones - to those fighting on the ground against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which controls parts of Iraq and Syria and exercises a high amount of terror.
In a way, the Pentagon wants to “outsource” the logistics and land battle against ISIL by carrying out the air support part of it.
Obama had promised not to send U.S. soldiers to distant lands once again, and wants to conduct a remote-controlled war against ISIL without any bloodshed or getting any dirt on its boots. This also suits Iran - which has an undeclared condition not to see any more American troops in the region, especially in Iraq with its Shiite-led government - for covertly supporting U.S. air strikes and other “remote” ways to pound ISIL positions.
But there is one important question that needs to be answered in this scenario: Who is going to fight the war on the ground and be ready to die to irradiate ISIL?
The Iraqi military and the forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north, on the Turkish and Iranian borders, seem to be two most obvious sources in Iraq. In Syria, the government’s forces under Bashar al-Assad are not likely to help the U.S.-led coalition for this purpose. First, it is another Western coalition that has been trying to topple him for the last three years. Second, Damascus is not complaining about the presence of ISIL, as the jihadist militants have posed a bigger threat to the West and have led decision-makers to start considering cooperation with the lesser evil, himself. In addition, ISIL is also killing the enemies of al-Assad, such as the al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army.
There are also the forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), both in Iraq and Syria. The PKK is still engaged in a dialogue process with the Turkish government for a political settlement to the long-running Kurdish problem, and there have been recent statements from the PKK that if they are well equipped they could fight against ISIL more effectively. Turkey does not want that.
The Turkish military, meanwhile, would not agree to provide the foot soldiers in such a fight. The most obvious reason for this are the 49 hostages currently in ISIL hands, including Turkey’s consul general in Mosul; but that is not the only reason. The Turkish government is trying to find an exit from being so heavily involved in Syrian and Iraq affairs, which carries the heavy potential of drawing it into a Sunni-Shiite sectarian fight. The Turkish government seems resolute about cooperating only on logistics, intelligence and the humanitarian side of the effort against ISIL, refraining from any combatant role.
So, once again: Who is going to fight on the ground? Will any of the coalition members who will have official positions established, hopefully after the Sept. 11 meeting? The Western members of the coalition are likely to be the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland, Denmark and non-NATO Australia (with unconfirmed reports about Hungary and Spain), while the Arab members are likely to be Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar and Bahrain. Will any of those armies fight on the ground?
There are real uncertainities regarding this strategy. One thing is certain: The uncertainty is going to continue for a few years at least, if it ends at all. Perhaps then the West will stop trying to use Islamist groups as an extension of their regional policies.