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American Resistance To Empire

Obama’s Pretend Air War Against ISIS

“The Iraq-Syria war, which has already involved some 5,000 combat sorties by US and allied war planes.”

The Unserious Air War Against ISIS

world socialist

October 15, 2014 • By and Analysis • Original: Wall Street Journal

The campaign against Serbia in 1999 averaged 138 strike sorties daily. Against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: seven.

Since U.S. planes first struck targets in Iraq on Aug. 8, a debate has raged over the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s air campaign against Islamic State. The war of words has so far focused on the need to deploy American boots on the ground to provide accurate intelligence and possibly force ISIS fighters to defend key infrastructure they have seized, such as oil facilities. But debate is now beginning to focus on the  apparent failure of airstrikes to halt the terror group’s advances in Iraq and Syria—especially Islamic State’s pending seizure of Kobani on the Syrian border with Turkey.

While it is still too early to proclaim the air campaign against Islamic State a failure, it may be instructive to compare it with other campaigns conducted by the U.S. military since the end of the Cold War that were deemed successes. For instance, during the 43-day Desert Storm air campaign against Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1991, coalition fighters and bombers flew 48,224 strike sorties.

This translates to roughly 1,100 sorties a day. Twelve years later, the 31-day air campaign that helped free Iraq from Saddam’s government averaged more than 800 offensive sorties a day. By contrast, over the past two months U.S. aircraft and a small number of partner forces have conducted 412 total strikes in Iraq and Syria—an average of seven strikes a day. With Islamic State in control of an area approaching 50,000 square miles, it is easy to see why this level of effort has not had much impact on its operations.

Of course, air operations during Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom were each supported by a massive coalition force on the ground. Thus it may be more appropriate to compare current operations against Islamic State with the 78-day air campaign against Serbian forces and their proxies in 1999, or the 75-day air campaign in Afghanistan that was instrumental in forcing the Taliban out of power in 2001.

Both campaigns relied heavily on partner forces on the ground augmented by a small but significant number of U.S. troops. These air campaigns averaged 138 and 86 strike sorties a day respectively— orders of magnitude greater than the current tempo of operations against Islamic State.

Perhaps the small number of strikes in the air campaign against Islamic State is due to the lack of suitable ground targets. Yet representatives from the Pentagon have characterized forces fighting under Islamic State’s black banner as more of a conventional army than a highly dispersed, irregular force similar to today’s Taliban. Moreover, Islamic State fighters are using captured armored vehicles, artillery, mortars and other  implements of modern land warfare to seize and hold terrain. These operations require a considerable amount of movement and resupply that can be detected by airborne surveillance.

The low daily strike count could be the result of the Pentagon’s applying counterterrorism manhunting operations over the past decade to the current crisis in Iraq and Syria. These operations generally rely on detailed knowledge of the “pattern of life” of specific small terrorist cells built up over days or weeks of persistent surveillance.

The resources required on the ground and in the air to generate such high-fidelity intelligence are considerable in terms of time, money, personnel and surveillance aircraft. While the low strike count appears to support this thesis, it is unlikely that the highly competent men and women in our nation’s military, many of whom are likely to have planned and executed previous successful air campaigns, would adopt such a half-measure approach to operations against ISIS forces.

There’s another possibility: The moral imperative and strategic desire to avoid civilian casualties and gratuitous collateral damage may be constraining the coalition’s target-selection process.

While these are important factors in any conflict, they must be balanced against the reality that allowing Islamic State fighters to continue their savage aggression nearly unchecked will result in far more civilian casualties and destruction than a more aggressive air campaign that uses precision weapons to rapidly destroy the group’s heavy weapons and troop concentrations.

Finally, the daily strike count suggests that the strategy underlying the air campaign may be influenced by a desire to apply the least amount of force possible while still claiming credit for doing something about Islamic State. This rationale would fit with the administration’s claims that degrading and eventually defeating ISIS is likely to take many years. It may reflect lingering doubts by some policy makers over how serious and far-reaching the threat of an Islamic State caliphate really is to our nation’s vital interests. Or it may be a simple reluctance to begin another open-ended military operation in the Middle East.

In the end, no matter the reason, the timorous use of air power against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria is unlikely to reduce the territory under their control, curb the brutal murder of innocent civilians, or prevent the creation of a sanctuary for an enemy that has sworn to continue its fight on a more global scale.

Black Sea Swarming with Western War Ships

Four NATO Ships Enter Black Sea for Annual Exercise, Russian Activity on Rise in the Region

USNI News

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Guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78) entered the Black Sea on Sunday — following three other NATO ships in the last several days — marking a noticeable uptick in activity in the region ahead of military exercises in Bulgaria, according to a Bosphorus Naval News ship spotting site and U.S. 6th Fleet.

Porter crossed the Bosphorus and entered the Black Sea on Sunday a day after the Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp (F-803) and Portuguese frigate NRP D. Francisco de Almeida (F-334). Spanish minesweeper ESPS Tajo (M-36) crossed the strait on July 1.

The ships were bound for Bulgaria as part of the annual Breeze 2015 exercise that include ships from Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) and the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2). The exercise began on July 3 and is scheduled to run until July 12, according to a release from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense.

150430-N-VJ282-685  NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (April 30, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) arrives at Naval Station Rota, Spain. Porter is the third of four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to be forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, to serve as part of the presidentÕs European phased adaptive approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Dietrick/Released)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) arrives at Naval Station Rota, Spain on April 30, 2015. US Navy photo.

Porter’s presence in Bulgaria reaffirms to NATO allies that the U.S. Navy shares a commitment to strengthen ties while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the Black Sea region,” read a statement from 6th Fleet.

The exercise will include 30 ships and around 1,700 personnel from Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey as well as the U.S., according to the MoD.

Outside of the exercise, the French signals intelligence ship Dupuy de Lôme (A759) and guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG-58) recently left the Black Sea as part of an ongoing presence mission since Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March of 2014.

In addition to the NATO ship moves, Russia moved two Project 775 amphibious warships — Korolev (130) and Alexander Otrakovski (031) — into the Black Sea on Friday.

All warships from countries without a coast on the Black Sea operate under the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits.
Montreux rules call for foreign warships to depart the Black Sea after 21 days.