As the U.S. and allies falsely advertise restraint for a boots-on-the-ground initiative in Iraq and Syria, we can be assured that much more is going on behind the scenes—preparations are undoubtedly in the works for a full-scale operation. Currently, there are approximately 1,500 U.S. troops in Iraq aiding the Iraqi military in objectives as far-reaching as the ISIS-controlled territory of al-Anbar.
Only recently has the international community begun to realize the significance of ISIS and their threat to the Middle East and the Western world. On 14 November, the UN Security Council met and reviewed a report from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, titled Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria.
During the session, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2170 (2014), which condemns gross, widespread abuse of human rights by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. As well, the members of the council named six specific individuals who, with substantiating evidence, are believed to be responsible for these aforementioned violations of human rights.
There are two actions stated by the security council that foreshadow what may lie ahead and give the sense that the U.S. and allies are moving toward a direct battle with ISIS:
- Demands that ISIL, ANF, and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al-Qaida cease all violence and terrorist acts, and disarm and disband with immediate effect.
- Urges all States, in accordance with their obligations under resolution 1373 (2001), to cooperate in efforts to find and bring to justice individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida including ISIL and ANF who perpetrate, organize and sponsor terrorist acts and in this regard underlines the importance of regional cooperation.
Overall, these statements from the security council prove very little, but they surely serve as a statement of intent for the international community and raise the possibility of action. Action is necessary to prevent ISIS from gaining more ground in the region. Airstrikes, ISF, and 1,500 U.S. troops are simply inadequate for defeating ISIS.
If or when there is a full operation on the part of the Western world, key pieces of real estate must be acquired in order cut off supply lines and forms of communication. Of the many key pieces of real estate that could help dismantle ISIS, the airfields fluctuating in and out of their control top the list. To entertain the idea of a viable air and ground campaign, key airfields must be in allied hands.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is the elite airfield-seizure force for the the U.S. military, and we should be utilizing their talents. By taking airfields, the use of conventional ground travel to establish penetration into ISIS-controlled regions could be reduced or eliminated. Currently, ISIS has major control over the city of Mosul, Iraq. Inserting a company or battalion of Rangers to secure the airfield would enable allied aircraft loaded with ISF to establish a base of operations in which to regain control over Iraq’s second largest city and the surrounding region.
This would allow the Rangers to fall back and repeat the same process on multiple fronts with ISF as the primary assaulting force for the region. This strategy would put the least amount of U.S. troops in harm’s way, and could quell some public fears that the U.S. is doing Iraq’s work for them.
Of course this is just one viable option and the strategies and tactics for defeating Daash will have to be unconventional, and will surely need the support of multiple countries and platforms.