As the U.S. and its allies begin a new chapter in Middle East warfare by launching airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria, experts on jihadist terrorists warned on Tuesday that the U.S. was heading into a very long and uncertain military engagement in war-torn Syria and Iraq.
U.S. commanders deployed a combination of fighter jets and bombers and Tomahawk missiles against ISIS targets in Syria beginning late Monday, joined by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.
“America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security,” Obama said today on the White House lawn before leaving for a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.”
Obama added, “There will be challenges ahead. But we’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.”
The strikes against terrorists in Syria came nearly two weeks after Obama announced in a televised address his plans for escalating airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria – with the goal of degrading and ultimately destroying the jihadists who have killed tens of thousands and captured broad swaths of Iraq and Syria.
The U.S. has been engaged in warfare in Iraq, off and on, since it invaded that country in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. In this latest chapter, Obama had pledged that a combination of U.S. and allied air power, joint counter-terrorism tactics and the eventual assistance of “moderate” rebels in Syria would eradicate ISIS within three years.
However, a new study by terrorism experts with the Bipartisan Policy Center caution that it may take many more years than that, now that the U.S. has expanded its mission against ISIS to include bombing in Syria, a haven for ISIS as well as the new terror group Khorasan.
“A wide array of political science research finds that civil wars like the one in Syria take about a decade or more to end,” the BPC study noted. “If that is so in this case, we have only seen the beginning of the Syrian conflict, and the United States must be prepared to contain the fallout from the conflict and prevent further escalation for years to come.” This latest terrorism assessment was written by Peter Bergen, an analyst and member of the Homeland Security Project.
For now at least, the Obama administration says it doesn’t believe ISIS has the capability to conduct a major attack on the U.S. homeland. Yet the new report said the murder of two American journalists demonstrate “that [ISIS] will attack American targets where it has the capability to do so.”
“[ISIS] is surely a major problem for Iraq, and its tactics and strategy are abhorrent, such as its use of crucifixions, its genocidal attacks on the small Yazidi minority,” and the beheading of American journalists.
The report said there is strong indication that some combination of Iraqi government and Kurdish forces backed up by U.S. air support can eventually defeat ISIS. Moreover, the report said, ISIS “may end up not being able to effectively govern the so-called ‘caliphate’ it has established in much of western and northern Iraq.”
“After all, in 2006, the [ISIS] mothership, al Qaeda in Iraq, controlled much of the same area that [ISIS] now governs in Iraq and lost it all by the end of 2007,” the report stated.
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