Containment Was Never Like This

Reports of the containment of ISIS have been greatly exaggerated:

ISIS continues to gain substantial ground in Syria, despite nearly 800 airstrikes in the American-led campaign to break its grip there.

At least one-third of the country’s territory is now under ISIS influence, with recent gains in rural areas that can serve as a conduit to major cities that the so-called Islamic State hopes to eventually claim as part of its caliphate. Meanwhile, the Islamic extremist group does not appear to have suffered any major ground losses since the strikes began. The result is a net ground gain for ISIS, according to information compiled by two groups with on-the-ground sources.

The “half full” way of thinking about this is provided by Rear Adm. John Kirby:

During a Jan. 6 press briefing, for example, when a reporter asked “where ISIS’s relative strength is right now,” Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby replied by talking exclusively about the U.S. effort in Iraq, naming cities were the military believed ISIS’s momentum has been “halted.”

When the reporter pressed for an answer on what was happening in Syria, Kirby struggled, saying, “I couldn’t give you a—a specific point at which, you know, we believe, well geez, we’ve halted their momentum. It—it’s come slowly, in various stages. But I think it’s safe to say that over the last three to four weeks, we—we’ve been confident that that momentum has largely been blunted.”

IIRC our air campaign against ISIS is costing something in the neighborhood of a half billion a month and, presumably, we can continue to “blunt” ISIS’s momentum as long as we’re willing to keep it up.

3 comments… add one
  • ... Link

    800 strikes amounts to what, five to eight sorties a day? And those sorties aren’t like the massive airraids of WWII, but much smaller in scope. (On the plus side, precision munitions. Minuses include an apparent lack of forward spotters, mostly mobile targets, and that the targets have a lot less value than is being spent to destroy them. Somehow I’m reminded of an old Italian in Catch-22.)

    I’m not seeing this as a winning strategy, nor the de facto realignment with Iran. But then, I am a well-known naysayers.

  • Andy Link

    As always, the employment of combined arms is the most effective means of warfare – the sum is greater than the parts. IMO there doesn’t appear to be much air-ground coordination which really limits the effectiveness of airpower.

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