Expanded US strikes are 1st step in long campaign

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
38 PHOTOS
obama nato/ISIS
See Gallery
Expanded US strikes are 1st step in long campaign
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to strike operations in Syria against ISIL. (Photo: Sgt. Russ Scalf) http://t.co/lZgUfJ5Nn5
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama leaves after speaking during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama is watched on a television screen at a nail salon as he delivers a speech on his strategy to combat the terrorist group ISIS on September 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. President Obama delivered a short prime time televised speech to the Nation to outline his strategy to combat the terrorist group ISIS following the beheadings of two American journalists. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 05: Aircraft from the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team create coloured vapour trails as they fly over the Celtic Manor resort, the venue for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit on September 5, 2014 in Newport, United Kingdom. Leaders and senior ministers from around 60 countries are meeting on the final day of the two day summit with Afghanistan and Ukraine at the top of the agenda. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) speaks with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives alongside Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) ahead of a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) during a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (3rd R) speaks alongside US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (5th R) during a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (3rd L) speaks alongside US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) during a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives alongside Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) ahead of a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and France's President Francois Hollande (3rd L) hold a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) and French President Francois Hollande hold a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (4th R) and French President Francois Hollande (5th L) hold a meeting on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. NATO leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron listen as NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a leaders meeting on the future of NATO at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a leaders meeting on the future of NATO at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, speaks with U.S. Defense Minister Chuck Hagel as they participate in a round table meeting of the North Atlantic Council during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
U.S. President Barack Obama, centre right, stands alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron, centre left, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, second left, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, left, Romanian President Traian Basescu, right, and RAF Group Captain David Bentley, second right, during a flypast at the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
From left, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama, Romanian President Traian Basescu, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and British RAF Group Captain David Bentley watch a flypast on the second day of a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Military jets perform a fly-over during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, watch a flypast on the second day of a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, stands alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron during a flypast at the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
NATO leaders stand on a stage during a group photo opportunity at a NATO summit on the grounds of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day meeting leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, seen on screen, speaks as President Barack Obama and NATO leaders meet regarding Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stand at rear before NATO leaders meet regarding Afghanistan at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center right, speaks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center left, as they attend a NATO-Ukraine round table meeting during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day summit leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
President Barack Obama speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron as NATO leaders meet regarding Afghanistan at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. From left are, Secretary of State John Kerry, the president, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama, speaks with a child at Mount Pleasant Primary School in Newport, Wales, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Obama visited the school with British Prime Minister David Cameron Thursday, before attending a two-day NATO summit at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. (AP Photo/Christopher Jones Pool)
Secretary of State John Kerry, center, talks with President Barack Obama as British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, finishes speaking at a meeting of NATO leaders regarding Afghanistan at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, speaks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as they attend a NATO-Ukraine round table meeting during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day summit leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, left, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, greet Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo during arrivals for a NATO summit on the grounds of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day meeting leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Britain's Prince Charles, left, greets U.S. President Barack Obama as he arrives to attend a 'Welcome the World to Wales' reception hosted by the Prince as part of a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. NATO leaders grappled Thursday with whether the alliance has a role in containing a mounting militant threat in the Middle East, as heads of state converged in Wales for a high-stakes summit also focused on the crisis in Ukraine and next steps in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron as she arrives for the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. NATO leaders grappled Thursday with whether the alliance has a role in containing a mounting militant threat in the Middle East, as heads of state converged in Wales for a high-stakes summit also focused on the crisis in Ukraine and next steps in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, left, speaks with Jordan's King Abdullah before taking their seats at the start of a NATO-Afghanistan round table meeting during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day summit leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, speak before taking their seats at the start of a NATO-Afghanistan round table meeting during a NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. In a two-day summit leaders will discuss, among other issues, the situation in Ukraine and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
US President Barack Obama delivers a statement before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on August 9, 2014 in Washington, DC. France and Britain have agreed to support US humanitarian efforts to help tens of thousands of civilians besieged by militants on a mountain in Iraq, President Obama said Saturday. 'Both leaders expressed strong support for actions and agreed to join us in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqis suffering so much,' Obama told reporters at the White House after speaking by telephone with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

BY ROBERT BURNS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- By expanding his military campaign against the Islamic State group, President Barack Obama hopes to reverse the militants' momentum in Iraq, squeeze their sanctuary in Syria and erode their recruiting appeal across the greater Mideast. Those are key steps toward Obama's stated goal of eventually destroying the extremist group.

The strategy's success, however, also hinges on a set of more difficult moves: effective coordination with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces, undercutting financial and ideological support for the Islamic State group, and building up anti-Islamic State forces in Syria without strengthening the regime of President Bashar Assad, which Obama considers illegitimate.

These U.S. gains are unlikely to occur quickly, but broadening U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and extending them to Syria could "change the reality and the perception of whether ISIL has the momentum or whether they are being rocked back on their heels," said Michele Flournoy, the Obama administration's first policy chief at the Pentagon and now the chief executive officer at the Center for a New American Security think tank. ISIL is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.

Undermining the Islamic State group's popular image as a military steamroller is especially important, particularly in the short run, she said.

"On the Iraq side of the border it has already begun," she said.

Five weeks of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State forces in northern and western Iraq have taken a military and perhaps psychological toll, compelling those forces to disperse and assume more defensive positions, according to U.S. defense officials. That has stalled their offensive, which swiftly routed Iraqi troops in the north in June and gave Islamic State fighters the appearance of being an unstoppable force, prompting Obama to begin limited bombing Aug. 8.

Last weekend, the U.S. began airstrikes around the Haditha Dam west of Baghdad, marking an expansion of the mission. With his announcement Wednesday, Obama essentially has lifted all restrictions on Islamic State targets in Iraq, meaning the air campaign will intensify, broaden and perhaps exact a heavier toll. To facilitate the additional strikes, Obama authorized U.S. soldiers to begin embedding with the Iraqi army - not to fight alongside them but to help them profit from U.S. airstrikes.

Obama made clear the task won't be easy.

"Now it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL," Obama said in his televised address to the nation. "And any time we take military action, there are risks involved."

The Pentagon said Wednesday, before Obama's speech, that U.S. warplanes had conducted 154 airstrikes in Iraq so far, damaging or destroying 212 Islamic State targets, including 162 vehicles.

Obama has been firm in refusing to commit U.S. ground combat forces in Iraq, having staked his 2008 presidential candidacy on ending the war started by his predecessor. But expanding the air campaign means the U.S. military role will extend beyond the fighters, bombers and armed drones that have carried the bulk of the attack load so far, supported by refueling aircraft. It will include 150 U.S. military advisers operating in the field with Iraqi commanders, plus 125 to fly and maintain Iraq-based U.S. surveillance aircraft to collect targeting information for Iraqi troops.

Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, says only about one-third of the Islamic State force - which others have estimated may total 20,000 to 30,000 fighters - are highly skilled. Cordesman believes Iraqi government forces can handle them with U.S. assistance, although he predicted in an analysis published Tuesday that it probably will take several years to create sufficient political and military unity in Iraq to fully defeat the Islamic State forces there.

"There is no clear timeframe for a similar defeat in Syria," he added.

Flournoy, who served as the undersecretary of defense for policy from 2009-2012, said this week that Obama has little choice but to extend the fight to Syria. She said U.S. planes could target Islamic State headquarters buildings, training sites and supply lines used to reinforce its fighters in Iraq.

"This will take time" to undercut the extremists' ability to function as a land army and an administrator of large chunks of Iraqi territory, she said. "This is not going to happen in a matter of weeks or months."

Douglas A. Ollivant, a retired Army officer who was director for Iraq on the National Security Council in the late stages of the Iraq War, said U.S. airstrikes in Syria would be designed to support the ground war in Iraq and make Syria less useful as a support base for Islamic State forces. But that approach has its limitations.

"We're under no illusions that doing airstrikes alone in Syria is going to kick them out of Syria," he said.

In the longer run, more fundamental shifts could create a "new map of Mesopotamia," according to Bing West, a retired Marine officer and author of "One Million Steps, a Marine Platoon at War."

After a few years of U.S. bombing coordinated by special operations forces on the ground in Iraq, the Islamic extremists will be squeezed out and Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq are likely to coalesce to form what amounts to an independent state, as the Kurds have done over the past decade in northeastern Iraq, he said in an email exchange Wednesday.

More from AOL
Analysis: Obama takes big risk in wider airstrikes
Photos: A portrait of the 9/11 rescue workers
'We have not been harmed in any way,' Fiji captive says in newly released YouTube video

Read Full Story

People are Reading