In very familiar wording, on September 10, 2014, President Obama told the nation that a key component to fighting Islamic terrorist group ISIS will be a coalition of nations supporting US efforts. Also critical in that national address was the promise that American combat troops would not set foot in Iraq. It was stated that several hundred non-combat troops are either in or on their way to Iraq to help that nation’s infrastructure defenses.
So far the staunchest allies of the United States have stepped forward. Australia has offered 600 troops and 10 planes. None are combat troops. England, which recently had one of its citizens beheaded, has made a clear statement of supporting the US coalition. That support so far has not equated to joint airstrikes, and has clearly emphasized a lack of combat troops. But British Prime Minister David Cameron was clear on the resolve of the British people on Sunday Sept 14,2014,
“Step by step, we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL [ISIS] and what it stands for. We will do so in a calm and deliberate way, but with an iron determination.” -
The call for coalition has also been raised with several Middle East nations. Egypt has stated that they support the US call for coalition. Egypt for its part though has offered neither combat nor support troops and planes. Turkey has followed Egypt in inaction, but the ramifications are far deeper.
Turkey is believed to have backed ISIS in its early stages. This tacit support allowed ISIS to engage Syrian forces that are not supported by Turkey. That implied support from Turkey may have changed when 49 Turkish hostages were taken by ISIS, further complicating the matter. Whatever the reasons though, Turkey has not committed troops, has not condemned ISIS, and will not allow NATO troops to use airbases or staging areas in the nation.
The summation of this brings with it a question. If Middle East nations are only willing to provide lip service to the US-led coalition, and the most ardent allies of America are not willing to have troops put a foot on the ground, how is ISIS supposed to be thwarted? As awesome and powerful as airstrikes may be, even the most rudimentary military strategist will note that airpower cannot take or hold ground positions. With all sides unwilling to commit combat troops, and the general agreement that Iraqi forces are not up to the task, the focus comes back to the US for leadership. A leadership that is needed to prevent a predictable outcome, as stated by Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army,
“If we don’t confront and destroy these Islamic State Jihadi fighters then their influence will grow, their confidence will grow and the problem will get bigger.”
Thus, once again, the world is looking to America to place the majority of combat troops on Iraqi soil to take the brunt of the battle with ISIS. A prospect that is unlikely to change even after President Obama speaks to the UN Security Council. A prospect that will once again place President Obama in the unwelcome spot of either having directly lied to the American people or allowing a problem for the nation to grow.