ISIL/ISIS/IS - Raid versus Invasion?
In an invasion, you come to permanently occupy the terrain. In a raid, you destroy the enemy and leave.
Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former head of the Central Command, estimates that the equivalent of two Marine Expeditionary Brigades would be needed to systematically destroy the ISIS standing army; I agree.
That’s about 20,000 soldiers, with one brigade attacking east out of Syria and the second attacking west through Iraq. They’d meet at the old Iraqi-Syrian border in a classic squeeze play.
This would be a war the American people can understand. The number of cities and towns cleared of ISIS’ conventional combat power is quantifiable, and there is a recognizable military end state.
It would not be without cost. In retaking the Iraqi city of Fallujah alone in 2004, we lost 94 Marines and sailors killed while killing 10 times that many Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters.
This campaign of large-scale raids would likely be more costly and take months, but it’s preferable to armed nation-building, where body bags stream back for years.
It is likely that when driven from the occupied areas, ISIS’ people will disperse and try to consolidate elsewhere. We have to plan for that; you can destroy an army, but not an ideology. We may need to attack them again elsewhere sometime.
The political end state would be in the hands of the Syrians and Iraqis. We could do some advance good by training what passes for a moderate Syrian rebel coalition to administer and police the liberated areas of Syria after we’ve cleared them of ISIS fighters.
Similarly, we could work diplomatically with the Iraqis to rebuild the trust of the population and tribal leaders of the Sunni regions.
Yet there is no guarantee that they will succeed in governance, only that the ISIS threat will be dispersed.
We must prevent a terror sanctuary similar to that which existed in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. We are the indispensable nation in this effort.
And while we may be able to recruit a posse, a global marshal has to lead from the front.
Pic - "The Spy Who Told Me"