We may be months away from any sort of meaningful push against ISIS on the ground, U.S. officials said Thursday, because our Iraqi and Syrian allies are not yet ready to take on the terror group. Reuters reports:
In Iraq, the timing will depend on a host of factors, some out of the military’s control – from Iraqi politics to the weather. Iraqi forces also must be trained, armed and ready before major advances, like one to retake the city of Mosul, which fell to the Islamic State in June.”It’s not imminent. But we don’t see that that’s a years-long effort to get them to a place to where they can be able to go on a sustained counter-offensive,” a military official said, instead describing it as a “months-long” endeavor.
On the one hand, it’s at least good to see the military tempering expectations, declaring that we would not “squander our credibility” by praising the Iraqi forces right now. This is a bit of a useful corrective to the Administration’s habit of talking loudly and carrying a small stick on foreign policy, something we’ve seen too much of lately.On the other hand, it’s hard not to see American credibility as to some extent already on the line. Not only did we train and equip the Iraqi Army for the better part of a decade, we declared it our aim to degrade and destroy ISIS months ago—since which time the group has gained ground in strategic areas.Above all, this report raises alarm bells because the Administration, and to a large extent Western observers as a whole, have chronically underestimated ISIS. In January, they were the “JV team”; months later they were still supposedly confined to the hinterlands. When they did break out, many thought we could roll them up quickly with a few airstrikes. So while we say that we’ll have a coalition ready to push against them in a few months, we might want to ask—what can ISIS do with that time?