How to dismantle Isis, by Ret Adm James G Stavridis
Goals: know the resources, but don’t blink
To contain Isis, you must understand its resources – of fighters and ammunition, fuel and financial support – that allow Isis to flourish. Then, cut those off, essentially turning the organization inside-out to kill it. But you must put safeguards must in place to ensure the fire does not, in effect, re-flash the moment you look away.
Strategies: a three-front war to degrade resources, then western on-the-ground troops to re-train Iraqis … and an anti-gang future
•Short-term: Isis has enjoyed the interior or central position thus far, allowing it to move a relatively small number of fighters – to the north to attack the Kurds, to the south to threaten Baghdad, or to the west for relief and resupply in Syria. It is an advantage at the moment, but it will become a disadvantage when Isis faced with a three-front war: rearmed Kurds pressing from the north, reinvigorated Iraqi Security Forces from the south, plus heavy bombing while the militants are trying to get to open desert in the west. Western special forces, ammunition, fuel, intelligence and cyber operations will all be key.
•Medium-term: A powerful addition would be a western force, of around 10,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and specialized in training, advising, mentoring and quick reaction. This would effectively put back in place the training mission rejected by the Iraqis several years ago. It’s also crucial to go after Isis funding streams. And there must be a significant cyber component that degrades and denies Isis’ ability to use the internet for propaganda, recruiting, command and control, and offensive actions.
•Long-term: It can be helpful to install strategic communication that emphasizes the utter inhumanity, anti-Islamic actions and brutal behavior of Isis. This could be coupled with development, jobs, education and opportunities for young men who currently see Isis as a better path – they’re essentially anti-gang techniques already used in many urban areas, but they work.
•Restore a functioning, multi-religious / ethnic government in Baghdad
•Retrain effective Iraqi Security Forces
•Strengthen the Kurdish Peshmurga
•Kill Isis leadership
•Root out Isis and its inhumanity
What the pundits are missing: airstrikes aren’t enough
Bombing just won’t be sufficient. Isis demands a western force on the ground, roughly along the lines of what is envisioned in Afghanistan – and what we already discussed with the Iraqi government. The ground forces would not start at 10,000-15,000 troops, of course, but the number could built up to that many over many months; they would most certainly be trainers, mentors and logisticians – but some would have to be special forces, combat aviators and quick-reaction combat forces. And the Sunni-Shia conflict driving so much of this is not unlike the Wars of the Reformation– those took a century to conclude … and still sputter along in Northern Island three centuries later. This is going to take a long time.
•James Stavridis is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is a retired US Navy admiral and served as Nato’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
Yes, you can really defeat Isis, by Ret Lt Gen Michael D Barbero
Goals: a key political ingredient with the necessary military ingredients
For any strategy, you must incentivize the Sunni population in Iraq to expel Isis from the occupied areas. This means allowing Sunnis to perceive representation in the new government in Baghdad and trying to remove the threat of Isis from occupied Sunni areas. You must have both the political and military.
Strategies: arm Iraqis and Kurds, keep up the airstrikes and choke off external Isis funding
•Short-term: Increase airstrikes to attack the entire Isis structure, including Syria. But you have to accompany this with immediate support – and arms – for Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish forces, so that they can execute ground operations to dislodge Isis control.
Medium-term: Continue airstrikes on high-value targets and the Isis support network in Syria. But don’t forget to build up and keep supporting the capabilities of Iraqi and Kurdish security force to further defeat Isis and secure Iraqi territory.
•Long-term: Build a coalition of regional allies to directly support military operations. But don’t forget to build an international coalition to cut off external Isis support such as funding and foreign-fighter flow.
•Defeat Isis. (Yes, it’s possible.)
•Build up Iraqi and Kurdish security forces
•Defend the integrity of Iraq
What the pundits are missing: time waits for no one
The more time passes, the more Isis benefits. The longer we wait, the more we fail to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces – when they could be conducting offensive operations against Isis. We can’t just complain about Isis, because they’re only becoming stronger and more entrenched by the day.
•Michael D Barbero is a retired US Army lieutenant general. He also served as director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
A real coalition of the willing, by Ret Maj Gen Paul D Eaton
Goals: don’t degrade and destroy without diplomacy
The disrupt-and-defeat phase may be coming, but the US would be foolish not to apply our diplomatic, economic and military power simultaneously. This means developing a a coalition to deploy joint ground forces – to encircle Isis and reduce it territorial control. This means filling the vacuum with help from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraqi, Iran and Jordan. And it means isolating Isis, denying access to the international banking system while ID-ing its donors – and punishing them. We can provide airspace management over Iraq and Syria, but it’s not just our military might.
Strategies: make Isis cash-only, storm the ground with a coalition and empower Sunni leaders
•Short-term: Air strikes into both Iraq and Syria are required, with tacit Syrian government approval or acceptance, but all electronic communications from Isis must be denied or allowed and intercepted – with an emphasis on social media and a shutdown of all electronic access to funds, effectively reducing Isis to a cash-only entity.
•Medium-term: A coalition ground-force assault on Isis territory – enabled by air forces, intelligence, surveillance, reconaissance and logistics, but including special-ops raids – must disrupt Isis command. But simultaneous assaults on the Isis perimeter could reduce controlled territory while installing moderate governance.
•Long-term: The defeat of Isis is a political shaping exercise – you find moderate Sunni leaders, empower and install them in Syria and Iraq. (It sounds all too easy, so the US will have to think more carefully than ever about its commitment to democracy by way of self-determination.) But as you encourage the Syrian government to “do no harm” within its borders, the Turks – by virtue of their geo-political position – are ideally suited to take the lead.
•Establish Turkey as a true regional power: even though it already is strong, and the Kurds are key, the region needs a moderate leader that is not just America
•Offset Iranian influence – not easy while attacking Iran’s mutual Isis foe, but not impossible
•Stabilize Iraq into a loose federation of empowered Sunnis and Kurds, and a more tolerant Shi’a population
•Force Syria to accept a political solution – because it came from a coalition, not just the US
What the pundits are missing: everything
The media has observed. Congress has surrendered decision-making to the executive branch – sitting on the sidelines, carping and whining. We must demand an articulate mission statement before we again embark on warfare. We must demand an endgame that addresses failed assumptions and avoids sequels. President Obama can deliver that, just not in one speech.
•Paul D Eaton is a senior advisor to the National Security Network and a retired US Army major general. He commanded operations to train Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Via the guardian