While the US has touted its bombing campaign against terrorists in Syria, a closer look at the numbers reveals that for every militant killed, another is recruited.
Sputnik – US
Since the US began military operations in Syria, the Pentagon’s strategy has been to kill every individual associated with the Daesh terrorist group, also known as IS/the Islamic State.
“If you’re part of ISIL, we will kill you. That’s our rule,” Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters earlier this week.
Most importantly for the Obama administration, US strategists have assured the public that their goals can be accomplished with nothing more than an air campaign. This allows the president to continue to push for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rather than accept ground coordination from the legitimate Syrian army, and keep his pledge of keeping US boots off the ground in the Middle East.
President Obama recently announced the deployment of US Special Forces into Syria, but prefers not to officially describe that action as “combat.”
But despite the Pentagon’s claims of success, a cursory look at the numbers proves that US airstrikes have had little – if any – effect.
At the start of the campaign in 2014, the CIA provided an estimate for the size of Daesh’s fighting force.
“[The terror group] can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria,” a CIA spokesman told CNN.
In November, an anonymous official speaking to USA Today claimed that the air campaign had killed approximately 23,000 Daesh fighters. According to a press briefing given by Army Col. Steve Warren on Wednesday, another 2,500 militants were killed in December.
So, good news! According to these numbers, the US bombing campaign has almost single-handedly eliminated Daesh, leaving only a few thousand terrorists scattered across the desert. With any luck, Daesh will be little more than a distant memory come Valentine’s Day.
But during the same briefing, Warren also gave reporters an updated assessment of the terror group. How many militants does the Pentagon believe to be currently fighting with Daesh? Around 30,000.
As Micah Zenko points out, writing for Defense One, this mathematical inconsistency can be partially explained by the fact that Western airstrikes can ultimately be turned into recruiting tools for terrorist groups – a fact overlooked by the Pentagon.
“I often ask US government officials and mid-level staffers, ‘what are you doing to prevent a neutral person from becoming a terrorist?’ They always claim this is not their responsibility,” he writes.
“DOS and DHS officials then refer generally to ‘countering violent extremism’ policies, while acknowledging that US government efforts on this front have been wholly ineffective.”
Whatever the cause, Daesh appears just as strong, 22,110 bombs later.
Iraq in Flames: US Destroyed Ramadi to ‘Save’ It
Sputnik – Middle East
While US officials have touted the success of the liberation of the Ramadi from Daesh, the city was largely destroyed in the process. Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear delves into what’s in store for the city “saved” by the US coalition.
“For many Iraqis, these attacks are not really liberation. It’s more a handover between one sectarian militia and another sectarian militia,” Raed Jarrar, political analyst with the American Friends Service Committee, tells Loud & Clear. “Iraq’s central government and its armed forces are, unfortunately, nothing more than a sectarian militia in the country.
“They have been committing the same level of abuses and human rights violations as ISIS…”
Jarrar, who grew up in Iraq, notes that this sectarian violence may be a permanent fixture for Iraq – one that was not present prior to US involvement.
“That is truly the root of where we live today, where ISIS and the sectarian militias who are Shiite and Kurdish are operating with this framework that introduced by the United States initially in 1991, and then introduced on the ground as new policies in 2003.”
Ryan Endicott, a former US Marine who took part in the occupation of Ramadi in 2005, provides insight into the conditions that led to the city’s capture by Daesh.
“I don’t think that I was surprised at all to see that Ramadi had fallen, specifically because of what I witnessed during my time in the occupation,” he tells Loud & Clear.
“Throughout the 8-month period that I was there, between all of the raids and constant bombardment from counter-battery, it became pretty clear that as I patrolled the streets pocked with bullet holes and schools bombed to the ground, that by the time I left, the city had become almost completely inactive…”
Endicott also describes the actions conducted by the US soldiers who occupied Ramadi.
“When I got there, my first sergeant, the very first thing he said to us when we got there is that ‘Today’s terrorists are today’s terrorists. Today’s women breed tomorrow’s children, and tomorrow’s children grow up to be next week’s terrorist. So there’s no such thing as an innocent person.'”
This racist viewpoint led US soldiers to pursue policies that inherently disenfranchised the local population.
“On our patrols, what we did was ransack homes and basically arrest any military-age male being 13 or over. Sand bags over the head, zip ties on the hands…And then I cannot even tell you what happened to the people that were trucked away…”
While it may be tempting to blame US failures on the Bush administration, Jarrar points out that America has been actively engaged in a hostile relationship with Iraq for over two decades.
“It seems that the US has been doing exactly the same for the last 25 years. The plan has been to destroy the country by using military force, and other means when useful,” he says, adding that despite the ostensible goal of helping Iraq, the US has actually made the country demonstrably worse.
Despite the so-called “liberation” of Ramadi last month, America’s wave of violence in Iraq is likely to continue as it pursues flawed policies.
“It is the official policy that the US government has adopted that dividing Iraq into ethnic and sectarian regions is a good idea,” Jarrar says. “As if we separated Iraqi Sunnis, and Shiites, and Kurds and Christians from each other, the conflict will end.
“[But] the idea that you would separate them is creating a new norm that never existed before,” Jarrar adds, describing how people of many ethnic backgrounds lived peacefully together in Iraq for thousands of years, prior to Western meddling.