The US military and humanitarian mission in Iraq continues to suffer from what is known as “mission creep,” which is defined as “a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment.”
When the Obama administration ordered limited military intervention against the Islamic State beginning on Aug. 7, the objectives were twofold: to halt the Islamic State’s advance on Irbil to protect US personnel based there, and provide humanitarian relief to the Yazidi minority who fled Sinjar and other towns and were trapped on Mount Sinjar.
Within a week, the objectives were modified, and the US military was now tasked with serving as the air force to Kurdish and Iraqi forces “to protect critical infrastructure” and “support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces, who are working together to combat ISIL [the Islamic State].”
Yesterday, the US began launching airstrikes against Islamic State fighters who are besieging the ethnic Turkmen town of Amerli. Note that Amerli is in Salahaddin province and doesn’t constitute a critical threat to US personnel in Irbil, nor does it host critical infrastructure. Below is the full press release that was issued yesterday by US Central Command:
At the request of the Government of Iraq, the U.S. military conducted airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to address the humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli, Iraq at approximately 8:30 p.m. EDT today.
Two months ago, hundreds of ISIL terrorists advanced on Amirli cutting off food, water, and medical supplies to thousands of Shia Turkomen living there. ISIL has since blocked many attempts by Iraqi Security Forces and the United Nations from delivering critical supplies to Amirli, threatening the remaining population.
At the request of the Iraqi government, U.S. forces airdropped 109 bundles of much-needed humanitarian aid to the people of Amirli, including the Shia Turkomen minority ethnic group. Two U.S. C-17s and two U.S. C-130s airdropped supplies, delivering approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh drinking water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat. In addition, aircraft from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom also dropped humanitarian aid.
To support the delivery of this humanitarian assistance, the U.S. military also conducted three airstrikes in coordination with the isolated Iraqi security forces responsible for protecting Amirli.
Fighter aircraft struck and destroyed three ISIL Humvees, one ISIL armed vehicle, one ISIL checkpoint and one ISIL tank near Amirli. All aircraft safely exited the area.
The President authorized these airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the town of Amirli. These operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.
U.S Central Command has conducted a total of 118 airstrikes across Iraq.
It has been clear from the beginning that the Obama administration does not have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State. President Obama admitted as much in a press conference last week.
But what is clear is that the Obama administration is doing exactly what it said it wouldn’t do: get sucked into Iraq’s civil war and serve as Iraq’s air force.
If President Obama wants to defeat the Islamic State, a group that he described as a “cancer,” he needs to quickly develop a comprehensive strategy and articulate it to the American public. Otherwise, the administration is employing tactical solutions to the strategic problem that is the Islamic State, and adjusting these tactics on the fly.