President Obama is expected to lay out his plan for defeating the militant group ISIS in a speech to the nation on Wednesday, and the only thing that seems certain is that his three-part strategy won’t be completed anytime soon — in fact, it might well extend into his successor’s administration.
The first step, air strikes, is already under way. American forces have already fired at ISIS militants 145 times in Iraq. Many of those strikes were to protect the Yazidi religious minority, which ISIS has been persecuting because their faith borders on polytheism. Subsequent strikes helped free the Mosul Dam from militant control and protected American diplomats in the region.
The next likely expansion of the strategy will be to Syria, but that remains a contentious matter within the White House and beyond and potentially depends on cooperation from Syria’s embattled leader, Bashar al-Assad.
As a second step, the U.S. intends to help train and support local forces in the region, including the Iraqi military, Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and, according to the New York Times, even local Sunni tribes that currently back ISIS but are beginning to chafe under the group’s extremist policies.
It’s the third stage of this plan, though, that’s worded most ambiguously and could take an estimated three years to complete: “We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities; we’re going to shrink the territory that they control; and, ultimately, we’re going to defeat them,” Obama said on Meet the Press Sunday. The campaign would seem to involve more than just drones, but less than ground troops, which both the U.S. and NATO have ruled out.
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