News / Middle East

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Henry Ridgwell

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years.  There is growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.

In just two years, the self-described Islamic State group has gone from being a loose coalition of Islamist rebel groups to a formidable fighting force that controls swaths of Syria and Iraq.

America’s response so far has been limited airstrikes launched from an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.  It will not be enough to defeat the terrorists, says Thomas Hegghammer, director of terrorism research at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment in Oslo.

“Airstrikes alone are not sufficient.  They might just stir the hornet’s nest," said Hegghammer.

Speaking Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama again ruled out putting American troops on the ground in Iraq.

“We’ll not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq.  Because ultimately it is up to Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves," he said.

There is an element of gamesmanship in the diplomatic strategy between the West and Iraq, says Hegghammer.

“The tendency [is] for local countries to wait for a big country like the U.S. to step in and foot the bill in terms of money and human costs.  The challenge is to avoid that, to get the local actors more involved to take more of the cost," he said.

The current inaction is strengthening ISIS, says Shiraz Maher of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College London.

“At the moment there is absolutely no momentum or appetite to put boots on the ground in Syria or Iraq.  And without that unfortunately, it looks impossible to challenge ISIS," he said. "The Syrian and Iraqi armies aren’t capable of doing it, no Arab force is going to do it even if it has the capability to do so, and that’s what makes ISIS such a potent threat."

Recent actions by ISIS - including the slaughter of Christian and Yazidi minorities and the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley - appear to be designed to provoke the West, says Hegghammer.

“ISIS might want a medium-sized Western intervention in Iraq, one that’s big enough to give ISIS political credibility and help them with recruitment, but one that’s not large enough to dent them seriously, in military terms," he said.

On the ground in northern Iraq, Kurdish forces have been on the front lines fighting ISIS. Several Western countries have offered them arms.  That will give them the capability to take on ISIS, says the Kurdistan Regional Government Representative in London, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman.  

“We’re not calling for boots on the ground.  We have our own boots: we have the Peshmerga," she said. "But we are calling for more assistance, particularly more airstrikes, weapons for the Peshmerga, logistical support and sharing of intelligence."

Whether such Western support will lead to the defeat of the Islamic State remains uncertain.  But the United States and its allies are resolute that ground troops will not be returning to the deserts of Iraq anytime soon.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs