News / Middle East

Still Waiting for Orders, US Military Has ISIL in Its Sights

Still Waiting for Orders, US Military Has ISIL in Its Sightsi
Jeff Seldin
June 20, 2014 12:38 AM
The United States says that, for now, it is only sending military advisers to Baghdad to help the Iraqi government combat advances by militant Sunni Islamists, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But VOA's Jeff Seldin reports from the Pentagon that U.S. forces are poised to strike - if ordered to do so.
The United States says that, for now, it is only sending military advisers to Baghdad to help the Iraqi government combat advances by militant Sunni Islamists, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But the Pentagon says U.S. forces are poised to strike - if ordered to do so.
In the waters of the Persian Gulf, there are already reminders of the long reach of America’s military might as President Barack Obama warns the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant not to rest easy.
“We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it,” said Obama.
The U.S. has been moving resources into place for days. On board the USS George HW Bush there are about 70 aircraft, including FA-18 Super Hornets and E-2C Hawkeyes, able to help coordinate strikes.
Additionally, the U.S. Air Force says it has 90 to 100 aircraft - from fighters to bombers to drones - ready to go within hours.
Retired Air Force Lieutenant General David Deptula says “it is a situation that is tailor-made for air power.”
And with those aircraft in place, Deptula says ISIL militants could find Baghdad to be out of reach.
“They have to move in sufficient numbers to make a difference.  But even if they don’t, with persistent surveillance, you can watch the movement and eliminate it as it occurs,” says Deptula, who is now dean at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
That’s not to say using air power against ISIL would be easy, a point made by the top U.S. military official to lawmakers Tuesday.
“These forces are very much intermingled. It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and them immediately striking it," said General Martin Dempsey, Chairman, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Part of ISIL’s success comes from its willingness to bury itself in civilian populations.  And drawing them out may take some help - like an effective Iraqi army, says former Army Ranger and military analyst, Paul Floyd, now with Stratfor.
“They (the Iraqi security forces) would actually have to be making gains on the ground, flushing ISIL or ISIS out of urban populations to where they could be exposed and open to attacks,” says Floyd.
For now, the U.S. seems content to fly an increasing number of manned surveillance planes and drones over Iraq, building an ever more precise picture of ISIL’s forces for if and when the call comes to strike.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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Comment Sorting
by: David from: Alb
June 20, 2014 9:45 AM
You sir took my thoughts and put them on paper exactly as i saw it! I agree with you 100% now don't get me wrong I feel as
though a few billion dollars can't be thrown away and terrorists need to be terrorized once
in awhile and most definitely need to stop them but do it by air and nothing else and do it now without ticking off the whole region. Good luck Mr President!

by: meanbill from: USA
June 20, 2014 12:34 AM
MY OPINION? -- My personal opinion is that the man who bowed to the Sunni Saudi King, won't do anything against a Sunni (ISIL) terrorist, until that Sunni Saudi King tells him to do it?

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 19, 2014 10:35 PM
History repeats...history always repeats.

All of this is sounding very, very familiar to what another President, 48 years ago, said. The year was 1966 and Lyndon Johnson informed the Nation that he was sending 'several hundred' military advisors to a certain SE Asian country to 'advise' a government and to 'protect' American interests in that region. That country was South Vietnam. Certain politicians likened that move to a camel trying to stick its nose through a doorway; the head would enter and you knew the rest of the body was sure to follow. And follow, it did. An escalation of 'boots on the ground' that reached a peak in 1969 with nearly half a million American military forces in country.

It is not going to end with just these 300 advisors (it was 175 previously, I believe...that number is sure to keep rising). We also had a carrier task force in the region in SE Asia too, ready to strike at a moments notice, then too. In the Gulf of Tonkin, an incident took place where North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired upon a US destroyer, and Johnson retaliated with the first combat airstrike against North Vietnamese targets.

The parallels are too identical. What happened 48 years ago is going to happen again today. The only difference this time around? It will be our second involvement in Iraq after having left there a few years earlier.
We shot ourselves in the foot 48 years ago, we shot ourselves in the foot 11 years ago, and we are about to shoot ourselves in the foot again today. I don't know about anyone else, but my foot is getting really, really sore now...

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