THE COMING DOWNFALL OF KOBANI: THE COST OF 'MILITARY TOKENISM'
"In fairness, airpower cannot solve religious, ethnic, political, and governance issues that are at the core of Iraqi and Syrian civil conflict. Airpower cannot substitute for a lack of effective Iraqi ground forces or moderate Syrian rebel forces – it can at best buy them to build-up their capabilities. It can only degrade the Islamic State, not defeat or destroy it, and it cannot prevent other Jihadist or violent Islamist extremist movements from taking its place as long as the underlying causes that bred the Islamic state remain. Nevertheless, the air effort to date is so small by the standard of recent conflicts that it amounts to little more than military tokenism. This has been disguised in part by official reporting that touts the effect of daily sorties in hitting given target areas, makes claims to strategic effects that are never justified or fully explained, and include occasional figures for minor damage to given weapons systems. There has been little reporting on the overall size of the air campaign, its impact on the overall course of the fighting in Iraq and Syria, its tangible impact on the Islamic State, and its human impact in terms of the trends in casualties, displaced persons, refugees, and atrocities".Anthony Cordesman, "The Air War Against the Islamic State: The Need for An 'Adequacy of Resources'". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 10 October 2014, in www.csis.org.
Syria Deeply: What would be a game-changer? What are the consequences of inaction? Civiroglu: A game-changer will come if the international community steps in with effective airstrikes that aim to degrade and destroy ISIS. The second would be providing Kurds heavy arms, such as anti-tank missiles that can neutralize ISIS, Humvees, tanks and heavy weapons. If this doesn’t happen, heavy massacres will follow. ISIS has already beheaded a couple people the past few days. There are alarming reports that women are being beheaded. Kurdish officials have warned that these types of attacks could occur on a large scale.... Syria Deeply: What is the significance if Kobani were to fall to ISIS? Civiroglu: Kobani has been resisting attacks by ISIS for over a year now. ISIS is not new, even though the international community is just focusing on it now. Kobani is like an island trapped among ISIS-controlled territory. To the west of Kobani is Jarabulus and Southwest is Manbij, to the south is Raqqa, to the east is Tal Abyad, all areas controlled by ISIS. They are trying to seize the area to connect the areas under its control. After Mosul, ISIS feels very strong, and this will make them even stronger. It will give them access to a border, which would give ISIS a huge advantage, and allow fighters to flow in and out, to sell oil more easily. Right now ISIS and Turkey are on good terms, but the capture of Kobani would give ISIS control of a border with direct access to Turkey.Katarina Montgomery, in "The Cost and Consequences of an ISIS Victory on Kobani". Syria Deeply. 7 October 2014, in www.Syriadeeply.org. The coming downfall of the Syrian border city of Kobani to the fanatics of ISIS appears to be inevitable as the various reports in the press seems to indicate 1. With a combination of Turkish, studied indifference, if not worse and what Anthony Cordesman, perhaps the leading military analyst in the USA correctly calls 'military tokenism' . In short, notwithstanding the American bombing campaign of upwards of three-weeks now in Syria, the impact of the same is extremely limited. And, indeed as per to-day's Financial Times, while the Americans have engaged in a half-hearted fashion with ISIS in Syria and of course Iraq, ISIS has in recently weeks tightened its grip on large portions of Anbar Province. In effect allowing ISIS to be entrenched within striking distance of Baghdad 2. The upshot of both of these trends is that the Western campaign in Iraq and Syria appears to be if not failing then at the very least stalemated. With ISIS showing an ability to adapt to the Western air campaign in such a fashion as to negate it. By 'negate' it of course I am referring to what Cordesman correctly calls a very limited, if not indeed truncated campaign. As Cordesman cogently notes, as compared to the First Gulf War of 1990-1991, the current air campaign rates as a mere 'hiccup':
"The current air campaign looks like a statistical hiccup in comparison with the first major air campaign the US and its allies fought in driving Saddam Hussein’s force out of Kuwait. It was a fundamentally different war fought with different goals and radically less sophisticated weapons. Nevertheless, it still provides a picture of the scale what it takes for air power to be a truly decisive factor in shaping the outcome of a conflict....Where the current campaign has averaged some 15 strike sorties per day, and peaks of 30, the First Gulf war average some 2,000-3,000 sorties per day" 3.The military 'tokenism' in which the current Western, American-lead campaign, will have the inevitable result of Kobani falling to ISIS in the very near future. And while in some larger strategic sense, Kobani may perhaps not be ultra-important, the fact is that the fall of the city will have a very negative effect politically and psychologically in this campaign. ISIS will proclaim urbi et orbi, that it has won a great victory over the Western powers and in particular the United States. As Cordesman's data has shown this will not in fact correct. The Americans et. al., appear to not regard Kobani as being very important strategically speaking. However, this fact will be ignored once the news of Kobani's fall to ISIS will be announced. ISIS will use its victory in gaining control of this deserted and bombed-out city to reinforce its claim to be a genuine Islamic State. It will use its victory, no matter how small in reality to gain more support and more supporters. Both on the ground in terms of volunteers and in terms of monetary contributions from around the world. Given all of these negative factors attendant upon the fall of Kobani, is there any rational explanation as to why the Americans are not truly fighting this war in Syria and Iraq? 1. Daniel Dombey, "US presses Turkey to take ‘urgent steps’ against Isis". The Financial Times. 10 October 2014, in www.ft.com. 2. Sam Jones, "Isis still on the front foot in Iraq". The Financial Times. 10 October 2014, in www.ft.com. 3. Cordesman, op. cit.