The roller coaster known as American foreign policy has had a few extra bumps lately, as two recent events showed the potential triumphs and shortcomings of the United States’ attempts to contain ISIS.
A couple weeks ago, Ramadi – the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province – was captured by ISIS forces. Iraqi military, police forces and citizens have fled leaving a major city just 80 miles to the east of Baghdad under Islamic State control. This, according to the Washington Post, is a “profound blow to Iraq’s U.S.-backed government,” especially in light of the Iraqi military’s renewed commitment to send forces to defend the city that had previously been teetering on the brink of collapse.
This news came just a day after the U.S. announced that American special operations forces had killed a senior ISIS leader in Syria. The operation was carried out on the ground, a “departure from Washington's strategy of relying primarily on air strikes to target militants” in the region.” No Americans were injured or killed during the mission that killed two other ISIS officials and lasted less than half an hour.
What, then, is the U.S. to do in light of these events? The hands-off strategy has not worked in Ramadi and a more active response saw immediate dividends in Syria. Do these two events, taken together, signal that Washington needs to shift gears in order to more effectively combat ISIS? How should the American military utilize Iran-backed Shiite militia groups that have been effective against ISIS but are not by any means pro-American?
Many foreign policy analysts believe there is a chance ISIS burns itself out. There have already been reports of infighting between local recruits and international members and increased efforts for some fighters to leave the battlefield. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 120 members of ISIS have been executed. While the recent developments in Anbar have not been promising, the most prudent action for America to take might also be the most mundane: stay the course.
Please download EAGLE in the App Store and make you voice #BeHeard. What should Washington do after the recent string of successes and failures in the Middle East?