The President didn’t want to strike ISIS in Iraq this week, but he has no choice. But there is still no plan to defeat the group, which gets more powerful by the day.
The Obama administration moved quickly this week to try to defend U.S. personnel from an impending advance from the terrorist group ISIS – an offensive that caught the President and his advisers off-guard, and forced him to reconsider his long-standing opposition to new military action in Iraq. But Obama still has not decided on, much less put into motion, any plan to stem ISIS’s expansion, despite having committed military forces.
The Pentagon announced Friday a series of targeted airstrikes on ISIS convoys and artillery positions near the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil, including two attacks by drones. In their public statements, top officials were clear that President Obama’s Thursday authorization for the use of force in Iraq was limited to protecting U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and perhaps helping the Yazidi minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that additional U.S. military help for the Iraqi government would only be considered after the troubled Iraqi government picks new leadership – a process that could take weeks or months to develop.
“This is a threat that we cannot confront for them; it is a threat that can only be met and defeated by a unified Iraq in support of an integrated, capable Iraq security force,” Earnest said.
That attitude left lawmakers and experts from both the right and the left lamenting that Obama had so badly underestimated the threat posed by ISIS, which in January he compared to a “JV” team wearing pro athletes’ uniforms. They also want the administration to hurry up and decide how it plans to go after the group, both in Iraq and in Syria.