From the deck of the USS Harry Truman, CNN reports that “a new dramatic tempo” for airstrikes against the Islamic State has been set, with planes taking off and landing every few minutes, and crews working around the clock to keep them in the air.
The Truman is hitting ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria from the Mediterranean and has “now dropped more bombs on ISIS than any other vessel in America’s fleet,” according to CNN’s tally. They have flown 1,800 sorties and dropped 1.5 million pounds of ordnance on the terror state.
“Iraqi Security Forces seem close to winning back the Iraqi stronghold of Fallujah. In northern Syria, a pro-U.S. coalition of Kurdish and Arab troops is pushing ISIS out of the Syrian-Turkish border area and closing in on the extremists’ self-declared capital of Raqqa,” says the report.
CNN held some interesting interviews with pilots and crew aboard the Truman, including ordnance technicians explaining how the bombs must be assembled before they can be loaded onto warplanes for delivery. Due to humanitarian concerns about civilian casualties from intensified American airstrikes, the Truman’s pilots have been using smaller 500-pound bombs.
By all accounts, these airstrikes have taken a toll on the Islamic State. However, air support will become less useful as the fighting in Fallujah moves into the city, where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped, under threat of execution if they refuse ISIS orders to serve as human shields. Fallujah residents have said they fear being hit by U.S. and coalition airstrikes, but if they try to flee the city, Islamic State snipers pick them off.
Similar conditions will presumably occur in the Syrian theater as Islamic State forces are driven back into occupied urban areas.
CNN notes that the Harry Truman is only scheduled to remain in the Mediterranean for “several more weeks,” and the crew is already “under strain because their deployment has been extended by a full month.”
This fast-paced air campaign has little to do with President Obama’s barely-remembered “degrade and ultimately destroy” strategy, which he formerly claimed would take years, perhaps even decades to bottle up the Islamic State and wear it down.
Growing dissatisfaction from the American public — enraged by the Islamic State’s slaughter of hostages, near-genocide of the Yazidis, capture of more Iraqi territory, and threats to U.S. security — forced a change in strategy, as did the astounding failure of Obama’s plan to train a “moderate Syrian rebel” force to handle ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the regime of dictator Bashar Assad in Syria.
When the Russians began hammering Syrian insurgents with airstrikes and producing overnight battlefield changes, the last vestiges of Obama’s slow-motion strategy were quietly forgotten. (Alas, the insurgents Russia was hammering were not ISIS for the most part. In fact, a suspicious number of them were the same rebels Obama recruited for his all-star team, but they were quietly forgotten, too.)
Bombs are raining down on ISIS, and aggressive ground operations are under way, exactly as Obama’s critics recommended years ago. Once upon a time, this president foolishly dismissed ISIS as the “junior varsity team” of terrorism, but now the best-of-the-best crew of the amazing USS Harry Truman is working overtime to beat them, once and for all.