This section features work authored by Frederick W. Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project, and Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, on the conflict in Iraq.
IN THIS SECTION
After 50 days of obvious failure, it's time to consider an approach that might work against ISIS: Get American special forces on the ground with the Sunni Arabs themselves. The only other alternative is to resign ourselves to living with an Al Qaeda state and army.
The Islamic State is a threat to the United States of America, and that is the primary reason we must defeat it. The United States has capabilities that no other state or group in the world has, and that is why we must lead this effort.
The Islamic State is a clear and present danger to the security of the U.S. We must therefore pursue an iterative approach that tests basic assumptions, develops our understanding, and builds partnerships with willing parties on the ground, especially the Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
A counter-terrorism strategy will not succeed against the Islamic State because it is not just a terrorist group anymore.
Air attacks alone will not be enough to deal with ISIS now that it controls so much of Syria and Iraq - and threatens the US and Europe.
The establishment and expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS) represents a step-change in the threat to American homeland security and national security generally. This is the first time that an al Qaeda-affiliated group has made the leap from stateless terrorist organization to a quasi-state with a combat-effective army and the resources of a modern urban region at its disposal.
Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011. The crisis is urgent, and it would be useful to focus on a path ahead rather than indulge in recriminations. All paths are now fraught with difficulties, including the path we recommend. But the alternatives of permitting a victory for al Qaeda and/or strengthening Iran would be disastrous.
We face a simple choice: We can either rejoin our demoralized Iraqi partners in the fight against ISIS or we can watch as this al Qaeda franchise solidifies its control over several million Iraqis and Syrians, completes its plundering of military bases and continues to build up, train and equip an honest-to-goodness military.
Conventional warfare is in our future as much as it is in our past. The only question is: will we be ready?
The military commander in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, has said that he needs 10,000 US troops to accomplish the missions the president has said he wants to accomplish after this year. That number is probably half of what is actually required, by our estimates, but enough to keep options open for the next president.