There seems to be no end in sight for the United States’ “War on Terror.” One relatively new group to form is ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), which arose during the Civil War/ rebellion against Bashar Assad in Syria. As their power grew in Iraq and Syria, spreading from the border with Turkey to the outskirts of Baghdad, the United States worked to form a coalition that will attempt to at least contain ISIS. So far, the U.S. and allies (Britain, Denmark, Belgium, France, and five Arab nations) have used airstrikes on certain ISIS-controlled areas with the emphasis on their oil fields.
The U.S.-led coalition is striking the oil fields because those appear to be a chief source of revenue for ISIS ($2 million in black market sales). More specifically, it was the U.S. and the five Arab allies launching these strikes located on the border with Iraq, striking there on both September 25th and 26th. The European nations in the coalition will be aiding in future strikes in Iraq (although France is considering getting involved in Syria). These nations will do this by sending fighter jets, pilots, and support staff. Other airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria have hit their vehicles, bunkers, checkpoints, and other positions.
Part of the latest round of air raids also struck ISIS headquarters in Mayadeen in addition to their oil fields. Another part of the offensive, according to “Britain’s Syrian Observatory of Human Rights,” has hit the Islamic State group’s position near Hassakeh, in northeastern Syria. Like most of the other strikes, stated by the Observatory, “these had hit their oil fields, and the vehicles that ISIS had brought in from Iraq.” While it sounds like the United States and allies are starting to get the job done, there is something unfortunate about these strikes, something that is tragically unavoidable in all conflicts.
The aforementioned “Observatory of Human Rights,” has reported the death of at least thirteen civilians as a result of these strikes. Such things have caused people, who are also opposed to the Syrian government (keep in mind, ISIS rose during the rebellion against Bashar Assad) to protest the air strikes. They also show support for ISIS and the Al-Qaeda affiliate, Nusra Front, another group that the United States has been bombing (which gets support thanks to its fighters being on the front line against Assad).
In areas controlled by more moderate Syrian rebels, it is not obvious whether or not they support the U.S. led coalition. The strikes against ISIS are not getting different reactions from them (they condone those), but they continue to question why Bashar Assad’s forces are mostly untouched. At the same time, there are activists in Syria who claim that the strikes have started to really affect ISIS, as evidenced by having fewer gunmen for their checkpoints. To protect themselves, civilians have been fleeing areas that have ISIS in them, including 140,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing to Turkey.
The strikes themselves can be seen as an extension of the ongoing Civil War between Syria’s government and the Syrian rebels, where ISIS represents the extreme faction of the rebellion. This conflict has taken the lives of 190,000 people, and it is still going on, even with these strikes taking most of the attention. Currently, ISIS wants to take the city of Ayn Arab/ Kobani from the Syrian Kurds, which will bring ISIS closer to controlling Northern Syria, unopposed.
What is the United States to do about ISIS? Reportedly, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has said there will be “a Western-backed force of 12,000-15,000 moderate rebels to retake areas of Eastern Syria under the control of ISIS, which will be trained and backed by the West.” If it can be understood that there needs to be more than high terrorist casualties, then it may be possible for this to be over. Otherwise, people are going to be fighting and dying for a long time.