The Way Forward to Defeating ISIS Rapidly

Carter Andress,  Townhall

As a young U.S. Army Infantry officer, I was taught to put the bottom line first:

Without sending thousands of American soldiers into combat, we can rapidly defeat the latest manifestation of al-Qaeda—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—only if we bring in regional Muslim powers, specifically Turkey, to provide the boots on the ground necessary to finish the terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11.

Although ISIS, now calling itself the Islamic State, occupies more than a third of Syria and Iraq, they are fundamentally weak in possessing no popular support in the areas they have conquered. The foreign-fighter infused jihadis, the most disciplined, motivated, and funded force on a chaotic battlefield, have seized advantage of indigenous movements that weakened national control. In Syria, where the entire country has turned against the dictator al-Assad. The only exception are the minority Shia-offshoot Alawites of whom the tyrant is a member. And in Iraq, minority Sunni Arabs (a majority in northern Iraq where ISIS now holds sway) refuse to accept Shia majority rule in a democracy installed with so much American blood and treasure.

There is an historic opportunity here for a grand bargain that will finally end al-Qaeda and its totalitarian, medieval ideology that spurs forward ISIS and its fellow travelers. Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Arab Gulf states desperately want the U.S. to go after Assad—the only regional ally of the much-feared Shiite Iran. If we do confront Assad as we did Gaddafi in Libya with airpower, the dictator will fall. Now that we have something the Sunni powers want, there is leverage to obtain what we need. In exchange for military support against Assad—air strikes, forward air-controllers, intelligence, and training—the Sunni powers must put troops on the ground to occupy Syria Kosovo-style, then deliver up ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra (the other al-Qaeda spawn on the battlefield), along with prohibiting their own citizens from financing jihadi groups and extremist religious schools through fraudulent “charity” organizations. Additionally, once the region is stabilized, Ankara must allow the Turkish Kurds autonomy.

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