Pentagon officials downplayed the chances of last night’s airstrikes against Raqqa, the ISIS capital if Syria, having a serious impact on the group’s day-to-day operations, with Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr. saying ISIS will quickly adapt to the air war and rebound from any losses suffered overnight.
“We have seen evidence that they have already done that,” Mayville confirmed. The strikes were the first on ISIS in Syria, after six weeks of airstrikes against the group in Iraq which have, similarly, yielded very little.
Reports on the strikes in Raqqa suggest a handful of buildings were hit, and around 70 ISIS fighters were among the slain. Civilian casualties are unclear.
Indeed, last night’s strikes seem to just be the administration going through the motions, with no real expectation for a meaningful change on the ground, and the “rebels” this is supposed to be supporting a year away from being trained and ready.
If anything, officials seem to be doing what they can to add to the hawks’ call for boots on the ground, while continuing to deny that they are even considering that, at least not yet.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby insisted that despite the estimates that they would quickly recover, last night’s attacks on ISIS were “very successful,” and were “only the beginning” of a long, drawn out conflict.
That seems to be the one thing everyone agrees on, whatever their opinions on the chances for success. The war is not only open-ended, but seems likely to span many, many years. What happens in the next two months before the mid-term election doesn’t seem to be of particular concern, and unpopular escalations can be launched thereafter with less political fear of repercussions.