Overnight the Obama Administration began a new phase of what’s shaping up to be an extremely long war across the Middle East, bombing several buildings in the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa.
The attacks began with Tomahawk missile strikes fired from a US destroyer in the Red Sea, and were followed up by US bombers (including B1s) and fighter jets attacking the city. No casualty numbers on ISIS were clear at this point, though officials insisted everything hit was a “headquarters” or some important training center.
Surprisingly, the US also attacked a second, completely unrelated group, Khorasan, which it accused of planning to attack “US interests.” Those attacks killed 30 fighters of the al-Qaeda-linked faction, and eight civilians.
President Obama sought to tout the attacks as part of a “broad coalition” attack on ISIS, with Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia all launching airstrikes as well.
In Iraq, the airstrikes have been couched as an important move to support ground offensives by Iraqi and Kurdish troops. That of course wasn’t really working to start with, but even the pretext of allied ground forces doesn’t exist near Raqqa.
Instead, officials are still hanging their hopes on the new “rebel” faction Congress funded last week, which won’t be ready for a year according to estimates. That means the US will likely be bombing Raqqa just for the sake of bombing Raqqa for a solid 12 months before there is any chance of getting this new US proxy into the region.
Officials have said this would be a long war, with President Obama suggesting the conflict would also be a problem for his successor, and “probably the one after that.” The enormous undertaking of 12 months of bombings for no chance of a gain on the ground, then, likely seems small to officials envisioning another decade of conflict, with new goals and escalations all the time, and US ground troops liable to get added to the war sooner or later.