US-led anti-ISIS Coalition: Credibility Lacked, Results Meagre
Andrei AKULOV | 04.11.2015 | OPINION

US-led anti-ISIS Coalition: Credibility Lacked, Results Meagre

The US-led coalition was formed in August 2014 to unite dozens of nations and international organizations like NATO, the Arab League and the EU. Formally the number of participants is 62 with the majority of coalition members making extremely modest contribution. 

Many consider the membership as a chance to join the prestigious club without making any serious commitment. 13 nations limit their contribution by providing humanitarian aid, 13 more «have expressed support» and that’s it. 13 nations have an unspecified commitment but the U.S. State Department said they are part of the coalition. This group includes: Andorra, Bosnia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Tunisia and Ukraine. Only eight countries – the US, Australia, Belgium, the UK, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and France - have contributed combat aircraft to deliver strikes in Iraq with vast swathes of land held by ISIS there. Only five Arab nations – Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – have participated in combat actions in Syria – not very impressive for a coalition of 62. 

The commitments differ greatly. Canada has already left the coalition with a new government coming to power after the election. It has provided only 6 F-16s, 2 CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and one cargo plane. Too obsolete, too few. Australia contributed only 7 combat aircraft (F-16), one early warning and control plane (ER-7A) and one KC-30 tanker-transport. Belgium sent 6 combat aircraft with Denmark providing only one. Such a powerful nation as France deployed only 3 Rafale fighters and two auxiliary planes lagging behind the Netherlands with 8 F-16s deployed by Dutch Air Force to Jordan. The UK’s much hyped participation is limited to only 6 Tornados based in Cyprus. A meagre commitment! The US bears the brunt with B-1 strategic bombers flying from CONUS, at least 16 combat aircraft (F-15, F-16, and F-18) and a powerful array of auxiliary planes. Looks impressive enough at first glance, but in fact it’s a modest contribution. The US was a prime mover in Yugoslavia with 1200 aircraft compared to roughly a hundred used against the ISIS now. Great difference! The United States has also launched some sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit stationary targets like oil refineries and that’s about it. No great shakes!

Arab countries are important as host nations and a psychological factor allowing the US say the Arab League nations are on board. For instance, the Saudi Arabia committed only 4 obsolete F-15s but one of them was flown by Prince Sultan bin Khalid bin Sultan Al Saud. Bahrain and Qatar contributed 2 fighters each. The UAE launched sorties off and on with no definite number of aircraft committed. The Arab coalition members have so far flew only in the Syrian airspace; they have never operated in Iraq. It displays their political will and reveals the real goals pursued. As one can see, there is more symbolic significance here, than real deeds. 

The operation is often spontaneous, sometimes unexplainable things happen. Quite often British planes return to bases with unused payload because they have failed… to find targets to strike! Some success was reached during the battle of Kobani when the positions of ISIS were easy enough to identify. The coalition planes hit the clearly defined ISIS positions – just exactly what the Russian aviation is doing now. Striking identified targets is more efficient than just loitering over the desert, as often happens when the coalition aircraft fly «combat missions». At the very same time, the allied aviation suffered a setback in Kobani when it dropped ammunition destined for Kurds formations at the wrong place to make it get into the hands of ISIS. 

Turkey is a special case. Actually, its armed forces don’t fight the ISIS. Instead, the Turkish military strikes Kurds instead without making any distinction between different groups and political affiliations. Being a member of the coalition, Ankara is pursuing its own goals with meagre, if any, contribution into the announced common mission to fight the ISIS. The selective tactics employed by Turkey and some Arab coalition members allow ISIS forces to maneuver and regroup on the ground in an effort to make new gains. 

As a result, the much hyped international coalition to fight terrorism has proven to be an extremely ineffective organization with its efforts bearing little fruit. Some members are just happy to belong to the club of the chosen without any serious commitment to make, some got there just because they are members of organizations like NATO. Take Luxemburg, for example, the country has no military at all. 

It makes the Russian military involvement a game changer. 

On October 30, the Russian General Staff gave its rundown of facilities in Syria that Moscow has destroyed in the past month of Russian airstrikes. 

The statement said Russia's aerospace forces have conducted some 1,400 sorties in Syria since the start of Moscow’s anti-terror operation with 1,623 targets hit. The result has been achieved in just one month! Twenty-eight of the «most odious» terrorist leaders have been eliminated, the military report said. With the help of Russian airstrikes, the Syrian army managed to free over 50 towns and villages in such provinces as Aleppo, Latakia, Idlib, Homs and Damascus, the General Staff official said, adding that the freed territories make up to around 350 square kilometers (350,000 hectares). For comparison, as of early October, the US-led coalition had carried out more than 7,000 strikes (since August 2014), nearly two-thirds of them in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

The U.S. military has conducted close to 80% of all the strikes.

As of Oct. 27, U.S. and partner nation aircraft have flown an estimated 60,507 sorties in support of operations in Iraq and Syria. 

With so many sorties the number of strikes is stunningly unimpressive. This effort did not prevent the ISIS from making new gains with no great losses suffered. 

The Russian General Staff statement came the same day the United States, Russia and more than a dozen other nations met in In Vienna to direct the UN to begin a new diplomatic process with Syria's government and opposition. The goal is to reach a nationwide cease-fire and political transition. The diplomatic process was launched upon Russia’s initiative. Moscow insisted Iran would be made a party to the talks as it is impossible to tackle the issue without Tehran - an actor deeply involved in the conflict. Russia has reached an agreement with Jordan on information exchange – an important breakthrough to enhance the effectiveness of military operations. Evidently, with the military effort changing the tide, the Moscow-launched political game changer is also on the way as a component of comprehensive policy. 

These are the first concrete military and political results to talk about – something the US-led anti-ISIS coalition has evidently failed or, perhaps, has been reluctance to achieve for such a long time. The facts and figures speak evidently enough to call this assessment impartial. 

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