Neither Obama nor Putin Has a Strategy for Destroying ISIS

Although Western leaders vow night and day to crush the Islamic State once and for all, the terrorist organization, while on the defensive on various fronts, does not yet sense the imminence of an existential threat.
ISIS is coming under pressure in Libya, where thousands of jihadi fighters who have occupied the important coastal town of Sirte, are facing assault from three directions.
Close to 1,000 American, Egyptian, French and Italian commandos are fighting with two local militias, which are closing in on this town where ISIS has set up its headquarters in Libya:
The Petroleum Facilities Guard which protects Libya’s’ oil installations recovered the town of Ben Jawad on May 30 and then drove ISIS forces out of Nawfiliyay and back to Sirte.
The Misrata-led militias are advancing on Sirte from the west and the south and by this week had apparently reached the al-Gardabiya air base just 20km short of the city.
These forces know that when they enter the city they will be up against brutal fighters, including suicide bombers, as well as countless improvised explosive devices.
However, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that the prospect of a siege of Sirte or a frontal assault substantially receded this week when units of Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s Libyan National Army, which makes up nearly half of the Sirte assault force, suddenly quit the field and headed out to the eastern town of Benghazi.
A group of officers rose up against Hifter’s command at his Benghazi headquarters. The Libyan general, who is supported by the US and Egypt, decided it was more urgent for him to bring Benghazi back under his control than to help capture Sirte.
His action was par for the course in the Libyan arena and points up the debilitating weakness of all the campaigns pursued by the US and Russia for subduing ISIS.
In Syria and Iraq, the local forces and pro-Iranian Shiite militias from abroad which carry these fronts can’t be relied on for effective combat, even when supported by US, European, Middle Eastern and Russian special operations troops.
In one of its key arenas, the Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga forces have fallen out with the leader of coalition ally, having rejected a request by Syrian rebel leader Anas al-Abda to drive into Azaz and confront ISIS. Majdal Deli, Kurdish Unity Party member, declared that the Kurdish militia was guided by the sole aim of protecting Kurdish regions and was not willing to fight outside their boundaries.
The entire anti-ISIS mission is also held back by US President Barack Obama’s decision, supported by Vladimir Putin, to keep important ISIS-controlled cities under siege rather than capturing them.
These cities are Sirte in Libya, Raqqa in Syria, and Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq.
Obama has decided to leave the hard work of dealing ISIS its ultimate battlefield defeat to his successor who moves into the White House in the third week of January 2017.
Since ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is fully aware of Obama’s decision, neither he nor the former Iraqi generals directing his war effort feel pressed to go forward and engage in the decisive, existential battle. They realize that a long and difficult fight lies ahead, which they hope to survive – not necessarily as victors, but certainly not as losers either.
Meanwhile, al-Baghdadi has dispatched packs of terrorists to launch more attacks in major European and Middle Eastern cities. At the same time, the emergence of the autonomous ideological Islamic terrorist, has given him food for thought and he appears to be on the verge of a major strategic decision – either to capitalize on the new breed of freelance terrorist by giving him free rein, or by ratcheting up large-scale organized terror attacks in the West, in response to the military pressure building up against him and his forces in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the Sinai Peninsula.
Time will tell which decision he will take.

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