Senior U.S. officials describe the threat posed by the Islamic State in chilling terms, but they have mounted a decidedly modest military campaign to check its advance through northern Iraq.
…The U.S. military’s campaign against the Islamic State has focused on protecting U.S. citizens in Baghdad and Irbil and delivering aid to thousands of Yazidi refugees who had been trapped on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq and appeared Wednesday to be making their way down to safety.
But the ongoing U.S. airstrikes are equally notable for what they have not tried to do. U.S. military officials have emphasized that the strikes are not designed to reverse the gains Sunni extremist fighters have made.
… The limited nature of the airstrikes has drawn criticism from more hawkish Republicans and some former U.S. military officials who have said that the Obama administration is squandering an opportunity to deliver a crippling blow against the insurgents.
“Time is of the essence,” said Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. The longer the airstrikes drag on, the more time Islamic State fighters will have to learn how to survive them. “Without a fast and serious response, including Special Operations forces on the ground, the chances of reversing IS gains or even breaking their evident momentum is very low,” he said.
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