Too many people seem confused about what to do regarding Daesh (IS). The good news is we already have the formula to defeat Daesh:
It was created on the fly to defeat the Taliban. A group of CIA agents landed in northern Afghanistan in early October 2001 with boxes loaded with $ 100 bills and satellite communication equipment. It established the necessary arrangements with the commanders of the Northern Alliance and then came A-teams from the 5th Special Forces Group US Army. Wearing civilian clothes, they were placed among different units of the trusted Afghan commanders and used horses to move through the Afghanistan mountains. Once they reach the front line, they used laser designators and communication systems to pinpoint targets for the aircrafts. It was a matter of weeks until the front collapsed. The fall of Kabul took place in November.
We know too well the story because it is well documented. Gary C. Schroen, the head of the first team to set foot in Afghanistan told his story in First In. He was replaced in December 2001 by Gary Berntsen, who also recounted his experience in Jawbreaker. The military campaign of Special Forces was extensively reported by the journalist Doug Stanton in his book Horse Soldiers
The presence of Western troops to direct the aims of the bombing is important because only at ground level you can know what bastion and hilltop are relevant. From 10,000 meters you can only aspire to destroy armored vehicles and warehouses without breaking all the combat capability of the Islamic State.
So why not do it?
Well, it so happens that things are a little more complicated than the average right-or-wrong scenario. So far, Daesh has been a headache for the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, who is an estrategic ally for Vladimir Putin. And there are no incentives for the West to wipe out Daesh.
If we were to put an end to Daesh, then what? Leave Syria in the hands of the Islamic Front or al-Nusra (Syrian al-Qaeda branch)? Or make things easier for Al-Assad (hence for Putin)? Risk a power void making it even easier for even more fundamentalist groups to seize that power?
Right now, there are many conflicts in Syria and if the West were to take a more direct approach, that would mean another years-long campaign and deciding the future of the country. Is it acceptable the Al-Assad dictatorship as long as Daesh is gone? Do we break the country in four pieces according to the front lines and give each one to the Kurds, the Alawites, the Druzes and Sunni? That would rub Turkey the wrong way.
This is a complex issue, that costs lives every day, and there is not a single solution that seems optimal or realistic. We may know how to defeat Daesh — the bad news is that if we act on it, things could go south really fast.