As the Obama administration hashes out its plans for war against the Islamic State (ISIS), it's becoming clear that the depth and duration of America's involvement will be much larger than anticipated. The president estimated that it could take three years to win the war. His former CIA director says it will be ten times as long.
"I think we're looking at kind of a 30-year war," Leon Panetta predicted yesterday. As head of the CIA, he oversaw the operation to kill Osama bin Laden. Panetta also served two years as Secretary of Defense for President Barack Obama.
According to USA Today, Panetta anticipates that America's latest iteration of the war on terror "will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere." The former CIA chief is promoting a memoir that takes a somewhat critical look at Obama's leadership, and the book is already under fire from the State Department and Vice President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, ISIS is gaining major ground on its Syrian front. The terrorist organization, operating tanks and heavy artillery, has apparently already raised its flags over a town called Kobani. CNN reports:
The fall of the city would carry huge symbolic and strategic weight, giving ISIS sway over an uninterrupted swatch of land between the Turkish border and its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, 62 miles away. …
ISIS managed to close in on Kobani despite airstrikes by the United States and allied forces over the weekend and on Monday.
In related news, the U.S. announced that Apache helicopters are now part of the fight against the Islamic State. Stars and Stripes explains the significance:
Until Sunday, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have been limited to fast-moving Air Force and Navy fighter aircraft and drones. But the use of the relatively slow-flying helicopters represents an escalation of American military involvement and is a sign that the security situation in Iraq's Anbar province is deteriorating. …
"It's definitely boots in the air. This is combat, assuming U.S. Army guys were flying the helicopters," said White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a center-right policy institute. "Using helicopter gunships in combat operations means those forces are in combat."
Moreover, the Obama administration's decision to authorize the use of U.S. helicopter gunships indicates that nearly two months of U.S.-led airstrikes by fixed-wing fighters and bombers have failed to stop the Islamic State from massing ground troops and launching offensive operations, he said.
Read more Reason coverage of ISIS here.