A coalition is starting to take form with members of NATO among the principle participants. While the coalition itself is still in its nascent stages, it appears that the military coalition will focus mostly on supporting more pro-Western forces in Iraq and surrounding areas, and principally the Kurds.
It is unknown whether this coalition will feature boots on the ground, though almost certainly military advisors will be present. Previous rumors suggested that the United States and United Kingdom would at least form a special forces unit to carry out targeted strikes against ISIS. Whether or not such a team is in play remains unknown.
Western powers will try to go after ISIS’s finances. The Islamic State may well be the most well-funded terrorist group in the world, having taken control of some of Iraq’s most vital oil fields and seized vast amounts of wealth from Iraq’s central bank locations in northern cities.
It is also believed that many wealthy individuals from across the Arab world have been sending funds to ISIS. Western powers are now looking to curb this flow of resources, and will also work to stem the number of foreign fighters pouring into Iraq and Syria.
Given the massive amount of strength ISIS has built up over the past few months, it’s questionable whether such measures will be enough. Indeed, it may come too little, too late. ISIS may have once been a rag-tag bunch of Islamic Militants, but the organization has since morphed into a powerful state organization.
Kurds Under Armed, Under Manned
Kurdish forces may well represent the strong military force within Iraq, but unlike ISIS they have to commit more forces to protecting borders and civilian populations. This has stretched even their considerable military thin.
Meanwhile, the Kurds simply lack the ammunition and weaponry to battle ISIS on so many fronts. The Kurds aren’t exactly an unarmed militia, but their weaponry has been limited due to politics in central Baghdad and previous attempts to balance power. Giving the Kurds too many arms would have likely tipped the balance of power in their favor.
With the central government and Shia community in disarray, the Kurds now represents the best possible chance for raising a fighting force capable of fighting ISIS. The Islamic State’s stunning victories in Iraq have crippled the central government, and also reduce the power and influence of Sunni tribes who once controlled Northern Iraq.
ISIS Using Child Soldiers
Images and videos of ISIS’s efforts to train the next generation of fighters continue to emerge. ISIS has begun to train and indoctrinate children, which could present a serious problem for any coalition forces, and also for installing long-term stability in the region.
Western forces will not be keen to engage in fire fights with children, and the potential bad press from any such clashes will make the situation unpalatable. Western forces will also have to work to minimize any casualties inflicted on children by their allies, such as the Kurds.
Even if the coalition forces and its allies are able to push ISIS back, it will take a different approach to ween children off of the ideology fed to them by the Islamic State. Recovering and normalizing child soldiers has proven to be difficult in the past, and given the strength of the militant Islamic ideology, it could prove to be even more difficult in Iraq.
Beyond the use of child soldiers, the Islamic State has continued to broadcast its acts of butchery to the world. Reports of mass murders, mass graves, killing children, and other acts of extreme violence continue to pour in.
On the other hand, for Sunni Muslims in the region the Islamic State is turning out to be somewhat of a stabilizer. After years of living in an environment with a weak state and high levels of instability, ISIS has provided a firm ruling hand, if nothing else. This may help the organization bolster its power in the long run.