Which American fighter jet is the loudest?

One year of US air strikes against ISISThe invisible war

When President Obama went public on August 7, 2014, he cited two reasons for the air strikes: "In the last few days the terrorist organization IS has been approaching the Kurdish city of Erbil. There Americans work at the embassy and American soldiers are training the Kurdish military . "

In August 2014, the IS fighters were still 30 minutes' drive from the metropolis of Erbil. But protecting the Americans was only half the story. Erbil is the capital of the autonomous province of Kurdistan. The Kurds and their fighters are the USA's most reliable partner in the cauldron of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. And the region is rich in oil. Big oil companies like Exxon and Chevron are digging there for the lubricant that keeps America going. A fight for this city would have resulted in hundreds of deaths and US influence in the region would have continued to decline. The president's inaction in the face of the civil war in Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State already made his opponents in the USA angry:

"Isn't it the worst not to do nothing?" Republican John McCain asked. He was admittedly the loudest voice demanding that America should become more involved in the Middle East. Most Americans were happy to have escaped Iraq. So did President Obama: "I know many of you are very concerned about any military operation in Iraq, including limited operations. I can understand that. I took up this post to end our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to bring our troops home. "

Rescue operation for threatened Yazidis

For him, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, it had to be particularly bitter to order a war effort again. But in addition to the political, strategic, and economic reason, there was another aspect with which Obama justified the air strikes: a human one, and that hit the Americans in the heart.

Smoke rises after a US air strike on positions of the Islamic State terrorist militia in Kobane. (imago / Xinhua)

An estimated 40,000 Yazidis and other religious groups who were persecuted had fled from the IS killers in the Sinja area in northern Iraq. Women and children with nothing but a few scraps of cloth on their bodies. They literally saved their skin. IS formed a siege ring and threatened to starve them to death. The United States Air Force blew up this ring. The soldiers dropped 20,000 liters of water and 8,000 food packages. The empty helicopters took a few desperate people back on board. The CNN reporter was there: "I've been making stories like this for ten years, but I've never seen a situation like this, one that was so desperate and so emotionally charged. And I've never seen a rescue operation that was so spontaneous and improvised was like this. "

The World War Two Memorial in Washington. It commemorates the 16 million American soldiers who served in World War II. You helped liberate the world from Nazi rule. "Here we show the price of freedom," says an inscription. Another: "Americans came to liberate, not to conquer, to restore freedom and end tyranny."

Americans often went to war at the price of freedom. To save Vietnam from the communists, Iraq from their dictator Hussein, Afghanistan from the Taliban. And now Iraq and Syria before the incredibly cruel, radical IS terrorist groups. Often these bets went wrong. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of failed wars. But the Americans follow their president again:
"I think it is right to free people who are oppressed. It is terrible when a terrorist regime can take over an area. And I am surprised that not the whole world is helping to fight IS. I think air strikes are not enough . I think we have to do more because IS is as bad as the Nazis. "

Great support for a pretty invisible war

"From a mother's point of view, I have to say that if my children fight to set other people free, I would support them."

The approval rates remain high. According to the latest polls, which are from last year, 66 percent of Americans support the air strikes against the Islamic State.

The great support is not surprising. It's still a pretty invisible war, far away, with no American wounded or even dead. And the Americans didn't go to war alone. It is mainly thanks to the indefatigable John Kerry that an international coalition has joined the air war. "We have countries in the region and outside the region and they are all ready to provide military aid or bombs if necessary." At the beginning of the military operation, the coalitionists preferred not to be named, as Arab and Muslim countries were there. But the list is now known.

Christians and Kurdish Yazidis on the run in Northern Iraq (Marwan Ibrahim / AFP)

France supplies ammunition, Germany supplies Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq with weapons. Australia contributes fighter jets. Other countries provide intelligence information, tents for refugees and training for Iraqi soldiers. But most of the effort remains with the Americans.

So far, more than 5,000 air strikes

Just one day after President Obama announced that he would drop bombs from the air on IS positions, the first F / A-18 fighter jets - called the Hornets - took off. The US Department of Defense released soundless images. Black and white explosions could be seen on it. The US Air Force dropped bombs on the convoys rolling towards the city of Erbil and destroyed the terrorist group's fighting positions. Now for the anniversary, the US military has taken stock of the air strikes. According to this, 5,000 attacks have been flown against IS positions so far. 15,000 IS supporters were killed. But the supply of young men who go into battle for an Islamic state seems inexhaustible. One year of war and the number of IS fighters has remained the same, between 20 and 30,000, say the US military.

The young men are recruited via the Internet and they come from all parts of the world: Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Turkey - an estimated 500 from Germany. Their route usually leads via Turkey to Syria. The route has already been nicknamed the "Jihad Highway". For months, President Obama has called on the Turkish government to better protect its borders and to become more involved in the fight against the Islamic State. One year after the start of the war, the time has come. Turkey has granted the US to use the Incirlik Air Force Base. For many military observers, this could be a turning point in the fight against ISIS. Because now the US fighter jets are only 400 kilometers away. Before that, they always had to take off from their aircraft carrier in the Gulf, which was four times as far away.

Withdrawal of all US soldiers was a mistake

The area that the Islamic State now controls is large. According to the organization Observatory for Human Rights in Syria, it now covers half of Syria, including historic cities such as Palmyra. In Iraq, the north of the country has fallen into the hands of religious fanatics, Mosul, the Sinja region. So if the number of fighters has not changed and ISIS has taken control of more areas and cities in the last twelve months, then shouldn't the American mission be viewed as a failure? No, said President Obama during a visit to the US Department of Defense. "That won't happen quickly and, as with any military operation, there is progress and setbacks. We have seen over the years that if we have an effective partner on the ground, IS can be pushed back."

A fire in the Syrian city of Kobane following a US air strike. (imago / Xinhua)
The problem is, there is no reliable local partner. The Iraqi army is weak and drained from years of struggle against the United States. In the eyes of many Middle East experts, a big mistake by the Obama administration was that the Americans withdrew all soldiers from Iraq. The IS was able to spread unchecked. There were no longer any liaison officers who could provide reliable information. The Americans have now sent a good 3,000 so-called military advisers back to Iraq. These train Iraqi soldiers, provide them with modern weapons and show them how to use them.

Not the will to fight against ISIS

For the Americans, the situation in Iraq has become easier since a new government came into power there. Then-President Nuri al Maliki had often angered the Obama administration. He wanted guns and money, but failed to get the Sunnis involved in the government. They were persecuted and oppressed, and many of them have at least sympathized with the Islamic State. The US government is now working more trustingly with the new President Haider Al Abadi. But the Americans are still dissatisfied with the military performance: After the black IS flag was hoisted in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told CNN: "The Iraqi troops showed no will to fight. They ran away even though they were in the majority. We can give them weapons and training, but not the will to fight IS. "

This assessment has caused a lot of anger for the US Secretary of Defense. The Obama administration rowed back. Because the entire military strategy of the Americans depends on the fighting spirit of the Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian troops. Obama's credo is "no boots on the ground", at least no more US soldiers fighting on Iraqi soil, only in the air. And he will probably not move away from that even during his term of office. In Iraq, at least, it is clear who you need to train for: the Iraqi military. The situation in Syria is much more difficult.

Syria's President Assad does not want to support the US either. (SANA / AFP)

A two bedroom apartment in Alexandria, a suburb of Washington. The journalist Khaled Sesem lives here with his wife and four children. He had to flee from Syria to the USA eleven months ago after reporting critical of the dictator Assad. If you ask him what he thinks about the Obama policy against IS in Syria, he says: "I think Obama's policy in the Syria crisis was not the right way. The Syrian people were left alone in the fight against one of the worst and bloodiest dictators in the world. The normal reaction then is that extreme groups like IS emerge. "

The US has hardly any reliable allies on the ground

The situation is particularly confused in Syria. The USA is fighting the Islamic State there, which is also being persecuted by dictator Assad. But because of that, the US will not cooperate with the Assad regime. The "good" Syrian rebels who oppose both Assad and ISIS remain as allies. After years of hesitation, they are now getting weapons and training from the USA. But there are too few. The fact that the US failed to support the Syrian rebels in good time is now seen as the second major foreign policy mistake of the Obama administration. The IS did not encounter any serious opponents and was able to become strong in Syria. Again and again the senators and members of parliament in Washington try to get an idea of ​​the situation in the fight against IS. In May, former four-star General John Keane answered questions from the senators. Most military are of the opinion that it will not work without ground troops. General Keane also said that with the current strategy, the Americans will lose the war. The decisive factor is the fight against IS in Syria, says the general, who is now retired. Air strikes alone would not hit the small and fast combat units. The general calls for ground troops and a strategy for Syria: "The Americans cannot defeat IS in Iraq as long as the terrorist groups in Syria can withdraw."

The headquarters of the Islamic State is in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The Americans have increasingly targeted this headquarters, said President Obama: "We have intensified our attacks against IS in Syria. Our air strikes are targeting their oil and gas facilities, which they use to finance their operations. We are attacking their infrastructure in Syria, with which they spread propaganda all over the world. "

Donald Trump: I would bomb your oil fields. (picture-alliance / dpa / Justin Lane)

The US is also trying to financially dry up ISIS. They are trying to prevent oil from being smuggled through Iran and Turkey. But in the meantime IS has established a kind of community in the occupied territories: E, r collects taxes, lives from blackmail and human trafficking. The American government has so far refused to pay any money for its kidnapped Americans.

Criticism of the US military mission is limited

On August 19, the war against the Islamic State comes very close to the Americans. The journalist James Foley is publicly executed. His parents are desperate to go public.

Executions continue to follow. The pattern is always the same: the Americans, later also a British, kneel in an orange prisoner suit, as we know from Guantanamo. Behind the black hooded executioner, who is now identified as a British citizen. Before they die, the men have to read a message: "I appeal to my friends and family to stand up against my real enemy, the American government. I appeal to my brother John, an Air Force pilot. Remember the lives you destroy, including your brother's. "

The Americans have since changed their ransom policy. Families are allowed to pay without fear of criminal prosecution. The US government is still not paying.

Even at the beginning of the war, President Obama admitted that he did not yet have a strategy for fighting ISIS. Nonetheless, criticism of the United States’s military operations is also limited by its political opponents. In the end, Republicans also know that it is difficult to fight the enemy in the Far Middle East quickly. Protests against the new Iraq war can hardly be heard in the USA. One of the few are the veterans against the war. Nicole Goodwill herself was stationed in Iraq for six months. She says, "You have to start addressing the issues openly. I think ISIS would stop if we indict Bush and Cheney with war crimes. Or at least it would stop them."

Will a new US president change strategy?

On the anniversary there is a somewhat bizarre discussion in the US about who poses the greater threat to the US: Islamic State or Al Qaeda. According to US security experts, al Qaeda still has the better network when it comes to major attacks, such as airplane hijackings or bomb attacks. In the case of so-called Lonely Wolf attackers, on the other hand, the danger from IS is greater, says security expert Peter Burton.

"I think Islamic State is the bigger threat to the United States in the end. They have their own territory. Attacks like the one on Charly Hebdo are very likely. You can buy a gun on the Internet and pull the trigger. It's that simple There's nothing the FBI can do about it. You can't look into these people's brains. "

For President Obama, the war against IS is the fulfillment of political duties. It cannot be compared with the Iran Agreement or the opening up of Cuba, which he is passionately promoting. Mainly because the Americans, with their first Iraq wars, contributed to the fact that the radical Islamists became so strong. In any case, a year after the first air raids, a quick victory over the Islamic State is not in sight. The Obama administration's strategy remains to strengthen the troops on the ground so that Iraqis, Kurds and Syrian rebels can push back the terrorist group. The Americans and their allies are providing air support, logistics, weapons and training. The question is how this strategy will change when a new president is elected at the end of next year. For Donald Trump, who is currently the Republican favorite, things are very simple:

"I would take away their wealth and bomb the oil fields."