The Slatest

Military Campaign Against ISIS Could Last Three Years, Beyond Obama Presidency

Kurdish fighters guard a post against ISIS militants in northern Iraq.

Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is set to make the case to the American people for taking military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in a national address on Wednesday. And while Obama was quick to distinguish any enlarged military engagement from previous conflicts in Iraq—pointing out during an interview with Meet the Press over the weekend that such an effort will not include American combat troops on the ground—the administration is not downplaying the time needed for a sustained offensive to destroy the fast-rising Islamist extremist group. Senior administration officials tell the New York Times, the effort “may take three years to complete, requiring a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office.”

Here’s more on next steps and a potential timeframe from the Times:

The first phase, an air campaign with nearly 145 airstrikes in the past month, is already underway to protect ethnic and religious minorities and American diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel, and their facilities, as well as to begin rolling back ISIS gains in northern and western Iraq. The next phase, which would begin sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government, scheduled this week, is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes. The final, toughest and most politically controversial phase of the operation — destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria — might not be completed until the next administration. Indeed, some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months…

The military campaign Mr. Obama is preparing has no obvious precedent. Unlike American counterterrorism operations in Yemen and Pakistan, it is not expected to be limited to drone strikes against militant leaders. Unlike the war in Afghanistan, it will not include the use of ground troops, which Mr. Obama has ruled out.