Two former U.S. intelligence officials dispute a British terror expert’s belief that ISIS and its caliphate could be wiped out within hours now that Russia has begun airstrikes over Syria and will expand the bombing to Iraq.
Afzal Ashraf of the London think-tank Royal United Services Institute recently told the London Express that with Russian airstrikes, chaotic ISIS leadership and mass defections, the ISIS caliphate could be wiped out within “hours.”
Contending the military capabilities of ISIS have been vastly overplayed, Ashraf said ISIS built up a “superhero” image of itself after the Iraqi army fell apart when it was confronted last year.
“But that was not very much to do with their ability to fight,” he said. “It was to do with the Iraqi army, which just doesn’t have a leadership that inspires.”
Consequently, Ashraf said, ISIS has given the impression it is far more capable than it actually is.
“If we had serious forces fighting in a coordinated battle against these people, they wouldn’t last very long at all,” he said.
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However, Clare Lopez, a former operations officer of the Central Intelligence Agency and now vice president of research and analysis at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, believes just the opposite may be true.
“The assessment seems a bit optimistic,” Lopez told WND. “(Russian) airstrikes certainly can take a toll on ISIS, but without a heavy sustained ground campaign to accompany it, an air campaign alone will never defeat ISIS.”
Bearing the load
Separate reports indicate Moscow is prepared to deploy its Spetznaz, or special forces, troops in Syria to combat ISIS concentrations, especially where the leadership may be located.
In addition, Syrian Kurds having been bearing the brunt of ground offenses against ISIS, Syrian military forces and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah,
For months, the Kurds have sought massive amounts of U.S. military assistance, but because of arrangements with neighboring Turkey to use its Incirlik Airbase from which to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, the U.S. has not provided the needed support.
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