US Squandering Airpower Advantage in ISIS Fight

The United States is “systematically squandering” its “asymmetric airpower advantage” by not fully considering the use of ground troops in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, said Benjamin Lambeth, a nonresident senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in a March 5 opinion piece published in the Washington Post. Lambeth argued the boots on the ground debate has centered on “two false and overly simplistic choices,” including the notion that tens of thousands of ground troops are required or that airpower alone suffices. “What remains unexplored … is the appropriate mix of air and land involvement to leverage our strongest comparative advantages from the air without risking a return of our troops to high-intensity close combat on the ground,” he wrote. Lambeth said the US should use the “ground-enabled precision airstrikes carried out in 2001” during the beginning of the war in Afghanistan as a “template,” focusing on the “reintroduction of US Special Operations forces and ground-based forward air controllers.” Second, the US should utilize more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. “Third, and most important, … we need a more robust air-centric and land-enabled campaign along the lines of the one that worked so successfully in the major combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom,” wrote Lambeth.