Boston Globe report: Coalition of the Occasional Airstrike

Shockingly, the much-trumpeted Third Coalition on Iraq and the Arab Coalition on Syria, aren’t exactly pulling their weights in Operation Inherent Resolve, according to an investigation by the Boston Globe:

The military coalition attacking the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been heralded by President Obama as “almost unprecedented,” especially for the participation of Arab air forces. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Bahrain have helped carry out strikes inside Syria.

But as the air operation enters its fourth month, most of the missions — including the vast majority of bombing runs — are still being conducted by US forces, with the majority of the others performed by Western allies, according to a Globe review of official statistics and interviews with officials from partner countries.
Eighty-six percent of the 8,007 missions flown between Aug. 8 and Nov. 3 were carried out by the United States, according to US Air Forces Central Command. These include bombing runs, intelligence-gathering flights, and midair re-fuelings.

The coalition expanded after Sept. 23, when the strikes were extended into Syria, to include the participation of the four Arab allies. But the United States is still flying more than 75 percent of the missions, according to the data — or 3,320 out of 4,410 since that date.

That comes even as Western allies such as Denmark, Australia, France, and Belgium have recently stepped up their role.

While the Western partners commonly discuss their role publicly, Arab governments have provided scant information since the widely publicized strikes in September.

One exception is Bahrain, which participated in the initial phase of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria in late September but has not dropped bombs since September, according to Salman Al Jalahma, a spokesman for Bahrain’s embassy in Washington.

(At least Bahrain’s slacking is probably for the best.)

Other Arab participants in the military coalition declined to provide details, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. The government of Saudi Arabia did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Even many of the attack missions attributed to Arab nations are limited in nature, according to US military officials. For example, while the Gulf nations have participated in more than 20 percent of the fighter sorties in Syria, their pilots are often serving as “mission commanders” or “escorts.” Mission commanders don’t always drop bombs and escorts generally never do, according to the command.

In defense of the United Arab Emirates Air Force, it’s probably hard to choose between bombing ISIS in Syria and bombing random minor groups in Libya with whom you have political disagreements.

Anyway, the best news of all is that we’re spending $8 million a day on this borderline-solo project on the other side of the world. I will keep that in mind when we’re next told that we can’t possibly afford to shell out a few million here and there over the course of a year to boost social programs.


Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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