WASHINGTON – By expanding his military campaign against the Islamic State group, President Barack Obama hopes to reverse the militants' momentum in Iraq, squeeze their sanctuary in Syria and erode their recruiting appeal across the greater Mideast. Those are key steps toward Obama's stated goal of eventually destroying the extremist group.
The strategy's success, however, also hinges on a set of more difficult moves: effective coordination with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces, undercutting financial and ideological support for the Islamic State group, and building up anti-Islamic State forces in Syria without strengthening the regime of President Bashar Assad, which Obama considers illegitimate.
These U.S. gains are unlikely to occur quickly, but broadening U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and extending them to Syria could "change the reality and the perception of whether ISIL has the momentum or whether they are being rocked back on their heels," said Michele Flournoy, the Obama administration's first policy chief at the Pentagon and now the chief executive officer at the Center for a New American Security think tank. ISIL is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.