WASHINGTON — The US-led attacks that began late Monday against terrorist forces in Syria are equivalent to what a senior Pentagon war planner called buying time for ill-prepared allies on the ground to finish the job.
The strikes are designed to weaken the Islamic State’s hold on its Syrian sanctuary so that regional allies such as the Iraqi army and Syrian rebels can take back the large areas of both countries that are now under the sway of the radical Islamic group.
These stated limits of the US campaign underscore the extraordinary challenges facing President Obama as he seeks to sustain a broad coalition at home and abroad to defeat the militants without inserting American ground troops into the conflict.
The participation of five Arab countries in the Syria strikes was seen by specialists as a significant step in building that international coalition. It sends a clear signal that even the terrorists’ fellow Sunni Muslims see them as a threat and are prepared to confront them.
“It is very historic in terms of the support we got from five Sunni-led nations,” said retired Lieutenant General Richard Newton, the former assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, referring to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar