A Somber Anniversary: One Year of Bombing ISIS in Syria

Tomorrow, September 22, marks the one-year anniversary of the first U.S. airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria. The strikes were launched against ISIS’ unofficial capital of Raqqa and involved both cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs. The targets included various types of military equipment, training areas, military transportation, and command-and-control facilities.

The New York Times called the airstrikes “a major turning point in President Obama’s war against the Islamic State” that “open[ed] up a risky new stage of the American military campaign.” Prior to these strikes, the United States had only bombed ISIS in Iraq.

One year later, the United States is still bombing ISIS targets in Syria, with no end in sight. The Air Force Times reported that between August 8, 2014— when the first bomb was dropped on an ISIS target in Iraq—and August 7, 2015, over 5,600 bombs were used against ISIS by the United States. The campaign has cost at least $3.21 billion.

U.S. efforts to assist Syrian rebels with their own defense have not gone well. Army General Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, said last Wednesday that the $500-million program to create an American-trained and armed Syrian rebel force is a failure. There are a mere four or five New Syrian Force rebels fighting ISIS today instead of the 3–5,000 the program called for. New alternatives have been suggested to improve the program, but will they be any more successful?

This somber anniversary is an appropriate time to consider our foreign policy. Have we made the right choices as a country over the last year? What decisions should we make moving forward? What effect will millennials have on the future? Tomorrow, the Charles Koch Institute will be hosting a panel on Capitol Hill on “The Politics of American Foreign Policy.”

William Ruger, vice president of the Charles Koch Institute, will be joined by leading foreign policy experts Michael Desch (University of Notre Dame), Trevor Thrall (Cato Institute), and moderator Daniel McCarthy (the American Conservative) to discuss our current approach to Syria and other key areas around the globe, and to explore U.S. security and the well-being of Americans and the world.

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