British Parliament voted overwhelmingly today to join the coalition of US, France and Arab states that are flying attack missions over Iraq to combat ISIS. In addition, Belgium and Denmark will be sending F-16MLUs to the fight. All are said to be fully aware that the mission to shatter ISIS may take months or even years to complete.
This news is a strong victory for the Obama Administration which has been criticized for waiting too long to militarily engage ISIS as their influence rapidly spread across Syria and into Iraq. With some NATO partners now falling into line, and Australia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar all pledging air power to combat the terrorist army, the anti-ISIS coalition is shaping up to be the widest since Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Some point to this diverse international coalition as a sign that the White House still has heavy pull overseas, while others see it as an indication of just how big a threat ISIS's unique brand of 'total terror' is to various nations for a multitude of reasons.
The inclusion of Britain, Denmark and Belgium in the air war against ISIS is incredibly positive news, not just because it means more aircraft, geopolitical clout and a deepened shared economic responsibility in relation to the air campaign, but because these air forces and their pilots are battle hardened from years of fighter operations in Afghanistan as part of ISAF. Such a fresh knowledge base when it comes to close air support and SCAR (strike coordination and reconnaissance) means that they will be much more effective over the battlefield than air forces that are just applying this tactic for the first time. Additionally, as ISIS continues to adapt to coalition air power, and fixed targets are quickly marked off the targeting list, being able to spot and engage targets of opportunity from the air will be key.
Meanwhile American forces and their coalition partners are striking at the heart of ISIS's ability to raise funds to sustain their fundamentalist empire, striking mobile oil refining facilities in Syria. Although these air strikes remain limited in frequency, it will be crucial that they ramp up as the coalition is broadened and the targeting opportunities become smaller in their strategic magnitude.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com