WASHINGTON – With a straight face, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that while the United Arab Emirates stopped flying bombing missions against ISIL last December, (somehow this development had not been made public until now), this should not be interpreted as a lessened UAE committment to the fight. Really?
UAE has left
Well, in theory the UAE could contribute substantially without fighting, for instance by paying for the cost of military operations. But we have not ben told in what way this staunch ally will help us win.
And how much was the UAE actually contributing before withdrawing? We do not know exactly. But here are some figures that may help shed some light on the issue.
As of December 2014 the “Coalition” had launched 1,371 air striked against ISIL, 799 in Iraq ,and 572 in Syria. (This is a very small number). 81% of these were conducted by the US, the remaining 19% –yes, this is only 19%– by the rest of the “Coalition”. This would include Great Britain, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others.
It was not doing much anyway
From this we can safely conclude that, whatever the UAE was doing before withdrawing, (a fraction of an already puny 19%), it did not amount to much. And this is not for lack of means. The UAE air force has a total of 368 fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Of these more than 200 are fighter jets (US made F-16, and French made Mirage 2000). Not insignificant numbers for a relatively small country.
62 Coalition Members
And what about the rest of the large “Coalition”? What are they doing to help win the war? We are told that there are 62 countries on board. This sounds impressive. Yes, except that it is not.
Among the members we have: Singapore, Malta, Moldova, Mexico and Andorra. Yes, Andorra, a tiny little place sandwiched between Spain and France, and not exactly a major or even minor political or military anything. While there are others like Hungary, only a handful of countries among those that are nominally Coalition Members are involved in combat operations. And you have seen above how insignificant the total non US military effort is.
In other words, this whole “war against ISIL” is so unimpressive that it looks frankly unserious.
The Kosovo air campaign
Indeed, please compare this anti-ISIL air campaign to the NATO-led 1999 air campaign against Serbia aimed at stopping the Kosovo conflict. Over a period of 78 days NATO combat planes flew 38,000 air sorties, of which 10,484 were strike sorties. (ISIL campaign: 1,371 sorties as of December 2014. Now, February 2015, the number must be a bit higher).
This war against ISIL is a small effort led by a reluctant America with extremely modest military contributions from a handful of countries, plus symbolic nods from 50 or more nations that sent a little money and/or a little humanitarian aid.
Allow me a prediction. Given what I would call a low level of enthusiasm, this war against ISIL will not be won any time soon.