February 11, 2015 12:50 pm
Updated: February 11, 2015 6:18 pm

After months of airstrikes, what else can stop ISIS?

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ABOVE: President Obama has delivered his official request for the use of military force against ISIS.  Now it’s up to Congress to debate and pass the authorization.  And as Craig Boswell reports, both sides will have plenty of input.

The international fight against ISIS is poised to enter a new phase, as U.S. President Barack Obama has formally asked Congress to approve the use of military force.

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Obama’s draft resolution “would not authorize the use of long-term, large-scale ground combat operations.” But, it would allow for special operations forces to “take military action against [ISIS] leadership” and permit U.S. forces to engage in ground combat in “limited circumstances.”

That could include “intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.”

READ MORE: Obama sends Congress request for military force against ISIS

Obama is offering to limit authorization to three years, extending to the next president the powers and the debate over renewal for what he envisions as a long-range battle.

“The language in here should not be construed as a belief by the president that we’ll have defeated and ultimately destroyed [ISIS] in three years,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

WATCH: President Obama is asking Congress to authorize military force against ISIS.

The U.S. has been involved in airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since early August. Twelve other countries — including Canada — have since joined in the bombing campaign. Canada also has a contingent of troops on the ground to advise Iraqi Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga. On at least three occasions, Canadian troops on the ground in Iraq have exchanged fire with ISIS militants.

READ MORE: Defence chief says Canadian soldiers still within non-combat mandate in Iraq

The number of coalition airstrikes against ISIS increased in the past week, after Jordan launched dozens of strikes in both Syria and Iraq, in the wake of ISIS burning captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh to death. The United Arab Emirates also resumed its participation in the aerial campaign, having withdrawn fighter jets after al-Kaseasbeh’s capture because of concerns about search and rescue capabilities.

READ MORE: Jordan hammers ISIS with 56 airstrikes in 3 days

“[ISIS is] in a box and airstrikes, there’s no question, have made a significant difference in keeping ISIS within that box and they cannot break out of it,” said Janice Stein, the Belzberg Professor of Conflict Management at the University of Toronto and founding director of the Munk School of Foreign Affairs.

But, Stein said its going to take more than bombing missions to stop ISIS from continuing to gather support.

“The answer lies within the region, when we begin to get better governance,” she said, explaining there would likely be a “decline in the appeal that ISIS has” once governments in the region properly address poverty in their countries and tackle corruption.

“That’s what enrages citizens throughout the Arab world — the visible corruption of so many of these governments,” she said. “When you begin to get an emphasis on creating employment, on reining in the visible consumption that so many public officials engage in, when governments begin to deliver rudimentary social services to the poorest quarters in cities, that’s when you’re going to see a decline in the appeal that ISIS has.”

READ MORE: Calls for #ISISMediaBlackout to stop spread of horrific ISIS images

There are an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters who have joined ISIS ranks or travelled to Iraq or Syria to prop up its self-declared caliphate, the so-called Islamic State. Of that 20,000, more than 3,400 have come from Western countries, according to U.S. intelligence. Thousands more have travelled from other countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

READ MORE: What if a Canadian pilot is shot down in ISIS territory?

Noomane Raboudi, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa School of Political Studies, agreed governments in the region need reform. But, he said Western policy towards the Middle East needs to be reconsidered, as well, in order to put an end to what he sees as “a vicious circle.”

“Today it’s ISIS… another day it will be I don’t know what,” he said. “Because, you know, the conditions that created ISIS are still there and if we are going to destroy ISIS we don’t have any guarantee we won’t have another crazy group.”

He said Western governments have a history of “protecting” Arab leaders who don’t have all of their citizens’ best interests at heart, and ISIS has thrived off of that.

Raboudi pointed to the treatment of Sunni Muslims under the Iraqi government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, — an ally to the U.S. for many years following the Iraq war until he stepped aside under international pressure last August — as one example of Western support for a regional leader accused of marginalizing citizens.

READ MORE: Human Rights Watch blasts Islamic State over atrocities

Raboudi thinks the solution to ISIS will have to come within the Middle East. But, he said even though plenty of people in the Arab or Muslim world don’t accept “the barbarism” of ISIS, many of them also don’t approve of Western military intervention.

“There is a lot of frustration. There’s a lot of hate against Western policy [in the Middle East],” he said. “It is better to make local actors face ISIS.”

Obama’s request for the authorization for the use of force also stated “local forces, rather than U.S. forces should be deployed” to take on ground combat operations to defeat ISIS.

With files from The Associated Press

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