August 2014 was a watershed month in the battle against ISIL. It represented the moment that ISIL burst into American national consciousness. It was also the month that ISIL first beheaded American captives, and the month that the group reached its greatest territorial expansion as its forces invaded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan and appeared to threaten Baghdad.
“A modern, autonomous, and thoroughly trained Air Force in being at all times will not alone be sufficient, but without it there can be no national security.”
— General H. H. ‘Hap’ Arnold, USAAF
The beginning of the 21st century has been hard on the Department of Defense. Following closely behind two 20th-century successes in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, the Department of Defense (DoD) was knocked back on its heels following the September 11 attacks. Departing from the successful post-Vietnam template that relied on airpower to seek limited objectives, the United States engaged in two costly, drawn out, and ultimately unsuccessful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ground-centric approach failed to achieve stated goals, mired the U.S. military in complex local political contests, and so constrained two presidents that they both were forced to choose between losing now, and reinforcing failure (losing later).
In late July, as millions of Peruvians prepared to celebrate their country’s Independence Day, government forces descended upon “Sector 5,” a guerrilla installment in the heart of the coca-producing region of Junín. What they found there was stunning: a “production camp” of 39 Asháninka Indians, most of them children, living in apparent captivity as prisoners of the Maoist militants Shining Path. Some of the adults had been living in the camp for 30 years. According to an internal communiqué from the Peruvian national police, the captives had been forced to work as agricultural laborers and the women were expected to breed and raise a new generation of militants.
When it comes to the fight against Boko Haram, Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari has been busy. He has finally got the Multinational Joint Task Force up and running, which combines troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria into one regional force: a necessary weapon against what has always been a regional rather than national problem.
He has worked to repair frayed relations with regional leaders like Idriss Déby of Chad and, more recently, Cameroon’s Paul Biya. His visit to Cameroon in July culminated in an agreement to allow troops from both countries to engage in ‘hot pursuit’ across borders, which will make it harder for militants to skip across national boundaries to evade capture.