Bombing ISIS: Arabs lag far behind West

Story highlights

  • 10 Arab nations pledged to join the United States' fight against ISIS
  • Half of the allies have not bombed targets in Iraq or Syria
  • Even those who are carrying out airstrikes don't do very many

(CNN)By September of last year, President Barack Obama had had enough of ISIS. The terror group had beheaded two American journalists and was seizing strategic cities and territory in Syria and Iraq.

"We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama vowed, expanding his bombing campaign from Iraq into Syria as well.
    And the United States lined up allies in the region, producing a joint declaration with 10 Middle Eastern countries that vowed a "comprehensive fight against" ISIS. The key prongs of that strategy were stemming the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS, squeezing its funding "and, as appropriate, joining in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign."
    But since then, about 80% of coalition bombing has been by the United States, with some support from allies in Europe, plus Canada and Australia. In fact, the United States is dropping bombs faster than it can replenish them.
    Where are the Arab nations in the fight against ISIS?
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    Turkey, which is not Arab and was not part of the September 2014 announcement, is also carrying out some strikes against ISIS in Syria.
    The 10 Arab allies against ISIS have refused to say how many airstrikes they have carried out against ISIS, but Pentagon statements reveal that half the Arab countries in the coalition have carried out no bombing in Iraq and Syria at all.
    Bahrain and Jordan haven't dropped any bombs in months, according to a U.S. official speaking on background about the actions of allies, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates bomb about once a month. (The final country in the coalition is Iraq, which is a separate case because it's fighting ISIS within its own borders.)
    So could Middle Eastern countries be doing more to fight ISIS? There are both political and strategic factors holding them back, including regional rivalries and domestic pressures.
    But critics say they could be doing more than they are. Here's a roundup of the military capabilities of the 10 countries that joined the United States in the Jeddah Declaration.

    Bahrain

    Army: 8,500 troops
    Navy: 1,000
    Air force: 1,500
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 29
    Military action: Some bombing of ISIS in Syria, last carried out in early autumn. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

    Egypt

    Army: 340,000 troops
    Navy: 18,500
    Air force: 100,000
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 405
    Military action: No bombing in Iraq or Syria, but Egypt has bombed the ISIS affiliate in Libya. The Egyptian army is fighting the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai Desert.

    Iraq

    Army: 274,600 troops
    Navy: 3,700
    Air force: 5,100
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: Unknown
    Military action: Fighting ISIS in Iraq

    Jordan

    Army: 88,000 troops
    Navy: 500
    Air force: 15,000
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 68
    Military action: The only Arab country to have bombed ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, but it last carried out airstrikes in August.

    Kuwait

    Army: 11,000 troops
    Navy: 2,700
    Air force: 2,500
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 39
    Military action: No bombing. Kuwait has agreed to serve as a base for coalition forces, aircraft and equipment waiting to be sent to Iraq.

    Lebanon

    Army: 53,900 troops
    Navy: 1,100
    Air force: 1,000
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 4
    Military action: No bombing. The army is fighting ISIS within Lebanon's borders.

    Oman

    Army: 31,400 troops
    Navy: 4,200
    Air force: 3,500
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 32
    Military action: No bombing

    Qatar

    Army: 8,500 troops
    Navy: 1,800
    Air force: 2,100
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 18
    Military action: No bombing. Funding opposition fighters in Syria. U.S. Central Command Forward Headquarters is at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha.

    Saudi Arabia

    Army: 75,000 troops
    Navy: 15,500
    Air force: 34,000
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 259
    Military action: Bombs ISIS in Syria about once a month. Funding opposition fighters in Syria.

    United Arab Emirates

    Army: 59,000 troops
    Navy: 2,400
    Air force: 4,000
    Fixed-wing combat aircraft: 148
    Military action: Bombs ISIS in Syria about once a month.