The carrier Harry S. Truman is on its way to wage make war with on the Islamic State group, and may launch airstrikes from the Mediterranean, joining the French carrier in a show of force and solidarity. but where it will end up and and what the world will look like by the time it gets across the Atlantic Ocean is anyone's guess.
Officials are discussing whether the five-ship armada should linger in High-level discussions are ongoing about whether Truman should linger in the Eastern Mediterranean to pound IS targetsISIS in Syria, rather than continue immediatelyon to the Middle East, according to three Pentagon officials who spoke on background.
European Command, Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Central Command (which controls the Middle East) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense have discussed the possibility of keeping the carrier in Europe for several days or longer, three Pentagon officials said. either for an extended period or for several days, sources said.
The decision hinges on a shifting security situation as responses ramp up in the wake of Friday's Paris But much hinges on the unfolding political situation in France and the rest of Europe as they grapple with how best to respond to the Nov. Sept. 13 attacks in Paris that left about 12930 civilians dead and hundreds more wounded in a brazen attack.
The French carrier Charles de Gaulle is preparing to depart on a scheduled deployment Thursday for the Middle East ahead of Truman, but reports from French media have indicated that the carrier might stay in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"They were scheduled for two-carrier ops with Truman in the Persian Gulf," said one defense official, who like others asked for anonymity to discuss on background to discuss internal deliberations. "But if I was a betting man, I'd say the Charles de Gaulle stays in the Eastern Med."
The French military France is currently launching strikes into Syria from aircraft in the United Arab EmiratesSyria and Jordan, according to media reports.
The deliberations come over how Truman's group's long strike arm will be used come against the backdrop of a fast-changing security environment in Europe. On Tuesday, France invoked the European Union's mutual-defense clause, which received unanimous support from the member nations, but it was unclear what the next steps are. It is also unclear if France intends to invoke NATO's collective defense agreement, as the United States did after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
Also On Monday, Russia said a acknowledged that a homemade bomb brought down a Russian airliner, killing 224 people, and Russia has vowed retribution. IS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that he has ordered his military to make contact with the Charles de Gaulle carrier group and to treat them as allies in the fight against IS, which adds a new wrinkle for U.S. planners that could impact Truman.
A request for comment from the French Embassy in Washington on whether Charles de Gaulle would proceed as planned to the Northern Persian Arabian Gulf for strikes was not returned by press time.
The Truman is currently conducting carrier qualifications on its way to Central Command, said a Navy official who spoke on background to discuss future operations, and is scheduled to arrive in the Persian Gulf by mid-December, barring any changes. CENTCOM has been waging war against ISIS for the past month without the benefit of a flattop; the fleet has been stretched trying to fulfill missions in CENTCOM and in the Asia-Pacific region, where tensions have flared between China and its neighbors. Truman departed Monday on its scheduled rotational deployment.
A Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment on internal deliberations, but said the Truman was scheduled to support operations both in Europe and in CENTCOM U.S. Central Command.
A European Command spokesman also likewise declined to discuss future operations and planning.
"We are [in] constant contact with our NATO allies and are prepared to conduct military operations when and where our National Command Authorities deem necessary," Air Force Lt. Col. David Westover said. "However, due to operational security, we do not discuss future military operations or future ship movements."
'No paucity of targets'
Air Force assets based in Aviano and Turkey, as well as other partner states and allies, are averaging about 25 strikes per day in both Iraq and Syria, according to statistics released by Operational Inherent Resolve. OIR's official website, which seem to be able to handle the workload without Navy assets. (OIR has been without a carrier since mid-October, when Theodore Roosevelt departed after months of strikes in Iraq.)
A show of solidarity between the U.S. and French carriers could be a public relations windfall, but some experts say it could be a distraction from maximizing airstrikes against IS targets. It's unclear how much the
Under the current rules of engagement, It is unclear how much would be gained from having the Truman launch airstrikes from the Mediterranean. from the Truman being deployed to pound targets in Syria under the current rules for Operation Inherent Resolve.
Some analysts and defense officials say the number of strikes could be increased significantly except for the Administration's unwillingness to accept an increase in civilian casualties.
On Monday, for example, the U.S. struck at 100 IS oil tankers, which officials the U.S. had been avoiding because of concerns over killing the civilian truck drivers who drove the trucks, according to a Tuesday report in The Wall Street Journal.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, some analysts have said it's time to pursue an unshackled and fearsome air war to defeat IS, in a criticism of the U.S. administration's limited strikes intended to take out terrorist leaders and infrastructure. Some analysts believe this concern for civilian casualties has hampered U.S. efforts to wage a successful air campaign against ISIS.
"There is no paucity of targets, there is a paucity of strategy," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula (ret.), who helped plan the air campaign ahead of operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. Deptula has been calling for months for a sharply increased, focused air campaign that he believes will destroy IS' says could drastically reduce the Islamic State's combat effectiveness within weeks.
Deptula said he questioned the logic behind concern for the possibility of increased civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes, "when balanced against the certainty of ISIS's continued crimes against humanity." ISIS is an alternative acronym used for the Islamic State group.
Other analysts have countered that the unintended killing of civilians threatens to harden feelings of marginalization and hatred against the coalition, a sentiment that has fueled the rise of the brutal IS militancy. Opponents of this approach argue that heavy bombing of civilian areas would only throw gasoline on the Islamic State's recruiting efforts in the area.
In late October, the UN reported that nearly 100,000 Syrians had been displaced that month because of increased fighting following Russian airstrikes