By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
It began one year ago when President Barack Obama ordered U.S. military strikes against ISIS to protect civilians from the onslaught of terror attacks. Then in September of last year, President Obama issued a statement to the American people that the United States, along with our coalition partners, would degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS.
The question now is, what has been accomplished, and where does the U.S. stand today against ISIS?
The first question which needs to be addressed after a year, and one that has confused many (especially the military who have to carry out the presidents orders) is what is the strategy with regard to ISIS?
In August 2014, after the president ordered military operations to protect civilians from ISIS, the president said “we don’t have a strategy yet.” This statement would come back to haunt the administration.
Then President Obama stated in June, after months of U.S. led airstrikes: “When a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people.” Obama said, adding, “We don’t yet have a complete strategy.”
Now remember back in February, the president spoke to the nation and stated that he was submitting to Congress his formal war authorization request to defeat ISIS.
So far no war authorization has been approved by Congress, with both parties against it for different reasons…Republicans believe it hamstrings the military, and Democrats do not want another unending war in the Middle East.
Both parties agree on one thing; they don’t know what strategy the administration is pursuing in defeating ISIS.
In addition, the U.S. still has not defined the enemy we are fighting. The U.S. needs to understand the strategic axiom articulated by Sun Tzu, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Who are we fighting, ISIS, ISIL or its Arabic name Daesh, or are we fighting al-Qaida, the administration has never articulated who we are fighting, or are we fighting both?
Since the pronouncement last summer that the U.S. would degrade and destroy ISIS, the Islamic state has made major gains in Iraq, especially in the Anbar province where the “Sunni Awaking” started. This marked the beginning, and ultimately the defeat of al-Qaida in Iraq.
ISIS now controls Ramadi, the provincial capital of the Anbar province, and forced a major retreat of Iraqi forces.
CNN reported that the Defense Intelligence Agency’s latest classified assessment is that “the situation in Iraq between Iraqi security forces and ISIL is in a stalemate,” a Pentagon official familiar with the assessment said, using another name for ISIS. “The outcome is uncertain at this point.”
When the president began to use military force against ISIS, one of his goals was to train Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS, and to date, only around 60 fighters have been trained, and this after spending close to $500 million.
Since last summer lingering questions still remain, and one that I have repeatedly raise before – has the U.S. defined what it is they are trying to accomplish with regard to destroying and defeating ISIS inside it’s sanctuary in Syria? And the answer is a resounding “No.”
What strategy does the administration have for Syria, especially its brutal dictator President Bashar Hafez al-Assad? Back in 2011, President Obama stated Assad must go, but years later he still remains, and this has resulted in considerable angst from our Middle Eastern allies, especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
How does the administration plan on leveraging the Sunni Tribes to fight against ISIS, when they are attacked and marginalized by the Shiite dominated and Iranian backed government in Baghdad?
How does the president plan on having our Sunni Arab allies fight ISIS when they see the threat more from Iran and then the Islamic State?
Now that Turkey has joined the fight and has allowed the U.S. to use the Incirlik Air Base against ISIS from inside the country, the Turkish government is now attacking Kurdish forces, with which we are allied with – so what is the president’s strategy in this situation?
We are one year later in our fight against ISIS, but the same questions still remain.