Obama Remarks on the Military Mission against ISIL
By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
On July 6, President Obama traveled to the Pentagon to receive an operational update from defense and military leaders on the campaign to defeat ISIL.
The military campaign to defeat ISIL has been going on for nearly one year, and the president was reviewing the current situation on the ground in the region.
President Obama’s comment to reporters was to take the long term view, as he mentioned – all military campaigns take time and encounter setbacks.
The question that has been raised before, and one that’s seems to be redundant is, what is the overarching strategy the president is trying to pursue in which the U.S. ultimately “degrades and destroys” ISIL?
The president began his remarks by saying, “our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL…This is a cause, a coalition, that has united countries across the globe – some 60 nations, including Arab partners. Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power, across our government — military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and perhaps most importantly, the power of our values. “
How is this being accomplished, and what are the measures of effectiveness of this mission?
The other aspect of the president’s policy – “Indeed, we’re intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria. Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations. We’re going after the ISIL leadership and infrastructure in Syria — the heart of ISIL that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world. Partnering with other countries — sharing more information, strengthening laws and border security — allows us to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria as well as Iraq, and to stem, obviously, the flow of those fighters back into our own countries. This continues to be a challenge, and, working together, all our nations are going to need to do more, but we’re starting to see some progress.”
Again, how is this being accomplished, when the U.S. is receiving conflicting views from military commanders who mention that aircraft are returning fully loaded without deploying any of their weapons systems.
The president keeps stating the U.S. training of local forces, but reports have shown that only a minimal amount of Sunni’s are being trained, even his Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stunned members of the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday, that only 60 Syrian fighters have been trained so far. Again, what is the true effectiveness of U.S. efforts in this regard? Why have so few been trained so far and how are and will they be employed?
Again, the president mentioned that the U.S. continues to deliver weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga and tribal fighters, but leaders from both of these groups complain openly that they are not getting the advanced weapons needed to take the fight to ISIL.
Where are the advance weapons going? Are they still being delivered to the Shiite dominated government in Bagdad, who then utilizes them for their own purpose?
The other troubling aspect of the president comments were that “In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end, and in a way so that the Syrian people can unite against ISIL, is an inclusive political transition to a new government, without Bashar Assad, a government that serves all Syrians. I discussed this with our Gulf Cooperation Council partners at Camp David and during my recent call with President Putin. I made it clear the United States will continue to work for such a transition.”
How is this strategy being implemented, since President Obama has called for Assad’s removal since 201, and Assad still remains? What is the strategy for the transition after Assad is gone, what elements of the Syrian opposition are we working with?
President Obama again reiterated that he will not send additional forces to Iraq, nor did he mention the strategy for military personnel already in the region. If the purpose is to train and assist local forces, why not have Special Forces embedded with local forces who then can call in air strikes and effectively destroy ISIL forces on the ground?
Finally, two missing components from the president’s remarks were first, how the U.S would prevent Iran from spreading its influence throughout the region, and second, how to counter Tehran’s strong influence and support for the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad?
Finally, how will the president leverage Baghdad to be more inclusive of all ethnic groups in Iraq when it receives strong influence and military support from Iran?
It’s again sounding like a broken record, but the president has still not articulated a coherent strategy for dealing with ISIL, with many in the region believe he is sidetracked on the Iranian nuclear negotiation, and this brings a host of additional questions which need to be addressed.