NYT: Obama's Plan to Fight Terror Groups Falling Apart

Friday, 04 Jul 2014 11:27 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Problems with President Barack Obama’s plan to fight terrorism have been exposed by the Islamic insurgents in Iraq, The New York Times reported.

Obama outlined his blueprint for the war on terrorists while speaking in May to West Point graduates, declaring that instead of using American forces to contain violent extremists, the United States would train local troops to fight the threats.

The idea is to prevent expensive wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan that have resulted in a war-weary public reluctant to support further aggression.

But his hopes have quickly unraveled as extremist fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured vast regions of those countries in its attempt to create a caliphate in the war-torn zone, the Times said.

The weaknesses in Obama’s plan were highlighted by the quick collapse of the American-trained Iraqi security forces, which have surrendered their weapons and millions of dollars of U.S. military arms while fleeing from the Sunni jihadists.

ISIS has turned from a ragtag bunch of terrorists into a powerful army and administration officials admit it could take months or even years for Iraqis security forces to repel them, the Times said.

The United States will have to be patient while arming and training a "constantly shifting cast of surrogates" to confront the threats it once faced mainly by itself, the newspaper added.

After Obama announced last week that the United Sates would spend $500 million to help Syrian rebels, Pentagon officials said that it could take months before the fighters would be ready for battle.

"The Islamic State’s resources are increasing faster than the appropriations process back in Washington," Robert Ford, a former American ambassador to Syria, told the Times. "The administration is going to have to think of some things to do in the short term."

In Iraq, the Pentagon is likely to need several months to retrain Iraqi forces, having already spent $25 billion in training over the past decade.

White House officials admitted that Obama’s counter-terrorism policy needed time to work, while noting that the United States has used drones, special forces and intelligence assets in the short-term in other Middle East situations.

"Building capable partners is clearly the long-term solution," Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told the newspaper. "But as we’ve shown in places like Yemen and Somalia, if we have to fill gaps with U.S. direct action against a specific terrorist threat, we are prepared to do so."

The Obama administration has considered air strikes in Iraq and Syria, but that plan has its own drawback, namely that ISIS fighters are now working alongside Sunni Iraqis opposed to the Shiite government.

"That’s going to be a tough challenge, to separate them, if we were to take a decision to strike," Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said at a briefing, according to the Times.

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