The United States should put aside domestic political discomfort with renewed military action in Iraq and unleash as much air power as commanders see fit to use on Sunni radicals terrorizing the fractured country, retired Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer told Newsmax TV
"It's time for the president to take a step back, stop the rhetoric and let his commanders who know how to fight a war, fight a war," Shaffer, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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President Barack Obama said on Thursday night that he had authorized airstrikes against ISIS, the violent Sunni militant group attempting to create a new "Islamic State" in Iraq's midst. Bombs from a pair of F/A-18 jets hit ISIS artillery on Friday morning,
in the first U.S. military strikes in Iraq since troops left the country in December of 2011.
Obama also said U.S. air drops of food and water were going to thousands of Iraqis trapped by ISIS on a barren mountain in northern Iraq.
But he drew a line on U.S. involvement, saying, "As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq." White House officials reiterated on Friday that the military campaign will not be "prolonged," the Associated Press reported.
Shaffer said that Obama's initial actions fall "far short" of the response required by magnitude of the crisis, and come much later than they should have.
He said that while there are 50,000 refugees "stuck on that mountaintop" needing food and water, the air drop is expected to help only 8,000 of their number.
He said that ISIS, using U.S. arms left over from the long Iraq war, has to be fought with more than F/A-18s. Shaffer said commanders should send in close-combat, ground-attack aircraft such as the AC-130 gunship and the A-10 "tank buster" fighter jet.
"I would allow those things to go in there and rule freely," said Shaffer.
The incremental return to Iraq that is playing out now — with hundreds of U.S. military advisers already in the country, and air strikes commencing — is a result of "political" choices that Obama made to satisfy voters, said Shaffer.
Chief among these, said Shaffer, was rejecting the advice of Gen. Lloyd Austin, then Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, to keep 25,000-30,000 troops in the country to help ensure its stability.
Shaffer said that Obama also put off military action against ISIS despite intelligence briefings he received as far back as January warning that the group posed a serious regional threat.
"This was beyond predictable," Shaffer said of ISIS laying siege to Iraq and capturing cities and crucial infrastructure. "It was known that this would happen, and now we're left with some really difficult decisions to have to make."
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