The Navy SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011 predicts that President Obama will change course and send U.S. ground troops to Iraq to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).
Former Chief Petty Officer Robert O'Neill told The Washington Times
that the president's advisors now understand that the Iraqi Security Forces cannot retake Mosul, the country's second-largest city, from the jihadist group without U.S. boots on the ground.
"We need to fight them," O'Neill said of ISIS. Asked if he believed President Barack Obama would change course and authorize a combat ground operation in Iraq, he replied, "Yes, I do."
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O'Neill said he believes that officials are discussing the logistics of such an operation behind closed doors.
"They're just figuring out how to do it," he told the Times. "They don't want to be seen as starting a new war."
Currently, there are more than 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and they are restricted to training and advising Iraqi forces.
O'Neill told the Times he believes ISIS is "more vicious now because we're not doing anything. We’re hitting them from the air. We don't have boots on the ground."
For much of the 2003-2011 U.S. military operation in Iraq, the SEALs' territory was Anbar province and the city of Fallujah.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS' leader, got his start there.
O'Neill told the Times the SEALs want "to get back in" to the battlefield in Iraq to fight the terrorists.
"We fought these guys before, when they called themselves a different name," O'Neill said, referring to the fact that ISIS is the terrorist successor to al-Qaida in Iraq
, the dominant jihadist terror group there during the mid-2000s.
"And it's surprisingly easy how we defeated them every time," O'Neill added.
A more grim analysis of the prospects for success comes from former Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who retired in August as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
He warns that such a mission will likely fail without enhanced support from Washington.
"Unless the United States takes dramatically more action than we have done so far in Iraq, the fractious, largely Shiite-composed units that make up the Iraqi army are not likely to be able, by themselves, to overwhelm a Sunni stronghold like Mosul, even though they outnumber the enemy by ten to one," Flynn writes in a Politico analysis piece
Arguing that "there is no cheap way to win this fight," Flynn writes that the United States "must engage the violent Islamists wherever they are, drive them from their safe havens and kill them. There can be no accommodation."
Flynn adds that U.S. leaders "do need to recognize that there are nations who lack capability to defeat this threat and will likely require help to do so inside of their own internationally recognized boundaries."
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He believes that the United States "must be prepared to assist those nations."
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