After the Islamic State overran the city of Ramadi
last weekend, the Obama administration is under growing pressure to reassess its strategy, potentially accelerating the training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters to go on the offensive.
U.S. officials initially downplayed the importance of the takeover of Ramadi. However, President Barack Obama met Tuesday with top national security advisers to reassess a strategy that had relied on the ability of the Iraqi military, which was unable to hold the city, The Wall Street Journal
White House press secretary Josh Earnest described the war as "days of progress and … periods of setback." He said the president and his national security team are taking a look at "some areas where the strategy isn't working as intended and needs to be upgraded," the Journal reported.
With the fall of Ramadi, U.S. officials are now intent on focusing efforts in the Anbar province, shifting from its previous intended focus — the retaking of Mosul.
The plan is to speed up the training and equipping of local Sunni tribal fighters, expand Iraqi military recruitment and train local police, officials said, according to the Journal.
To date, the White House has focused its efforts on training fighters through an existing military training program. The mission has retrained 7,000 Iraqi fighters, but the Journal said it's unclear what role, if any, those forces had on the battlefield.
At the same time, administration officials have said they do not expect radical changes to the U.S. strategy.
"Are we going to light our hair on fire every time that there is a setback in the campaign against (ISIS)? Or are we going to take very seriously our responsibility to evaluate those areas where we succeed and evaluate where steps are necessary for us to change our strategy where we sustain setbacks?" Earnest said, according to the Journal.
And a senior defense official said that the strategy does not need an overhaul.
"The Department believes the current course of action is the right one," the official said, according to the Journal.
But the fall of Ramadi has prompted criticism of the administration's strategy by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
"The president's plan isn't working," House Speaker John Boehner
said, according to the Journal. "It's time for him to come up with a real, overarching strategy to defeat the ongoing terrorist threat."
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "I don't think we're losing the war, but I don't think we are making tremendous progress either."
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