Tags: Barack Obama | Homeland Security | ISIS/Islamic State | War on Terrorism | Frederick Kagan | Lindsey Graham | ISIS

Experts: Obama Must Offer Explicit Strategy to Defeat ISIS

By    |   Tuesday, 09 September 2014 10:14 PM

President Barack Obama must tell the American people on Wednesday that the only option is to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS), the group that beheaded two U.S. journalists, national security experts told Newsmax on Tuesday.

"My greatest fear is that he will do nothing — and I count the airstrikes continuing at this level as effectively nothing," said Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. "That's my greatest fear that I actually think might come true.

"It ensures that the strategy will not succeed, because any strategy has to work in both countries simultaneously," he said, referring to Iraq and Syria. It will give the Islamic State time to respond, react, adapt — possibly, expand into other theaters — and continue to make itself dangerous.

"It will allow the Islamic State to continue to consolidate its control," Kagan said. "It will allow Iran . . . to consolidate control over the part of Iraq that they're in — and it will contribute to an escalation of the regional war between Iran and the Arabs."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said former military commanders have told him that any Obama strategy against ISIS, also known as ISIL, without U.S. ground troops will fail.

"Former military leaders that have been successful in Iraq and Afghanistan believe that this strategy that the president's about to announce is not going to be successful," the South Carolina Republican told Greta Van Susteren on her Fox News program.

"There is no Arab army or military in the world that can defeat ISIL in Syria without some American ground component," he said. "You've got to have boots on the ground. The worst possible thing is to take these guys on and lose."

Obama is scheduled to address the nation at 9 p.m. Wednesday and outline his strategy for battling ISIS. The speech comes after Obama has faced enormous pressure from Republicans, Democrats — even world leaders — to respond forcefully to the brutal executions of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Obama's address, which falls on the day before the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that drew the U.S. into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, also comes as a growing number of Americans support attacking the Islamic State.

Sixty-one percent of respondents to a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll said the nation's best interest would be served by attacking ISIS, while only 13 percent saw no such interest. The survey polled 1,000 respondents.

The president is expected to announce broad objectives — not specific details or a timetable — against ISIS in his prime-time speech.

These could include more airstrikes in Iraq and possibly in Syria, increased military assistance to forces in both countries, and similar commitments from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

The White House has said that Obama does not need congressional approval to expand airstrikes in the region.

But Obama is expected to rule out any possibility of putting U.S. troops in Baghdad after completely pulling out three years ago.

"The president believes this is a high national security priority," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

"This is not the time for half-measures, for wishful thinking," said Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso, a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. "It is not time to kick the can down the road.

"The president has an obligation to outline a strategy — a strategy of how he plans to defeat ISIS, to eliminate the threat, and to protect the American people."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said ISIS was "obviously a threat to us. They're not going to go away."

"We need to have from the president of the United States, the most important leader in the world, a plan for eliminating them," the Kentucky Republican said before meeting with Obama and other congressional leaders.

"I hope that's what the president will be presenting to the American people and to us in the next few days."

McConnell was joined at the White House by GOP House Speaker John Boehner, as well as Congress' top two Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"The speaker said the spread of radicalized Islam is a global epidemic, and our national objective must be to defeat and destroy ISIL," a Boehner spokesman told Newsmax. "The speaker made it clear that ISIL is preparing to fight us, and that as we learned in Syria, the longer we wait, the more difficult our choices become."

The session with Obama and congressional leaders lasted about an hour.

In his Newsmax interview, Kagan outlined the key issue in developing any ISIS strategy:

"Either we can think that we can live with an Islamic State in Iraq and/or Syria and work to contain it — or we have to be prepared to do what's necessary to prevent that state from continuing to exist."

Because Obama said last week that "we are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, the same way that we have gone after al-Qaida," U.S. Special Forces are mandatory, Kagan said.

"I don't believe that it is possible to defeat the Islamic State without having a significant number of American troops in Iraq and possibly Syria," he said. "It's a heavy Special Forces presence, but they have to be backed up with some conventional forces, in case people get into trouble."

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who later directed both the CIA and the National Security Agency, told Newsmax that the U.S. strategy should also include manipulating the Islamic State's own terrorist bent.

"This is an ideology that has within it its own seeds of destruction — but its destruction is not something that will happen automatically, and certainly not quickly," he said. "Therefore, we can't live with allowing this thing to exist and strengthen merely in the hope that it will die of its own contradictions sometime in the future.

"We can take advantage of its contradictions and hasten its demise: its brutality, its lack of inclusiveness, its perversion of a particular religion. These are things that we should be able to turn against them."

But Obama's opposition to U.S. boots on the ground is total fallacy, Kagan and Hayden said, because Special Forces are already there.

"Let's not kid ourselves," Hayden said. "We've got 1,000 American G.I.s in Iraq right now — and I'm going to bet you right now they're all wearing boots. We've got boots on the ground.

"No boots on the ground is not even an element of a strategy," Hayden said. "They're already there. It's foolish to have to pretend that we're arbitrarily ruling that out."

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon said that "we have to be willing to do whatever it takes to win" against ISIS, though he declined to say specifically that should include U.S. troops.

"If this is a big enough threat, which I sincerely believe it is, then you have to be willing to use everything you've got," the California Republican told Erin Burnett on CNN. "On the other side, it's all-out war — and they'll do whatever it takes.

"Every day that goes by, they're getting stronger, and it's going to cost us more in the way of lives and treasure to win this fight.

"They're in it to win, and if only one side's in it to win, you're out to bet on that side."

But in his Fox interview, Graham called for a strong military response and said Wednesday's speech marked "an important moment" in Obama's presidency.

"He's got to speak to our enemies," the South Carolina Republican told Van Susteren. "And I think our enemies see and hear weakness.

"When he talks about destroying our enemies, he then goes into what he won't do. You've got to instill fear and respect as president.

"He's got a trust and competency deficit that's been built up," Graham said. "Who would trust this guy," referencing Obama's pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq and dubbing ISIS a "JV team."

The senator also recalled when Obama drew the red line in Syria on President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people in the civil war and did not follow through.

"Every bet he's made has blown up in his face," he told Van Susteren. "And now he's got to go from leading from behind in the backseat of the car reading a newspaper to convince the free world to 'follow me now.'"

However, "I'm pulling for him," Graham said, referring to the president. "Because if we don't get this right, they're coming here."

Newsmax writer Greg Richter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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President Barack Obama must tell the American people on Wednesday that the only option is to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS), the group that beheaded two U.S. journalists, national security experts told Newsmax on Tuesday.
Frederick Kagan, Lindsey Graham, ISIS, speech
Tuesday, 09 September 2014 10:14 PM
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