President Barack Obama's plan to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS) without deploying troops on the ground will fail, national military experts and analysts say, noting that airstrikes alone are not enough to win the war against the deeply entrenched extremist fighters.
"What a waste of time," Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism official at the State Department, told The Washington Times. "We have not learned a thing in 80 years. [ISIS] is an army. The air power is not going to get the job done.
"Until you put troops in and kill these guys, they're going to continue. They adjust to tactics. They meld into [the] civilian population," Johnson said.
According to analysts, ISIS fighters are embedded in Iraq's major cities, such as Mosul, Fallujah, and Ramadi, and it will take land combatants to flush them out. While Obama's plan calls for Iraqi security forces to serve as troops on the ground and backed up by U.S. air power, Iraqi troops have fled
rather than fight against ISIS, often leaving caches of American-made weapons behind.
At the very least, the ISIS fight needs some American advisers who are closer to the fight, said Retired Army Gen. John Keane, one of the officers who planned the 2007 troop surge that was led by Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.
"If the U.S.-led coalition conducts a very aggressive air campaign that hits ISIS hard, sustained and simultaneously in Iraq and Syria, then ISIS will lose freedom of movement [and] initiative, and will become defensive," Keane said. "However, defeat requires a ground counteroffensive to retake lost territory, led by the Iraqi army and the Free Syrian Army [and] supported by close air support."
Part of the issue is that during his prime-time address Wednesday
, Obama refused to call the fight against ISIS a war, but instead compared it to other long-term battles against al-Qaida and other terror organizations, which have been carried out through drone strikes.
But instead, experts are saying, defeating ISIS will be like the fight against al-
Qaida in Iraq, when, from 2007 to 2009 the United States sent in air power, special operations forces, and ground troops to root out al-Qaida terrorists.
Retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, one of Petraeus' top aides in Iraq, said the United States needs to embed troops in with Iraqi forces while they are fighting, not only when they're in training.
He admitted that Obama's strategy might work, but only if some major changes come about. The Iraqi troops need to be trained to stand their ground, and Sunnis need to put aside sectarian differences.
"I would be more confident that it would work if there were American advisers and special forces embedded in these formations to help them call in airstrikes and to stiffen them," Mansoor said.
Putting boots on the ground does not have to mean sending large numbers of soldiers to Iraq, said California Republican Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services.
Obama has ordered Special Forces, trainers, and security forces, said McKeon, but that is not enough.
"It means empowering moderate Sunnis when and where we can and bolstering the nonsectarian forces in the Iraqi security forces," said McKeon. "This will take troops. It will not take divisions."
But he noted that there is no way around not having troops again in Iraq, as "Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There's simply no other way to do this."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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