President Barack Obama's strategy on the Islamic State (ISIS) "has no chance of success" because he's planning to go fight a terrorist organization, not an insurgent group that has outlined its plans to seize control of much of the Middle East, say historians Frederick and Kimberly Kagan.
"President Obama just announced that he is bringing a counter-terrorism strategy to an insurgency fight," they wrote in an opinion piece for The Weekly Standard
following the president's prime-time address Wednesday night. "He was at pains to repeat the phrase 'counter-terror' four times in a short speech."
On Wednesday, Obama said ISIS is not a state because the international community does not recognize it as such, and described the extremists as "a terrorist organization
, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way."
But neither statement is true, the Kagans wrote.
"ISIL (also known as ISIS) is an insurgent group that controls enormous territory in Iraq and Syria that it governs," they said. "It maneuvers conventional light infantry forces supported by vehicles mounting machine guns and occasionally armored personnel carriers against the regular forces of the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga — and wins."
And as such, ISIS is not a terrorist organization any more, the Kagans insist, and "neither is it the simple manifestation of nihilistic evil the president makes out."
Instead, ISIS has "described a very clear vision of seizing control of all of the territory of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories," they wrote. "It intends to abolish all of the borders and redraw them according to a new structure of governance suitable to its hateful version of an old Islamic heresy."
The vision makes ISIS "more than a simple terrorist organization," the Kagans said, and it's "awfully hard to develop a sound strategy when you start by misdiagnosing the problem so profoundly."
Frederick Kagan is the director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, and Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War.
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