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Vallely, Shaffer on Syria Airstrikes: a Start but Not Enough

By    |   Tuesday, 23 September 2014 04:45 PM

U.S. airstrikes inside Syria that began on Monday night must become more intense to have any hope of crippling Islamic State forces, two military combat veterans told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.

While damage assessments are still under way for the first round of bombings, retired Army Maj. Gen Paul E. Vallely told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that "it appears at first cut the intensity is still not what it should be."

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"It's a beginning," said retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, of the London Center for Policy Research, adding that "this is not a serious effort yet."

Vallely, a Vietnam veteran and chairman of Stand Up America, said that the territory in Syria occupied by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is ideal for aerial bombardment: open desert, and cities and towns mostly emptied of civilians who have fled to neighboring countries.

"So, if we can get these ISIS forces on the move and target them again in what we call 'targets of opportunity,' then that's what we should be doing," said Vallely.

"If we're really serious, we're going to go in to pound them — and, heck, I would bring the B-52s in from Diego Garcia," he said, referencing a U.S. Naval Support Facility in the Indian Ocean. "I'd have the C-130 gunships that could [destroy] a football field just by a couple passes around the circle."

Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Shaffer agreed, calling ISIS-held Syrian terrain "a permissive environment" for attacks.

"A lot of these ISIS guys have to move city to city via roads, and those [convoys] can loiter for hours," he said. "And I'm telling you right now, we can make it miserable for anybody in ISIS to pop their head up, ever."

President Barack Obama hailed the airstrikes on Tuesday as a joint effort, including five Arab countries standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States, and said, "This not America's fight alone."

Shaffer said it's a short list compared to President George W. Bush's much-derided "coalition of the willing" in 2003.

"When you look back at the Democrats' criticism of George Bush's coalition to go into Iraq, this is a bit humorous: UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar," he said of Obama's anti-ISIS allies.

Vallely counted himself "semi-impressed" with the coalition, but said it could use more members and more hands-on involvement from those already aboard.

"Egypt's really so involved with their own security . . . that I would like to see Jordan doing more," said Vallely. "King Abdullah [of Jordan] knows that he's got to do something."

Vallely also said that the Saudis, "with all of those armaments that they have, they should be running, themselves, 50 sorties a day."

Vallely added that another resource yet to be fully exploited or understood is the Free Syrian Army, led by high-ranking military officers who abandoned dictator Bashar Assad during Syria's civil war — and who should be considered potential allies now.

While some critics doubt there are moderate, pro-Western factions in Syria's civil war — much less any fit to be armed and trained to fight ISIS — Vallely insisted that the Free Syrian Army does exist and can serve as the coalition's "eyes and ears" against ISIS "if we use them properly."

Shaffer described a task ahead with several moving parts: stepped-up airstrikes; renewed efforts to locate Western hostages held by ISIS; and mindfulness of the region's underlying volatility, so as not to stoke all-out war between Sunnis and Shias.

While Shaffer called the president's actions this week "laudable," — including the pre-emptive strikes against the shadowy Khorosan Group in Syria — he also said, "You've got to be comprehensive . . . and, simply put, right now we need to get back and increase the frequency of attacks."

"Some of these places need to be carpet-bombed because we have to destroy the image of ISIS," said Shaffer. "Not only destroy ISIS, but . . .destroy the image of ISIS because of what they've done: they've portrayed themselves as a strong force, and that is a large symbolic element that helps them recruit people to their cause. We have to dissuade them from being recruited."

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U.S. airstrikes inside Syria that began on Monday night must become more intense to have any hope of crippling Islamic State forces, two military combat veterans told Newsmax TV on Tuesday.
Paul E. Vallely, Tony Shaffer
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 04:45 PM
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