The terrorism attack on the Istanbul airport earlier this week was not only a huge wake-up call for Turkey, but also for the United States, former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns said Friday.
"There have been 14 terrorist attacks in Turkey in the last two years," Burns told MSNBC's
"Morning Joe" program. "Some of them were Kurdish inspired because they're dealing with Kurdish terrorism, but this one, obviously, was the Islamic State."
And the essential question moving forward for the United States must be whether to contain ISIS or defeat it, said Burns, but he is not sure there is a defeat policy in place.
"The taking back of Fallujah went very slowly," Burns said. "Mosul may be months or a year away from being taken back, and the Islamic State is metastasizing into Libya. It is a shrinking organization, but nowhere close to being a defeated organization."
However, he said, the Obama administration has done well trying to re-train the Iraqi army and put air power there, but has been "risk averse" in Syria in terms of aiding, "in a big way," the various rebel groups.
And that, Burns believes, is not a strategy.
"The administration is going to work with Russia to target some of these terrorists," said Burns.
"There is no end game. This is a problem. You can't separate. What they've been trying to do all along, the administration, is separate the counterterrorism fight from resolving the conflict in Syria. You can't do that."
Also, Burns said an angle needs to be found to change the relationship, and one such angle would be in humanitarian efforts.
"There is an op-ed [that said] 9 million people in Syria are essentially starving," said Burns. "Over half a million are under siege. … Out of 22.4 million Syrians, over 12 million homeless. Over half the country. We've got to have a humanitarian policy to get humanitarian quarters in there to bring medical relief and food to people. I think that we ought to set up safe havens and no-flight zones on the border with Turkey, and that will help our relationship with Turkey."
Syria, said show host Joe Scarborough, will be President Barack Obama's legacy 10 years from now as "Iraq was President George W. Bush's legacy. I'm not so sure people will look any more kindly on Barack Obama's inaction than on Bush's overreaction."
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