12 June 2015

Obama’s Evolution on ISIS

JUNE 9, 2015

President Obama said Monday that “we don’t have, yet, a complete strategy” to confront the threat posed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The president acknowledged in a news conference after the summit meeting of the Group of 7 that almost a year and a half after the United States and its allies began confronting the Islamic State, “the details are not worked out.”

Here are some of Mr. Obama’s statements about the American strategy to confront the Islamic State and its effectiveness.

Defining the Extremist Threat 

In a speech at West Point, Mr. Obama said, “For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.” But he sought to distance himself from Bush-era doctrine, saying, “A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.”

Mr. Obama emphasized that the United States would not hesitate to use military force “when our people are threatened, when our livelihood is at stake, or when the security of our allies is in danger.” Outside of those cases, he said, collective action with allies is the best way to fight terrorists, and he asked Congress for $5 billion to help train vulnerable countries to carry out operations against extremists.

As the president defended his decision not to intervene militarily in Syria, the Islamic State was planning its takeover of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Less than two weeks later, the group's fighters did just that. 

President Obama spoke about actions taken by his administration in Iraq, including airdrops of humanitarian supplies and the authorization of airstrikes against ISIS forces.

Mr. Obama authorized airstrikes against Islamic State militants advancing on the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil as well as threatening to wipe out thousands of Yazidis, a religious minority group, stranded on Mount Sinjar. A day later he vowed that the United States had no intention of “being the Iraqi air force.” Still, it was American airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops, along with Kurdish fighters, that ended the siege, in an operation that also involved the presence of a small number of American forces to assess the situation.

“We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq,” the president said in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, a day after he authorized the strikes. “But we can only do that if we know that we have got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void.”

He added that Iraqis were “recognizing that they have to make accommodations in order to hold the country together.” 

President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain visited students at Mount Pleasant Primary School, in Newport, Wales, as leaders gathered for a NATO summit meeting.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

In an op-ed in The Times of London, President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain called on NATO allies to reject isolationist impulses and confront the threat posed by ISIS.

“Whether it is regional aggression going unchecked or the prospect that foreign fighters could return from Iraq and Syria to pose a threat in our countries, the problems we face today threaten the security of British and American people, and the wider world,” the leaders wrote.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron said NATO must become a “more effective security network that fosters stability around the world,” and they urged member nations to bolster military spending. 

The president said the United States would lead a coalition against ISIS and laid out the four parts of the strategy.

President Obama authorized a major expansion of the campaign against the Islamic State, saying the United States was recruiting a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militants.

The plan included more American advisers in Iraq and airstrikes in Syria. In a major reversal by the administration, Mr. Obama also pledged to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria, the effectiveness of which he previously said had “always been a fantasy.”

He described the training as “the best counterweight” to extremists, “while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”

Though some American troops would be put at risk “eradicating a cancer” like ISIS, Mr. Obama sought to dispel fears of repeating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” he said. 

President Obama said the United States would work with a broad coalition to dismantle ISIS’ “network of death,” in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

“Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can,”Mr. Obama said at the United Nations in a bluntly worded speech. “For we will not succumb to threats, and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy.”

It was unclear whether Mr. Obama's tougher tone meant he had fundamentally rethought his counterterrorism strategy or was responding to an American public shocked by the beheadings of American hostages by Islamic extremists. 

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with Middle Eastern representatives at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Citing intelligence lapses, Mr. Obama, in an interview with the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” acknowledged underestimating the peril posed by Islamic State militants.

A review of intelligence reports about the rise of the Islamic State, and reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among Iraqi troops, suggests that the White House and intelligence experts made a number of missteps at pivotal moments in the Sunni extremist group’s rise. For example, when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq asked for American airstrikes in June, Mr. Obama and Congress balked.

Mr. Obama also said he overestimated the ability of the Iraqi Army, which allowed ISIS to establish areas of Iraq and Syria as “ground zero for jihadists around the world.” 

The president’s comments came a day before the Islamic State seized a second city, Palmyra, in central Syria, reinforcing concerns in that region and in Washington that Mr. Obama’s strategy had faltered. CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

“If they are not willing to fight for the security of their country,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the Iraqi Army, “we cannot do that for them.”

The president told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that he had no regrets about his handling of the fight against the Islamic State. “I don’t think we’re losing,” he said.

He attributed the fall of Ramadi to the failure of the Iraqi government to build up its forces, and he said it would be up to the Iraqis to increase their efforts.

Mr. Obama also counseled patience. “We’re eight months into what we’ve always anticipated to be a multiyear campaign, and I think Prime Minister Abadi recognizes many of these problems, but they’re going to have to be addressed,” he said, referring to Iraq’s leader, Haider al-Abadi

President Obama met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq to talk about United States assistance for Iraqi forces to step up the counteroffensive against the Islamic State.CreditVideo by Sofia Perpetua on Publish DateJune 08, 2015

At a news conference at the close of a summit meeting of the Group of 7 world leaders, Mr. Obama said that “we do not yet have a complete strategy” for fighting the Islamic State and that thousands of new fighters were replenishing the ranks of the militant group faster than the coalition could remove them from the fight.

He acknowledged that the training of Iraqi forces “has not been happening as fast as it needs to” but said the Islamic State would be “driven out of Iraq, and ultimately, it is going to be defeated.”

No comments: