Obama weighs strategy against Islamic State

The Obama administration is grappling with how to bridge the gap between its increasingly dire assessment of the threat posed by the Islamic State group and the limited, defensive air campaign it has so far undertaken, which military officials acknowledge will not blunt the group's momentum.
AP Wire
Aug 17, 2014


For months, administration officials have been divided about the threat posed by the Islamic State as it seized parts of Syria and advanced on towns in Iraq. Now, amid new intelligence about its growing strength, a consensus is forming that the group presents an unacceptable terrorism risk to the United States and its allies.
At issue is whether President Barack Obama, elected on a platform of ending the Iraq war, will heed calls for a campaign to contain or destroy the Islamic State, an undertaking that could dominate U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of his term.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the group poses "a threat to the civilized world," while Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the Islamic State a "terrorist army" that must be defeated. But Obama has not used similar language. He has authorized a limited campaign of targeted airstrikes designed to protect refugees and American personnel in the Kurdish region — but not take out the group's leadership or logistical hubs.
A strategy to destroy the Islamic State would not require large numbers of American ground troops, but it would amount to a significant escalation from the recent air operations, analysts say. It might also require military action in western Syria, where the group has its headquarters in the city of Ar-Raqqah.
Proponents of doing so argue that the Islamic State must be stopped because it will destabilize America's allies in the region and eventually export terror to Europe and the U.S. Critics of the idea are urging the president just as strongly not to get sucked into another Middle East war, arguing that years of American micromanagement in that region have ended in tears.
Obama himself has said the U.S. "has a strategic interest in pushing back" the Islamic State, but he has also insisted he will not send American combat troops back to war in Iraq. He has not shied away from using targeted military force in other places, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, when he decided that terrorists there threatened the U.S.
U.S. officials say thousands of Westerners — and at least dozens of Americans — have sought to travel to Syria to join the fighting there, and some of them have joined the Islamic State. Attorney General Eric Holder has called the mix of Westerners and Syria-based terror groups "more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general."
U.S. intelligence believes that some of those Westerners are now fighting in Iraq, said a senior intelligence official who was not authorized to discuss sensitive intelligence by name and requested anonymity.
When al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula seized parts of southern Yemen in 2011, Obama stepped up drone strikes and used special operations to support Yemeni forces in pushing the militants out.
Smashing the Islamic State, military and intelligence analysts say, would require a sustained campaign of American airstrikes, combined with a U.S.-backed ground force of Sunni tribesmen — the same approach that rooted al-Qaida in Iraq out of the Sunni tribal areas in 2008.
But such a campaign would be "orders of magnitudes more difficult" than Yemen because of how well-armed and well-trained Islamic State fighters are, said Peter Mansoor, a retired army colonel who helped oversee a turnaround in Iraq in 2008.
"We have a mismatch between our goals and our strategy at the present time," said Mansoor, now a professor at Ohio State. "The goal eventually is to eliminate (the Islamic State), but the president has laid out a very restrained military option which can't accomplish that goal."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a security forum in Aspen, Colorado, last month that the military is "preparing a strategy that has a series of options to present to our elected leaders on how we can initially contain, eventually disrupt, and finally defeat (the Islamic State group) over time."
Obama's GOP critics fear that the president will shy away from such a strategy because it repudiates what they say was his misguided decision to disengage from Iraq. Two years ago, the president resisted the calls of his advisers to aggressively arm moderate rebels in Syria.
"You can almost hear the angst in the voices of our military commanders connected to what they know is a fundamental mismatch" between the threat and the strategy, said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a former Army officer and member of the House Intelligence Committee. "President Obama absolutely is refusing to acknowledge the threat to America and respond in a way that is appropriate."
Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, rejected that view. "We absolutely believe that (the Islamic State) poses a threat to U.S. persons and personnel," he said Wednesday. "We're focused on dealing with that threat right now in Iraq so that the terrorists cannot advance on Irbil," the Iraqi Kurdish capital.
Administration officials say the White House has been deeply divided at least since the start of 2014 over how much the Islamic State threatens Americans.
In January, when the militants overran the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, U.S. officials weighed whether to intervene. But one senior U.S. official familiar with the conversations said there were concerns that what was playing out was an internal dispute — a revolution by Sunni tribes against the Shiite-led government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. At a result, the U.S. limited its response to providing the Iraqi army with Hellfire missiles and began tracking the militants with surveillance drones.
Since then, the number of Islamic State militants swelled from a few thousand to an estimated 15,000 die-hard members, according to two senior intelligence officials.
Many of the extremists are battle-hardened former members of Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard who are intimately familiar with Iraq's dusty terrain and tribal connections, say the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the information by name.
The Islamic State, which has been disavowed by al-Qaida in a dispute over strategy, wants to strike a terrorist blow at the U.S. to assert its primacy in the jihadist movement, said Derek Harvey, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who advises U.S. Central Command.
"They have been planning do to this for some time," he said. "We just don't know when."



How about a few daisy cutters?


Daisies are protected...the devices you refer to are now called Air Dropped Invasive Plant Species Eradicator’s


The security council meeting was so productive meetings in Aruba, St. Thomas and Las Vegas were scheduled along with a Fall summit in the Bering Straits aboard chartered Crab boats...just to keep the agenda moving.


the middle east is one big Sand Trap while Obama holds his putter . . .

Mystic Michael

Your expert solution? If you please?


That putter is fashioned after the very same OJ used in his exhaustive search for the "real" killers...it’s an amazing piece of technology.


Mys. Michael, how about we use are clubs and irons cause dilly dallying around will not stop Isis, Hamas, Hezbollah. Now get back in your Prius !!


It is comments like this that make one stop and ponder - how can anyone be so cavalier about something like war, after this country very nearly went bankrupt due to two $6 Trillion wars that killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers, many re-deployed over and over, when the system can not keep up with the medical needs of the returning soldiers, and literally nothing changed in the middle east except Halliburton and many other private contractors made billions in profits.

You do not appear to have even the most rudimentary concept of Middle East dynamics, history, current affairs, or understanding of tribal hostilities dating back hundreds of years.

Your little putdown of Mystic Michael is quite the hoot, considering he's one of the more - (if not possibly the most) - knowledgeable posters in this forum.

Tri-cities realist

Your last sentence... Now THAT is funny.


This war like so many in the middle east has everything to do with faith and spiritual disagreement and nothing to do with Politics and strategy, our foes are deceived warriors who are more than happy to die while taking out as many Christians as possible. In this great religion of peace (Hillarie’s words) women are a biological tool used mostly to empty testicles and cook meals, Christians who are willing to convert are less than women and are beheaded if they do not. All the PHD’s and other people considered smart have endless strategies to stop the screaming hoards but all will be pointless so long as there are Muslims and Christians there will be conflict.


Boycotter is correct, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah understand only one thing...overwhelming force. Since our President is an incompetent weakling, all hell is breaking out in Iraq because there is no longer respect for America under this incompetent and deliberate President.

We are more disrespected now on the world stage than ever before because we are perceived as WEAK and Obama is a mouse of a leader (some say rat..whatever)

We're not going bankrupt from war Einstien, we're going bankrupt because of the deliberate killing of American jobs, the refusual to stop the flood of illegal immigrants, and the reckless increase in our National debt, more than any other President in the history of this country, driven by entitlements and the dumbing and lazing down of America. (Obama has increased this Country's debt more than all Presidents COMBINED.) Let that sink in for all the moron's that believe this fraud is so wonderful.

The answer to your question Mystic Mike, is that you find the enemy in Iraq and kill them. Do you need further explanation Mr. most knowledgeable poster in this forum and your side kick Laney Fife.

Hey Lani, what are your thoughts with Al Gore and the millions he is making of the biggest fraud ever perpetuated on a civilization in global warming....at least the war in Irag has kept another tower from droping in the US and liberated millions of Iraqi people from a brutal dictator as we help rebuild their country with admirable help from Halliburton and many others. I hear they all made a profit which I'm thankful because of the jobs they have created and opportunites for thousands of hard working people world wide.


It must be hell inside your head.


Not as much as I make yours.


What does that even mean?

Mystic Michael

I believe I had posed the question to Boycotter - since he seems so convinced that he knows better than the President. But oh well, what the hell. Let's just include you too, so you don't feel neglected.

The vociferous chest-beating we see from the warmongers on the Right is just as clueless as it is belligerent. Yanked abruptly out of historical context, as it perpetually is, prevents one from learning anything from the hard-won lessons of the past. Wisdom must constantly be renewed and reinvigorated. Stupidity is perennial and perpetual.

For one thing, the simplistic admonition to "find the enemy in Iraq and kill them" assumes that "the enemy" is a well-defined and static entity - when in fact, over the years, the forces that the United States alone has defined as "the enemy" have changed continually. Iraq was our putative ally during the Iran-Iraq War. Then when Bush and Cheney needed a new boogeyman against which to flex our military muscle, Iraq became our enemy. First we'll support the Sunnis. Then we'll support the Shia. During just the course of our military engagement in Afghanistan, our roster of enemies and allies has changed several times. One month we fought alongside Warlord A against the forces of Warlord B. By next month, we've joined forces with Warlord C against Warlord A, and so forth. Even the Afghani soldiers themselves are continually switching sides from one group to another, based on who seems to be prevailing at the moment - and which group is paying the best.

What most Americans don't realize is that the Shi'ite - Sunni conflict is nothing new. It's been going on already for more than a thousand years - and that's a big part of what continues to fuel the current conflict in Iraq, Syria, etc. Moreover, the current geo-political situation in the Middle East is directly attributable to the British occupation after World War I - and the incoherent, arbitrary way in which the Brits chose to create new nation-states from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire - ignoring pre-existing tribal and sectarian borders.

Some 11 years ago, as Bush & Cheney were preparing to invade Iraq, knowledgeable area experts predicted that we would only end up strengthening al Qaeda - by confirming many of the predictions of al Qaeda propaganda, thereby drawing thousands of new recruits to them. And so has it come to pass.

By their arrogant bungling in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Mideast, Bush & Cheney have inadvertently created a super-virulent new version of al Qaeda, named ISIS, that even al Qaeda itself is afraid of. What they - and conservatives in general - can't seem to process is that the more we fight the beast, the more we feed the beast.

In March 2003, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, even Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak warned of the likely result: "When it is over, if it is over, this war will have horrible consequences," Mubarak told Egyptian soldiers in the city of Suez on Monday.

"Instead of having one (Osama) bin Laden, we will have 100 bin Ladens," he said.


In such circumstances, do I think that President Obama is "weak" by exercising some reasoned restraint and some prudent judgement - instead of thoughtlessly wading back into the tar pit from which we only recently extricated ourselves? Hell no! It's about time that someone in a position of leadership tried to actually understand a situation - before determining what, if anything, to do about it.

Brains always trump brawn...apparently unless you're a right-wing warmonger.


dyankee is correct, doesn't appear Putin the ex KGB agent is about to slow down on his quest while all the Libs are putting there Hillary 2016 bumper stickers on there Prius and Smart cars . . .


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