Wall Street Journal on December 7, 2015, published an important article by US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on the need for a U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS. Excerpts below:
…what Americans see [from the Obama administration]…is an incremental, reactive, indirect approach that assumes time is on our side. It is not. This danger is growing nearer: from attacks in Paris and Beirut, to the bombing of a Russian airliner, to the ISIS-inspired shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. What’s needed is a strategy to destroy ISIS—[now].

During a recent visit to Iraq, we saw the damage that U.S. and coalition forces are inflicting on ISIS. Recent operations to retake Sinjar and Ramadi, together with the daily blows of counterterrorism operations, represent tactical progress. This is a testament to the able leadership of the civil-military teams in Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

However, significant challenges remain. The Iraqi government is weak and beholden to Tehran. Iranian controlled-militias are among the strongest forces on the ground, and Tehran is seeking to replicate the Hezbollah model in southern Iraq. The training of Iraqi security forces has been slow, and the building of support for the Sunni tribal forces even slower. At the current pace, Islamic State will still control Mosul and Raqqa, the Syrian city that ISIS claims as its capital, at the end of next year. Meanwhile, ISIS is metastasizing across the region, to Libya especially.

What’s needed is a comprehensive civil-military strategy to destroy ISIS quickly, while creating conditions that can prevent it, or a threat like it, from ever re-emerging.

[We] want…additional U.S. troops to perform discrete tasks: improve and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, especially Sunni tribal fighters; embed with and advise Iraqi units closer to the fight; call in airstrikes from forward positions; and conduct counterterrorism operations. This will likely require two to three times as many forces as the U.S. has in Iraq now.

In Syria, there is no coherent strategy to destroy ISIS or negotiate an end to the civil war, which is the only way to win a lasting peace. The administration’s military and political efforts are misaligned. Diplomatically, the White House is seeking a political settlement that removes President Bashar Assad from power. But militarily, by only addressing ISIS and not the Assad regime’s assault on the Syrian people, the administration is effectively acquiescing to the very Russian, Iranian and Syrian forces that are fighting to keep Mr. Assad in power. This will only lengthen the conflict, strengthen ISIS and exacerbate the refugee crisis.

After the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the U.S. cannot go on like this. A coherent strategy is necessary to destroy ISIS and end the conflict as soon as possible.

…the U.S. should lead an effort to assemble a multinational force, including up to 10,000 American troops, to clear and hold Raqqa and destroy ISIS in Syria. Such a force could also help to keep the peace in a post-Assad Syria,…

Finally, the U.S. needs to seize the initiative and roll back ISIS’ regional expansion. This will require a greater forward presence of U.S. military and intelligence teams that can map its networks and destroy them.

President Obama is fond of invoking lessons from America’s recent wars. The simplest and most important lesson, however, is the one he rarely mentions: Apocalyptic terrorists cannot be allowed to have sanctuary in ungoverned spaces, from which to plan attacks against the West. Over the past seven years, those conditions have grown across the Middle East and Africa. If these threats are not removed now, and quickly, no one should be surprised when America gets attacked again.

Mr. McCain is a U.S. senator from Arizona. Mr. Graham is a U.S. senator from South Carolina. Both are Republicans.


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