Obama still has no strategy for ISIS

Last year Barack Obama admitted he had no strategy, “yet”, for ISIS. By the latest admissions, he still doesn’t. He is pouring money into “fighting ISIS” but it would seem that there are many expensive but ineffective actions ongoing – but there are few signs of any coherent, comprehensive strategy with any real goals.

The latest example of money down the drain, with nothing to show for it, is revealed by the testimony of Gen. Lloyd Austin to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The $500 million program to train 5,400 Syrian fighters against ISIS started off by training and sending 54 well-armed fighters. Only 4 or 5 remain. The others have been captured or killed by Al Qaida or ISIS or have abandoned the fight.

CBS NewsOnly four or five U.S-trained Syrian fighters remain on the battlefield against militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East acknowledged Wednesday in the face of withering criticism from senators who dismissed the training program as a “total failure” and demanded a change of strategy. Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. is looking at better ways to deploy the Syrian forces, but he agreed that the U.S. will not reach its goal of training 5,000 in the near term. ….. 

The first group of 54 U.S.-trained Syrian fighters was sent into Syria in late July. But a Syrian affiliate of al Qaeda attacked the group, killing several of the fighters and taking others hostage. A number of the remaining fighters fled. Officially called the New Syrian Force, the contingent was trained by the U.S. military at a base in Turkey and sent across the border into Northern Syria, ……..

The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. John McCain, called the U.S. strategy against ISIS a debacle. He said assessments by Austin and the Pentagon that the U.S. strategy is working is “divorced from reality.” And other senators focused directly on the stumbling training effort that takes months to identify and screen Syrian rebels for the program and has lagged far behind original goals. “We have to acknowledge this is a total failure,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said about the training. “I wish it weren’t so, but that’s the fact.”

Congress has approved $500 million to train Syrian fighters. Officials have said fewer than 200 are going through training now.

Last week we heard how Obama and Kerry missed the opportunity in 2012 to work with Russia to arrange for Assad to step aside in an orderly transfer of power. Was it just ego that stopped that? Was it the wishful thinking that the support being given to the splintered Syrian rebels by the US and the Europeans, would lead to a complete defeat of Assad.

I certainly have the perception that the US (and their European partners) have been more than a little incompetent in their efforts at regime change – whether in Iraq or Libya or Syria or even the Ukraine. Like it or not, it is the lack of a coherent strategy and the incompetence of  implementation of ad hoc actions, which has provided the space for ISIS to flourish. While Saddam and Gaddafi and Assad were in place, many were throttled, but so was ISIS.

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