The report, according to the Daily Beast, is “a tacit admission that coalition efforts so far—dropping thousands of bombs and deploying 3,500 U.S. troops as well as other coalition trainers—have been outpaced by ISIS’s ability to expand and attract new followers, even as the yearlong coalition air campaign has helped local forces drive ISIS out of parts of Iraq and Syria.”
The White House commissioned the intelligence report prior to last month’s deadly strikes in Paris, and long before last week’s terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, three senior U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to describe a confidential document and policy changes. It was also commissioned before President Barack Obama declared ISIS “contained” in Iraq and Syria—just a day before the Paris attacks—but it was delivered to the White House in the weeks afterward.
After reviewing its grim conclusions, Obama asked Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to come up with new options to beat the group back.
The counterterrorism campaign is being stepped up—using the same arsenal of drones, special forces raids, and local proxies previously employed in the global war on al Qaeda. A special operations targeting cell, announced by Carter last week, is one of the recommendations. The roughly 200-strong team will conduct raiding operations in Iraq and Syria, coordinating strikes through a 50-man team that will work inside northern Syria with a band of U.S.-supported guerrillas known as the Syrian Arab Coalition.
Defense chiefs have also tasked the military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to host an interagency think tank of military, diplomatic, and intelligence representatives to come up with other options, The Daily Beast has learned.
President Obama addressed the nation about the threat of terrorism in a rare Oval Office address Sunday night and made brief mention of the stepped-up campaign but no new announcements to expand it.
The report said that ISIS “already has a network of groups that have pledged allegiance or are vying for membership in a dozen countries.” But the response from the White House has been to double down on the current “strategy”: intensify the bombing, work harder to train anti-ISIS fighters, and use diplomacy to try and get Syrian President Assad to step down.
There is that “special operations targeting cell” that is going to go after ISIS leadership. But Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has yet to figure out how best to utilize these valuable assets.
The problem for our military appears to be that so many things are off the table, that there are limited options available. So we keep employing the same failed strategy in hopes that if we only try harder, ISIS will crumble.
People are finally waking up to the startling fact that our president doesn’t have a viable strategy to defeat Islamic State. We have smoke, mirrors, and PR that attempts to give the impression we’re doing something serious. But in the end, ISIS keeps expanding and the effort that will eventually be needed to defeat them continues to grow.
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