Re­defin­ing the bat­tle against ter­ror­ists

Iden­ti­fy­ing the en­emy will pre­vent them from get­ting U.S. arms

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By James A. Lyons

One of the hall­marks of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was Don­ald Trump’s in­sis­tence on be­ing hon­est about the threat of “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism.” It’s a phrase that Pres­i­dent Obama re­fused to speak, pre­fer­ring the eu­phemism “vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism.” Hil­lary Clin­ton mut­tered the taboo ex­pres­sion half-heart­edly only af­ter Mr. Trump shamed her into it. Ac­tu­ally, I re­ject the term “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism,” as it im­plies there is some “mod­er­ate” form of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism. There isn’t.

The Obama-Clin­ton dis­dain for nam­ing the real en­emy al­lowed them to pre­tend that the Is­lamic State (ISIS) was the only prob­lem in Syria and Iraq. Mean­while, groups with an iden­ti­cal ji­had ide­ol­ogy got a pass. Al Qaeda was barely men­tioned. Arms con­tin­ued to flow via Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar and Turkey to a rogues gallery of sup­posed “mod­er­ates” — Jaish al-Is­lam, Ahrar al-Sham, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, the Free Idlib Army and the Is­lamic Front. These ji­hadists op­er­ate mainly in al­liance with al Qaeda, but some­times with ISIS.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion shows signs of trans­lat­ing ide­o­log­i­cal clar­ity into mil­i­tary ac­tion. The noose is tight­en­ing around the ISIS, with the fall of Mo­sul to U.S.-sup­ported Iraqi and Ira­nian mili­tia forces in sight. The stage is be­ing set for a U.S.-Kur­dish of­fen­sive to take Raqqa, the ISIS cap­i­tal in Syria. Amer­i­can-led coali­tion airstrikes are hit­ting al Qaeda and its “mod­er­ate” ter­ror­ist al­lies in Syria’s Idlib province.

This is be­ing done qui­etly, with­out the bluster that char­ac­ter­ized the Obama pol­icy. Like Mr. Trump said, you don’t show the en­emy your game plan. This dis­cre­tion was cer­tainly on dis­play with the re­cent cruise missile strike on the Syr­ian Shayrat air­base near the city of Homs. It was from this base that Syr­ian air­craft took off to de­liver a deadly chem­i­cal at­tack against its own peo­ple.

Congress is late in catch­ing up with mil­i­tary re­al­i­ties. But that is be­gin­ning to change as well. Two items de­serve par­tic­u­lar men­tion.

First, Rep. Jim Banks, In­di­ana Repub­li­can, last month in­tro­duced H.J.Res. 89, an au­tho­riza­tion for the use of mil­i­tary force (AUMF) against al Qaeda, the Tal­iban, ISIS, plus “suc­ces­sor or­ga­ni­za­tions and as­so­ci­ated forces.” This means the ji­hadists we are fight­ing right now, un­der what­ever name they try to hide.

When, in 2015, Mr. Obama asked for a new AUMF to re­place the out­dated one en­acted in 2001 af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001 at­tacks, con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans right­fully turned him down. They knew they couldn’t trust him.


Now things are dif­fer­ent. De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis wel­comes a new AUMF that fits the real war that needs to be fought: “I think not only would it be a sign of the Amer­i­can peo­ple’s re­solve, truly I think our men and women would ben­e­fit from an au­tho­riza­tion for the use of mil­i­tary force that would let them know that the Amer­i­can peo­ple, in the form of their Congress, were fully sup­port­ive of what they’re do­ing out there ev­ery day as they put their lives in harm’s way.” De­stroy­ing ISIS

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