THORN­BERRY: U.S. LACKS COUNTERIDEOLOGY TO IS­LAMIC STATE

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The war against the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria is not go­ing well, and one rea­son is the lack of an ef­fec­tive counterideology pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mac Thorn­berry.

The Texas Repub­li­can said in an in­ter­view last week that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is fail­ing both mil­i­tar­ily and ide­o­log­i­cally to counter the ter­ror­ist group that now con­trols large parts of Iraq and Syria and is ex­pand­ing to nearby re­gions, in­clud­ing Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya.

The chair­man said the re­stricted bomb­ing cam­paign and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to bol­ster Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces have done noth­ing to di­min­ish the ide­o­log­i­cal ap­peal of the group. The ul­tra­vi­o­lent ji­hadi ide­ol­ogy of Is­lamic State is the prime mo­ti­va­tor for a move­ment to cre­ate an Is­lamic caliphate. The group has con­ducted highly pub­li­cized atroc­i­ties, in­clud­ing video­taped be­head­ings, mass ex­e­cu­tions of pris­on­ers and sex­ual en­slave­ment.

“Their ideas are grow­ing,” Mr. Thorn­berry said.

The ex­pan­sion of Is­lamic State in Afghanistan among al Qaeda and Tal­iban ter­ror­ists is not sur­pris­ing. “But the point is the ide­ol­ogy of ISIS is as­cen­dant,” he said, us­ing an acro­nym for the group. “It is at­trac­tive to peo­ple. And so what­ever is hap­pen­ing on the ground back in Syria, we are not ef­fec­tively bat­tling the ide­ol­ogy.”

De­spite an an­nounced U.S. strat­egy that in­cludes coun­teride­o­log­i­cal ef­forts, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has done lit­tle to coun­ter­act Is­lamic State re­cruit­ment and pro­pa­ganda ef­forts.

Mil­i­tar­ily, Pres­i­dent Obama has placed con­straints on mil­i­tary lead­ers in the bat­tle against Is­lamic State, also known as ISIL, Mr. Thorn­berry said.

“It raises ques­tions about whether the United States is serous about de­grad­ing ISIS — whether its num­bers of peo­ple, or the re­stric­tions [that say] you can’t go out of the base with the Iraqi units you’re try­ing to train, plus the airstrike re­stric­tions — all of the boxes that have to be checked be­fore you can drop some­thing. I think all of that con­trib­utes not only to the idea that we’re not se­ri­ous about it, but it’s con­trib­uted to the fact that they’re re­ally not de­graded much at all,” Mr. Thorn­berry said.

Gen. Lloyd Austin III, com­man­der of the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, came un­der fire Wed­nes­day from both Repub­li­cans and Democrats who said the anti-Is­lamic State cam­paign is founder­ing.

Gen. Austin de­fended the strat­egy dur­ing a hear­ing at the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, stat­ing “de­spite some slow move­ment at the tac­ti­cal level, we con­tinue to make progress across the bat­tle space in sup­port of the broader U.S. gov­ern­ment strat­egy to de­grade and ul­ti­mately de­feat ISIL.”

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Sen. John McCain noted Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two weeks ago de­scribed the mil­i­tary cam­paign in Iraq as a stale­mate. “This is an ab­ject fail­ure,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The re­stricted bomb­ing cam­paign and the ef­forts to bol­ster Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces have done noth­ing to di­min­ish the ide­o­log­i­cal ap­peal of the Is­lamic State group, House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Mac Thorn­berry, Texas Repub­li­can, said.

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