THORNBERRY: U.S. LACKS COUNTERIDEOLOGY TO ISLAMIC STATE
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.
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.