Comments 09:57 12/06/2015

‘US seems to be constantly one step behind ISIS’

The US does have a strategy to combat Islamic State in Iraq but the problem is the US is moving too slowly with it, Max Abrahms, Professor of Public Policy at Northeastern University, told RT.

Washington has announced its sending extra troops to Iraq. According to a White House statement, President Obama had authorized the deployment of 450 personnel to train Iraqi forces, who are struggling to repel Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants.

RT: Do you think it's a good idea to send more American military personnel to Iraq?

Max Abrahms: I think it’s a good idea but I don’t think it’s a game changer. I think that essentially – and this might surprise some viewers – there is a strategy to combat IS in Iraq. The problem is that the US seems to be moving too slowly with the strategy. From the beginning we’ve known that we need boots on the ground. You need ground forces to prevail in countering insurgency. So then the question is: Where do these boots come from? So reluctantly Washington is now using the Shia militias who were successful in Tikrit but then were sidelined in Anbar because of fears of Iranian expansion. And now we’re finding that there are just not enough Sunni fighters. The Sunni fighters… there are not that many of them and they don’t seem to be that motivated, and they don’t seem to have that much capability in terms of their weapons. So the idea is that the US is going to deploy 450 military advisors, supply some additional arms and then the Shia militia can work with these Sunni tribes and team up against IS. I think it’s a good idea, we should basically be throwing the kitchen sink at IS, using any resources on the ground who are willing and able to confront this group. But I think that we need to intensify this effort and frankly it’s coming quite late.

RT: What are the main problems or concerns with that strategy you just outlined? There are some people suggesting that if you send further weapons into the conflict zone maybe some of the Sunni groups will trade them off to IS.

MA: There is no question. There are tradeoffs to all of these strategies. IS is a radical Sunni group and it’s set up shop in Sunni communities, and it’s not entirely clear at this point the nature of support by the surrounding Sunni population for this group. So the fear is that if we weaponize the local population that doesn’t just basically enter into some kind of a deal with IS fighters who will then be strengthened even more and turn against the government. In fact, this isn’t just speculation; there is really some empirical basis to this concern because in the past, years ago, when we wanted to fight al-Qaeda we armed these Sunni tribes and many of them turned out to be very untrustworthy.

RT: Washington recently admitted it doesn't have a fully-worked out strategy for combating ISIS in Iraq. Is this announcement about advisors being sent an attempt to fix that? Is it a knee jerk reaction or a long term, well thought out strategy?

MA: I think that your choice of the word ‘reaction’ is a very good one. This is a sort of reactionary counter insurgency strategy. It seems like we are constantly one step behind IS. I think we are making the right moves, but we need to intensify the effort. For example, US air power used by the Coalition is useful... The problem is there is not just enough of it. The number of sorties is very low and when these sorties are made the percentage of times when bombs are actually dropped is only about 25 percent. We need to ramp up all of this. We need to use Shia militia, to win over the Sunni population and help to arm them and then we need to provide some real air power.

‘Washington doesn’t have a grip on how to deal with ISIS’

Richard Becker from the anti-war Answer coalition on the confusion over whether the US has any kind of clear strategy in fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

RT: This particular division sent to Iraq has participated in many combat operations. So is their deployment really just aimed at training this time or is it something more?

Richard Becker: It’s very hard to say. We would think that there is definitely something more to it. They are sending trainers as the Iraqi army has not been able to hold its own against IS, that’s very clear. But you know one thing leads to another in these cases. For instance, building a new base very close to Ramadi, which is now under the control of IS, what guarantees that IS is not going to attack this new base while it’s being built or after it’s built. And if that were the case and if the base were in danger of falling would that mean that the US would then send thousands or tens of thousands more troops to protect it. I think that would be highly likely. So it’s an open-ended kind of thing. I’m old enough to remember Vietnam while we heard about advisors, advisors, advisors, and then very quickly there were half a million troops. I don’t think that’s going to happen in regard to Iraq because there is so much opposition in the US to the deployment of large numbers of troops again into Iraq after the last disaster. Not even the chorus of Republican candidates who are criticizing President Obama for this move are saying to send hundreds or thousands of troops - which is what it would take - and even then there will be no guarantee of victory.

RT: Why do you think the US decided to deploy a military unit which mostly specializes in combat rather than training activities?

RB: I think that they see the weakness, it’s very clear to them. They invested tens of billions of dollars in building up the Iraqi military but it hasn’t worked. I remember way back in January 1975, the army of South Vietnam that was constructed in a similar way under occupation was rated the fifth largest military in the world and five months later it didn’t exist anymore. The US government, the Pentagon and the White House are trying to find a way to salvage this situation, to salvage something in Iraq after all that blood, mostly blood on the Iraqi side of course, but it’s not clear that they do have any kind of a clear strategy in that regard.

RT: The US has pulled out of Iraq but now it's going back in. Is this an admission it never really succeeded?

RB: This has been a disaster for US policy. You can see with the great arrogance that the Iraqi government was dismantled back in 2003, the military was dismantled, there are always proclamations about Iraqis welcoming the US troops and how this was all going to be a new day for Iraq and the entire Middle East. And instead it turned into a disaster. The US barely escaped from outright defeat back in 2009 and 2010. Then it pulled out the troops. But the instability that was introduced into the whole region by the US invasion of Iraq, by its allies’ support for the opposition in Syria, its dismantling of the Libyan state, all of this has come togetherto create a situation which Washington doesn’t really have a grip on how to deal with. They are trying some of these things but it doesn’t appear that this will push back IS. 

Share |
Տեքստում սխալ կամ վրիպակ նկատելու դեպքում, ուղարկեք խմբագրին հաղորդագրություն` նշելով տվյալ սխալը, այնուհետև սեղմելով Ctrl-Enter:


AntiFake employees detained in Yerevan
Two employees of the AntiFake media outlet were detained in Yerevan early on Monday, lawyer Ruben Melikyan revealed. Citing preliminary...
Armenia calls for dialogue in Middle East amid escalating tensions
Escalating tensions in the Middle East are a cause for grave concern, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday fowling Iran's...
Temperatures to hit 27C in parts of Armenia
Rainless weather is expected in Armenia on Saturday, the met service reports. Showers are forecast for the country’s regions on Sunday...
One killed in cable car accident in Turkey
A cable car ferrying passengers in a mountainous area of southern Turkey broke apart after colliding with part of the metal structure supporting...
Armenian government announces Kazakh leader's visit to Yerevan
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will travel to Armenia on an official visit on April 15. The Armenian government said in a...
Rally held in Armenian border village
A large group of public figures, politicians and clergymen on Saturday gathered in Voskepar, a border village in Armenia’s Tavush...
Transavia launches Yerevan-Lyon flights
Transavia Airlines launched flights between Yerevan and Lyon on April 13, the Armenia International Airports CJSC reported. Flights will be...
Catholicos Karekin II offers condolences to families of killed soldiers
His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, has expressed condolences to the families of the Armenian servicemen...
Pashinyan: Armenia seeks to prevent all attempts to politicize EAEU
Armenia is seeking to stop all attempts to politicize the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said. "We...
Five killed in Sydney mall attack
Five people were killed and several others injured -- including a small child -- when a knife-wielding attacker rampaged through a busy Sydney...
13 Armenian soldiers hospitalized after military truck crash – Defense Ministry
Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan and Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan on Saturday visited the Central Clinical Military Hospital in...
Kazakh president to pay official visit to Armenia
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan will pay a one-day official visit to Armenia on April 15. He is expected to hold talks with...
Defense Ministry reports no serious injuries after military truck crash in Gegharkunik
The Armenian Defense Ministry says no one was seriously injured in the wake of a military vehicle crash in Gegharkunik Province on Saturday....
Monument Watch exposes Azeri lies about Artsakh's ancient culture
The video "Ancient Aghdam Destroyed Nomadic Heritage", produced by the Azerbaijani CBC TV channel, contains several arbitrary...
Armenian Defense Ministry names soldiers killed in road accident
The Armenian Defense Ministry identified the servicemen killed in a road accident on Friday. Four Armenian soldiers were killed and 20...
Armenia denies false Azeri reports of shooting
The Defense Ministry of Armenia has rejected Azerbaijan's false accusations of cross-border shooting. “The statement of the...
Germany urges its citizens to leave Iran
Germany warned its citizens to leave Iran, saying that there was a risk both of a sudden escalation in Tehran's existing tensions with...
Freedom House reflects on Civil Contract's misuse of administrative resources at 2023 Yerevan elections
During the campaign for the Yerevan City Council elections in 2023, local observers and independent media observed widespread misuse of...
US trying to spread tentacles into all CIS regions, Lavrov says
All delegations attending the meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers in Minsk acknowledged that they see what the United States and its...
Economist: World Bank forecasts 5.5% economic growth for Armenia in 2024
The World Bank (WB) has released its Europe and Central Asia Economic Update, forecasting 5.5% and 4.9% economic growth for Armenia in 2024 and...
Russian city calls for a mass evacuation amid rising flood waters
Authorities in the Russian city of Orenburg called on residents to evacuate immediately on Friday due to rapidly rising flood waters after major...
Armenia's NSS urges people not to panic over hoax threats to Yerevan schools
Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) has urged people not to panic over false threats of terrorist attacks on Yerevan schools, warning...
Education minister dispels concerns over fake terror alert for Yerevan schools
Armenia’s Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport Zhanna Andreasyan on Friday dispelled concerns over a false alert of terrorist...
Yerevan court hands down jail term to opposition activist Narek Malyan
A first instance court in Yerevan on Friday handed down a one-year prison sentence to opposition activist, writer and publicist Narek Malyan....
Minsk hosts meeting of CIS Council of Foreign Ministers
The foreign ministers of the CIS member states honored the victims of the terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall with a minute of silence at...
Arman Tatoyan: Border issue cannot be separated from people
The issue of borders cannot be separated from people because it is precisely about ensuring their safety and security, claims former Armenian...
Armenian opposition votes against domestic violence bill using term 'partner'
Armenian opposition MPs on Friday voted against amendments to the domestic violence law introducing the concept of the “partner”....
Freedom House reports decline in Armenia's democratic governance rating
The Washington-based non-profit organization Freedom House found that democracy in Armenia regressed in 2023. "National...
False terror alert causes panic in Yerevan schools
A fake threat of terrorism has caused a panic in Yerevan schools since Friday morning. Many parents rushed to schools to take their children...
Senator Portantino leads efforts to include Armenian American representation in U.S. census
Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) led efforts this week to submit a letter to the White House urging President Biden to address...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}