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Today’s Kara Mason reports from Washington, D.C.

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Airstrikes in Syria lead to debate over strategy

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., left, tells Ken Gude, senior fellow at the Center for American progress, that he agrees the U.S. should go after the Islamic State group but that President Barack Obama needs authorization from Congress first. SHFWire photo by Kara MasonClick on photo to enlarge or download: Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., left, tells Ken Gude, senior fellow at the Center for American progress, that he agrees the U.S. should go after the Islamic State group but that President Barack Obama needs authorization from Congress first. SHFWire photo by Kara Mason

 

WASHINGTON – Jihadist forces were sent running from a network of facilities in Syria after being hit with 14 airstrikes Monday and Tuesday, but there are still concerns about whether President Barack Obama’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group will be effective in the long and short term.

Several members of Congress have questioned whether the airstrikes are within the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which gave former President George W. Bush authority to go after al-Qaida after 9-11. Obama says the authorization gives any administration the ability to use force against terrorist cells related to al-Qaida.

“The president should not be doing this without Congress. Congress shouldn’t let this happen without Congress,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in a speech Tuesday at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Calling ISIL a perpetrator of 9-11 is torturing the English language.”

The Islamic State group has been associated with al-Qaida in the past, which gives Obama authority under the 2001 authorization, a senior official administration official said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.

“This is the same cast of characters we’ve had for many years,” the official said.

A staple in Obama’s strategy is a partnership with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, which helped carry out the airstrikes. With support in the region, Obama said in a speech last week, there would be no need for boots on the ground.

“The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone. Above all, the people and governments in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve,” Obama said in a statement Tuesday before departing for three days of meetings at the United Nations.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Fourteen airstrikes were carried out by the U.S. and regional partners Monday and Tuesday in the northern and eastern part of Syria controlled by the Islamic State group. Defense Department mapClick on photo to enlarge or download: Fourteen airstrikes were carried out by the U.S. and regional partners Monday and Tuesday in the northern and eastern part of Syria controlled by the Islamic State group. Defense Department map

 

With regional allies, Obama said the United States will not need to send soldiers to destroy the Islamic State group.

But former ambassador to Turkey and Iraq James Jeffrey said that might not get the job done.

The president’s use of the word destroy is interesting, said Jeffrey, the Philip Solondz distinguished visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in a forum at the institute on Monday.

“Defeat, of course, usually refers to a state or military force that can decide it’s taken enough lumps, it’s been driven off the field, or driven back, and it wants to stop fighting and go back and lick its wounds,” Jeffrey said. “The Iraqi army was defeated in February of 1991 – signed an agreement and pulled back. That’s not the kind of thing that’s going to happen with this group.”

To combat the Islamic State group, Jeffrey said the U.S and its allies must take back territory, which has happened in only a few places in Iraq.

The 14 targets that were hit in the strikes were very relevant, a senior administration official said on the conference call Tuesday after Obama spoke.

“We know we hit what we were aiming for,” he said.

Regaining territory shows the region the Islamic State group is losing control, and that’s very important, Jeffrey said. The 6 million to 8 million Sunnis the Islamic State group controls is a big military resource, especially with Obama’s promise not to send U.S. soldiers.

“Retaking the ISIS state, truly destroying it, is a task of an entirely different magnitude. This will require, eventually, a ground offensive by large formations of well-equipped forces. It’s hard to imagine those forces being trained, created and supported in the field, even with U.S. air power without U.S. boots on the ground,” Jeffrey said.

More than 40 nations have offered to help confront the Islamic State group by taking out terrorist targets, training and equipping opposition fighters and cutting off financing, Obama said.

Reach reporter Kara Mason at kara.mason@scripps.com or 202-408-1492. SHFWire Stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter​.

Reporter Kara Mason, interning with the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire in Washington, D.C.
Reporter Kara Mason, interning with the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire in Washington, D.C.