The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, says that "ground troops are necessary" to defeat ISIS. "But," Power insisted this morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, "they're not going to be American ground troops."
"The president has been very clear: the form of struggle against ISIL is not going to look like the deployment of thousands of American ground troops and so forth. Right now we do have some troops on the ground but they're performing a training and advising role," said Power.
"Ground troops are necessary but they are not going to be American ground troops. You have to get the Iraqis and ultimately the Syrian moderate opposition groups up so they can fight the fight on the ground. There has to be a fight on the ground. You can't do this by air. Everybody acknowledges that.
"We also saw having deployed so many troops over so many years that unless the Iraqis congeal and have a kind of inclusive political system and have the military capability on the ground, anything we do is going to be stop gap. So it requires more patience and it's really is going to require more time because the troops are not in a state yet to do the full rollback and to sustain the gains that they make. But they have to get there. There's no work around the fact that the Iraqi army has to be the central part of this solution."
Power went on to say that "at this point" she doesn't see a scenerio where American ground troops would need to be in an "enduring" effort to defeat ISIS.
President Obama said that American troops in are "in a war environment" fighting the Islamic State and that the men and women in the military are in "harm's way." He made the comments this evening on 60 Minutes:
"You know, you've said no American boots on the ground, no combat troops on the ground," said 60 Minutes host Steve Kroft. "We've got 1,600 troops there.
Robert Gates, President Obama's first defense secretary, said this morning on CBS that President Obama's strategy for defeating the Islamic State is unrealistic:
"The reality is, they're not going to be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces or the Peshmerga or the Sunni tribes acting on their own," said Gates.
We're at war. We're putting boots on the ground. We're not waiting around for the host nation's government to get its affairs in order, or for a regional coalition to commit first. The president has apparently overcome his reluctance to use the military, his worries about a commitment to intervene without an exit strategy, and his usual reluctance to acknowledge (even implicitly) that his administration was wrong when it assured us that there was nothing much for us to worry about.
John Kerry argued that it doesn't really make a difference if we call U.S. action against ISIS a "war." He criticized the "tortured debate" this morning on CBS:
"Mr. Secretary, thank you so much," said CBS host Bob Schieffer. "Can I clear up one thing first. This week you went to some lengths to say you wouldn't call this a war, but yet at the Pentagon and at the State Department even they were saying we are at war with ISIS. Are we at war?"
On Wednesday, the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Obama will speak to the American people about his strategy for dealing with the rise of the Islamic State, the would-be caliphate bestriding Iraq and Syria, the most palpable and present threat to the region since Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and, later, Kuwait.
President Obama spoke about ISIS at length in his Meet the Press interview this morning, but he didn't offer much clarity as to what he's going to do about ISIS. One might say he's learned from bitter experience not to lay down red lines, and that he 's being purposefully vague.
All options are not on the table as President Obama figures out how to deal with the ongoing situation in Iraq. The president promised not to send U.S. troops back "into combat in Iraq."
"We will not be sending U.S. forces back into combat in Iraq but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq's security forces. And I'll be reviewing those options in the days ahead," said Obama.
The Obama administration is facing mounting questions about the controversial prisoner swap that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from jihadists in Pakistan in exchange for the transfer and ultimate release of five senior Taliban commanders previously held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.