Obama: No more US troops to fight Daesh/ ISIL, but more Training

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

President Obama on Monday went for a briefing at the Pentagon on the fight against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). In remarks afterwards, he acknowledged that training of Iraqi troops has been going much slower than originally envisaged (about 5,000 have been trained in the past year, and at that rate it would take 5 years just to reach parity numerically with the 25,000 foreign volunteers with Daesh.

Obama also admitted that training of “moderate” rebels in Syria to take on Daesh has not gotten off the ground as quickly as he expected. One problem, according to Reuters, is that the US wants to vet the Syrian irregulars, and is having a difficult time telling whether volunteers are actually “moderate.” Less than 100 are now being trained.

Obama also pledged increased attempts to combat Daesh’s online propaganda and to ensure that Americans are not enticed into the terrorist organization. He pledged to put Treasury Dept. sanctions on Daesh supporters. Although he denied it, this counter-terrorism initiative in the US will almost certainly involve greater monitoring of Muslim-Americans (a violation of the Constitution).

Meanwhile in Syria, Daesh has fired the governor of Raqqa Province (its seat) and many local commanders, and instructed its guerrillas to change tactics. This shake-up has allowed Daesh to retake the village of Ain Eissa near its capital of Raqqa, in an attempt to forestall an attack on its capital. There is even talk of it mounting a campaign to take back the border town of Tel Al-Abyad from the Kurds, who conquered it from Daesh/ ISIL recently. This advance on the ground came despite intensive US bombing of Raqq the past couple of days.

In short, the Obama administration’s main strategies against Daesh don’t seem to be going very well in Syria, despite the remarkable advance of the Kurds into Tel al-Abyad. Daesh has taken back Ain Issa and is threatening Tel al-Abyad. The intensive bombing of Raqqa doesn’t seem to have slowed them down (I remember when they were supposedly crippling the Viet Cong with intensive bombing). And Obama is training less that 100 ‘moderate’ rebels. On the other hand, Obama stresses that he is playing a long game here.


Related video:

VOANews: “Obama Vows to Intensify Fight Against Islamic State in Syria”

20 Responses

  1. The record of our successes in the middle east stands at zero unless you view our ventures through the eyes of the Netanyahu and John McCain who see Arabs slaughtering Arabs and general chaos amongst Arab nations as success. Best we stay at arms length.

  2. This seems to be the end of the “Do Something” strategy that the US has persued in the Middle East. We have done just about everything to make things go our way but they all have failed. Of course “doing something” has an effect, just not the effect that we want. After a decade and a half this strategy has been exhausted.

    When we do something we are taking sides and the other side naturally considers us the enemy. They then “take the war to the enemy” as any good military commander would do. Hence we have the terrorism in America and Europe.

    The solution should be obvious; get out! Want to stop terrorism? Get out! How much terrorism does Brazil suffer? Are they involved militarily in the Middle East? There should be a lesson there.

  3. Not our fight. Since the neighbors in the region have priorities greater than Daesh, so do we. Iraq is not about to change, solidify, and destroy the Daesh. The government seems perfectly willing to cede territory, rather than take the necessary steps. That’s their problem.

  4. The video of the area retaken from Daesh in Iraq shows how much progress Iraqis and Kurds have made since Obama’s bombing campaign started. Mucho progress, IMO. Obama doesn’t need to send more troops. How long do you think Daesh will be able to stay in Iraq? A year? Two?

    That’s why the video and press conference were mostly about fighting Daesh in Syria.

    Syria is harder for several reasons. The Kurds don’t control as much area, Assad is a war criminal and the whole place is a killing field/madhouse. Syria is no longer a country. It’s a place on a map.

  5. The conclusion of this article seems to imply the US should be doing more, but doesn’t outright state it or specify what that ‘more’ should be, while at the same time dismissing the current bombing and training efforts.

  6. ‘training of Iraqi troops has been going much slower than originally envisaged’ … ‘training of “moderate” rebels in Syria to take on Daesh has not gotten off the ground as quickly as he expected.’

    It’s past time to get rid of the people who have been doing the unreliable training, envisaging, and expecting.

    • folks who talk about “training local forces” as a way to stop and push ISIL back must have little understanding of what soldiering and fighting are about.

      I can teach a guy to operate and care for an assault rifle in 15 minutes.

      I can teach a small unit leader to coordinate the efforts of a squad or platoon in a coupla weeks.

      What I cannot teach is motivation to fight for a cause that the fighters do not believe in,
      no matter how much time I have.

      • THIS IS THE KEY PROBLEM that no one seems to understand.

        The problem with fighting ISIS is NOT a technical problem that can be “fixed” with training, BUT an emotional problem that will require massive cultural changes that training can NOT accomplish.

        No amount of “war toys” and technical training can compensate for lack of will to fight.

        Many Sunnis in western Iraq and parts of Syria see ISIS as the lesser of many very bad evils, That is, none of the Sunni alternatives are seen as “better” than ISIS and the Shia are definitely not a “better” alternative.

        The reality is Iraq and Syria are artificial countries created by the French and British empires that must go through the very painful de-colonization process. The USA does nothing but prolong the process by trying to “train” one faction.

  7. Obama should prevent Turkey from allowing ISIS to transit its borders for supplies. Is Turkey not a Nato Country? Oh, while he’s at it, tell Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel to stop aiding ISIS as well.

    Treason to aid the enemy?

  8. NBC Nightly News…One more time…McCain is blasting Obama over Daesh and Gen. Dempsey is warning about Iran. If Obama backed away from Daesh, the Republican conga line down Pennsylvania ave., would be five miles long. John McCain would be singing “Barbara Ann” and who could blame him? Does Bibi like the Beach Boys?

  9. “It’s past time to get rid of the people who have been doing the unreliable training, envisaging, and expecting.”

    The US has such a great record of “training” these proxy armies going clear back to the South Vietnamese Army.

    • Exactly. American managerial-style warfare backed by endless resources and a ponderous supply chain just don’t seem to be winning strategies anywhere, not even for the US since, oh, 1945.

      I mean, sure, we can kick a Grenada or Panama’s butt and break countries like Iraq, but we are miserable at taking on an asymmetrical enemy or training unmotivated troops from a foreign culture.

  10. Forty-five ISIL Takfiri terrorists have been killed by eating poisoned food in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while dozens of others have been taken to hospital.

    A young man from Mosul doctored their iftar prepared for the terrorists with the deadly poison and managed to kill 45 of them and send 100 others to hospital, some of them reportedly in critical condition, Iraqi local sources said on Tuesday.

    Deserves a medal? link to presstv.ir

  11. “Training of moderate rebels in Syria to take of Daesh has not gotten off the ground as quickly as expected.”

    Training isn’t the problem. Neither is motivation. Finding and vetting enough “moderate” rebels is the real problem. So far, we have found less than one hundred “moderate” Syrians. We are training ALL of them. Who will they be fighting–Daesh, Assad or both?

    This bullshit about training moderate Syrians not getting off the ground is just as excuse to make Obama look incompetent so Republicans like McCain and Graham can get what they really want—American troops in Syria. Yesterday, both of them were on the warpath. Tens of thousands of American boots on the ground in Syria is the real motivation.

    McCain and Graham want a BIG number since they’ll have to fight Daesh and then Assad. Long term occupation of Syria will take one or possibly more decades.

  12. The US spent billions training the Iraq army, but at the first wiff of grapeshot 25,000 dropped their arms and ran away.
    How much time do the Jihadis need to train? Apparently no time at all. The US are not serious about stopping the Islamic state, if they were, they would pressure Turkey to close the border, and tell the Saudis to stop funding them.
    And how come the US can read a car number plate from space, and yet can’t spot thousands of Jihadis driving across the desert from Syria in 100’s of new Toyota pick up trucks to attack major Iraqi cities. They must think we are all stupid.

    • You ask all the right questions.
      Unluckily, the only answer we get to have is that ISIL is one mean, fierce, juggernaut.

  13. It is asinine that the US tries to train some fictitious moderate Syrian rebels, rather than to back the one successful non-sectarian force that can actually make a difference i.e. the Kurds.

  14. Walmart should open up a store in Baghdad and send their Confederate Battle Flags to the Iraqi army, no charge. Either that, or they could just have McCain and Lindsey Graham deliver them.

  15. I can’t help but suspect that perhaps this is just the sort of stalemate that serves powerful interests all around. Syrian fanatics keep the state weak and unable to oppose Israeli ventures and makes life hard for Hezbollah. The Turks get to flex their regional muscles but not risk deeper involvement. The US gets the same benefits as Turkey and Israel. And if the worst happens and ISIL or another unattractive group ousts Assad, so much the better, any of these three powers has a ready-made excuse to intervene more directly without risking world or internal dissent to the same degree as otherwise would be the case. I think the Syrian people are being sacrificed to the Machiavellian maneuverings of the outside powers (plus the ever-meddlesome Saudis).

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