On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee convened a hearing to evaluate and scrutinize the effectiveness of the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. General Jack Keane, who was the first witness to testify, argued that the fall of Ramadi signals—and indeed proves—that the Obama administration's current strategy in the region has failed.
“While there has been some progress and some success, looking at this strategy today, we know now that the conceptual plan is fundamentally flawed,” he stated. “The resources provided to support Iraq are far from adequate. The timing and urgency to provide arms, equipment, and training is insufficient. And as such we are not only failing, we are losing this war.”
“Moreover, I can say with certainty that this strategy will not defeat ISIS,” he added.
And yet, he also explained the importance of defeating ISIS in Syria, which is where the group is headquartered and carries out its operations.
“We have no strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria,” he intoned. “We have no ground force which is [how we defeat them].”
“Yes we have air power,” he added, “but air power will not defeat ISIS. It has not been able to deny ISIS freedom of maneuver or the ability to attack at will. Syria is ISIS’ sanctuary. We cannot succeed in Iraq if ISIS is allowed to maintain that sanctuary in Syria.”
Worse, Keane argued, ISIS is rapidly expanding their baleful influence into other regions of the world.
“ISIS is expanding beyond Iraq and Syria into Sinai, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan,” he intoned. “They are also inspiring and motivating radical sympathizers throughout the world.”
“Yet there is no strategy with our allies to counter that expansion,” he continued. “I would go farther to say that there is no strategy to counter the destabilization of the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Frederick Kagan—who is perhaps most famous for helping devise President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy—also testified before the committee, noting that ISIS is probably the gravest threat of the 21st century.
“This is not a terrorist organization,” he said. “This is an army that is conducting military maneuvers on an operational level with a great deal of skill. It is not an accident that Ramadi fell over the weekend and Palmyra fell yesterday.”
“This was a coherent campaign plan and a very intelligent one—very well executed,” he continued. “What I can’t discern from the daily operations, let alone from the statements from the administration, is any coherent American strategy to respond to this threat.”
He also argued—compellingly—that ISIS poses a significant and serious national security threat to the United States.
“ISIS is one of the most evil organizations that has ever existed in the world,” he said. “We really have to reckon with that. This is not a minor annoyance. This is not a group that we can maybe negotiate with down the road someday. This is a group that is committed to the destruction of everything decent in the world.”
“This is a group that sells captives into slavery—it’s a major source of financing for them,” he added. “This is a group that engages in mass rape. This is a group that conducts mass murder. And this is a group that is calling for and condoning and supporting and encouraging lone wolf attacks—and it will soon, I think, not be just lone wolf attacks—in the United States and the West. This is a group of unfathomable evil, and unfortunately they are extremely effective. And they have a degree of military capability, not terrorist capability, that we have not seen before in an al Qaeda organization. This is not something where we should be spectators."