‘Surge’ architects want US ground troops in Iraq to wash out ISIS



Speaking to lawmakers, retired Army officers and think tank officials who engineered the 2006 US “surge” in Iraq advocated a return of US ground troops to the region, lamenting the fall of Ramadi as a strategic setback in the war on Islamic State.

General John M. “Jack”
Keane and Colonel Derek Harvey, both retired, joined Frederick
Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Brian
Katulis of the Center for American Progress (CAP) before the
Senate Armed Services committee on Thursday. Committee chairman
John McCain (R-Arizona) noted that Keane and Kagan were
architects of the 2007 “surge” of US forces in Iraq. Harvey
helped implement the program on the ground.

“We are not only failing, we are losing this war,” said
Keane, who previously served as Vice Chief of Staff of the US
Army. With the fall of Ramadi, Islamic State (IS, formerly
ISIS/ISIL) fighters have secured control over the Euphrates River
from Baghdad to the Turkish border, he said, adding that the US’
“conceptual plan is fundamentally flawed.”

“ISIS is on the offense, with the ability to attack at will,
anyplace, anytime,”
said Keane. The radical group is
“expanding beyond Iraq and Syria into Sinai, Yemen, Libya and
Afghanistan. They are also inspiring and motivating radical
sympathizers throughout the world.”

Yet the US and its allies have “no ground force, which is the
defeat mechanism. Air power will not defeat ISIS. It has not been
able to deny ISIS freedom of maneuver and the ability to attack
at will.”

Keane urged the lawmakers to “get past” the questions of
whether the US should have gone into Iraq in 2003 or retreated in
2011. In his view, Washington ought to send material aid and
advisers to Sunni tribal militias and Kurdish fighters as soon as
possible, while planning to deploy US combat brigades into Iraq
and Syria in the near future.

“We [have] no strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria,” he
argued. “Syria is ISIS’ sanctuary. We cannot succeed in Iraq
if ISIS is allowed to maintain that sanctuary in Syria.”

READ MORE: ISIS claims full control of Ramadi
after Iraqi troops abandon positions (VIDEO)

Fred Kagan agreed that a US troop presence will be necessary in
what he termed was a regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and
Iran, fought mainly by proxies. Today the US is in a worse
strategic position in the region than in 2006, Kagan said, adding
that Iraqi forces are barely capable of holding the line, let
alone going on the offensive against Islamic State. Retaking
Ramadi will be difficult enough, and taking Mosul this year – as
the Pentagon hoped to accomplish – will be impossible, Kagan

“I see a coherent enemy strategy across the region,”
Kagan warned, adding that Islamic State is not just a terrorist
organization, but a capable military threat. He accused IS of
mass murder, slavery, and mass rape, calling them “a group of
unfathomable evil.”

“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 maybe we can negotiate with down the road someday.
This is a group that is committed to the destruction of
everything decent in the world.”

Kagan urged lawmakers to repeal the sequester, significantly
increase the military budget, and resist calls to dismantle
surveillance and espionage programs – obliquely referring to Rand
Paul’s 10-hour filibuster against the NSA on Wednesday – as those
were “significant to national security.”

“We need to have 15-20,000 US troops on the ground to provide
the necessary enablers, advisers and so forth,”
Kagan said.
“Anything less than that is simply unserious.”

Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s al-Anbar province, fell to Islamic
State fighters on Monday. Forces loyal to the Iraqi government
fled the city, abandoning their US-supplied weapons and
equipment. On Wednesday, IS fighters reportedly captured the
ancient ruins of Palmyra, a UNESCO cultural landmark in Syria.

Originally known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),
the group emerged from the chaos following the 2011 rebellion
against the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

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