- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2015

The U.S. should embed military advisers at the battalion level in Iraq and begin directly arming the nation’s Kurdish militias and Sunni tribal fighters, according a policy brief issued Thursday by an influential Washington think tank that asserts the Obama administration’s current efforts to counter the Islamic State are “not adequate to the task.”

“In the 11 months since President Barack Obama committed the United States to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), the group has expanded its international reach, metastasized to form offshoots across multiple regions, and increased its perceived momentum,” the brief states.

It was co-written by the center’s president, Richard Fontaine, and CEO Michelle Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official who the Obama administration had considered as a potential Defense Secretary nominee last year.

“Although U.S. government officials cite a reduction in the overall size of [ISIS‘] sanctuary in Iraq and Syria and the killing of thousands of ISIS fighters, the fall of Ramadi and much of Anbar province to the Islamic State served as a wakeup call,” the two wrote.

What’s worse, “the threat posed by the terrorist group to Americans at home and abroad appears to be growing, as ISIS-inspired individuals conduct attacks targeting Westerners around the globe, including here in the United States,” the policy brief states. “And the U.S. intelligence community reportedly assesses that despite almost a year of airstrikes, the Islamic State remains no weaker and no smaller in number than it was at the campaign’s outset.”

Mr. Fontaine is considered by many to be a Republican national security insider, having worked at the State Department and the National Security Council, and served as a senior adviser to Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, prior to joining the Center for New American Security.

Mrs. Flournoy, meanwhile, was an undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration between 2009 and 2012.

She was being considered to replace Chuck Hagel as the administration’s defense secretary last year, but then she withdrew herself from the running. The post ultimately went to Ashton Carter, a former theoretical physicist who had briefly served as Mr. Hagel’s second-in-command.

Thursday’s policy brief offers a host of suggestions for policy adjustments that the authors say will strengthen the administration’s strategy for defeating ISIS in its strongholds of Syria and Iraq. Among the more explicit recommendations are as follows:

• Intensify U.S. diplomacy behind an integrated political-military plan for Iraq.

• Provide arms directly to Sunni tribes and the Kurdish peshmerga.

• Embed U.S. military advisers at the battalion level in Iraq and deploy forward air controllers to call in close air support.

• Eliminate key restrictions on aid to the Syrian opposition.

• Employ a “tourniquet strategy” around Syria while setting conditions before any attempt at political settlement there.

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