- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2015

The Pentagon’s former top spy warned Friday that U.S. leaders will need to engage in a level of ideological focus and long-term power projection not seen since World War II if they want to defeat the Islamic State and the myriad of other jihadist groups spreading from the Middle East deep into Africa today.

“There is no cheap way to win this fight,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of Defense Intelligence Agency. “We have to energize every element of national power, similar to the effort during World War II, or during the Cold War, to effectively resource what will likely be a multigenerational struggle.”

In remarks before the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Flynn called on Congress think in such big terms as it debates how to respond to President Obama’s request this week for a new war powers resolution that will ultimately shape the way U.S. forces confront the Islamic State — also known as ISIL and ISIS — and other jihadist groups during the coming years.

“This authorization should be broad and agile, but unconstrained by unnecessary restrictions, restrictions that today cause not only frustration in our our military, our intelligence and our diplomatic communities, but also significantly slow down the decision-making process for numerous fleeting opportunities,” the former general said.

He added, however, that “such an authorization is neither a comprehensive strategy, nor a war-winning one.”

“If there is not a clear, coherent, and comprehensive strategy forthcoming from the administration, there should be no authorization,” Gen. Flynn said.

His assertion was backed by William Braniff, an analyst at the University of Maryland, who argued that the Obama administration’s current strategy of focusing on expanding the counterterrorism capacities of partner nations across the globe has so far struggled to quell the surge in terrorist attacks carried out by a host of different groups during recent years.

“If you compare the most violent terrorist organizations in 2013 to those in 2014, the level of violence from ISIL, the Taliban, Shabaab, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Tariki Taliban [in] Pakistan have increased,” said Mr. Braniff, who heads the university’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

“Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya have all experienced increases in terrorist violence,” Mr. Braniff said. “Pakistan is the only sort of affected nation which has seen a decrease out of the countries where Al Qaeda and its associated movement are active.”

“We have seen a year-on-year increase over the last 12 months and over the 12 months before that and the 12 months before that,” he added, asserting that “the partial explanation is that a lot of the strategy now focuses on trying to build capabilities of partner nations to deal with this issue, and that’s a slow process, and so things may get worse before they get — get better.”

“That’s an opportunistic read of the of the scenario,” Mr. Braniff said. “A pessimistic read of the scenario is that these organizations have enjoyed greater safe haven in a post-Arab Spring world and have seized on the less stable governments and are exploiting that safe haven.”

Rep. Adam Smith, Washington Democrat and the Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, suggested that he agreed with the testimony, but said “part of the problem with the threat is it is not easy to define, and it is not easy to put a strategy around.”

“Post-9/11, we saw al Qaeda as a terrorist group with a centralized leadership that was plotting and planning attacks against us, and I think we responded accordingly to try and defeat that organization, to try and defeat that network, and did a reasonably effective job of it in Afghanistan and in Pakistan as we prevented that group from being able to mount further attacks against us,” Mr. Smith said.

“That’s the positive,” he said. “The negative is that the ideology itself has metastasized. It has grown into a number of groups … and even more than that, in a lot of different places. And the root cause is a lack of solid governance, lack of solid economic opportunity in the Middle East, in North Africa, and — and much of the Arab Muslim world.”

“We need a long-term strategy,” Mr. Smith said. “This is a long-term ideological struggle, not something that we can say, you know, we’re determined to defeat it, so let’s just suck it up and three or four years from now it will be done. It took 75 years to defeat communism. I think we have to figure out how to have a long-term strategy for dealing with this ideology.”

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