- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Wednesday that President Obama’s strategy for dealing with the Islamic State needs to change.

“I think first of all we need to change the rules of engagement for our troops. I think we don’t need a significant increase in troops in my view, but how they’re used needs to be changed,” Mr. Gates said on “CBS This Morning” when asked about the perception that the Sunni radical terror group is winning in Iraq.

The CBS panel also asked Mr. Gates why 165 U.S.-led airstrikes in the past month have seemingly had little to no lasting effect on the Islamic State group.

“I think what it shows is that airstrikes can certainly help, but they don’t really change the situation on the ground in a fundamental way. They are an important aspect of a military campaign, but you can’t do it all just by air power. … We have a long way to go with the Iraqi security forces,” Mr. Gates said, CBS reported.

Mr. Gates, who served as Defense Secretary under both George W. Bush and Mr. Obama, also told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday that he believed pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 was a mistake.

“I think even had there been no ISIS that it would have been far better for us to maintain some presence, some troop presence in Iraq for a much longer period of time,” Mr. Gates said. “Our presence there gave us access and gave us influence. We were able to constrain Maliki’s worst instincts. We were able to ensure that the leadership of the Iraqi security services was based on competence and merit.

“And once we left, all of the generals that we had trained and that we had helped select were all fired and replaced by a bunch of political hacks,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest disagreed with critics of Mr. Obama’s strategy earlier in the week, telling ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that the president’s plan is succeeding.

“We’ve also seen a coalition of 60 nations within the region and around the world join the U.S in this fight. We’ve seen a new Prime Minister take office in Iraq and unite that country and deploy a multi-sectarian security force against [the Islamic State] that has succeeded in liberating important areas of Diyala, Ninevah, Babel, Kirkuk provinces,” Mr. Earnest said, Real Clear Politics reported.

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