- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2015

Special operations forces are aggravated over being largely held back from the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Top U.S. special operations commanders say they are building forces for a multi-generational fight — not a war that will be won in the next few years.

“We recognize this is a longterm prospect,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the leader of U.S. Special Operations Command told The Daily Beast during a special operations forum in Tampa, Florida. “We’re patient.”

Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, who heads the Air Force Special Operations Command estimated that the fight could be “a 15-year struggle,” the Daily Beast reported Friday.

Special operations officers and troops in Tampa and Washington expressed their frustration over having to fight remotely in Iraq and Syria; advising Iraqis, Kurdish Peshmerga, and rebel Syrian fighters from afar instead of joining in the battle.

“We are doing everything through cellphones … It’s hard to do much when you can’t go outside the wire,” one special operator said, The Daily Beast reported.

SEE ALSO: James Mattis: U.S. suffering ‘strategic atrophy’ that says ‘we’re pulling back’ to allies

Special operators blame the hesitant strategy on an Obama administration that is unwilling to risk even small numbers of American lives, especially after the loss of four Americans in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2011.

The troops also said part of the problem is the administration’s intent on carrying out President Obama’s troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You can’t say ‘We’re with you every step of the way, except when you are going on combat operations,‘“a former senior special operations official told The Daily Beast.

Many of the officers at the Tampa conference said that both Mosul and Ramadi, the two cities taken over by the terrorist group, could have withstood the sieges if U.S. military advisers had been working with Iraqi forces on the ground.

“They know as long as there are Americans with them, that if they get in trouble, there is intelligence,” and medical evacuation, the former senior official said, the website reported. “They don’t have faith in their own chain of command to do it, so rather than being captured and slaughtered by ISIS, they’ll break and run.”

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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