A Real Counterterror Strategy

Recently, the State Department reported ISIS as a prominent threat, not the JV team as President Obama referred to them. Through messaging, its ability to inspire lone wolf attacks, and its expansion into Iraq, Syria, and Libya, it has evolved into an enemy that must be dealt with. American Thinker interviewed two former CIA directors to get their opinion of this terrorist organization and the Iraqi situation.

Both the Left and some Republicans like Rand Paul blame the Republican hawks for ISIS’ emergence. But this is a false narrative. Mike Morrell, former CIA Director and author of The Great War Of Our Time, explained to American Thinker, “Al Qaeda took root and grew with the occupation in Iraq. The decisions by Ambassador Paul Bremer, the destruction of the Iraqi security service, intelligence service, and military, created a vacuum that allowed the insurgency to thrive. Then there is the other part of the story, the U.S. military leaving Iraq in 2011. At that time Al Qaeda in Iraq was at its weakest point, but they started to rebound as soon as we left. Former Prime Minister Maliki made a whole bunch of bad political decisions that ended up alienating Sunnis, disenfranchising them, and you have moderate Sunnis joining Al Qaeda there. And then Al Qaeda in Iraq goes into Syria, and changed their name to ISIS. And they got even stronger.”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden agrees that the Iraqi army today is different than in 2011. He also blames Maliki because many of the “officers we trained were kicked out by the prime minister and replaced by Shiite political hacks.  All he cared about was Shiite control.  He never became the prime minister of all Iraqis.”

Furthermore, Hayden feels Americans should stop fooling themselves since “Iraq is gone and not coming back. There is no government in this country. In Iraq the government is only a government of the Shiites and nothing more. This means we have to look out for our own interests and quit kidding ourselves that what we are doing is restoring Iraq. We are not fighting to recover Iraq, but rather to defend ourselves. Iraq no longer exists.”

According to Hayden, America must be aware that there are multiple wars going on within Islam: Sunni vs. Shiite and Sunni vs. Sunni. This view is supported by the UN report describing the gruesome actions of ISIS. These include beheadings, killings of women, executions of Sunni Muslim clerics for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS, and the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi soldiers. Because of this, Hayden believes America needs to concentrate on defending its own interests and friends in the area, and not worry about supporting the supposed Iraqi government. “Our best interests are not allowing ISIS to get a foothold. Although the Obama Administration has said they will degrade and defeat ISIS, the best strategy is to contain them, but frankly I don’t think they are doing that very well either.”

Both former directors do not agree with General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General Vincent R. Stewart. Dempsey would not deploy small numbers of American troops to the front lines just to stiffen the Iraqi army’s spine, while Stewart believes Iraq has become a quagmire. Hayden noted this does not have to be the case, since “we can support the Kurds directly and not worry about the sensitivities of the so-called government of Baghdad. We don’t need their permission to do this. Let’s not pretend there is an army of the government of Iraq. It is only a Shiite army.”

Morell agrees, commenting, “I love the Kurds. They are fighters, well trained, and do an amazing job. We should go all in with them and should consider them our friends. The CIA has always been a strong proponent for helping the Kurds.”

Hayden is also advocating for sending Special Forces to Iraq and tactical air control units. He recognizes the American pilots complaints and discontent about getting clearance to engage and carry out the air war against ISIS. Implementing these suggestions would help the pilots be more precise and more confident in their targeting.  “This would also give more confidence to the Sunni and Shiite armies fighting ISIS, and the Kurds would welcome stronger American leadership.”

Americans should not forget the presence of Iran, especially since they practice and support terrorism. Hayden regards this as a more serious long-term problem in Iraq than ISIS. “They are more powerful and we should not pretend Iran is a friend because ISIS is our enemy. I am saying the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy. It appears this administration’s policy toward Iran is to place as its top priority a nuclear deal for which we are prepared to make too many concessions.”

It is obvious that Al Qaeda is not decimated and ISIS is not being defeated. Michael Hayden best summarized it when he stated, “Although ISIS is not the kind of threat we saw on 9/11 they are still a very serious threat. This administration’s response with regard to ISIS has been late, light, and ineffective.”

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.