Home » Aviation » HASC’s McKeon: ‘Go All-In Now’ Against ISIS

HASC’s McKeon: ‘Go All-In Now’ Against ISIS

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Reuters Photo

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Reuters Photo

While generally supporting President Barack Obama’s announced strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he wants, “our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later. . . . Fortune favors the bold.”

Speaking on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) added, “I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kurdistan tomorrow.”

McKeon said the more dangerous course is waiting, and the United States has to realize that the jihadists pose a serious and imminent threat to the United States now. He told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think-tank, that in Iraq “Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There’s simply no other way to do this. This strategy isn’t without risk. Neither is the president’s. It would be wrong to sell it that way to the American people.”

While saying the “American people have really switched from ‘don’t do anything’ to ‘go after them'” to defeat the Islamic State, McKeon, who is staking out a position that is more aggressive than those of many of his Republican colleagues, said in answer to a question, “We are trying to see what the mood of the Congress is,” even in taking up a Saudi Arabian offer to provide training space. “It’s a day-today thing right now” as to whether Congress will act on it. He noted that there were no other bills before the House covering the crisis in the Middle East.

Among the steps the president announced in a prime-time address Wednesday were sending 475 more military advisers to Iraq, assisting moderate Syrians who oppose the regime of Bashar al Assad and conducting air strikes in Syria. Great Britain and Germany have expressed reservations about their nations’ participation in air strikes in Syria. Obama said he already had the necessary authority to take these steps without further congressional approval. The latest moves would mean that about 1,700 Americans would be assigned to support the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces and provide security for U.S. citizens in Iraq, including its Kurdish region.

McKeon said that to defeat the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the strategy couldn’t be one a serial approach—first in Iraq and then moving on to Syria. “We must kick ISIL hard in both Iraq and Syria at the same time.”

In response to another questioner, he said “ISIL is the best led” of the extremist groups s threatening the United States and operating in an area vital to the nation’s and its allies’ interests. Starting with the seizure of bank assets in Mosul, it also is well-financed—from illegal oil sales he estimated at $85 million per month and ransoms. It is also gaining the support of about 500 foreign fighters per month. Defense estimates have put the size of its total force at between 10,000 and 20,000. “Their goal is to take us back to the area they call the Levant . . . eliminate all the borders (as already done in Syria and Iraq) . . . and form this huge caliphate to breed and foster and send [their ideology] around the world. Daily, they are still adding territory,” he said.

Counterterrorism “has not stopped the growth of ISIL and the spread of terrorist groups in the region. . . . Defeating ISIL is the only option on the table,” McKeon said.

Key to success is to have Sunni moderates reject ISIL, which has its roots in the al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003. “ISIL is a Sunni movement. . . . The Sunnis must have reason to believe that we have their back if they stick their necks out with ISIL. They must believe they have a future politically in Iraq.”

He added his plan expects more American “boots will be standing in the sand” than special forces trainers sent to strengthen the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga, the defense force of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. He said his plan did not envision a corps-size or division-size commitment, but it would be a long-term, sustained presence.

McKeon said the goal was to increase the ability of Iraqis and Syrian moderates “to raise to the capabilities” they need to succeed. He added that meant the United States using its intelligence skills, logistics strengths, and planning abilities to assist them and allies and partners in the area for this fight. “We want to help them win their fight. . . . [The United States] is not going in to take over.”

McKeon said this can’t be another counterterrorist operation. “If we want ISIL defeated, we need them encircled. Any strategy that allows ISIL to squirt out into Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey will only make the fight more difficult.”

“A coalition on the ground and in the air, backed by the enabling capabilities of the United States will be required.” Citing Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s insistence on planning for victory from D-Day forward, McKeon said, “This is no light lift.”

  • Diogenes

    Someone probably knows why this article is in this particular journal. Perhaps it is because the only troops immediately available into get into the burgeoning fray are US Marines floating offshore. Currently they are on alert to repel any ISIL force that manages to get its Toyotas into the Med. If that is the correct assumption the much respected former editor has found a willing voice for making a badly disguised political pitch on behalf of some folks rip-roaring to get the US in another conflict feet first. Granted ISIL must go and the US will undoubtedly lead the effort, but what is implied in this report is much more insightful. Even before the air war proviso laid out by the President has gotten earnestly underway it is being enlivened by demands for more troops on the ground. Mr. Grady seems to be saying the alleged need to creep forward into the mission parameters currently being grown at the Puzzle Palace are in danger of giving way to just-dive-in thinking, a component of the popular bomb now – think later strategy. If Congressman Buck McKeon is correctly represented he is saying HASC needs to be ready to endorse sending more troops quicker than provided by historical/typical mission creep strategies. No doubt the Marines are ready, even if the public isn’t. If the US military is looking for public support offering scuffed footwear isn’t it. Someone must guard against our troops quickly moving from mission creep to mission muddle at the risk of their lives. lives.

  • Ruckweiler

    Coalition? The lightweights who have declared will not risk much awaiting the US, as usual, to carry the load. Leading is another thing what with the Boy Blunder in the White House.

  • Dave_TX

    The beheadings were intended to provoke to US to respond in the manner that McKeon is demanding. The people in the region are the ones who have to beat ISIS. Going all in will be a great recruiting tool for ISIS and will provide lots of media coverage of the Great Satan killing civilians even though it’s ISIS tactic of hiding among the civilian population that leads to those deaths, aside from ISIS directly killing many.

    Beyond eliminating ISIS what is the desired geopolitical outcome of the proposed campaign? The US does not want to see the Iranian sphere of influence reach from the Arabian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. The US has already stated that it wants the Assad regime to fall. There is a rush to spend $500M on arms for “moderate” groups. How is the US supposed to differentiate between the “moderate” and “extremist” rebels in Syria? What Sunni group is prepared to take over Syria? We have not been able to force anybody in the wide region to successfully develop into a Jeffersonian Democracy because they are not culturally prepared to do so. Will the rise of another strongman be acceptable, especially given the high probability that the strongman and his backers will be Islamists?

    There are no good answers to the century and millennia old problems at the heart of the ISIS problem. Conquering Iraq in 2003 opened Pandora’s Box. Going all out against ISIS will likely blow the lid of Pandora’s Box off its hinges.

  • disqus_89uuCprLIv

    If air power is to hamstring ISIS then it ought to be open season on anything that is military- particularly Ex-US equipment. If if is visible, no matter where, no matter when, the ROE should MANDATE a strike.

    After some time doing that, we should pass the word that any vehicle -donkey carts included- are targets and are assumed to be occupied by ISIS murderers and will be struck.

    ISIS wants to go back to the 6th century, we should help them to do so by removing modern conveyances from their society.