On September 10th, President Obama addressed the nation and offered his official stance on the Islamic State, and American involvement in Iraq and in Syriagoing forward. In his address, the president vowed to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State. In order to accomplish this, the president called for the continuation of airstrikes, while at the same time saying that he would not send ground forces back into Iraq.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, stated his belief that the use of American ground forces would be necessary to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates weighed in on the topic, and appeared to agree with Gen. Dempsey. In an interview with CBS News on September 17th, Mr. Gates said that he believed that President Obama will need to send Americans boots on the ground to combat the Islamic State.
“The reality is, they”re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own,” Gates said in the interview. “So there will be boots on the ground if there”s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the U.S. won”t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”
While the former defense secretary admitted that he thinks the president’s plan is sound, Mr. Gates says that he feels that the president’s promise to destroy the Islamic State is unrealistic.
“I”m also concerned that the goal has been stated as degrade and destroy, or degrade and defeat ISIS,” Gates told CBS. “We”ve been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We have dealt them some terrible blows, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. But I don”t think anybody would say that after 13 years we’ve destroyed or defeated al Qaeda.”
Mr. Gates continued his point by saying:
“And so I think to promise that we”re going to destroy ISIS, or ISIL, sets a goal that may be unattainable, as opposed to devastating it, or whereas the vice president would put it, ”following ”em to the gates of hell”, and dealing them terrible blows that prevent them from holding territory. Those are probably realistic goals.”
For now, Americans watch with growing concern as American pilots continue their airstrikes against I.S. forces. As the conflict continues in Iraq and in Syria, many current service members face the possibility of a third campaign in Iraq since 1990.
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Military Connection: Robert Gates on Obama’s Plan: By Debbie Gregory