Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno argued that defeating ISIS is impossible without “people on the ground.”
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, Odierno explained, “we have to build trust in the Middle East” and agreed with host Joe Scarborough’s assessment that Gulf States say, “‘We’re not going to go there [and fight ISIS] because if we do, you guys aren’t gonna be behind us.'”
Regarding bombing ISIS into submission, Odierno argued, “It’s not going to happen, it’s never happened in history, it’s not going to happen now.”
Odierno explained, “I get frustrated on this thing about ‘no boots on the ground.’ Well, we have boots on the ground. They’re special operations forces, there are soldiers, and I think we have to have a short-term plan which allows our people to get on the ground. You can’t defeat ISIS, or destroy ISIS without having people on the ground.”
“I’m [a] proponent of putting special operations forces down,” Odierno explained. “We always talk about intelligence. The intelligence we’re missing is the intelligence that you gain on the ground. We can get electronic intelligence, we can get other intelligence from feeds, from video feeds, but we need human intelligence. In order to do that, you got to get people on the ground to develop the networks that are necessary, both in Iraq and Syria.”
“In the long term, what surprised me is how little conversation we’ll have about building a coalition. What a better time to build a coalition with European allies, with our partners in the Middle East, to put a force in, in the long term that will defeat ISIS, with U.S. leading and with some U.S. troops involved in the process?” Odierno asked.
Scarborough agreed insisting, “General, you’re so right. … We’ve always had to drag the French along. We’ve always had to drag our European neighbors along. We’ve always had to drag the Middle East along, but Bush 41 did it. But now, what an extraordinary opportunity for this president, for this administration to put together an extraordinary coalition of the willing and have them fight for their future with our help.”
Odierno responded, “We have to build some trust in the Middle East. … Now the president can do it.”
Odierno then brought up the Iranian nuclear deal and suggested, “With a nuclear deal you got to build relationships with Saudi Arabia, we have to refocus on Egypt, UAE, and these countries can help us and we’ve got to refocus our efforts.
“You say, we have to rebuild trust,” Scarborough said. “I’ve heard, can you explain over the past three or four years, I hear time and time again, from the Gulf Region, them saying, ‘We’re not going to go there because if we do, you guys aren’t gonna be behind us.'”
“Yeah, that’s part of it,” Odierno explained. “Remember, everything that happens in the Middle East has to do with Shia, Sunni, which basically comes out Iran, Saudi Arabia and a lot of other countries. So that’s the fundamental, underlying fabric of what goes on in the Middle East. So you got to understand that. So with the nuclear deal with Iran, you’ve now got to rebuild relations with countries like Saudi Arabia and others.”
Scarborough followed up and asked if the Iranian nuclear deal “feeds into ISIS’s narrative but could it become at a worse time strategically?”
“Yeah,” said Odierno. “It affects what’s going on on the ground. It effects people in what they’re going to do, what they want to do. And that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. You know, the king, the old King of Saudi Arabia was upset with us that Malaki was in power. So it goes way back. It goes back to President Bush. I mean, so we’ve got to rebuild these relationships, and we’ve got to lead and they’ve got to believe that we’re going to do what we say.”