National Security

There’s A ‘Fundamental Problem’ With Obama’s Big New SOCOM Strategy

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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The Pentagon’s new plan to defeat Islamic State relies too heavily on U.S. Special Operations Command and does not address many of the fundamental problems plaguing the military’s effort to defeat the terrorist group, defense experts told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Pentagon is planning on restructuring the fight against ISIS to more heavily rely on U.S. Special Operations Command and centralize limited resources, drone aircraft, and funding, defense officials told The Wall Street Journal.

“Theoretically, it is a great idea but I don’t have high hopes for them actually changing the status quo,” Jack Murphy, an 8-year special forces veteran, told TheDCNF. “The new plan is a way to avoid talking about the deeper issue on the way combatant commands and areas of responsibility are structured,” Phillip Lohaus, resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said. Matthew McInnis, also a resident fellow at AEI, said the new plan “will improve some aspects of coordination and planning, but not fundamentally change how the department conducts counter-terrorism operations.”

Administration officials emphasized to the Wall Street Journal that U.S. Special Operations Command was not getting any additional power, simply more work.

Lohaus took issue with this claim, telling TheDCNF that “anyone who has worked in government would agree that when an organization gets more responsibility it will also give them more power.”

United States European Command and United States Central Command are playing a vital role in the fight against ISIS. Lohaus elaborated that United States European Command is primarily responsible for the military relationship with Turkey. Turkey is a key NATO ally in the war against ISIS. Turkey allows the United States to launch air strikes  on the terrorist group from one of its airbases. Meanwhile, much of the remainder of the effort falls under the role of United States Central Command. Its headquarters are an ocean away from European Command and “That causes some sluggishness in a fight that is already rife with sluggishness.”

Furthermore the plan is largely a bureaucratic maneuver that does not address many of the central flaws in the administration’s strategy to defeat ISIS. The U.S. efforts in Iraq and Syria have been almost entirely focused on taking territory away from ISIS. McInnis told TheDCNF this is a “necessary but insufficient strategy for their defeat.”

A better strategy to defeat ISIS, McInnis says, would need a more coordinated global approach to stop the rise of ISIS affiliates including Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Bangladesh. “Many of these ISIS affiliates emerge as insurgent forces in ungoverned spaces,” he said.

A proper effort would require, “comprehensive cooperation among State, DoD, Intelligence Community and allies with the host nation,” with the current administration shift of responsibility to SOCOM a subcomponent with the broader effort. “There is no way to deal with emerging ISIS groups in Libya and elsewhere in Africa without clear direction and coordination with State,” and as much as people would like the military to take charge of that effort across the globe it simply “won’t work that way outside of direct combat zones like Iraq and Syria,” McInnis explained.

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