Obama administration officials conspicuously left out the phrase “defeat” when discussing the U.S. fight against the Islamic State at last week’s Aspen ideas conference, emphasizing the fight would take decades and acknowledging terrorist attacks would rise throughout the west.
“Even if they lose territory, it doesn’t mean striking outside their boundaries will be limited,” warned Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center Nick Rasmussen. Rasmussen’s comments echo FBI Director James Comey’s comments at Fordham University on Thursday warning that defeated ISIS fighters would spread throughout Western Europe and the United States, and pose a threat to the U.S. greater than al-Qaida in the lead up to 9/11.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, warned the Aspen audience not to expect “a big victory parade” in the fight against ISIS. Votel emphasized that ISIS is “extraordinarily savvy and adaptive,” and highlighted U.S. efforts to seize territory from ISIS. Votel’s comments echo the Obama administration’s use of territory seized from ISIS as the metric of success against ISIS.
White House Counter-Terrorism Director Lisa Monaco admitted the shortfalls of Obama’s metric of success against ISIS, telling The Daily Beast, “It’s necessary, but it’s not enough.” Monaco emphasized the inefficacy of America’s counter-terrorism abilities when trying to combat self-radicalized lone wolf terrorists saying, “How do you detect when something goes wrong in someone’s mind?”
Rasmussen, Comey, and Monaco’s comments are a startling admissions of the shortfalls in the Obama administration’s territory-centric, Anti-ISIS strategy. Obama began the fight against ISIS with pledges to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” Obama has since tempered his rhetoric, now emphasizing that U.S. strategy is slowly ‘degrading’ ISIS in its core terrain and often ignoring attacks in the west.
The week of June 27, when ISIS killed nearly 350 people across four different countries, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the attacks do not “alter the strategy” the Obama administration will continue pursuing.
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