Time for a strategy change against ISIL, Mr. President

Thick smoke from an airstrike by the US-led coalition rises in Kobani, Syria, as seen from a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Michael Vickers knows a lot about terrorists and how to fight them.

He’s written an essay for Politico that lays out an interesting argument directed straight at President Barack Obama.

The thrust of his message? Change your strategy in this fight against the Islamic State and the Levant, Mr. President.

It’s interesting to me what Vickers doesn’t say. He doesn’t insist that we send in thousands of ground troops to resume our war in the region. Instead he says it’s time to focus our immense air power on Syria, where he said ISIL’s strength has gone global. The Iraq-based enemy, Vickers asserts, is more of a “local” threat. The Syrian element is much more dangerous and invasive, he writes.

Vickers worked as a Special Operations and CIA officer. He helped draft strategies for fighting the Red Army when it invaded Afghanistan in 1980. He also assisted in planning the SEAL/CIA mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

The man’s got anti-terrorism chops.

Perhaps the most provocative and dramatic element of his strategy is this: “Airstrikes are not enough, however. We must leverage the moderate Syrian opposition—and they do exist in the tens of thousands—to dislodge ISIL and Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, from their territory. As we did in Afghanistan, we must support the moderate opposition with overwhelming air power, substantially increase the flow of arms to the moderate opposition, and place special operations and intelligence advisers with them. With American assistance, a much smaller insurgent force defeated the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. With our many Sunni partners, we can do the same in Syria.”

According to Vickers, we need to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the moderate Syrians who are fighting Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State.

President Obama’s strategy, according to critics in both parties at home, has become too timid. Yes, we’re scoring victories here and there. We’ve managed to wipe out known terror leaders and high-profile assassins, such as Mohammad Emwazi, aka Jihadi John.

But we’ve got some help standing by, ready to assist in this aerial campaign. Russia has gotten damn angry over the bombing of that jetliner that killed 224 people; France has unleashed its significant air power in response to the recent attack in Paris.

As Vickers has said, the time has come to ratchet up the attacks not only in Syria but also in states where ISIL is known to be operating.

Listen to this man, Mr. President.

 

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