Last week, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the U.S. would deploy additional special operation forces including a specialized expeditionary force to Syria and Iraq. Today, Secretary Carter testified on Capitol Hill before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the status of ISIS.
Prior to the Paris terror attacks, President Obama said that ISIS was contained; however, Secretary Carter contradicted the President’s remarks and acknowledged that the terrorist group has yet to be contained and that the U.S. allies need to step up their involvement.
Additional U.S. Support on the Ground
According to Secretary Carter, U.S. and local forces are on the ground and continue to gain momentum against ISIS and that the Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces are both making progress towards Raqqa, the ISIS capital.
Despite making progress, an estimated 40 percent of all U.S. war planes return each day without striking in either Iraq or Syria.
The clear frustration on the GOP lawmakers side was the lack of strategy from the administration on how to defeat ISIS. McCain called for “several thousand additional U.S. troops” to be sent to Iraq in an effort to provide additional assistance.
In response, Secretary Carter expressed frustration towards the lack of effort from European countries. Carter explained that he had “personally reached out” to leadership in 40 countries to ask for more help in the anti-ISIS coalition.
Secretary Carter also highlighted Congress’ shortcomings for failing to release funds and nominees for military leadership positions that he claimed are essential to defeating ISIS. There is a hold on $116 million designated for the Syrian “train-and-equip” program that is key to transporting ammunition, weapons, and other military equipment. Secretary Carter also said he is waiting on the Senate to confirm 16 nominees for military leadership positions.
“The reality is we’re at war,” Secretary Carter said,”That’s how our troops feel about it because they’re taking the fight to [ISIS] every day.”
U.S. Gen. Paul Selva confirmed that the Pentagon would not be implementing a “no-fly zone” in Syria due to the possibility of pushback from both Syria and Russia.
“We have the military capacity to impose a no-fly zone,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Selva said. “The question that we need to ask is do we have the political and policy backdrop with which to do so.”
In response, Sen. John McCain and Committee Chairman fired back with, “I must say, it’s one of the more embarrassing statements I’ve ever heard from a uniformed military officer, that we are worried about Syria and Russia’s reaction to saving the lives of thousands and thousands of Syrians who are being barrel-bombed and massacred.”