Defense Secretary Carter and Joint Chiefs Chair Dempsey defend Obama’s ISIS strategy to Congress, receiving considerable blowback.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey outlined and defended the Obama administration’s strategy against ISIS.
While Dempsey believes the U.S. military response to defeat ISIS is “appropriately matched to the complexity of the environment,” Carter conceded that the execution of the Defense Department’s strategy “can and will be strengthened.”
But lawmakers are critical of U.S. training programs in the region meant to bolster Iraq’s security forces and help local Syrians join the fight.
By June 30, the U.S. had trained about 8,800 Iraqi soldiers.
In Syria, on the other hand, only 60 fighters have been trained in this program.
Carter claims that stringent U.S. vetting standards for fighters can be blamed for the low turnout of eligible locals.
Participants must pass counterintelligence screenings, have no history of committing atrocities and possess a willingness to engage in the military campaign in a way that is compliant with the law of armed conflict.
Regardless of the reasons for a lack of Syrian participants, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the train and equip program “anemic and suffering.”
Carter defended the administration’s efforts by describing the three components of the administration’s plan to beat ISIS.
The first priority is on the diplomatic front, with the State Department taking the lead on compelling the Iraqi and Syrian governments to become more inclusive and better support its citizens.
McCain criticized the administration for not putting a greater emphasis on military strategy.
“Security on the ground is a precondition to political reconciliation, not the other way around,” McCain said.