CIA chief admits air strikes won't destroy ISIS

John Brennan disputes President Obama's promise to 'ultimately destroy' ISIS by air strikes, saying 'the problem cannot be solved on the battlefield’

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

As militants from ISIS further gain territory in Iraq and Syria despite the air strikes led by the United States, the effectiveness of the current strategy has been under constant scrutiny.

After US First Defense Secretary Ashton Carter slammed Iraqi troops for "their unwillingness to fight against ISIS" on TV, CIA chief John Brennan appeared on CBS to criticise President Barack Obama's strategy to stop the militants' advance.

Obama started the campaign of air strikes with coalition partners, saying it will “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

According to Pentagon data, US fighter jets have carried out nearly 16,000 air strikes against ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria since September, yet the militants continue to expand territory under their control which now includes Ramadi in Iraq and the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra.

The recent losses led US officials to talk more openly about changing the existing strategy and consider the option of using ground forces. Washington has been seeking to embolden Iraqi security forces with a train and equip mission to counter the ISIS advance toward Baghdad.

“I believe firmly that we’re not going to resolve this problem on the battlefield,” Brennan said in Face the Nation show.

“We have to keep the pressure on them, but at the same time there has to be a viable political process that’s able to bring together the actors inside Iraq and Syria and for them to be able to decide how they are going to have a peaceful future. So it’s a combination of military and political pressure that needs to be brought to bear.”

“We will turn back ISIS, I have no doubt about it,” Brennan said. “But I think there's going to be unfortunately a lot of bloodshed between now and then."

The US State Department announced last week it would send 2000 anti-tank weapons to Iraq to assist in the fight against ISIS and also approved the deployment of Hashd al Shaabi fighters to take back Ramadi from the group, despite lawmakers’ warnings of an increase in sectarian violence due to the involvement of Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Officials said Washington was deeply divided about the involvement of Shiite militias with links to Iran, a regional power which has been expanding its influence throughout the Middle East especially after the US withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011.

TRTWorld and agencies