Former director of two top US intelligence agencies Michael Hayden said US needs to send 10,000 ground troops into Syria to contribute in the fight against DAESH terrorist group.
Speaking to TRTWorld.com in an exclusive interview on Friday, retired four-star US Air Force general Hayden said DAESH cannot be defeated with only air strikes and that the US should increase its commitment to the fight.
Hayden has served as the director of US National Security Agency (NSA) from 1999 to 2005 and as director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2006 to 2009.
“I would support American boots on the ground in Syria, but not American combat maneuver units,” Hayden said when asked whether he would support deployment of US troops in Syria.
“I would say probably 10,000,” Hayden continued talking about the number of the US troops needed in the area.
US currently has special forces deployed in Syria but their number is limited to less than 50. The special forces are not involved in combat missions, but they are supporting the US allies on the ground.
Hayden also said that new deployment would not be “frontline combat troops” but they would be helping local allied forces in “logistics”, “intelligence”, “transportation”, “surveillance”, “reconnaissance”, “indirect fires”, and “close air support.”
Hayden gave US forces' cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga troops as a successful example of the strategy he is proposing. He also said that US needs “local Sunni-Arab” allied forces on the ground to reach ultimate success against DAESH.
The former spy chief, however, advised US authorities to be very cautious about cooperation with Russia, which started its own campaign in Syria on September 30.
Referring to Russia, Hayden said “our interests overlap on one issue, DAESH. Our interests do not overlap on any of the other issues.”
He said Russia is in Syria to increase their influence in the Middle East and keep the Bashar al Assad regime standing, and both of these policies are against the interests of US.
Paris attacks hardened attitudes in Europe
Hayden said the DAESH attacks in Paris last week that killed 129 people are very similar to 9/11 attacks that occurred in New York in 2001 in terms of the psychological impacts they have created in society and the responses they generated.
“After this attack, attitudes in Europe seem to have hardened in much the same way they hardened in the United States after 9/11,” Hayden said “you are seeing Europeans now having the same kind of conversations that we Americans had 14 years ago.”
“What I tell my friends here in Europe, if it could happen in France it could happen anywhere,” Hayden added.
After the attacks, French parliament declared three months of state of emergency and increased security measures throughout the country.
After the 9/11 attacks, US had established Department of Homeland Security and tightened the security procedures especially in airports.
When asked about the reasons behind the inability of the intelligence agencies to track activities, including online propaganda and recruitment efforts of the terror groups, despite the tools that are at their disposal, the former NSA and CIA director pointed out the laws.
Hayden said the laws protecting civil liberties and free speech are limiting the ability of the intelligence agencies to tackle terrorist groups like DAESH.
“It is not that we can’t do it, it is just that our conception of privacy and civil liberties makes it very difficult,” Hayden said.