For over a year now, I have been pointing out that the Obama Administration lacks a clear strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is the brutal terrorist organization that holds significant territory in the Middle East and claims responsibility for attacks in Brussels, Paris, and San Bernardino, California.
When I visited the Middle East a few years ago, ISIS was gaining power and influence. In each country, I heard from American allies who were worried about ISIS and the lack of leadership from the United States. No one expected the United States to lead the fight alone, but they looked to us for guidance.
Instead of leading, the President called ISIS a “JV team” and refused to acknowledge that our actions in Syria and Iraq were contributing to ISIS’s growth. At the same time, Syria was engaged in a violent civil war and Iraq’s military was falling apart.
The United States has since started air strikes intended to disrupt ISIS operations and kill ISIS leadership. A few other countries have joined those efforts, but we still lack the large-scale support from U.S. allies that is needed to defeat ISIS.
Don’t get me wrong: a number of American service members are doing a valiant job to defeat the enemy, but Administration has not given them a winning strategy. In other words, it doesn’t matter how great the athletes are on a football team if the coach does not have a game plan on how to win the game. That’s the challenge facing our military today.
With this in mind, Congress included a provision in the annual National Defense Authorization Act last year that required the Obama Administration to submit a plan outlining their strategy for the Middle East and to defeat ISIS.
The law couldn’t have been clearer. It said the report should be submitted to Congress “not later than February 15, 2016.” Well, February 15th came and passed without a plan being submitted to Congress.
A few weeks ago, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who was responsible for submitting the report, testified before the Armed Services Committee about his annual budget request. I used the hearing to ask Secretary Carter why he had failed to submit the report on time as required by law.
When an average American violates the law, there are consequences. The same should apply to leaders in the federal government. No one, regardless of their political position, should ever be above the law. I asked the Secretary where the report was and if he agreed the law was broken.
Secretary Carter failed to answer my questions and simply said the report’s release was “imminent.”
Well, two days later and over a month late, the report was submitted to Congress. It was only seven pages long and lacked a clear strategy. It reminded me of a kid who forgot to do their homework, so they recklessly threw something together at the last minute.
Either the Obama Administration didn’t take the request from Congress seriously or they actually don’t have a strategy to defeat ISIS and combat Islamic extremism in the Middle East. I fear that both of those are true.
Only the President, as the Commander-in-Chief of the military, can put forward a strategy for our military. So far, President Obama has failed to do that and ISIS continues to grow.
In Congress, it is our job to continue holding the President and his advisors to the fire until they follow the law. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I will continue doing just that. The safety and security of the American people require it.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.