Thursday, September 18, 2014
The Administration’s Strategy for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
(11:15AM-2:15 PM - 2118 RHOB)
Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) made the following statement after House passage of his Syria Train and Equip amendment. The amendment was made to the Continuing Resolution, which also passed the House.
“Today a bi-partisan majority of the House agreed to the President’s request for authority to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. This authority would allow those forces to fight ISIL terrorists. The President requested this authority and - after we shaped it to include robust oversight mechanisms- the House gave it to him. I hope the Senate quickly follows suit.
“While we voted to approve the authority in large numbers, none of us believe that this program alone can achieve the President’s objective to 'degrade and destroy' ISIL. A more robust strategy will be required from the President to do that. I hope that, with the support of Congress and the American people, he adopts one."Read More
"If a lawmaker or a candidate or any American wants to understand the problems with President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State, he or she should look no further than the remarks delivered by Rep. Buck McKeon at the American Enterprise Institute"
The Washington Post's "Right Turn" Blogger Jennifer Rubin praised Chairman McKeon's recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he presented his strategy to defeat ISIL.
You can read her full piece here
Key excerpts below
"If a lawmaker or a candidate or any American wants to understand the problems with President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State, he or she should look no further than the remarks delivered by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) at the American Enterprise Institute.
To be blunt, there is too much magical thinking going on. We can do it all from the air. The Islamic State is not a current threat. The locals can take care of things. We can go slow and steady. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.
As is apparent to those following the growth of the Islamic State, which the CIA now says numbers 35,000-strong, not 10,000, and the territory the group commands, time is not on our side. That is true in two respects, as McKeon spells out:
'A go-slow strategy gives them space to thrive and grow and blend with the population. Every month, 500 more foreign fighters join their ranks. Every month, they raise nearly $85 million in revenue just from oil. Every day, ISIL identifies and brutally executes the Sunni moderates who might be convinced to work with us again. Soon all that will be left is a cowering population unable to resist the Caliphate. ISIL is a Sunni movement. Getting the Sunnis to reject them is key. While we wait to see what the newly formed government will do, we are missing the chance to get the Iraqi Sunni leaders on board, who can truly speak for their people. And the job will be harder this time.'
As McKeon notes, we are NOT talking about “large occupying forces in a hostile land,” which he dubs a “red herring.” But we do need to be there, and we need to lead the coalition Obama describes.
“[A]rming surrogates and conducting sporadic airstrikes is not a formula for success against ISIL. It is not timely enough or decisive enough. We have learned that in Yemen and the Horn of Africa after many years. Coalition operations, on the ground and in the air, backed by the enabling capabilities of the United States, will be required.”
"The Kurds, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Emiratis, and the Jordanians all have military capability. They all want to knock ISIL on its back. They need our help, they want our help, and we owe them our help. Ignoring their pleas is a quick way to end up friendless with little, if any, U.S. influence left in the region. Let’s not forget that our allies around the world are watching and wondering if they can ever trust the U.S. again. American leadership isn’t an option here. It is a necessity. We are the missing piece in the puzzle. There are certain capabilities that we have invested in for decades — the ability to control air and sea space, the ability to put troops in difficult terrain and hostile territories, the ability to supply forces and communicate on the battlefield. That’s how we pull these nations together. . . . '
Don’t take McKeon’s word for it. This is what military commanders recommended to the president. He rejected the advice for political reasons (it “would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans”) — just as he did in whittling down the Afghanistan surge and arriving at the zero-troop option in Afghanistan and adhering to his campaign promise to bring all troops home from Iraq. The question is not what the best strategy is — it is whether we have the fortitude to use it."Read More
Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) made the following statement about the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:“Thirteen years ago today, the world was forever changed as terrorists attacked our homeland. We must never forget our countrymen who lost their lives on that fateful morning and the loved ones they left behind. We must also remember the sacrifice of our military men and women and their families who have since answered their nation’s call to service. They deserve nothing less than our undying gratitude. One of the most meaningful ways we can honor their sacrifice is to ensure the progress they made in the cause of liberty is not reversed. On this day, we must recognize evil for what it is and resolve to destroy it wherever it resides.” Read More
Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) presented his strategy to defeat the ISIL terrorist organization at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) this morning. The text of his remarks, as prepared for delivery, are provided below.
You can view video of the Chairman's speech on the AEI website HERE
Chairman McKeon's Strategy to Defeat ISIL
September 11, 2014
Good morning. Thank you Fred for that introduction.It was at around this time, 9:03am, on this day 13 years ago, that the second plane hit the World Trade Center.Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance. Thank you.
Here was Prime Minister Tony Blair’s comment on this day, 13 years ago:
"This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life, and we the democracies of this world are going to have to come together and fight it together."
It could have been written yesterday.
The 9/11 Commission Report concluded, “The … attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise. Islamist extremists had given plenty of warning that they meant to kill Americans indiscriminately and in large numbers.”
The same could be written again in the near future.
Several have remarked that ISIL today is more lethal than al Qaeda was on September 10th, 2001.
Yet the President has likened ISIL to the Junior Varsity team. He has argued that “America is safer”.
Nothing is further from the truth. This is the same threat we faced September 10th, 2001, if not worse.
I listened carefully to the President’s remarks last night and I welcomed them.
There are several elements of the President’s strategy that I support.
· Acting through a willing coalition,
· Ordering more air strikes and U.S. forces
· Stepping up intelligence collection,
· Cutting off their sources of funds,
· Curtailing the flow of foreign fighters.
· And training and equipping moderate opposition forces in Syria.
I also have full respect for the President and his wartime powers as Commander-in-Chief, but I have a responsibility to share my views about what more can be done.
This perspective is based on my years as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and informed as recently as last week, by a long trip I took throughout the Middle East.
There, I met with heads of state and multiple officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.
I listened, and I asked questions. They gave me blunt answers and some hard truths.
Our allies are on the front lines of terrorism.There is a genuine sense among the leaders I talked with that America is disengaging from the region and concerns about American credibility, at a time when credibility counts.
Our relationships with these allies in the region are at a tipping point.
What is also notable is that these allies are ready to bear the burden of the fight. They know their very existence, and stability in the region, depends on defeating ISIL.
They need the United States support and capabilities to be able to do it. And it’s in our interests to be there.
The longer we wait, the further these relationships will erode and more lives will be lost.
In fact, none of the Allies there thought kinetic action, brought on by a full coalition, could wait another month, and certainly not longer than that.
So what must be done? We need a comprehensive strategy – one that pins ISIL down and knocks them out.
As much as I want the President’s approach to work, I believe the minimalist strategy he outlined last night will not get us there.
I sense that he may have allowed politics to limit our chances for success.
Today, I’m going to be brutally honest. I will not sugar coat the forces that will be needed or the risks involved.
First, our strategy must acknowledge that ISIL is an immediate threat to US national security, and treat it as such.
The President has said the threat is not imminent to the homeland.
Well exactly when does the threat become imminent? Why wait until it does?
We must have a comprehensive strategy that stops any plot against US citizens or our interests now.
Second, I call for swift action with a strategically realistic plan to defeat ISIL before they gain more steam.
Note that I did not say contain ISIL. I did not say manage ISIL.
Defeating ISIL is the only option on the table.
Eisenhower once snapped at a doubter on his D-Day planning staff, “this operation is being planned as a success.”
We must channel that resolve.
A go-slow strategy gives them space to thrive and grow and blend with the population.
Every month, 500 more foreign fighters join their ranks.
Every month, they raise nearly 85 million dollars in revenue just from oil.
Every day, ISIL identifies and brutally executes the Sunni moderates who might be convinced to work with us again. Soon all that will be left is a cowering population unable to resist the Caliphate.
ISIL is a Sunni movement. Getting the Sunnis to reject them is key.
While we wait to see what the newly formed government will do, we are missing the chance to get the Iraqi Sunni leaders on board, who can truly speak for their people .
And the job will be harder this time. The Sunnis must have reason to believe that we have their back if they stick their necks out with ISIL.
They must believe they have a future politically in Iraq.
Any US-led coalition must engage with the Sunnis and make them understand that this is not a sectarian fight against them.
And we have to get into those Sunni villages with Special Operations Forces to rebuild relationships.
Because if the moderate Sunnis slip through our fingers, they’re gone – and with them, our chances for success.
We have to reconnect the intelligence links and security forces’ capabilities that were lost when we left Iraq.
Iraqi Shia, Sunni, and Kurds all will be needed to maintain post-war security and stability.
That process has to start now.
Third, we must kick ISIL hard in both Iraq and Syria at the same time.
An “Iraq-first,” or an “Iraq only” approach won’t work.
They can never be defeated if they have a safe haven as big and remote as western Iraq or eastern Syria.
Now, striking in Syria will not be easy.
We must tailor operations there so that we do not empower Mr. Assad or al-Qaeda elements in-country.
That may sound difficult to do. And that’s because it is.
But, if we want ISIL defeated, we need them encircled. Any strategy that allows ISIL to squirt out into Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey will only make the fight more difficult.
A coalition force, empowered by the Americans, could do just that.
And once they are encircled and eliminated, we need that territory held by those friendlies.
This is the only way to get this done and done right.
The President has asked for the authority to train and equip moderate opposition forces in Syria.
He has implied that it’s Congress that has been stalling on giving him this tool. He also implies that this is the key to defeating ISIL in Syria.
Let’s be clear. There have been bipartisan doubts about this proposal, starting from within the White House.
Just last month, the President said that arming moderate rebels in Syria has “always been a fantasy” and that there wasn’t “as much capacity as you would hope.”
I too recognize the risks. Yet I support this effort as a necessary component for the long term security of Syria.
But arming surrogates and conducting sporadic airstrikes is not a formula for success against ISIL. It is not timely enough or decisive enough.
We have learned that in Yemen and the Horn of Africa after many years.
Coalition operations, on the ground and in the air, backed by the enabling capabilities of the United States, will be required.
Fourth, the U.S. must take the lead to build a coalition, which the President has finally started.
As I indicated earlier, the brutality of ISIL is appalling.
The Kurds, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Emeratis, and the Jordanians all have military capability.
They all want to knock ISIL on its back.
They need our help, they want our help, and we owe them our help.
Ignoring their pleas is a quick way to end up friendless with little, if any, U.S. influence left in the region. Let’s not forget that our allies around the world are watching and wondering if they can ever trust the U.S. again.
American leadership isn’t an option here. It is a necessity.
We are the missing piece in the puzzle.
There are certain capabilities that we have invested in for decades -- the ability to control air and sea space, the ability to put troops in difficult terrain and hostile territories, the ability to supply forces and communicate on the battlefield.
That’s how we pull these nations together.
Now look. This is no light lift. But the man who held together the most difficult alliance in history, Dwight Eisenhower, had it right when he said, “only strength can cooperate, weakness can only beg.”
Though many allies have strong doubts about the Obama Administration’s willpower, America still carries weight in the Middle East.
I do believe we can bring Sunnis and Shias and Kurds and even Turks together.
To make that happen, the President needs an A-team of diplomats and soldiers on the ground, ushering every player towards the same purpose – not just this week, but on a sustained basis.
We heard good things from Western allies at the NATO summit.
Now is the time to match words to action. They have a stake in this fight, too.
We’re holding the starter pistol; the time to pull the trigger was yesterday.
Now, most of us cringe at the term “boots on the ground.” But we need to talk about what “boots on the ground” actually means.
Some have taken it to mean large occupying forces in a hostile land. That’s a red herring.In fact the best way to ensure that we never have to drop an entire maneuver Corps into Iraq is to be smart about using the right boots on the ground today.
The President may not admit it, but he has already made this distinction. He has inserted Special Forces, trainers, advisors, and security forces.This is the right decision. But more can be done.
That includes increasing our assistance to the Kurds.
It means empowering moderate Sunnis when and where we can, and bolstering the non-sectarian forces in the Iraqi security forces.
This will take troops. It will not take divisions.
But there’s no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand. Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There’s simply no other way to do this.
This strategy isn’t without risk. Neither is the President’s. It would be wrong to sell it that way to the American people.
This is a dangerous business. It is dangerous any time we have our sons and daughters take to the skies, the seas, or the shores to defeat an enemy.
The only thing more dangerous is waiting.
Finally, we must not rely solely on counterterrorism.
Wars are not won by counterterrorism alone – the 1990s proved as much.
The President has implied that he will approach the problem of ISIL with a heavy emphasis on counterterrorism forces. The same tool he has used for 7 years.
That’s like trying to solve a puzzle with a single piece.
C-T has not stopped the growth of ISIL and the spread of terrorist groups in the region.
The President wants to use a light footprint now in hopes that he doesn’t need a heavy footprint later.
This approach was not terribly successful in Libya, which has fallen into chaos.
It has short-term benefits, though. It will be cheaper in blood and treasure –for now.
I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later.
I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow.
Fortune favors the bold.
ISIL is a threat that we all share. They are an enemy of the free world and must be stopped.
I believe the President is finally waking up to what must be done to stop this evil.
So long as he commits, fully and without hesitation, to swiftly and decisively defeating this enemy, he will have my support.History punished us once thirteen years ago today. It is the responsibility of us all to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Read More
Operationalizing Cyber for the Military Services
Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
(2:00PM – 2212 Rayburn - OPEN)
LTG Edward Cardon, USA
U.S. Army Cyber Command
Major General Vincent Stewart, USMC
Marine Forces Cyber Command
VADM Jan Tighe, USN
Tenth Fleet/Fleet Forces Cyber
Major General Burke E. Wilson, USAF
Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon made the following statement about the ongoing threat posed by ISIS and the U.S. response:
“ISIS is a clear and present threat to our allies across the Middle East and to the United States. There is no negotiating with ISIS or deterring it. It must be defeated and destroyed. Doing so demands a comprehensive strategy combining diplomatic, political, and military efforts, and the contributions from a broad coalition of countries. Such a strategy will require time, commitment, and leadership that America is uniquely suited to provide.
“This comprehensive approach may well require additional authorities from Congress, but speculation about that before the President has even offered a strategy is putting the cart before the horse. We need the President to explain to the American people what is at stake, what our objectives are, and the strategy for how to achieve them. Only after we understand all this can we contemplate what new authorities might be needed.“I challenge the President to engage Congress. I’m willing to work with him, and I would offer a few factors for him to keep in mind. First, ISIS is an urgent threat and a minimalist approach, that depends solely on FY15 funding or pinprick strikes that leave fragile forces in Iraq and Syria to do the hard fighting, is insufficient to protect our interests and guarantee our safety in time. Second, good strategies keep options on the table and keep an adversary guessing, instead of telegraphing what we won’t do. No leader ever won a conflict by first declaring what steps he was unwilling to take – or, for that matter, leaking details about steps he actually is taking. Third, the ISIS threat was allowed to build and fester over a period of time. They are not likely to be decisively defeated quickly, but will have to be faced by this President and his successors. Therefore, strategy and decisions made by the President now should preserve future options, not foreclose them. Finally, this enemy must be defeated, but if we are not going to adequately resource our effort, we will only make a very complex security situation worse.” Read More
House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) appeared on CNN today to discuss the threat posed by ISIS and the U.S. response.
"It reveals what sort of people they (ISIS) are. Secondly, its an attempt to intimidate us into not playing a role in pushing back against ISIS and to trying to keep us out of Iraq and from joining a coalition to contain and stop them. It doesn't change anything. It just reveals what they're about and what they're trying to do."
Washington, D.C. - Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on news that an internal leak prompted the disclosure of a classified operation to rescue James Foley:
“Like all Americans, I continue to be shocked and outraged at the brutal execution of James Foley at the hands of ISIS terrorists. I commend the bravery of our forces who attempted to rescue him and other American captives earlier this summer. They put their lives on the line for people they’d probably never met, and we are forever blessed to have such men and women in service to our country.“Successful or not, such operations are incredibly sensitive, even after they have concluded. Disclosure of these missions puts our troops at risk, reduces the likelihood that future missions will succeed, and risks the lives of hostages and informants alike. While I believe it was unwise for the White House and Department of Defense to formally acknowledge this operation; it is outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media. Secretary Hagel should investigate this matter immediately and thoroughly to determine who, if anyone, at the Department of Defense was the source of this damaging leak. Likewise, the heads of the other agencies involved should take similar steps.” Read More
2340 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515