“Raqqa, Ramadi, and Raids”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has laid out a new plan for U.S. forces sent overseas to “degrade and defeat” ISIS. The Obama Administration has fielded several month’s worth of criticism over the ineffectiveness of current strategy; Carter’s changes reflect a growing need to take a more active role.
From ABC News:
The changes are intended to build on the Obama administration’s strategy to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria where the tactical fight against the terror group has stalemated.
“The changes we’re pursuing can be described by what I call the ‘three R’s’: Raqqa, Ramadi, and Raids,” Carter said in testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The idea of more raids builds on Carter’s previous comments a Pentagon news conference Friday that there would be more raids similar to the one where American special operations forces assisted Kurdish troops in the rescue of 70 hostages held by ISIS.
Carter did not recommend the creation of a buffer zone, no-fly zone or humanitarian zone that has been advocated by several members of Congress.
“Raqqa” refers to the de facto capitol of the Islamic State in Syria. This is where the modified “train and equip” strategy comes into play. Carter’s goal here is to support moderate Syrian rebels in an effort to take Raqqa. Earlier this month we fielded mixed messages from the Pentagon, where officials insisted that the training program had not been abandoned; however, this new plan will focus on established, “vetted” anti-ISIS groups as opposed to totally new fighters, and will rely heavily on increased airstrikes against valuable ISIS targets.
“Ramadi” refers to the military’s desire to encourage and increase cooperation between existing ground forces to retake territory conquered by ISIS. This strategy has produced results in the past—but it’s not without problems.
From The Hill:
Coalition and Iraqi forces have been working to retake the provincial capital back from ISIS and eventually go northward to Mosul.
“As we see more progress toward assembling capable and motivated Iraqi forces under Baghdad’s control and including Sunni elements, we are willing to continue providing more enabling capabilities and fire support to help our Iraqi partners succeed,” Carter said.
But Carter warned that Baghdad would have to make sure the Shia-dominated government and security forces distribute weapons to Sunni tribes and that its forces are paid regularly.
“Raids” refers to a tweak in the plan that would allow U.S. forces to have a larger role on the ground by “supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”
This is a controversial move, especially in the wake of last week’s raid on an ISIS prison in northern Iraq that freed 70 hostages but led to the death of American serviceman Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler.
This “prong” of Carter’s new plan toes the line between the military’s current “support role” and “combat.” Last Friday, Carter said that he expects similar raids, saying, “We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”
If implemented, this new plan would send American troops closer to the front lines in both Iraq and Syria.
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