“[T]he fact is the president came to the presidency to get us out of conflict no matter what”.
“We know this program is essential”.
In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, John McCain was asked to respond to President Obama’s speech on ISIS and the government’s approach to extremism, both domestic and overseas.
“I got to tell you that after four years, Mr. Secretary, that is not an impressive number”, McCain, R-Ariz., said in one of several testy exchanges with Carter and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The training is being undertaken at bases in Jordan and Turkey.
Some 7,000 volunteers are awaiting approval to begin the training, Carter said.
In recent weeks, US airstrikes have helped the Kurds, along with Arab militias, reclaim the border town of Tal Abyad from the hardline fighters, cut supply lines and put pressure on the group in its power center of Raqqa province in Syria, according to the Pentagon.
“When it comes to ISIL, President Obama’s comments… reveal the disturbing degree of self-delusion that characterizes the administration’s thinking”, he said. “None of the so-called progress that the president cited suggests that we are on a path to success”.
The Iraqi military, which was equipped and trained by the United States, has struggled to recover from its collapse a year ago when IS militants captured the country’s second largest city, Mosul, and swept over much of northern and western Iraq.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the strategy to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, July 7, 2015.
McCain said the “reality” on the ground is that IS jihadists continue to gain territory in Iraq and Syria, while expanding their footprint across the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia.
“Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends”, he said.
“You mentioned we’re now training about 60 fighters”.
Some 3,550 American personnel at six locations across Iraq are working to build the capacity of Iraqi forces and advise and assist them.
Obama said more than 5,000 air strikes had been carried out against the group, eliminating “thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders”. He said there is no responsible ground force in either Iraq or Syria that can seize territory from ISIS, with slim prospects from the U.S.-led coalition’s current training efforts of local ground forces. But that effort too is suffering from a lack of trainees, Carter said.
Carter said Ramadi needs to be retaken, but that it has to be done under competent Iraqi command and control, “which has been a challenge”.
“We have been training them for almost a decade”, he said, referring to the billions of dollars the USA spent between 2003-2011 to build the security forces. “And it’s a test that they must pass…we’re going to take the time and encourage them to take the time so that the operation, when they do conduct it, is successful”.