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Ex-commander: US losing ground against Islamic extremism

The U.S. has lost ground in the fight against Islamic extremism, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said in a recent interview.

"Unfortunately, we have lost ground over time," said retired Gen. John P. Abizaid, former commander of U.S. Central Command in an interview published in this month's West Point's Combating Terrorism Center's magazine.

"The scope of the ideological movement, the geographic dispersion of Islamic extremism, the number of terror attacks, the number of people swearing allegiance, and the ground they hold have all increased," said Abizaid.

"Groups like the Islamic State have now taken on state-like forms and features that are unlike anything we've seen in the past. So on balance we are in a worse position strategically with regard to the growth of international terrorism, Islamic terrorism in particular, than we were after September 2001," he said.

The dire assessment highlights the difficulty the Obama administration faces as it tries to accelerate the campaign against ISIS in its remaining 10 months in office.

The administration is also facing increased pressure — mostly from Republicans, but also from other quarters — to do more to stop ISIS in Libya.

The administration says the primary focus will remain on Iraq and Syria, but that it will also strike ISIS in other places, such as Afghanistan and Libya, if an opportunity arises.

However, with only 10 months remaining in the administration, there is little time for doing significantly more, and the administration has sidestepped questions into whether there will be a more robust effort to go after ISIS in Libya.

"I'm not going to look ahead into the future. We're going to continue to respond to the ISIL threat as it develops. We are carrying out a significant campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and we are prepared — as we have demonstrated in the last 24 hours — to strike ISIL in other parts of the world, as they pose a threat," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Friday, using another acronym for ISIS.

Abizaid also said the U.S. was making a mistake by not acknowledging that modern-day borders of the Middle East are falling apart.

The U.S. is aiming for political solutions in Iraq and Syria that would keep the countries together, instead of broken up along sectarian lines.

"I do not think you solve the problem by trying to reinforce the status quo that existed before September 11, 2001," he said.

"I think the international community and the leaders in the region have got to decide how best to reshape the Middle East and redraw the boundaries to establish stability and a more peaceful structure," he said.

"Nations that are trying to put the status quo back on the map are only going to prolong the conflict and stoke greater violence," he added. "I do not believe we are capable of putting this all back together again. That strategy is bound to fail."

One thing the U.S. can do, he recommended, is to put more effort into organizing and leading the international community to do more to take on ISIS.

"I'm talking about a raiding strategy where we destroy capability over time in a joint force, which is an integrated international air, ground, and naval effort," he said.

"Without American leadership, we're not going to move in a direction that's going to produce effective results," he said.

"That doesn't mean we only employ American assets, but it does mean there has to be American commitment to lead the effort and guarantee our partners that there will be some long lasting measures that take place," he said.

[Source: By Kristina Wong, The Hill, Washington, 22Feb16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 23Feb16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.