Thursday, June 18, 2015

Barack wants Gulf states to send ground troops into Iraq

In yesterday's snapshot, we reported on the House Armed Services Committee hearing that  Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey testified at.

There's been a lot of coverage of the hearing.  Pretty much useless coverage.  Deb Riechmann (AP) and Jacqueline Klimas (Washington Times) offer some of the stronger reports.

But even they seem to be missing the point.

There's a lot to cover from the hearing.  If you doubt that, look at Terri Moon Cronk's report on it for the Defense Dept.

And, to be sure, we missed things.  But our plan is to cover more of the hearing in today's snapshot, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, and instead focus on two key developments.

This exchange was key:

Ranking Member Adam Smith: The Chairman and I met last week with the Sunni leader of the Iraqi Parliament [Salim al-Jabouri] and one of the things he said during our meeting that surprised me a little bit as we were talking about the difficulty of getting support from the Baghdad government and sort of shifting focus to where could the Sunnis in that path sort of from Anbar up into Syria where ISIL is most dominant and he expressed disappointment, frankly, that the other Gulf states -- Saudi Arabia, UAE -- or even Turkey, to go up north.  It did not seem to really be willing to provide much support -- uhm, even Jordan as well -- uhm, for the Sunnis in that area.  Uhm, number one is do you agree with that assessment?  I tend to take this guy at his word.  Uhm, and number two, why?  Uhm, it would seem to me that defeating ISIL is something that would be very important to Saudi Arabia -- amongst the others there.  Why aren't they doing more, uh, to help those groups that want to resist ISIS in that part of Iraq and Syria? 

Secretary Ash Carter:  That's a critical question and it goes back to something that you said in your opening statement about other Sunnis and Arab forces countering ISIL.  And I too met with Mr. Jabouri last-last week who said the same thing  and I think he was speaking on behalf of a number of the Sunni forces -- political forces in western Iraq who would like to see more support and recognize -- as I think you noted and the Chairman noted in the operning statements -- that Americans and westerners  are, uh -- can lead and enable but if they get too high a profile that becomes a problem in its own right.

Ranking Member Adam Smith:  Exactly.

Secretary Ash Carter:  Therefore all the more reason to get others uh, uh involved -- Sunnis involved in the fight.  Now the-the head -- one thing I'll note is the heads of state of the GCC were here in Washington and we went to Camp David -- about three weeks ago.  And I would say that this was one of the major themes of our conversation with them.  The other one being, to get them back to what the Chairman said checking Iranian malign influence which they're also concerned about.  Their concern about ISIL is genuine but their actions, I think, can be greatly strengthened.  And that was one of the principle things that we talked about, getting - leading them in the train and equip program --

Ranking Member Adam Smith:  But again --

Secretary Ash Carter:  Sorry?

Ranking Member Adam Smith:  Yeah, I got all that.  But why?  Why isn't -- What, in your opinion, having worked with these people, why isn't it happening?

Secretary Ash Carter:  Well  one reason is that they simply lack the capacity and so we talked a lot about building special operations forces that had counter -- as opposed to air forces.  We have enough air forces.  We're looking for ground forces. 

Smith is asking about surrounding countries and Carter is answering about foreign countries and saying that they have enough neighboring countries participating as "air forces.  We have enough air forces.  We're looking for ground forces."

There is not one report on the hearing I'm finding which notes Carter is calling for foreign countries to send ground forces into Iraq.

Some already have.

But Carter's saying the plan or 'plan' of Barack Obama requires more "ground forces" from other countries.

That's a key point and it's not showing up in the reporting.

The other key point we emphasized was this:

Chair Mac Thornberry:  So what's the reasonable time period for us to check back and see whether this is working as we hope?

Secretary Ash Carter:  I honestly think it's-it's reasonable for you to ask in-in weeks, uh, because, uh, I --  we're already getting an inflow of, uh, Sunni fighters.  We'll put them through the training program.  We have the capacity to do that.


Not years.

Not months.

Carter's saying that the results of the influx of 450 more US troops and the use of a base in Anbar can be determined in weeks.

We're doing days of reporting on the hearing but most are just doing their initial one day.

To me, the two points above are key moments in the hearing and they're being ignored.

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