It has been nine months since President BARACK OBAMA set forth a policy—“degrade and destroy”—for dealing with the ISLAMIC STATE Of IRAQ And SYRIA (ISIS), the radical group that emerged as the successor to Al-Qaeda in Iraq!!!
In that time, despite daily airstrikes, an increased tempo of training Iraqi troops and a wobbly coalition of 60 nations trying to combat ISIS, the group has made steady gains in both Iraq and Syria: It not only still controls the city of Mosul, on May 17, it routed Iraqi troops in the Sunni stronghold of Ramadi, about 70 miles from Baghdad. In Syria it took the strategic city of Palmyra. It has extended its reach into Libya and conducted its first terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, blowing up a Shiite mosque in the eastern city of Qatif. Far from being degraded, the group Obama once infamously derided as “the jayvee” appears in the eyes of many, to be on the march.
If the question is, ‘Is ISIS winning?’ the answer, for now, appears undeniable: YES.
The Obama administration and the Pentagon have counseled patience.
Losing Ramadi was a “setback,” the White House said, and not one worth setting our “hair on fire,” according to spokesman Josh Earnest. Washington says it will ramp up the pace of training Iraqi troops—training, critics note, that’s been going on for years in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion.
But interviews with military and political officials and analysts in Iraq—both Iraqi and foreign—paint a darker picture. The grim fact confronting the administration and its international partners is that the degrade and destroy campaign, as currently constituted, is failing. And there are “really no good options going forward,” as it struggles with how to counter ISIS, says Sajad Jiyad, Iraq analyst and senior researcher at the Al-Bayan Center for Studies and Planning in Baghdad.
This week, NEWSWEEK Journalist BILL POWELL sets forth to find real answers to the very real question, IS ISIS WINNING???