President Barack Obama’s hand-picked general for coordinating international efforts against ISIS will resign in early November, Josh Rogin and Eli Lake report for Bloomberg View, citing four unnamed administration officials.
Retired Gen. John Allen has been serving as the White House’s special envoy to the global coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq since September 11, 2014. Although he officially retired from the military on April 29, 2013, Obama hand-selected Allen for the role amid a ramped-up effort to take on the group.
Allen’s stepping down from the envoy role would occur a little more than a year after he stepped into the position. The administration officials that spoke to Bloomberg insisted that Allen’s decision to step down was largely due to his wife’s health, as she suffers from an auto-immune disorder.
However, the timing of Allen’s resignation coincides with a series of setbacks for the White House’s anti-ISIS campaign. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of US Central Command, which leads the anti-ISIS coalition effort, told Congress last week that only “four or five” US trained rebels were still fighting in Syria, despite a goal of training 5,400 rebels a year.
Attempts to arm vetted Syrian rebels has also ended poorly, as the US has spent tens of millions of dollars on the purchase of old and potentially unreliable weapons from Belarus and Bulgaria.
Most damning, however, are the allegations from more than 50 intelligence analysts within US Central Command that their reports were subtly changed to highlight good news at the expense of negative analysis about the progress of the war against ISIS.
The cascading of negative news about the ongoing anti-ISIS operations seemingly reaffirmed Allen’s frustrations. Bloomberg reports that the White House disagreed with Allen’s attempts to place air control teams on the ground in Iraq to coordinate air strikes, as well as his desire to establish a civilian safe zone in northern Syria with Turkey.
Allen and the Obama administration have also been at an impasse over what they believe should be the ultimate goal in Syria. Allen has made it clear that both ISIS and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “had to go” for Syria to ultimately recover. Though that has long been the official position of the Obama administration, some officials have softened that demand in recent days and weeks.
Allen’s responsibilities are expected to pass to Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy to the coalition, until the White House can find a military replacement for his role.
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