A retired general and former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency doesn’t buy the Obama administration’s argument that the US is winning the war against ISIS.
Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, among the final candidates reported to be on Donald Trump’s list of potential running mates, noted that while the terrorist group has been losing territory in the Middle East, its battlefield extends far beyond the boundaries of its self-declared “caliphate.”
“So we take a little bit of desert back from them in places called Ramadi or Fallujah — and I don’t know how many times we’re gonna have to fight for Fallujah in Iraq — but we take these little tactical bastions back from them, and what do they do? They counterattack in Paris, in Belgium, in Turkey, in Orlando, in San Bernardino,” Flynn told Business Insider in a Monday interview, referring to recent terror attacks tied to the group.
“So their battlefield is actually geographically dispersed globally, and that’s how they are fighting us,” he added.
Flynn, who recently wrote the book “Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies,” said pushing back ISIS in its core base of territory isn’t enough.
“They know that they’re not going to be able to withstand 2,000-pound bombs or us supporting some indigenous force to go rout them out of some small, burnt-out village in the middle of Iraq somewhere,” Flynn said. “They know that they’re not going to be able to withstand that.”
He also noted that while the US defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, years ago, the group resurged and became the global terror network it is today.
“In 2011, we beat them,” Flynn said. “We beat them in 2011. We proved that their version of, their Allah, couldn’t help them on the battlefield. But through a political decision by President Obama, he decided to pull everybody out. When you have victory in warfare, you must sustain that victory. And we did not.”
President Barack Obama has touted recent military victories against ISIS, but US officials have reportedly expressed that a political solution to the problems that gave rise to terrorist groups in the Middle East are lagging behind battlefield wins.
And experts have argued that as ISIS loses more territory, it will continue to project its power through external attacks.
Many recruits have been attracted to ISIS because of its territorial holdings and claims of bringing back the “caliphate,” an Islamic State that is ruled by a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. So now that ISIS’ territory is shrinking, the group has shifted focus to project its might through terrorist attacks like those in Paris late last year and Brussels earlier this year.
But defeating an ideology is more difficult than winning back territory, so it’s likely that the fight against radical Islamist terrorists will last generations, Flynn said.
“ISIS is in this global fight,” Flynn said. “Their battlefield is not just Iraq and Syria. Their battlefield is Europe, it’s southeast Asia. … So you have these activities and events going on around the world, and it’s based, really, on the ideological underpinnings of radical Islamism.”
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