House Intelligence Committee member says Washington needs to do more to eradicate Islamic State.
The U.S. strategy against Islamic State came under growing fire in Washington on Sunday with one prominent Democrat calling it a failure that could lead to more attacks by the extremists like those in Paris.
President Barack Obama and top advisers vowed to stand by France and said they would intensify military coordination and intelligence sharing in the wake of the attacks Friday night, which left 129 dead in the French capital and were claimed by the I.S. group.
But Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the administration has already been doing that and it has not been enough. “I think the implications are this is not just an intelligence failure,” Schiff said on ABC’s This Week show.
“It’s a failure also of a coalition campaign because we have allowed ISIS to have sanctuary in Syria and Iraq with too much time to plan and plot, too much resources to be directed against us,” he said. “And unless that changes strategically, we can expect more attacks like this.”
The United States and its allies have been conducting airstrikes against the I.S. group in Iraq and Syria for more than a year, while also picking off its leaders one by one in drone attacks. But the extremists still hold large swaths of both countries and the attacks in Paris were seen as part of a new, terrifying phase aimed at taking the conflict directly to the West.
Schiff raised the specter of the I.S. group hitting the U.S. homeland for the first time. While he believes that the United States presents a harder target than France, defending it “through the use of these intelligence resources is simply not enough.”
But neither Schiff nor Obama’s Republican critics have offered detailed specifics on how U.S. strategy should change and there has been little public support in the United States for deploying U.S. ground troops in war-ravaged Syria, where the I.S. group has its de facto capital.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke by telephone with French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to share information on what they were doing in response to the Paris attacks. “They agreed on concrete steps the U.S. and French militaries should take to further intensify our close cooperation in prosecuting a sustained campaign against ISIL,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the United States will intensify airstrikes on the I.S. group, the training and equipping of moderate rebel forces on the ground and the targeting of the extremists’ leaders.
The Obama administration believes that by stepping up those efforts, “we’ll be able to roll back ISIL and ultimately achieve that objective of defeating the organization,” Rhodes said.
But Republican lawmakers dismissed the air campaign as “pinpricks” that do not add up to a comprehensive strategy. “You can’t fight ISIS unless you are willing to put a strategy together that deals with North Africa, the failure in Libya, the problems in the Sinai, Iraq and Syria, and the Afghanistan/Pakistan region,” said Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation. “And then—and I think more complicated—is what are the Europeans going to do now that it appears like ISIS has rooted themselves into Europe with a command and control structure?”
Richard Burr, the powerful Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was also damning. “We’ve got to have a strategy,” he said. “We don’t have a strategy in Syria as it relates to ISIL.”
Republicans also attacked an assertion by Obama in an interview with ABC conducted before the Paris attacks that I.S. was “contained.” Rhodes explained that the president meant geographically contained in Iraq and Syria.