Today I leave Austin and head to Dallas. I’ll be speaking this weekend at Prestonwood Baptist Church on “The Gathering Storm and the Future of the Middle East.”
One area I plan to touch on is the sobering fact that the U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS is not working. To the contrary, ISIS continues to gain ground, recruit new jihadists, and endanger Americans and our allies.
Consider several disturbing stories I’m reading this morning:
- FBI arrests Ohio man, foils attack on Capitol (Boston Herald) — “The arrest of an Ohio man for what the FBI called a foiled terror plot to bomb the U.S. Capitol and open fire on members of Congress rattled some lawmakers who said yesterday they only learned of the alleged ISIS-inspired ambush through news reports. Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, who went by the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, was arrested on charges of attempting to kill U.S. government officials and firearm possession yesterday, soon after the alleged homegrown jihadist bought a cache of weapons and ammunition in the Cincinnati area….Cornell was arrested after purchasing two semiautomatic rifles and nearly 600 rounds of ammunition in Ohio in what authorities said was one of the “final steps” leading up to the D.C. attack.”
- West Struggles to Halt Flow of Citizens to War Zones (New York Times) — “Altogether, about 18,000 foreign combatants, including 3,000 Europeans and other Westerners, have traveled to fight in the region since the Syria conflict erupted in 2011, according to American intelligence estimates.”
- Months of Airstrikes Fail to Slow Islamic State in Syria: Militant Group Has Gained Territory Despite U.S.-Led Strikes, Raising Concerns of the Obama Administration’s Mideast Strategy (Wall Street Journal)
Excerpts from this particular story in the Journal:
- More than three months of U.S. airstrikes in Syria have failed to prevent Islamic State militants from expanding their control in that country, according to U.S. and independent assessments, raising new concerns about President Barack Obama ’s military strategy in the Middle East.
- While U.S. bombing runs and missile strikes have put Islamic State forces on the defensive in Iraq, they haven’t had the same kind of impact in Syria. Instead, jihadist fighters have enlarged their hold in Syria since the U.S. started hitting the group’s strongholds there in September, according to the new estimates.
- Islamic State’s progress in Syria is partly the result of the U.S. decision to focus its military efforts on Iraq, where the militant group has seized major parts of the country and declared them part of a new Islamic caliphate. The U.S.-led military effort has pushed the forces out of some key battlegrounds in Iraq.
- But Syria still serves as a haven for Islamic State fighters, also known in the West by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.
- “Certainly ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective,” said one senior defense official. “I wouldn’t call Syria a safe haven for ISIL, but it is a place where it’s easier for them to organize, plan and seek shelter than it is in Iraq.”
- The assessments come as the Obama administration is considering whether the U.S. should embrace more aggressive ideas for containing Islamic State forces in Syria. Some administration officials have been pushing the U.S. to once again rethink its “Iraq-first” strategy and focus more attention on Syria, including training thousands of Syrian fighters to take on the feared group.
- Among suggestions: The U.S. military could help set up a buffer zone along Syria’s border with Turkey that would be protected by American air power. It could start coordinating airstrikes with rebel forces currently fighting in Syria. And it could provide Kurdish forces now fighting in Syria with more sophisticated weapons.
- But there is significant opposition within the administration to any idea that would drag the U.S. military deeper into a country where few see options that will make things better, officials say….
- For now, the U.S. strategy remains focused on pushing Islamic State forces out of Iraq, where they control major parts of the country, including Mosul, its second-largest city, and Fallujah, a longtime stronghold of anti-American resistance northwest of Baghdad.
- That focus is likely to be questioned in the coming weeks when the new Republican-controlled Congress holds hearings on Mr. Obama’s strategy in the Middle East. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is likely to challenge the strategy when he holds a confirmation hearing in early February for Ashton Carter, a longtime Pentagon official who is Mr. Obama’s nominee to be his next defense secretary.
- Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Middle East military campaign, said the airstrikes weren’t intended to prevent Islamic State fighters from gaining ground in most of Syria….
- “Gaining territorial control in Syria has never been our mission,” he said. “That wasn’t the objective of our airstrikes.”….
- The U.S. strategy in Syria is also constrained by a reluctance to tip the balance of power toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Islamic State and other rebels. While the U.S. is working closely with Baghdad against Islamic State, it can’t do the same with Damascus.
- The expansion of Islamic State control in Syria isn’t purely the result of conquests. In some cases, competing rebel forces battling Islamic State have been convinced to join forces with them, officials and experts said.
The lack of a decisive strategy by the U.S. and our allies is raising fears among Americans that ISIS will launch “catastrophic terror attacks” here in the homeland.
It’s why I wrote The Third Target and why I’m spending the entire month of January in the U.S., traveling, speaking and doing media to warn of the grave dangers posed by ISIS, Iran, and other Radical Islamists, and why we must wake up to the danger and take decisive action.
To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.
God have mercy on us all.
- How serious is the threat of ISIS & Radical Islam? I’m doing a special simulcast event for churches on Sunday evening, April 19th. Please register today.
- In face of genocide, too many in Washington complacent about defeating ISIS: Video of my Fox News interview with Shannon Bream on #TheThirdTarget.
- “Nightmare scenario”: What happens if ISIS attacks Jordan? Gov. Huckabee asked me this on FoxNews this weekend. Here’s the video of our discussion.
- Exclusive new poll: Americans fear “catastrophic terrorist attacks” by ISIS inside US, Israel & Jordan. “Washington Examiner” reports results of survey commissioned for launch of #TheThirdTarget.