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Mitch M.
Republican KY

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  • Presidential Strategy to Defeat Isil

    by Senator Mitch McConnell

    Posted on 2015-12-07

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    McCONNELL. Madam President, last evening President Obama addressed the Nation concerning the threat ISIL poses to our people. Unfortunately, the American people did not hear of a strategy or a plan to defeat and destroy this terrorist army. Instead, they heard a restatement of a military campaign crafted to contain--contain--ISIL within Iraq and Syria.

    Following the attacks in Paris and California, and the downing of a Russian airliner, about 60 percent of the American people disapprove of the President's handling of terrorism. Nearly two-thirds disapprove of his handling of ISIL.

    The American people understand intuitively that ISIL and the wider terrorist threat have not been contained but, rather, that they have evolved into something increasingly more serious and more challenging. Americans also know that the operational concept ordered by the President is insufficient to defeat ISIL. It is not just the American people saying this. It is not just Republicans saying it, either. President Obama's last Defense Secretary recently criticized his approach; so have several other former Obama administration officials.

    Here is a sampling of what they have said over just the last week or two: One called on the Obama administration to ``wake up'' to the threat. Another said that the Obama administration ``seems to be really flailing and tone deaf to this latest challenge.'' A third called on the President to ``change your strategy'' because ``by any measure, our strategy in Iraq and Syria is not succeeding.'' And then there is President Obama's former Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, who put it plainly: ``We're not winning.'' Hillary Clinton said: ``We're not winning.'' The President had a real opportunity last night to show the American people that defeating ISIL is his priority. He had an opportunity to demonstrate his willingness to adapt to the threat. He had an opportunity to explain how he can better prepare our Nation for a fight that will inevitably be passed on to his successor, but he didn't do that. He didn't do it last night.

    The American people were looking for a serious strategy and a real vision last night, not a recap of an approach that clearly hasn't worked. Last night was only the President's third Oval Office address, and by any measure a missed opportunity.

    Look, throughout his time as Commander in Chief, President Obama has shown an inflexible adherence to policies he advocated as a candidate for office in 2008, most specifically to end our Nation's War on Terror. In his first days in office he issued a series of Executive orders designed to weaken the ability of our warfighter and intelligence community to gather targeted information, to capture terrorists, interrogate, and detain them to advance our understanding of terrorist networks and plans, as well as to protect the American people. Although the President conceded that the complete withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan would be harmful to our national security interests and slowed our withdrawal in the face of Al Qaeda and Taliban resistance, he inflexibly clung to a fixed date for our drawdown of forces in Iraq, which allowed for the growth of ISIL. As the President inflexibly pursued an end to the War on Terror, the terrorist threat evolved and adapted as Al Qaeda affiliates advanced in presence and capability and Al Qaeda in Iraq grew into the terrorist army we now know as ISIL. ISIL's use of social media and encrypted communications burgeoned at the very moment the President and his allies were working to take away critical electronic surveillance tools from our intelligence community.

    Here is what we need from the President now. What we need from the President is for him to clearly outline what it is he aims to achieve, how he aims to achieve it, and what authorities he thinks he will need to make that happen. He needs to match strategic objectives to the means to reach the goals. The President needs to tell us what authorities he needs to defeat encrypted online communications. The President needs to tell us what is needed to establish our capture, interrogation, and surveillance capabilities. The President needs to tell us how the coalition or NATO will forge a ground force capable of not only trying to contain ISIL but actually driving it from Raqqa. The President needs to tell us the force structure and the funding our commanders will need to rebuild our conventional capabilities so we can continue and expand this fight while facing other global threats. The President should also explain why he will not use the secure facility at Guantanamo Bay to safely hold and interrogate newly captured terrorists in order to help prevent the next plot against Americans.

    These are the kinds of things the American people are looking for, and by leading on them, President Obama [[Page S8433]] can demonstrate his commitment to protecting our Nation and leaving it better prepared for his successor.


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