On Monday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to outline a new US military strategy for the Middle East. The Secretary admitted the failure of the US “train and equip” program for rebels in Syria, but instead of taking the appropriate lessons from that failure and get out of the “regime change” business, he announced the opposite. The US would not only escalate its “train and equip” program by removing the requirement that fighters be vetted for extremist ideology, but according to the Secretary the US military would for the first time become directly and overtly involved in combat in Syria and Iraq.
As Secretary Carter put it, the US would begin “supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL (ISIS), or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”
“Direct action on the ground” means US boots on the ground, even though President Obama supposedly ruled out that possibility when he launched air strikes against Iraq and Syria last year. Did anyone think he would keep his word?
President Obama claims his current authority to conduct war in Iraq and Syria comes from the 2001 authorization for the use of force against those who attacked the US on 9/11, or from the 2002 authorization for the use of force against Saddam Hussein. Neither of these claims makes any sense. The 2002 authorization said nothing about ISIS because at the time there was no ISIS, and likewise the 2001 authorization pertained to an al-Qaeda that did not exist in Iraq or Syria at the time.
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