McCain: War against ISIS turning into Vietnam

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 7, 2016

McCain: War against ISIS turning into Vietnam

Ashton Carter (left) with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, (R-AZ), as they arrive for Carter's Secretary of Defense confirmation hearing before the committee on Feb. 4, 2015

(by Rebecca Kheel, The Hill) – The fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) risks turning into another Vietnam War if the administration only gradually increases troops levels and other capabilities, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Tuesday.

The Naval pilot-turned-politician survived over five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Sen. McCain wrote, “As a young military officer, I bore witness to the failed policy of gradual escalation that ultimately led to our nation’s defeat in the Vietnam War. Now as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fear this administration’s grudging incrementalism in the war against the Islamic State (ISIL) risks another slow, grinding failure for our nation.”

McCain, a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, said he worries military commanders are not making recommendations based on what they think they need to win.

“My conversations with military commanders both on the ground and in the Pentagon have led me to the disturbing, yet unavoidable conclusion that they have been reduced from considering what it will take to win to what they will be allowed to do by this administration,” he wrote. “And it will be the men and women serving in our military and our national security that will pay the price. This is unacceptable.”

McCain specifically wanted answers to a slew of questions related to how many troops are in Iraq and Syria and what the plans are for retaking Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS.

The Pentagon has recently come under fire after acknowledging the number of troops on the ground in Iraq is higher than the administration’s authorized cap of 3,870.

The issue emerged after a Marine was killed in Iraq. He was part of a company quietly deployed to northern Iraq that was not counted in the caps because it was there on a temporary basis.

Pentagon officials have also said they’re drafting recommendations for the president to send more troops to Iraq to help the Iraqis retake Mosul.

McCain asked how many military and civilian personnel were in Iraq as of March 31, including those not counted by the official cap. He also wanted to know how many personnel were in Syria as of the same date.

McCain also asked how long it would take to retake Mosul and Raqqa with those levels and how many personnel are needed to retake both cities by the end of the year.

McCain asked about Libya, too. He wanted to know how many military and civilian personnel were there as of March 31 and how many may be needed to fight the growing ISIS presence there.

“As ISIL metastasizes and gains allegiances throughout Africa, what U.S. military presence is required to stop and roll back its advances on the continent?” he added. 

…[As the Senate Armed Services Committee weighs the Defense Department’s 2017 budget request, McCain said he and his committee “must have full insight into the scale and scope of U.S. military operations against ISIL.”

In response to a request for comment, Pentagon spokesman Matthew Allen told CNN, “The Department has received Senator McCain’s letter and will respond directly as appropriate.”]

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Hill. For the original article, visit thehill .com.

Questions

1. Define the following as used in the article:

  • gradual
  • escalation
  • grudging
  • incrementalism
  • foreign policy

2. What warning did Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee have for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter?

3. What concern does Sen. McCain have about the Obama administration’s policy on fighting ISIS?

4. What does Sen. McCain say that he has concluded after talking to military commanders on the ground and in the Pentagon?

5. List the questions Sen. McCain has asked Secretary Carter to answer as the Senate Armed Services Committee weighs the Defense Department’s 2017 budget request.

6. Ask a parent (and a grandparent if possible): Do you think the assertions/questions Sen. McCain includes in his letter are reasonable? Explain your answer.


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Background

Read Sen. McCain’s letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter below: (from Sen. McCain’s website)

April 5, 2016

The Honorable Ashton Carter
Secretary of Defense

Dear Secretary Carter:

As a young military officer, I bore witness to the failed policy of gradual escalation that ultimately led to our nation’s defeat in the Vietnam War. Now as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fear this administration’s grudging incrementalism in the war against the Islamic State (ISIL) risks another slow, grinding failure for our nation. My conversations with military commanders both on the ground and in the Pentagon have led me to the disturbing, yet unavoidable conclusion that they have been reduced from considering what it will take to win to what they will be allowed to do by this administration. And it will be the men and women serving in our military and our national security that will pay the price. This is unacceptable.

The most important responsibility of the Senate Armed Services Committee is to determine the capabilities that our military requires to defend our nation and provide the necessary resources and support our warfighters need to achieve their missions and return home safely. In order to inform the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ongoing review of the Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, the Committee must have full insight into the scale and scope of U.S. military operations against ISIL. Therefore, I ask you to provide the Committee with written responses to the following questions:

1) As of March 31, 2016, how many U.S. military and civilian personnel were present in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, including personnel that are not accounted for under the force management level numbers?

2) As of March 31, 2016, how many U.S. military and civilian personnel were present in Iraq in support of missions other than Operation Inherent Resolve, including personnel that are not accounted for under the force management level numbers?

3) As of March 31, 2016, how many U.S. contractors were present in Iraq providing contract security support to the U.S. Government?

4) Does the U.S. Government have any plans to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the Government of Iraq (GOI) or to ask the Iraqi parliament to approve the presence of U.S. military personnel in Iraq?

5) As of March 31, 2016, how many U.S. military and civilian personnel were present in Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve?

6) With the current U.S. force level provided in response to Questions 1 and 5, how long do you estimate it will take for coalition forces to recapture Mosul and Raqqa?

7) Given your current estimates of available coalition forces going forward, how many U.S. military and civilian personnel would be required in addition to the current force level provided in response to Questions 1 and 5 in order for coalition forces to recapture Mosul and Raqqa by the end of 2016?

8) As of March 31, 2016, how many U.S. military and civilian personnel were present in Libya? Given that ISIL reportedly controls an army of up to 8,000 fighters in Libya, do you assess that the deployment of U.S. military personnel to Libya above the present level will be required in order to achieve ISIL’s lasting defeat? If so, please provide your estimate of what U.S. forces may be required.

9) As ISIL metastasizes and gains allegiances throughout Africa, what U.S. military presence is required to stop and roll back its advances on the continent?

Please provide your responses to these questions in coordination with the Department of State in an unclassified form, with a classified addendum if necessary, within the next two weeks.

Thank you for your service to our nation, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

John McCain
Chairman
Senate Armed Services Committee


About Congressional Committees:

  • Committee membership enables members to develop specialized knowledge of the matters under their jurisdiction.
  • As “little legislatures,” committees monitor on-going governmental operations, identify issues suitable for legislative review, gather and evaluate information; and recommend courses of action to their parent body.
  • There are three types of committees: standing, select or special, and joint committees.
  • Standing committees generally have legislative jurisdiction. (Subcommittees handle specific areas of the committee’s work.)
  • Select and joint committees generally handle oversight or housekeeping responsibilities.
  • The chair of each committee and a majority of its members represent the majority party. The chair primarily controls a committee’s business. The chairman is always selected from the majority party and the ranking member is the most senior member of the minority party. The majority party ensures it has a majority on every committee.
  • There are 21 permanent committees in the House of Representatives, and 20 in the Senate. Four joint committees operate with members from both houses on matters of mutual jurisdiction and oversight.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is a standing committee.