Biden: ISIS can be defeated without US boots on the ground

Vice President Biden expressed confidence that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria could be defeated without U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, calling the militant group "far from invincible." 

In a Washington Post op-ed published Friday, Biden described the threat as a "long-term challenge" but said the United States is prepared to increase its support in the fight. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"ISIL has no legitimate cause or grievance to espouse,” he said, using an alternate name for the group. "And as we saw at the Mosul dam, when its fighting strength is eroded, it can be routed by local forces without U.S. boots on the ground."

The United States launched 60 airstrikes — two-thirds of all U.S. operations — in helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces retake the Mosul dam, which the administration said could have been catastrophic if it was breached. 

Biden called the mission last week the first operation where the Kurdish pesh merga and Iraq security forces worked together. 

"As Iraqis continue to make progress, we are prepared to further enhance our support for Iraq’s fight against ISIL — and will call on the international community to join Canada, Australia and our European allies in doing the same," Biden said. 

The call came days after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of U.S. photojournalist James Foley and the threat to kill another captured U.S. journalist if the United States does not end its airstrikes. 

Biden said Iraq's ultimate survival rests on all factions of Iraq coming together. He complimented the country for convening a parliament, selecting a president and designating a new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. 

Former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki stepped down earlier this month and endorsed al-Abadi, who is tasked with forming a unity government within the next month. 

Biden cautioned U.S. influence is limited without a unity government in Iraq. 

"Unless Iraq can do this, no amount of outside intervention will matter — nor will it continue indefinitely," he said. "That’s why government formation is so critical."

He also called on other Middle East neighbors to "refrain from fueling sectarian divisions." He specifically called on Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian opposition to help stem "the flow of foreign fights to and from the battlefield."

"ISIL is far from invincible. Its ideology is rejected by most Iraqis," Biden said. "It establishes order not through consent but through fear. It has destroyed ancient religious sites, enslaved women and girls and brutally executed many of the very Sunnis it claims to speak for."