Pentagon chief: US needs 'much more' than airstrikes to beat ISIS
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The United States needs “much more” than airstrikes to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Saturday. 
 
“If you say, is it enough? I don’t think it’s enough. I think we’re looking to do more,” Carter said of the U.S. campaign against ISIS during a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. 
 
More than a year into the U.S.-led fight against ISIS, only incremental gains have been made against the extremist group, which continues to control large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. 
 
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“Yes, we are willing to do more,” Carter said. “As we identify opportunities to do more, you will see us doing more. And we need to do more, much more than airstrikes.”
 
Carter’s call for a more robust effort against ISIS comes at a time when the Obama administration is tweaking its approach. 
 
President Obama last week authorized fewer than 50 U.S. special operations forces to deploy to northern Syria to train and assist local forces, putting American boots on the ground in Syria for the first time since that country’s civil war began.
 
In order to deal a “lasting defeat” against ISIS, Carter said the U.S. must succeed in training local forces to fight the group on the ground.  
 
“We can defeat ISIL, but it’s keeping them defeated that is the hard part,” Carter said, using another acronym for the group. “It’s making it stick.”
 
The administration’s effort to recruit local fighters to battle ISIS suffered an embarrassing setback last month when the Pentagon closed down a $500 million program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. 
 
The initiative failed to build a viable ground force to take on the extremist group. Its first class of 54 fighters fell apart in July after a Syrian al Qaeda affiliate attacked them upon reentering Syria from their training sites. 
 
“Finding those capable and motivated and willing forces turns out to be difficult,” Carter said. “And so, as we identify them and strengthen them, we will do more. We have to support capable and motivated forces.”
 
Carter recently chided America’s Gulf State allies for not doing enough to confront ISIS fighters. 
 
“The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [ISIS], is that they have weighted having high-end air-force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces,” he told The Atlantic.