GOP senators to Obama: Here’s how we could beat ISIS

GOP senators to Obama: Here’s how we could beat ISIS
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Ten GOP senators are proposing ideas for stepping up the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a letter to President Obama sent on Tuesday, the Republicans suggested embedding U.S. military advisers with Iraqi, Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces, reviewing the process for approving airstrikes and creating safe zones for Syrian refugees.

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“In the wake of the recent wave of devastating terrorist attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Paris, Beirut and the Russian airliner flying over Egypt, as well as last week’s attack in San Bernardino that appears to have been inspired by ISIS, we write today to both express support for your stated objective to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIS and to urge you to employ more effective means to accomplish that worthy goal,” the senators wrote.

The Republicans made the proposals two days after Obama delivered an Oval Office address about what steps he is already taking to fight ISIS. Obama's Republican critics panned the speech as offering nothing new. 

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In the near term, the senators offered four suggestions to seize territory in Iraq from ISIS, which they said would “effectively undermine the ISIS narrative.”

The senators argued that U.S. military advisers should serve alongside Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni tribal fighters in combat units down to the battalion level, including those on the front lines.

They said the United States should deploy and embed more U.S. troops to serve as "joint terminal attack controllers," who direct air power, which the senators argued would make airstrikes more effective. The United States should also deploy more close air support platforms, including Apache attack helicopters, they added.

Finally, the senators wrote, the United States should rethink its process for approving airstrikes.

“We should review the current approval process for coalition airstrikes, which we understand is unwieldy, and consider removing barriers that inhibit our pilots from attacking ISIS targets that are both timely and strategically significant,” they wrote.

Looking ahead, the senators had two more suggestions: establish one or more safe zones in Syria for refugees fleeing both ISIS and Syrian President Bashar Assad, and pursue a more “robust and central” role for NATO in the fight. One role for NATO, they wrote, could be to establish the safe zones.

“This list of potential courses of action is not an exhaustive one, but we believe that pursuing even some of these would represent a needed boost in the fight against ISIS,” they wrote.

“We also recognize that the threat of ISIS cannot be divorced from the overall conflict in Syria, which continues to rage, fueled further by Russian and Iranian interference,” they added.

“To safeguard our own national security, we must step up the military fight against ISIS as soon as possible, but it will require sustained, long-term American engagement to resolve the deeper problems that have allowed ISIS to incubate and gather strength in Syria and Iraq.”