Ex-Obama defense officials: ISIS threat ‘getting worse, not better’

Getty Images

Two former top Obama defense officials told lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. was not winning the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“I don’t think we are where we need to be,” Michèle Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

{mosads}”I think that this threat has shown itself to be much more serious than I think we first realized,” said Flournoy, now CEO of the Center for a New American Security. 

“It’s something that’s a long-term challenge that we need to deal with, and I don’t think we are fully resourcing a multidimensional strategy,” she added.  

Flournoy also added that the threat is “getting worse, not better.” 

“I don’t think invading Syria is the answer. … But I do think we as the United States need to play more of a leadership role diplomatically, more of a leadership role in terms of enabling others militarily, and with intelligence, and be in a more forward-leaning posture, because this threat is getting worse, not better,” she said. 

Flournoy is considered a possible candidate to be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s defense secretary if she wins the presidency. 

Flournoy’s comments follow a string of current and former senior defense officials who seem to disagree with President Obama’s claim the day before the Paris terrorist attacks that ISIS was “contained.” 

Michael Vickers, another former senior Obama defense official who testified alongside Flournoy, said he did not believe the U.S. was winning the ISIS fight. 

“I do not believe we are winning, or we’re certainly not winning fast enough,” added Vickers, former under secretary of defense for intelligence under President George W. Bush and Obama. 

“As Michèle mentioned, this will be a long struggle, but if you look at our fight with al Qaeda, if you look at it in terms of a campaign, we need a more rapid and decisive campaign that will at least deny sanctuary — much as we did with the Taliban, in 2001,” he added. 

“The war wasn’t over, but it certainly knocked them back on their heels, it knocked al Qaeda back on its heels for a period of time, and that’s what I think we need to do to ISIL in the short run. And then, many, many things to follow,” he said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS. 

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who penned an op-ed with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, arguing for stronger actions in the fight — said the U.S. needed to have a “national conversation” about the strategy against ISIS. 

We need to “develop a strategy that is credible to the American people and I don’t think that is the case today,” he said. 

Tags Hillary Clinton John McCain Lindsey Graham

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video