McCain: War against ISIS turning into Vietnam


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.

“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,” McCain wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “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.

McCain asked for answers in an unclassified form, with a classified addendum if necessary, within two weeks.

Tags Islamic State in Iraq and Syria John McCain

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