Sunday, June 15, 2014

Starting to Work the Problem?

It isn't quite fair to say the Obama administration has not done anything to cope with a resurgent al Qaeda in Iraq. It is fair to say that it hasn't been enough so far.

This seems fair:

Let me just start with a brief update on Iraq. Secretary Hagel continues to monitor the situation there, as do defense and military leaders here at the Pentagon. Over the last 36 hours, the secretary has met a number of times with senior military leaders to discuss events on the ground and to prepare options for the president's consideration. I won't detail those options, but I can tell you they cover a wide range of military capabilities, and will be designed, as the president said, to help break the momentum of ISIL's progress and bolster Iraqi security forces. But clearly, any decision to employ these options rests solely with the commander in chief.

I think it's important to remember that for several months now, we have been working in close coordination with the State Department to augment the capabilities of Iraqi security forces. Our focus has been on increasing their capacity to defend themselves and their people and remain responsible for taking on the threats over the long term.

In March, we delivered 100 Hellfire missiles on an expedited time table, bringing the total to some 300. That's in addition to millions of rounds of small arms fire, tank ammunition, helicopter fired rockets. Late last year, we delivered additional armed scout helicopters to the Iraqi armed forces. And a few weeks ago, we -- we notified Congress of an additional $1 billion in foreign military sales.

The secretary believes that it is imperative that Iraq and its neighbors have strong security forces to meet evolving threats from the violence that's spilling over, certainly, from Syria's borders. We are fully committed to that effort. But in keeping with that effort, we continue to provide counter-terrorism support. That support has included ISR capabilities. And we have intensified this ISR support in recent days at the request of the Iraqi government.

So we've had drones over Iraq watching even before the jihadi offensive. And we've increased that level of support.

I'd put armed drones over Iraq, too.

I'd also like special forces and advisors, whether our own, allied, or contractors, to help plan and organize in general, and to utilize the recon information and strike platforms.

Given that the enemy has seized American-made equipment from the Iraqi security forces, we have to be careful what we are targeting or we could well demoralize Iraqi government forces likely still shaken by the speed of the enemy advance. We need to settle the Iraqis down and not spark a panic.

And without search and rescue capabilities on the ground in or near Iraq, I would not send in piloted aircraft in case one is brought down by accident or hostile fire in enemy territory.

It is good that we are belatedly reacting to the deterioration inside Iraq. Pity it had to take this stunning jihadi advance to prod us to react.

If we do indeed react enough to do any good.

I'm deeply suspicious that the Obama administration seeks not to win but to say they tried and did their best--thus gaining the ability to deny responsibility for the outcome.