Mike Rogers

Can Special Forces defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?

November 19, 2015  |  Blog

(CNN) President Obama said his current strategy on ISIS is working and that the death of 129 people in Paris is a “setback.” He also said ISIS is contained, despite ISIS claiming credit for the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt, the death of dozens in a bombing in Beirut, and the other 31 successful global attacks by ISIS and its affiliates this year.

The recent announcement by the White House that not more than 50 special operations forces will be dispatched to help coordinate the fight against ISIS was heralded by some as evidence of the administration’s seriousness on the issue. As CNN reported, this represented “the most significant escalation of the American military campaign against [ISIS].” Unfortunately, enthusiasm must be tempered by reality. Though it was a very small step in the right direction, it does not represent a grand strategy.

Time after time, military advisers have said special operations forces are not a cure-all. And we have bombed ISIS in Syria for over a year, yet three of their deadliest attacks have happened in the last three weeks.

To understand how special operations forces are properly used, and where they can be successful, it’s necessary to rewind the clock and examine Iraq at the peak of special operations-led actions there in the mid-2000s.

Under Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Joint Special Operations Command developed a system that linked forceful action with immediate processing of intelligence and real time analysis. Special operators launched missions at dusk and continued all night; hitting one safe house after another, analyzing the information gained in one strike and launching subsequent raids based on what they found, in hours.

How was this operational tempo achieved? First, the United States was working with the full support, consent and backing of the elected Iraqi government. The U.S. dominated the battle space, there was relatively sizable local support, and these teams enjoyed full air support, including medical evacuation, in the event an operation went poorly.

Read full piece at CNN.com here: http://cnn.it/1S7bFXe

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