WASHINGTON (Xinhua) – US critics are blasting President Barack Obama’s muddled message over the nature of the Islamic State (IS) threat and how the United States plans to tackle the terrorist group.
Washington frets that the IS could carve out a safe haven in the Middle East to strike the US homeland, just as al-Qaeda did in Afghanistan during the lead up to the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
The IS militants have in recent months overrun vast swaths of northern Iraq and are also fighting on a second front in war-ravaged Syria in a bid to establish a state there.
The Obama administration has had trouble keeping its message clear on how it will deal with the IS.
While the president has emphasized he would not deploy US combat troops to war-torn Iraq and Syria, this week Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey publicly stated that the policy could be reconsidered.
In response, Obama scrambled this week to reiterate that his policy had not changed, saying he would not commit “our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”
Despite the clarification, observers, lawmakers and pundits contend the administration is confusing Americans, and some experts add that this could demonstrate weakness to US enemies, including the terrorists.
“The first thing he says is no boots on the ground and then makes an announcement of sending more boots,” Republican Repre-sentative Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, said earlier this week in a hearing, referring to Obama’s deployment of several hundred military advisers to Iraq.
“The president’s plan for IS does not inspire a great deal of confidence among Republicans, even though the Republican Party agrees with him on the need to destroy the terror group,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told Xinhua.
“The president’s rhetoric is all over the map. Is his job to defeat IS or contain it? Or to put US troops on the ground or not?” he said.
Putting massive numbers of US boots on the ground is not an option for Obama. Not only because his legacy is tied to putting an end to the US war in Iraq, but also because the Vietnam Syndrome – public war weariness and reticence to get involved in foreign conflicts – has spiked among Americans after years of US involvement in the Middle East.
But the US air strike alone will not destroy the IS, and ground troops – from somewhere, if not the US – are needed to do the job, experts said.