The Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti appeared on Fox News Wednesday to discuss the importance of reclaiming territory in the U.S. fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
Continetti said that recent U.S. drone strikes against top ISIS officials were successful, but that targeted drone strikes or “intelligence coups” will not be sufficient to defeat ISIS in the long term.
“I think it is an important victory in the war on terror, obviously, and the war on ISIS,” he said. “We have to remember that if targeted strikes were the only solution to the problem, then we wouldn’t have Al-Qaeda, we wouldn’t have ISIS right now, because after all, we took out Osama Bin Laden in 2011, and we’ve had drone strikes in Yemen for years now. They haven’t been enough to actually solve the problem.”
He said that the elimination of top officials is a “tactical victory,” but that reclaiming territory would be a longer lasting “strategic victory.”
“You have to deny the terrorists safe haven, and that means you have to deny them space on the ground – territory from which they operate. So in that sense, killing the mid-level officials is a tactical victory, but a more strategic victory is gaining ground, and I hope holding ground in Ramadi, and then beyond Ramadi into Mosul,” he said.
Continetti said that while U.S.-backed Syrian rebels have had scattered ground victories across the Middle East, there are still major areas to be won, including Raqqa, ISIS’s capital in Syria.
“The more important victories that we’ve had are … Ramadi, and then also another victory in Syria with this hydroelectric dam that some of the Syrian rebels were able to recapture from ISIS,” he said. “You have a ground force in Iraq and you have a ground force in the north of Syria. We really have to figure out who’s going to be the ground force that takes over Raqqa.”
“You’re not going to solve the ISIS problem until ISIS no longer controls ground,” he said.