Amanpour: U.S. Fight Against Islamic State 'Not Going Well Right Now'

Morell tells CNN reporter 'I don't see a strategy'

June 4, 2015

CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour delivered an indictment of the Obama administration’s passive response to Middle East unrest on Wednesday, quoting senior CIA sources who worry about the administration’s lack of strategy for the region

"I’ve spoken to former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell, who said, ‘I don’t see a strategy,’" Amanpour said on New Day.

"One of the big attempts at a strategy was to get the Sunnis in Iraq to band together and push extremists out of the country like they did in 2007 with the Awakening and the surge," Amanpour added. "That has not happened."

Amanpour was asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota about Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s comment that Islamic State had lost 10,000 since the start of a coalition military campaign involving U.S. airstrikes.

Amanpour said the 10,000 figure "doesn’t really matter, because ISIS is getting thousands more recruits and thousands more acres of territory whether in Iraq or Syria. The fight that the U.S. and the West has is not going well right now."

National security analysts have questioned Blinken’s 10,000 body count figure. If true, it would indicate that the Islamic State's estimated ranks have been "degraded by between one-third and one-half" in the last nine months. Bill Roggio speculates that the seeming disconnect between estimates of IS troop strength and casualties could indicate that IS is much larger than previously supposed.

Moderate rebels in Syria are being squeezed between a growing IS force and the Iran-backed Assad regime, which has adopted a cynical strategy to eliminate rebels in the middle who are viewed sympathetically in the West.

Amanpour says that, while it may be unpalatable to the Obama administration, any serious U.S. strategy will target both foes.

"They don’t want to get in the fight against Assad, they just want to fight ISIS," Amanpour said. "You can’t just fight ISIS. You have to have a strategy against Assad as well. This is a big problem."

The U.S. has armed and trained several hundred moderate rebels in Syria, but its efforts have been criticized by recipients as a drop in the bucket.

"What rebels in Syria really need today is qualitative weapons and ammunition, not training," a rebel spokesperson told U.S. News and World Report.

Amanpour echoed these concerns.

"It’s not too late" to arm the moderate rebels against ISIS and Assad, she reported, citing conversations with former President Bill Clinton and Morell, "but it may be too little still."