Dem Congressman Critical of Obama's Islamic State Strategy: 'I'm Very Concerned With the President's Plan'

November 4, 2015

Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass.), a veteran of the Iraq War, said he was "very concerned" Wednesday about the Obama administration's strategy to counter the Islamic State and handle the civil war in Syria in an interview on CSPAN's Washington Journal.

After describing how the president's withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011 left a vacuum that the Islamic State (IS) was able to fill, Moulton said that the jihadist group is a major threat to American national security. Moulton also said the U.S. must defeat IS to create stability in the Middle East.

The problem is more a political issue than a military one. Iraqi forces have not only been defeated by IS but also "put their weapons down and went home." Moulton believes this indicates a lack of confidence in the government in Baghdad as well as a deficiency on the battlefield.

Regarding Syria, Moulton called America's sending about 50 special forces soldiers into the country a "grave concern" because the soldiers' deployment lacks a larger political objective.

"I'm very concerned with the president's plan, because fundamentally what's lacking in the Middle East is political stability," Moulton said. "It's a political vacuum that ISIS has grown into, especially in Iraq and of course in Syria, where there's a civil war. So the fact that we're sending in 50 special forces troops on the ground into Syria without a clear political plan is of grave concern."

"The troops have to fall in on a political plan," Moulton said. He contrasted Obama's unclear strategic vision with that of Russia's under Vladimir Putin, which he described as quite clear to Russian troops: keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power.

Moulton said that every Russian soldier in Syria knows his or her mission and why the fight is worthwhile, but American military personnel are unclear on what Washington's ultimate goal is. He said he believes Assad must be removed from power, but that Russia has been effective at making its strategy known.

When asked whether Congress should have an active role in the fight against IS, Moulton said yes, but that the administration rather than Congress is responsible for creating a mission and strategy. He did say, though, that Congress should "absolutely" debate the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against IS.

The United States is still operating under the AUMF from 2001, which authorized the use of force against those involved with the 9/11 terror attacks, and the AUMF from 2002, which authorized the use of force against Iraq.