National Security

Former Ambassador Crocker: ISIS Not Defeated or Degraded, Maybe Not Even Contained

Former ambassador to Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon Ryan Crocker said that President Obama’s degrade-and-defeat mission has failed and transformed into a "perilous" strategy of containment Friday on MSNBC.

In response to President Obama's claim Friday that the U.S. strategy has "contained" ISIS, Crocker said that the president’s strategy was initially to "degrade and ultimately defeat" the Islamic State.

"We have to decide what is our policy here," he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. "When the president first rolled it out last year, he didn't use the word contain. He said to degrade and ultimately defeat."

The degrade and defeat mission, however, proved to be a failure, he said.

"They're certainly not defeated, 15 months later, and I would argue they're not degraded, either," he said, "and very questionable if they're even contained."

Crocker said that the Beirut bombing and the Russian plane crash are examples of the strategy’s failure to stop the growth of the Islamic State, noting that Obama’s deployment of 50 special forces is not significant enough to defeat ISIS.

"[50 personnel] is not going to be a game-changer in this fight against ISIS," he said. If ISIS is truly a threat in the region, Crocker said, "we really need to ramp up our game, not just make incremental changes."

He said that the U.S. should re-assess its strategy against the Islamic State and recommended "a whole government approach to countering the Islamic State."

"Presidential envoy in the field, empowered deputy national security advisor back home, would start to indicate that we are really serious about an anti-Islamic State campaign," he said. "If the fight against Islamic State is a top U.S. strategic priority, we need to act like it in the way we organize."

Crocker warned that the Islamic State "may now be aiming at targets outside the Middle East," which makes containment "a perilous course."

He urged a return to the original mission.

"I think we really need to move into what the president said we were going to do, which was degrade and defeat," Crocker said.