National Security

Gates: Obama’s Strategy for Islamic State Needs to Be Intensified

Former secretary of defense Robert Gates said Sunday on Meet the Press that President Obama's strategy to destroy the Islamic State needs to be intensified since the terrorist organization presented both a near-term and long-term problem.

"I think it does need to be sped up and intensified," Gates said. "I think that while ISIS [the Islamic State] is a long-term problem for us, we have near-term issues associated with it. All you have to do is look at the downing of the Russian airliner and the attacks in Paris and the attacks in Beirut and so on. So we have a near-term problem that needs to be addressed or a near-term challenge from ISIS that needs to be addressed."

Gates, who served under both Obama and George W. Bush, added that deploying tens of thousands of troops would solve the problem either.

Obama has received sharp criticism for his response to IS, which has grown in strength and ambition since 2014, and its recent attacks on Paris that killed 130 people. Obama said that he had the "right strategy" to confront the organization, but even members of his own party rebuked his remarks that his administration had "contained" IS.

Leon Panetta, another former secretary of defense under Obama, said the previous Sunday that Obama has not deployed sufficient resources to accomplish his stated mission of degrading and destroying IS.

Full exchange:

CHUCK TODD: The president's strategy. Is it–should he speed it up? Speed up the implementation of his strategy or completely change it? Because there seems to be–that seems to be among the debates, that while the strategy's the right strategy, it just needs to be sped up.

ROBERT GATES: Well, I think it does need to be sped up and intensified. I think that while ISIS is a long-term problem for us, we have near-term issues associated with it. All you have to do is look at the downing of the Russian airliner and the attacks in Paris and the attacks in Beirut and so on. So we have a near-term problem that needs to be addressed or a near-term challenge from ISIS that needs to be addressed. But when I hear people talk about a completely different strategy, I don't know what that is. Putting tens of thousands of U.S. troops in there is a not a near-term solution. It would take months and months, even if you decided you wanted to do it, to put the logistics in place, get the troops trained and so on, and then I'm not sure they don't aggravate the problem. You're not going to have combat operations coming out of Raqqa wearing ISIS uniforms to confront American troops. They're going to melt into a population of several hundred thousand people or more broadly. So I don't see what a totally different kind of strategy, what kind of totally different strategy would actually work in those circumstances.