Congress’ first Navy SEAL says that President Obama’s "reckless" foreign policy has emboldened Islamic terrorists to carry out deadly attacks in France and Australia.
Freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke (R., Mont.), a retired Navy commander, said that the administration’s handling of terrorist threats in the Middle East and the failure to combat the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) in Syria has left Western countries vulnerable to terrorist strikes.
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"This administration’s inaction and lack of commitment and resolve in fighting ISIS provides fuel for terrorism. It gives them hope that they can win and it has ramifications worldwide," he said in a phone interview with the Washington Free Beacon on Friday.
Zinke said that the terrorist attack on a French satirical newspaper that left 12 dead on Wednesday, as well as the ongoing hostage crisis at a Kosher supermarket in Paris, are the result of failing to combat radical Islam abroad.
"There’s a reason why we’re in retreat everywhere across the globe. This administration has consistently acted from a viewpoint that you can negotiate with terrorism. You cannot negotiate with organizations that are based on an ideology whose core is to destroy the West and America," Zinke said. "To me there is no doubt, inaction abroad emboldens actions on the home front. They are related."
Zinke served more than 20 years with the United States Navy and is a veteran of SEAL Team 6, America’s elite counterterrorism unit. He said the administration has failed to grasp the importance of fighting asymmetric warfare against non-state actors, such as IS. Obama’s focus on economic sanctions and air campaigns will not be enough to root out IS terrorists in Iraq, Syria, let alone the terrorist attacks conducted in Western countries.
"This is the reality of asymmetrical warfare. When the enemy is willing to behead children, crucify entire villages, and with box cutters put commercial aircraft into buildings, there’s nothing this evil won’t do in pursuit of goal," he said. "I think we’re at risk."
The best way to combat terrorism is to put them onto the defensive, forcing them to dedicate resources on the battlefields of Iraq, rather than the West, according to Zinke. That would mean the White House has to abandon "the fantasy that ISIS can be contained from the air," he said.
Zinke suggested the administration should start by embedding Special Forces operators with Kurdish resistance fighters and friendly Sunni tribes that are spearheading the fight against IS. The United States should also put boots on the ground to manage logistics of Iraq’s counterterrorism operations, in order to prevent American military aid from falling in the hands of IS and Iranian-backed militias in the Iraq.
"At the core of it, you can’t be on the defensive. That offense has to be conducted overseas. We need to act with resolve against ISIS and Obama needs to act now," he said. "It’s going to take troops on the ground: logistics, ammunition, good intelligence gathering. Wars can’t be fought with rhetoric. That doesn’t mean we need frontline ground troops, but they need significant logistics support."
Trying to limit the War on Terror to drone strikes and air supply could actually prolong the terrorist threat because "that course of action would take years," according to the congressman. Zinke acknowledged that Americans may be wary of committing more troops overseas after more than a decade of war in two countries, but said the attacks in France serve as a wake-up call.
"The West is looking to the United States for leadership and when no one is at helm here then no other country going to act with enough force or resolve to put extremist Islamic forces on the defensive," he said. "The American public is tough and is strong, but you have to tell them the truth. The truth is we face an enemy that is evil and not reformable. You can’t negotiate with them. We have to fight."