CSIS: Iraq and Syria: The Problem of Strategy

File photo of a US Marine of the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment as he searches for signs of Improvised Explosive Devices south of the city of Haditha, Iraq, in the Al Anbar Province.
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This post originally appeared at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

The United States has now been actively at war with terrorism movements since 2001. Throughout that time, it has struggled to find ways to develop some form of meaningful strategy, measure its progress, and give that progress some degree of transparency and credibility to the Congress, the American people and our strategic partners, and the media.

So far, its success has been erratic at best. On most occasions, the U.S. has issued policy statements that set broad goals, but did not really amount to a strategy. There was no real assessment of the situation and the reasons for selecting a given course of action, there was no real plan and set of milestones to measure progress by, there were no real details as to the required resources, and any supporting measures of effectiveness have often added up to little more than political justification and spin.

The United States has had particular problems in describing its counterterrorism strategy in Iraq and Syria, and members of Congress have quite correctly called for a far more explicit statement of what U.S. strategy is, its justification, and some measures of effectiveness. On June 17, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey attempted to respond by outlining the Department of Defense’s counterterrorism strategy in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

To put it politely, they failed. In fact, if one grades their efforts by the increasingly partisan standards of todays U.S. politics, Democrats in Congress could at best give them a D minus, Republican no higher grade than an F plus, and any mythical moderate could not go higher than an F.

Read the full story at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.