Dick Clarke: US Fight Against ISIS ‘Kind of Doing It Half Assed’

Former White House counterterrorism adviser Dick Clarke said that the US is “kind of doing it half assed” in the fight against ISIS during an interview broadcast on Thursday’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC.

Clarke began by saying, “We opened Pandora’s box when we went into Iraq. And some said that beforehand, not many. And all of this stuff that we’re seeing today, the rise of ISIS, the disintegration of the state in Iraq, the disintegration of the state in Syria, I think is arguably directly connected to our invasion. We destroyed the state. This is what happens when you destroy a state. You have chaos. You have the rise of factions, regional and ethnic factions, and I think we can look at that decision and say that’s the reason that hundreds of thousands, probably a couple of million actually, if you add it all up, people have been killed.”

Regarding the current fight against ISIS he stated, “we’re kind of doing it half assed. And I understand why. The president, and a lot of the American people who elected him don’t want to go back into Iraq. They elected him to get out of Iraq, after all. And they’re reluctant to go any further than we have.”

Clarke continued by criticizing Congress as well, arguing, “But now we have 3,000 troops there as advisers, as trainers, and we could probably do what we need to do with that number, or only slightly more. But there are political decisions to be made. And  think the American people and the Congress ought to be part of that. And the Congress has been asked by the president months ago now to make a decision, to vote on the use of force against ISIS, and they’ve refused to do it. It’s incredible. When the Congress is not asked, as has frequently been the case with a lot of presidents, they bitch and moan that they weren’t asked. And now we have a president who says, ‘Okay, I used to be on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I know I should ask for this. I’ve asked for this.’ Nothing.”

He added, “What I’d like to see is us equipping the Kurds, us equipping the Sunnis, who are anti-ISIS, and giving air cover, a lot more than we’re doing, to all of those people, and even to the Iranian-supported militias, which the administration’s considering. You look at the number of air sorties that we’re doing, they’re very low. And the reason for that is we don’t have forward air controllers. So, where — we don’t want collateral damage, so we’re not bringing in airstrikes.” He later stated that calling for sending thousands more troops is “crazy,” and the US’ approach should be “intelligence-based — driven, using special forces, using air power, and arming the people out there who are on the other side. And we haven’t done that.”

Clarke concluded that the US keeps creating its own enemies, but that he isn’t sure how to avoid doing this. He continued that ISIS is a “large, capable force” that is a threat to the US, and that while the US “could well” create another enemy by fighting ISIS, “for now, we know that we’ve got this threat and I think we need to do something about it.”

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