Hollande to tell Obama Europe can’t wait for US war of attrition with ISIS to succeed – report
French President François Hollande is to call for the US to review its strategy in fighting terrorist group Islamic State, arguing that Europe cannot wait for America’s long war of attrition with the jihadists to work, the Guardian reports.
Hollande is to meet US President Barack Obama on Tuesday next week before going to Russia for a visit. The French leader intends to make Obama aware of the extent of damage done to Europe by the developing refugee crisis and the rising threat of terrorist attacks, a European diplomat told the British newspaper.
“The message that we want to send to the Americans is simply that the crisis is destabilizing Europe,”said the diplomat, who did not wish to be named. “The problem is that the attacks in Paris and the refugee crisis show that we don’t have time. There is an emergency.”
The source said that’s the reason why the French president will visit Washington on Tuesday before flying to Moscow.
According to the diplomat, Paris’ position is that the Europeans cannot afford to wait for years for the war of attrition that the US-led coalition is waging on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, to take effect. There is an impression in Europe that the US doesn’t fully comprehend the urgency of the issue because it doesn’t have to take the bulk of the refugees fleeting Middle East and pouring into Europe in the biggest movement of people since World War II.
Hollande earlier called on the US and Russia, both of which lead a separate effort to eradicate IS, to join forces. Moscow said a broad coalition was needed to defeat the terrorists, but Washington said it would only agree if Russia shared its goals in Syria.
The White House insists that the Syrian conflict can only be resolved if President Bashar Assad steps down.
"Bottom line is, I do not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power," Barack Obama told reporters in Manila on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
The Kremlin sees the Syrian government as the most viable force in the country that can provide ground troops to battle terrorist groups. Russia says Assad’s political future should be decided by the Syrian people, but the US insists he should not be part of a political settlement.
The Pentagon on its part wants to rely on “moderate rebel forces” and Kurdish militias to attack terrorists on the ground in Syria. So far the strategy wasn’t effective. Kurds fought IS militants when they attacked Kurd-controlled territories, but are reluctant to go on offensive. The empowerment of Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria also puts the US-led coalition at odds with NATO member Turkey, which has been fighting Kurdish insurgency for decades.
As for the program to train and arm moderate rebels, it proved to be a failure with the Pentagon reporting in September just a handful of US-prepared soldiers actually fighting IS.
IS strategy has become one of the major campaign issues for the upcoming presidential election in the US. Republican candidates like Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have been criticizing the Obama administration for being too soft on terrorists.
Voices calling for the Obama administration to reconsider its ‘Assad must go’ mantra are coming from intelligence professionals as well.
“I think it’s now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy vis-à-vis ISIS is not working and it’s time to look at something else,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS. “The question of whether President Assad needs to go or whether he is part of the solution – we must look at it again. Clearly he is part of the problem but he may also be part of the solution. An agreement, where he stays for a while and the Syrian army supported by the coalition takes on ISIS may be give us the best result.”