‘US hasn’t learnt to fight unconventional warfare with unconventional means’

U.S. President Barack Obama.(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
The US keeps trying to resolve crises by sending arms, which is an insane counter-terrorism policy as often the result of that is extremist groups get hold of equipment worth millions of dollars, Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official, told RT.

READ MORE: Obama asks for ‘3yrs, no territorial limits’ formal war authority to target ISIS

RT:According to President Obama's request the use of ground forces would be limited only to situations involving rescue operations or intelligence sharing. What do you make of that?

Michael Maloof: The use of the troops, I think, is going to be essential and to put a limitation on them as he has proposed is tying our hands. And that is why the proposal is going to be thoroughly debated. He has the authority already, as you pointed out. He has the authority just by virtue of being the Commander in Chief. The question is going to be on the implementation. If he is going to be limiting the use of troops, the “bad guys” namely ISIS are going to know that and going to work around that, they are very tactically savvy. And then to put a time limit, I think it also works adversely in our direction to do anything about it.

RT:The US President says this is not a request for a ground war. He has himself prohibited what he calls an “enduring offensive using ground forces.” But why do you think he's using such a vague expression?

MM: The whole thing is politically motivated. [Obama] really doesn’t want to do this. He cannot wait to leave office because he doesn’t want to be going out as a war president. So consequently he wants to bring the Congress in and have a great debate. Meantime ISIS is making advances even though they have slowed up a little bit but they are still advancing - they haven’t been thrown back.

We may be are able to bring in Special Forces, he did mention the use of Special Forces. That is fine, but if you ever need ground troops in there, he is basically fundamentally prohibiting that. And that like having the troops almost require a lawyer at their side, as to whether or not they are going to be needed, to decide if an action is offensive and that they can respond, or whether it is defensive. And it is tying the hands of the troops themselves.

Reuters / Goran Tomasevic

RT:Islamic State is not only limited to Iraq and Syria. It also has active members in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Can you imagine a situation where the US moves against them too, for instance, against Saudi Arabia?

MM: I tend to doubt that the other Arab countries are going to commit ground forces. The reason for that they are not going to have Sunnis battling Sunnis…And that is why the solution to dealing with ISIS is not just military, it is going to be political as well as economic.

There is no strategy. The president is no outlining any kind of strategy that will show how we are trying to bring in the Sunni clans and tribes that can help turn on ISIS. That is what is going to be required. You are going to see severe reluctance on the part of other Arab countries to do anything like that. And of course we are setting the example by saying: “We are not going to send in ground troops.” It sets the example for them that “maybe we don’t need to do that either.” Unfortunately, it’s their battle, and yet they are not coming to the fight.

RT:The US has been sending arms to Yemen to fight terrorism. Now reports say equipment worth some $400 million is in the hands of rebels. What do you make out of that?

MM: Once again. It shows that the administration is not in touch with what is going on the ground. The President said that Yemen was a success story in our counter-terrorism effort against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And just the opposite is happening. Now we’ve got one thing going for us - there is some indirect communication and cooperation between the US and the Houthis who have basically taken over the government. And they are Shia. They initially wanted the transitional government where they [would be] more inclusive. They also are against AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] as we are. I’m hoping that maybe down the line we might be able to get some level of cooperation. I understand from the Pentagon that there is still some level of counter-terrorism activity that the US has still undertaken despite what is going on in Sana'a, with the capital, and with the takeover by the Houthies. So I hope we might be able to build upon that and perhaps even work with them to go after AQAP.

RT:Why does the US keep trying to resolve various crises around the world by sending arms do you think?

MM: It shows [that] we still haven’t learnt to fight an unconventional warfare with unconventional means. We are still using conventional ways and armies to deal with unconventional asymmetrical warfare. AQAP along with ISIS, al-Nusra up in Syria are all expert on counter-insurgency tactics. And when you have a lot of equipment - just as we saw in Iraq - they take over armies as they did in Iraq around Mosul. They get hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment as a consequence, and then we got to turn around them and bomb it. It’s an insane policy and that should not be what our counter-terrorism policy should be. It should be more directed towards the use of Special Forces with surgical strikes aimed and targeted at the leadership over and over and over again, and work with people on the ground that are of similar mind as a common enemies approach. We should be working with those people.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.