President Obama missed a Monday deadline to have a Middle East strategy, including his counter-extremism plan, in the hands of lawmakers.
The comprehensive plan, which was supposed to be delivered by the secretaries of State and Defense, was a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by Obama last fall.
The Obama administration has been focused on their Asia pivot over the past several days, as the president hosted a retreat session with ASEAN leaders at Sunnylands in Southern California.
“Unsurprisingly, the administration cannot articulate a strategy for countering violent extremists in the Middle East,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said. “Time and again, the president has told us his strategy to defeat extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda is well underway; yet, months after the legal requirement was established, his administration cannot deliver that strategy to Congress.”
“I fear the president’s failure to deliver this report says far more about the state of his strategy to defeat terrorists than any empty reassurance he may offer from the podium.”
The law requires that the strategy include: “A description of the objectives and end state for the United States in the Middle East and with respect to violent extremism; a description of the roles and responsibilities of the Department of State in the strategy; a description of the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense in the strategy; a description of actions to prevent the weakening and failing of states in the Middle East; a description of actions to counter violent extremism; a description of the resources required by the Department of Defense to counter ISIL’s illicit oil revenues; a list of the state and non-state actors that must be engaged to counter violent extremism; a description of the coalition required to carry out the strategy, and the expected lines of effort of such a coalition; an assessment of United States efforts to disrupt and prevent foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq and to disrupt and prevent foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq traveling to the United States.”
The report was supposed to be delivered no later than Feb. 15 to the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Appropriations committees and to the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees.
Thornberry noted that his committee “is working now to shape the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act and the Pentagon has already begun requesting authorities our troops need to defeat this enemy.”
“Without a strategy, this amounts to leaving our troops in the wilderness with a compass, but no map,” the chairman said. “Failing to comply with the report deadline represents more than a failure of strategic vision for the White House. It is a lost opportunity for the administration and Congress to work together on a common approach to face this threat.”
Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.), who sits on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said he’s not “surprised President Obama still underestimates ISIS, or, as he likes to call them, the ‘JV squad.’
“This is a president who claimed ISIS was ‘contained’ just nine hours before Paris and blamed the NRA for the horrific terrorist attack in San Bernardino,” Roskam added.
“I guess President Obama takes his deadlines as seriously as he does his red lines.”