Robert Gates was President Barack Obama’s first Secretary of Defense.
On CBS this morning, Gates made his first public comments on the Islamic State since Obama announced his strategy for “degrading and destroying” ISIS without putting any US troops in ground combat against them.
Gates said, “The reality is, they’re not going to be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces or the Peshmerga or the Sunni tribes acting on their own. So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [there won’t be troops on the ground], the president in effect traps himself.”
After predicting that there will be US boots on the ground if we’re to defeat ISIS, Gates continued: “I’m also concerned that the goal has been stated as ‘degrade and destroy’ or ‘degrade and defeat’ ISIS. We’ve been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We have dealt them some terrible blows, including the killing of Osama bin Laden, but I don’t think anybody would say that after 13 years we’ve destroyed or defeated al Qaeda. And so I think to promise that we’re going to destroy ISIS or ISIL sets a goal that may be unattainable. as opposed to devastating it or as the vice president would put it, following them to the gates of hell and dealing them terrible blows that prevent them from holding territory. Those are probably realistic goals.”
The Islamic State currently holds territory that is roughly the size of the United Kingdom. The UK itself might shrink if Scottish voters approve a referendum to secede from the union.
Watch Gates’ comments on Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy.
Gates’ comments come alongside a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing that Obama’s approval rating on handling terrorism is at a new low.