Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)
Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s September 28, 2014 interview in Defense One.
Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran of U.S. Middle East diplomacy, welcomes the start of United States-led air strikes against ISIS forces in Syria but stresses Washington must remain committed to a long-term campaign against the group. “This is not going to be a campaign of weeks or months,” he says. “It’s going to be one of years. And we need to make it clear to allies, to adversaries, and to our own people that we’re going to be in it with whatever it takes.” Despite the expansion of action to Syria, Crocker recommends that U.S. operations focus on Iraq, which is more familiar ground and where political and military reforms underway—following the collapse of the Iraqi army—have the potential to create a solid ally against ISIS.
Gathering from what you’ve written, you must be very pleased by the early Tuesday attacks on Raqqa, which is the headquarters of the Islamic State in Syria, and also against the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate in eastern Syria, outside of Aleppo.
It’s a good start. I am pleased that we made that start with a fairly extensive air campaign that also involved five other Arab states—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates—flying and fighting with us.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. And the impression we made in Syria is a whole lot greater than the two 500-pound bombs we dropped in Iraq when we started that campaign.
Should the United States keep this going for a while? What’s your feeling?
President Obama set the goal fairly clearly, and it’s the right one: to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State. We’ve begun the process of degradation. We need to see what the effect of Tuesday’s bombings was.
But again, as the president said, this is not going to be a campaign of weeks or months. It’s going to be one of years. And we need to make it clear to allies, to adversaries, and to our own people that we’re going to be in it with whatever it takes, however long it takes.
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