Declaring war on ISIL

As published in: USA Today

Over the weekend, the United States’ oldest ally was attacked by an enemy we all know too well. My heart breaks for France and her people during this time of need, as I am reminded of the horrific events that struck our own homeland on Sept. 11, 2001.

Before 9/11, Osama bin Laden told the world al-Qaeda was at war with America. Every American in hindsight believes we should have prepared ourselves more effectively to deal with the threat posed by al-Qaeda to prevent 9/11. We cannot change the past, but we must learn from it. When Americans said "Never Again" after 9/11, we meant it.

For well over a year, the Islamic State has declared war on America and threatened attacks against our nation and our people. Just this week, ISIL again pledged to attack the U.S. In the face of a terrorist threat, President Obama owes it to the American people to be honest about the effort necessary to defeat ISIL, and to match that honest assessment with a real strategy to accomplish the goal.

I am deeply concerned for the safety of our people brought by a lack of a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIL. So far, U.S. efforts have not made significant gains to defeat, let alone "contain," a force that wishes to kill innocent Americans. Instead, since the start of the U.S. effort against ISIL, these terrorists have continued to thrive and expand their operations to Europe, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe. The unfortunate truth is that ‎a limited campaign may continue to make the world a more dangerous place by emboldening ISIL and enhancing their ability to recruit fighters and consolidate territory.

The Obama administration cannot continue to use the excuse of the fight against ISIL being a “long war” when actual events expose a failed strategy and a need to change course. ISIL holds a territory the size of Indiana, and they continue to display advanced capabilities that will likely lead to more attacks, like those in Paris, elsewhere in the West.

This week, CIA Director John Brennan said, the Paris attack was not a “one-off event.” Under this dark assessment, we cannot just wait around for ISIL to attack our nation before we develop a comprehensive strategy. We must take bold action to disrupt and prevent attacks likely already being planned by these murderers of innocent men, women and children.

As someone who served our nation at war, I believe we must be honest with the American people about what is necessary to defeat a terrorist organization with global reach. After our time in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one wants more war, and no one detests war and understands the sacrifices given in war more than those of us who have served recently in Iraq or Afghanistan. Despite this, we are still at war, and our enemy is committed to his cause despite our longing for peace.

The United States cannot defeat ISIL alone. What is necessary to defeat them is to ensure our military has the resources it needs to defend our nation, enhance our intelligence capabilities at home and abroad and to create a real U.S.-led coalition force, in the air and on the ground, to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria. This combined air and ground effort by the U.S., NATO, Arab nations and local Arab and Kurdish partners can defeat ISIL and work towards a political solution where our local partners can rebuild the day after.

This week, France has announced we are "at war" with ISIL — and ISIL has again announced they are at war with the US. It is about time the Obama Administration wakes up to this fact.

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