Mark Perry writes: When U.S. President Barack Obama appointed retired Marine Gen. John Allen to serve as his special envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, the news was greeted with applause from the jihadi group’s greatest enemies. Kurdish and Iraqi Sunni leaders welcomed the appointment, with good reason — these same leaders had requested that Allen, widely known as one of Obama’s favorite generals, be appointed to the position.
But not everyone was pleased, especially at the Pentagon, where top generals had deep misgivings over how Obama had chosen to manage the campaign against the Islamic State.
Among the dissenters was the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, who took a dim view of Allen’s role. Austin complained to aides that Allen would report directly to the president — bypassing both himself and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Austin believed that Allen’s appointment would lead to confusion about who was really leading the effort, a senior U.S. officer who serves with Austin told me several days after the appointment. “Why the hell do we need a special envoy — isn’t that what [Secretary of State] John Kerry’s for?” this senior officer asked.
Austin’s private doubts echoed the deep skepticism among a host of serving and retired officers who served in the region, this same senior officer said. [Continue reading…]
The Daily Beast reports: Top military leaders in the Pentagon and in the field are growing increasingly frustrated by the tight constraints the White House has placed on the plans to fight ISIS and train a new Syrian rebel army.
As the American-led battle against ISIS stretches into its fourth month, the generals and Pentagon officials leading the air campaign and preparing to train Syrian rebels are working under strict White House orders to keep the war contained within policy limits. The National Security Council has given precise instructions on which rebels can be engaged, who can be trained, and what exactly those fighters will do when they return to Syria. Most of the rebels to be trained by the U.S. will never be sent to fight against ISIS.
Making matters worse, military officers and civilian Pentagon leaders tell The Daily Beast, is the ISIS war’s decision-making process, run by National Security Adviser Susan Rice. It’s been manic and obsessed with the tiniest of details. Officials talk of sudden and frequent meetings of the National Security Council and the so-called Principals Committee of top defense, intelligence, and foreign policy officials (an NSC and three PCs in one week this month); a barrage of questions from the NSC to the agencies that create mountains of paperwork for overworked staffers; and NSC insistence on deciding minor issues even at the operational level.
“We are getting a lot of micromanagement from the White House. Basic decisions that should take hours are taking days sometimes,” one senior defense official told The Daily Beast.
Other gripes among the top Pentagon and military brass are about the White House’s decision not to work with what’s left of the existing Syrian moderate opposition on the ground, which prevents intelligence sharing on fighting ISIS and prevents the military from using trained fighters to build the new rebel army that President Obama has said is needed to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into a political negotiation to end the conflict. [Continue reading…]