WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), released the following statement tonight in response to President Obama's address to the nation regarding his strategy to defeat ISIL:
"Tonight, on the eve of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, President Obama had an important opportunity to present a clear and compelling plan to the American people to defeat the greatest terrorist threat this nation has faced since the attacks 13 years ago. I wanted him to be more honest with the American people, to say that ISIL has evolved into an extremist army with the potential to attack our homeland and to deliver a strategy to reflect this real concern. Tonight, the President's strategy re-plowed the ground of what he has already done and requested what Congressional leaders have already offered. At ISIL headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, you can hear a sigh of relief.
"He spoke of his willingness to conduct additional limited air strikes, including within Syria. Without a supporting military force on the ground in the region with robust U.S. support that is capable of holding territory, these strikes will not be effective in crippling the military capabilities of ISIL. This requires training and equipping a vetted moderate opposition in Syria, and includes significantly expanding our efforts to give the Pesh Merga and the Iraqi Security Forces weapons and training. While the President did ask for Congressional approval to aid Syria with military assistance, the mechanism in which this should be authorized is stalled in the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee in May included provisions in the defense authorization bill to support the Iraqi Security Forces as well as to train and equip a vetted moderate Syrian opposition. I believe the defense authorization bill still remains the best mechanism to support these specific requests of the President, and the Senate should not wait another day to pass this piece of vital legislation.
"Tonight the President said '…small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today…' But this is fundamentally different than both before and after 9/11. This group is not small' and because they were in fact left unchecked by this President, who hesitated to take any action. ISIL is now an army with tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft weapons. When a redline was crossed in Syria over a year ago, it was left unchecked. When Iraq asked for help in January of this year, it was left unchecked. And the threat has already grown beyond the region with plots in Europe already uncovered. This is not Yemen and Somalia, and a counterterrorism strategy will not be able to 'defeat or degrade' a terrorist group that has grown to be a well-funded, well-networked terrorist army. Lt. Gen. Deptula, architect of the successful U.S. air campaign that destroyed the Taliban army on the battlefield in 2001 said: 'We need to institute an aggressive air campaign in which airpower is applied like a thunderstorm, and not like a drizzle.' Obama has forecast a drizzle.
"The President spoke of the multinational coalition which will require even more resources from our U.S. military, resources that have been degraded after six years of historic budget cuts to our national defense. As Gen. Dempsey warned more than a year ago, our military has been on a path where the force may become 'so degraded and so unready' that it would be 'immoral to use force.' Congress needs to send a signal before we adjourn that America stands behind our services members in harm’s way by passing a defense authorization bill with appropriate funding that they will have the training and resources they need to take on this complex, and likely multi-year mission to protect America and American interests. I plan to also continue to urge Congress to pass my authorization to use all necessary and appropriate force as it will send a clear signal to our troops as well as our friends and allies in the region of our resolve to defeat ISIL."