Freudian slip? Obama vows to speed up ‘training ISIL’, WH edit adds confusion (VIDEO)
Published time: July 08, 2015 20:07
Edited time: July 09, 2015 11:17
Edited time: July 09, 2015 11:17
After getting briefed on US efforts to fight the self-proclaimed Caliphate occupying large swaths of Syria and Iraq, Obama told reporters Monday at the Pentagon that the US was ramping up the training of local forces to complement airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition.
What he actually said, however, was “we’re speeding up training of ISIL forces, including volunteers from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province.”
ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is the US government’s preferred term for the group, also known as ISIS or, more recently, Islamic State.
The official transcript released by the White House contains the word “Iraqi” in brackets following the acronym ISIL, instead of something much more intuitive, such as prefacing the acronym with “anti-”. The clumsy edit allowed one to read the statement as if the US Commander-in-Chief was not confessing to training jihadist militants all over the region, but only the ISIL forces based in Iraq.
Obama’s omission and the White House’s attempt to explain it away have caused some perplexity on Twitter.
US efforts to train anti-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria have been falling far short of the Pentagon’s goals, senior officials have confirmed. Last month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter admitted to Congress that the Pentagon had not been able to find enough “legitimate” Iraqi recruits to fight off IS extremists. At that point, the US military had trained some 9,000 Iraqi soldiers, while projections called for 24,000.
READ MORE: 'This will not be quick': Obama on Islamic State strategy
Carter told a Senate committee on Tuesday that out of 7,000 volunteers in Syria, less than one percent made it through the vetting process.
While Obama himself admitted that air power alone won’t be enough to defeat IS, he said that “must be the job of local forces on the ground with training and air support from our coalition.”
The US-led coalition has been bombing IS-held positions in Iraq since August 2014, expanding operations into Syria a month later despite a lack of UN mandate and no permission from the government in Damascus. Washington continues to demand regime change in Syria, a policy at odds with its proclaimed goal of fighting IS.
The conflict is further complicated by the fact that the local forces most effective against IS have been the Shia and Kurdish militias. Turkey fears that Kurdish victories may encourage the creation of an independent Kurdistan, with territorial claims on Ankara’s southeastern provinces. Meanwhile, Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar see every Shia militia as a potential agent of Iran.
Washington’s reluctance to confront IS openly, the continued calls for regime change in Syria, and the conflicting regional interests of US allies, have all led some critics to accuse the US of being the secret sponsor of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
“ISIL is a US asset… (that) provides a pretext or a Trojan horse for the US to maintain a military presence in Iraq and also to go for regime change in Syria,” antiwar activist Ken Stone told the Iranian Press TV on Tuesday.