To the extent that the administration has been measuring success against the Islamist group by ticking off the number of airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria, as a White House spokesman did Monday, “alarm bells should be going off,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told reporters during a question and answer session in Washington.
Schiff, the most senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called ISIS’s capture of Ramadi, Iraq, “a very serious and significant setback” in U.S.-led efforts to defeat the extremist group.
Administration officials have said in recent days that their efforts to defeat ISIS are succeeding and have sought to portray the group as back on its heels, a characterization that Schiff rejected. He said the U.S. lost time trying to help Sunnis get integrated into the Iraqi military, which the U.S. wants to lead the boots-on-the-ground fight against ISIS.
Schiff also said the ground offensive had become too dependent on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and that speeding up the inclusion of Sunnis into Iraqi forces would help the Iraqi military stand on its own. Schiff said that he didn’t think the U.S. was “losing the war” against ISIS, “but we’re not making tremendous progress, either.”