This week, President Obama defended his Middle East strategy as adequate and even successful, but Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein didn’t shy away from a frankly different assessment: It’s not.
“The American people don’t want another war,” but it’s clear that the problems in the Middle East are going to require a new approach, the former Intelligence Committee chairman said.
Considering the problem of the Islamic State, Feinstein said, “I don’t know whether 6,000 ISIL people have been killed or not — that’s the figure that’s been floated around. But that’s not going to do it. So where [Senator John] McCain is right, I do think we need some Special Operations [forces] in these countries, on the ground, more than just advisers. We need to protect our allies.”
Feinstein has been a relatively hawkish Democrat for some time now, but calling for significantly more involvement in the Middle East is a big break from the White House. The role of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq, she and Senator McCain seemed to suggest, would be more as coordinators for air strikes than as combat troops.
Later in the interview, Feinstein also said she backed a long-term presence in Afghanistan, praising the co-presidents that were recently elected and saying she splits from other Democrats in wanting thousands of U.S. troops to remain there. Without a commitment like that — President Obama currently plans to withdraw all U.S. troops in 2016 — Feinstein said, the Taliban will come back with vigor and al-Qaeda, mostly lurking in Pakistan for now, can easily return to Afghanistan.