According to Congressman Stephen Lynch, reports detailing the increasing financial strain and successful destruction of the Islamic State may be inaccurate, doctored, and overly optimistic. “You really can’t just inherently trust some of the reports that you’re getting back here,” Lynch told Boston Public Radio, after returning from a tour of the Middle East intended to confer with Sunni sheikhs on how to deal with ISIS. “I think it’s good to go there, kick the tires, meet with the Sunni Sheiks, meet with military on the ground, especially talk to the front-line troops, rather than talking to an undersecretary of the Department of Defense, that type of thing.”
Recent reports from counter-terrorism officials claimthat the Islamic State is under extreme financial strain, primarily because of U.S. Drone strikes on ISIS land. “There have been a number of analysts that said that the reports that they gave were somewhat doctored and improved, so that's a real concern, it’s ongoing,” Lynch said.
So what do we know?
According to Lynch, there is good and bad in the larger story of ISIS, at least in the provinces of Hadith, in western Iraq, HÄ«t, near Ramadi, and Mosul, the second-largest city, where Lynch was visiting with Sunni leaders. “The [Islamic State] hasn’t expanded in territory at all in about a year, so we have definitely arrested that part of it,” Lynch said.
But in terms of leading the movement against ISIS, Lynch said the United States hopes to take a back seat. “All we heard from the Sunni sheikhs was that we need [General] Petraeus 2.0, we need 100,000 troops in here, we need you to lead the fight, and we kept telling them, no, no, no,” Lynch said. Petraeus is not coming through that door, you need to continue to take the lead.”
Lynch emphasized that American involvement is kept to a minimum, letting other Middle Eastern nations step forward. “A lot of the pressure that has been put on the Islamic State has been put on by [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad, and the Syrian national troops,” Lynch said. “They’re squeezing them from the Syrian side. We are operating, we have 3,500 [troops] that are actually on an A&A mission, which is advise and assist. Our guys are out there, but we do not lead the fight.”
This is in addition to a small group of artillery preparing to take the city of Mosul. “I think it’s going in the right direction,” Lynch said, “but it’s going to be one of those things, three steps forward, one step back.”
Congressman Stephen Lynch represents Massachusetts's 8th congressional district. To hear his full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.