The Islamic State group will not be defeated by airstrikes alone, and the U.S. cannot expect to wrest control of ISIS-controlled regions from its leaders without a stronger commitment from Middle Eastern governments, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday in an interview on NBC's “Meet the Press.”
When Powell, who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of state and led the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was asked what he thought of the U.S. strategy to defeat the extremist Islamic militant group, which has steadily gained power throughout Middle Eastern and African countries including Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria. In June 2014, ISIS declared itself a worldwide caliphate, which means the group believes Muslims everywhere fall under its control.
The U.S. and its allies led at least 21 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria throughout the weekend, the Daily Mail reported. Powell expressed concern about the limits of this approach, saying “airpower can just do so much” and warning of collateral damage to homes and villages.
He shifted the responsibility for the offensive to Middle Eastern governments and residents, who he said should ultimately lead the task of flushing out militant groups from the region.
“ISIS is not just an enemy waiting to be defeated in Syria and in Iraq and elsewhere. It is a movement,” Powell said. “And it's going to have to be defeated by the people who live in the areas where this movement exists.”
In particular, Powell said it’s critical for the Iraqi government to invest in its own army and give it the resources necessary to contend with the rising tide of ISIS-led militants.
Turning to the topic to the ongoing crisis in Syria, Powell cautioned a power vacuum could result if President Bashar Assad were removed from office. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently said Assad’s removal was a critical step toward victory over ISIS.
“I think Syria has every potential of falling into the kind of disrepair that we have seen in Libya and elsewhere,” Powell said.