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Former Defense Secretary Gates: ISIS Strategy Needs to be 'Sped Up'

by Dan Cooney /  / Updated 

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Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for President Obama to speed up his strategy to fight ISIS in the Middle East.

“I think it does need to be sped up and intensified,” he said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I think that while ISIS is a long-term problem for us, we have near-term issues associated with it.”

He cited the Paris terror attacks, crashed Russian jet in the Sinai and deadly explosions in Beirut as recent issues that should force the U.S. and its allies to ramp up its efforts against ISIS. The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for all three incidents.

Gates, however, said calls for a brand new strategy are misguided.

"I don't know what that is," he said.

"Putting tens of thousands of U.S. troops in there is not a near-term solution. It would take months and months, even if you decided you wanted to do it, to put the logistics in place, get the troops trained, and so on," Gates continued. "And then I’m not sure they don’t aggravate the problem."

Instead, Gates suggested advisors on the ground with the various local groups and security forces, more U.S. Special Forces and additional covert operations.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two U.S. allies and members of the coalition to fight ISIS, must also be part of the strategy, he said.

“I think we need to look at what they are trying to accomplish. What their goals are. As I said, most of these countries have another agenda," the former CIA Director said. "The Saudis are mostly worried about Iran. The Turks more about the Kurds, and so on. But they both are united in the fact that Assad has to go before you can make any real progress against ISIS. I think we need to listen to them if we want them to be active and aggressive members of the coalition."

However, he noted, the United States should not expect those two countries to send their own troops into battle.

“The reality is, you know, you hear people talk about sending combat formations from Arab nations into Iraq to fight ISIS. That's just not going to happen.”

Gates also waded into the current presidential race, calling for a president "who can bring us together." He worked under eight different White House administrations during his time at the CIA and Defense Department.

“We need a president who will, in Lincoln's terms, appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature,’” Gates said. “We’ve got to figure out how to put people in office who can actually work across the aisle and begin to solve some of these problems, rather than tearing ourselves apart as a country by setting group against group.”

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