'This Week': Military Strategy in Iraq

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Col. Steve Ganyard (ret.) and Gen. James Cartwright (ret.) on the U.S. response to Iraq.
5:45 | 06/22/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Military Strategy in Iraq
Now to Washington, where the U.S. Is still struggling with how to respond to the escalating crisis. Secretary of state John Kerry is in the region, as are U.S. Military advisers to train the Iraqi forces. Here's chief white house correspondent Jon Karl. Reporter: This morning, the first two teams of the military advisers that the president has decided to send to Iraq are already in Baghdad, preparing to work, following this promise from the commander in chief. American combat troops will not be fighting in Iraq again. Reporter: A decision to send special forces to help train the Iraqi army coming after a tense week of deliberations with his security team. Now the question, should the president give the order for air strikes? Aside from obvious targets of opportunity, two things could trigger a larger military operation. Intelligence showing a direct threat to U.S. Interests or progress by the Iraqi government finally overcoming the sectarian divide now tearing Iraq apart. If we don't see Sunni shiia, and kurd political support for what we are doing, we won't do it. Reporter: Back home, issues from both sides. 300 Americans is not going to solve the problem of stopping the advance of this group that is more extreme than literally core Al Qaeda. What is the objective of these up to 300 military advisers that he is proposing? What will they be able to accomplish? That has not already opinion tried and failed before? Reporter: All of this at a difficult time. In Obama's presidency. A new poll shows his approval rating has sunk to 41%. A mere 37% approve of his handling of foreign policy. The very issue second-term presidents often rely on to stay relevant. For "This week," Jonathan Karl, ABC, Washington. And we'll have much more from Jon later in the show. But right now, we want to turn to the former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general James cartwright and colonel Steven ganyard, a former f-18 pilot and a former deputy former assistant secretary of state for military affairs. Thanks for joining us, gentlemen. General cartwright, I want to start with you. The situation in Al qa'im. The border town with Syria. This is a serious turn of events. It is. It represents the opportunity for Isis to establish safe havens and escape pursuit by Syrian or Iraqi forces should they decide to be able to muster that kind of effort. It also creates the opportunity for Isis to move further. To move forces into Iraq. They occupy about 300 to 400 kilometers along the euphrates river. They are in a commanding position. This is a defining moment for them if they can hold these positions and lock them down, it is unlikely Iraq, as we envisioned it, would ever return. And colonel ganyard. About Isis. Zarkawi, the leader in Iraq killed in 2006, Isis has been described as zarkawi on steroids. This is very much the follow-on organization from his islamic state in Iraq that the U.S. Battled in 2006 and 2007. This is a much more capable military outfit. If we want to anticipate what is next, think about when the U.S. Killed zarkawi in 2006, they found on his body, a hand-written drawing. That showed encirclement of Baghdad. It came to be called the Baghdad belt. We know that Isis is not going to stop. We think Baghdad is next. We have to look for the potential encirclement of Baghdad by the Isis. And 130,000 U.S. Troops had a hard time handling them then. General, how on Earth are 300 military advisers from the U.S. Going to make a difference? The vulnerability for Isis is that it's extremely stretched. 300 to 400 kilometers is a long way to move men and equipment to encircle Baghdad. If there is to be some -- on the Iraqi forces as they exist today, those advisers will help to try to create some sort of scenario in which the lines of communication can be cut off and supplied can be withdrawn or hindered from making it down to an encirclement around Baghdad. I want to go to colonel ganyard. What about the possibility of air strikes? There are difficulties. Because we won't have U.S. Eyes and boots on the ground to be able to pick out targets. That said, out in the west where we see the supplies coming in from Syria, there may be places where U.S. Air power can hit supply convoys. Where you find Isis out in the open. Once the fight comes closer to the city and the urban areas, it will be tough to pick out the targets. We need to be very careful. As soon as we drop that first bomb or shoot that first hellfire, we have picked sides. We have to make sure we're picking sides for an Iraqi government that is inclusive and we're not making a broader determination of Sunni versus shiia within the regional perspective. Thank you very much to both

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