There has been a great deal of criticism lately in regards to the Obama Administration’s efforts and plan to combat ISIS. An article by The Hill says that the GOP even goes as far as to state, “President Obama doesn’t have a serious strategy to defeat ISIS.” One of the strategies by the Defense Department is to train Syrian rebels to fight the terrorist organization.

How many rebels have actually been trained? There are a variety of numbers floating around the Internet, but few of them are actually accurate. According to the Washington Post, less than 200 rebels had started training in May. This July, Nancy Pelosi expressed she was surprised that only 60 people had actually been trained since the project started in 2014.

The low numbers are only partially understood. It is important to make sure that the recruits may not be in any way connected to ISIS. General Martin. E. Dempsey says that to fight ISIS, the U.S. needs to recruit at least 12,000 people. If at this point the Defense Department has only recruited 6,000 people, and not all of those people can be trained, how is it that this program would be successful?

If the Defense Department is looking to recruit Syrians, perhaps it should look to the 9 million or so Syrian refugees. Out of these 9 million, a good portion is likely able and willing to help the United States fight ISIS. Or at least would be if the funding to aid them was not getting cut over time.

The UN has been making food aid cuts since December 2014, and the cuts are growing, according to the United Nations’ Website. The United Nations News Service says that “a severe lack in funding is forcing the United Nations,” to make these cuts. As one of the leaders of world policy, the United States could be leading the charge in assisting the refugee population. Or perhaps the U.S. could be providing the UN with the funding that it needs to help the people in need.

This population needs help from someone; and it is possible that as an impoverished group from war-torn country, they could be vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist organizations like ISIS. If Washington wants to stop ISIS it needs to make sure that the available human capital is attainable. Primarily by providing the at-risk people, including the refugees, with the food that they need to survive before another organization provides them with that assistance.

Pelosi is correct in being “surprised” by the number of people that have been trained and recruited because the United States should be doing a better job of preparing to combat ISIS.

But, it is not in fact surprising that the Defense Department is having trouble recruiting enough people from Syria. How does the United States expect to recruit Syrians to help the U.S., when the government is not doing enough to help the country’s refugees?

Clare Holtzman

Sources: The Hill, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, Syrian Refugees, UN News Centre, The Washington Post
Photo: New York Post

Why Military Leaders Oppose Foreign Aid Cuts
The link between the alleviation of global poverty and the assurance of national security is one that has been promoted by high-ranking military officials for decades. According to the United States Global Leadership Committee, 84% of military officials say that strengthening development and diplomacy efforts should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.

This is because they recognize the connection between the grievances that spawn from those in abject poverty and the propensity toward terrorism. They can see that investing in human welfare in developing nations has the capacity to ensure freedom from violent extremist groups.

On March 13, 2013, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) released the Senate’s Budget Resolution for the fiscal year of 2014. In this resolution, a 9.6% (about $4 billion) increase in U.S. foreign assistance was proposed. In response, two senators proposed amendments that would reduce this figure significantly. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed to cut aid to Egypt as well as to suspend funding to the United Nations while any member nation legally allows forced involuntary abortions.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), however, proposed very drastic cuts to foreign assistance as a whole. His amendment to the resolution included a 33% cut- about $15 billion. When this failed in the Senate, he proposed an aid freeze at $5 billion.

Approximately a week later, Paul received a letter from USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council expressing its disapproval of the proposed amendments. In it, they implore the senator to acknowledge that cutting funding for development and diplomacy programs would do little to salvage the nation’s fiscal problems. After all, foreign assistance only comprises 1% of the federal budget.

Admiral James M. Loy and General Michael W. Hagee, the chief authors of the letter, argue that in order for the United States to be successful in their efforts abroad, they “must balance strategically all three aspects of national power and international influence- defense, diplomacy, and development.” These are the Pentagon’s official “3D’s” for protecting the United States.

The letter makes it clear that their perspectives are much more useful in discerning the importance of development and diplomacy programs. As officers in the United States military, they have had the first-hand experience in the regions that need foreign assistance the most.  They also urge the senator to look past the monetary value of these programs and instead consider the cost in human lives.

Military leaders oppose foreign aid cuts because they have seen that the Department of Defense cannot handle the world’s issues single-handedly. A multi-level approach, both militarily and non-militarily, is necessary to ensure national security. Additionally, they see military intervention as a last-resort solution to an existing problem. Diplomacy and development, however, can fix the problems before they even begin.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: United States Global Leadership Committee
Photo: IBT

The United States Military takes a huge piece of the American Federal Budget, with 23% of spending allocated to defence. The armed forces are carrying a heavy responsibility in a time when national security is at the forefront of most citizens’ minds, with threats and responsibilities so numerous that the country has come to merit possessing the world’s most powerful army.

Taking this into consideration, it seems unlikely – and significant – that General David Petraeus, who had an illustrious career within the army – is outspokenly advocating the continued funding of foreign aid.  Petraeus recently wrote an impressive op-ed in Politico outlining the many potential benefits of continuing development work, as well as the moral and strategic importance of doing so. He offers the gentle reminder that America’s influence does not come solely from its military muscle but also from what he calls its ‘softer’ power, i.e. its generosity and ability to contribute to the betterment of other nations.

A strategist at heart, Petraeus’ argument is more sense than sentiment. Seen from a strategic standpoint, General Petraeus expounds on the benefits of past development work. He provides real life examples of how assistance has led to results in the past, such as the stabilization of the Latin American region, which has blossomed into new markets and is less threatened by instability. He points out the need for continued restructuring programs in the countries that have already seen US intervention, namely Afghanistan, where he emphasizes how the subsequent relief work is as important as the initial military intervention.

The US is one of the world’s largest contributors to foreign aid from a purely quantitative standpoint. Yet, in comparison to its economy, the US is somewhat conservative. Currently, the United States spends less than 0.19% of its GDP on foreign aid, less than some of the major European countries and falling significantly short of the UN’s goal of 0.7% of GDP. As Petraeus points out, “The State Department budget is still less than 5 percent of the military’s — and the number of Foreign Service officers worldwide is less than half the number of soldiers in a single Army division.”

In addition, General Petraeus highlights some of the past successes of investment in foreign aid. Not only that, he pinpoints areas that may need the US’s help in coming years, including Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and transitional governments such as Libya, Yemen and Mali.

Citizens and activists have long recognized the need for foreign aid; it is a heartening sign that figures as influential as Petraeus are adding their voice.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: Politico
Photo: IBT

US Military Leaders Support Development
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) is a diverse network of national security and foreign policy experts, business leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, and academics who recognize the importance of partnering diplomacy and development with defense to improve foreign relations, trade, and security. The USGLC argues that diplomacy and development are severely neglected in terms of funding and manpower, and they advocate for a strong foreign aid budget to benefit the U.S. and the world as a whole.
Defense and diplomacy can and should work together to strengthen the security of our nation. Foreign aid deters terrorism, encourages international markets, drives economic growth, relieves poverty, combats infectious diseases, provides educational opportunities, strengthens democratic institutions, and so much more. In fact, many high-ranking military officials are also proponents of a healthy International Affairs budget. The following statements exemplify how many USGLC military leaders support development and diplomacy in their defense objectives.
“The work performed by diplomatic and development professionals helps build the foundation for more stable, democratic and prosperous societies. These are places where the potential for conflict can be minimized, if not completely avoided, by State and USAID programs – thereby lowering the likely need for deployment of U.S. military assets.”
– Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Letter to the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, April 21, 2010
“Robust resourcing for the State Department’s mission is one of the best investments for reducing the need for military forces to be employed. Together, our military leaders and our diplomats not only represent a symbol of America’s enduring commitment to the region, but they also build trust through partnerships that have an important stabilizing effect when trouble looms.”
– General James N. Mattis, Commander, U.S. Central Command, testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, March 1, 2011
“The diplomatic and developmental capabilities of the United States have a direct bearing on our ability to shape threats and reduce the need for military action. It is my firm belief that diplomatic programs as part of a coordinated strategy will save money by reducing the likelihood of active military conflict involving U.S. forces.”
– Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Letter to Senate Majority Leader, May 21, 2010
“To truly end the threat from al-Qaeda, military force aimed at killing our enemy alone will never be enough. The United States must stay involved and invested through diplomacy, through development, through education, through trade in those regions of the world where violent extremism has flourished.”
– Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in a speech to the Center for a New American Security, November 20, 2012
“This is not just a military campaign. This is not a campaign where we take the hill, plant the flag, and come home to a victory parade. This is a civil-military comprehensive endeavor that requires building on what our troopers in uniform have achieved.”
– General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.), testimony before House Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2011
“Development and diplomacy keep us safer by addressing threats in the most dangerous corners of the world and by preventing conflicts before they occur. …We urge you to support a strong and effetive International Affairs Budget. Our nation’s security depends upon it.”
– 70 top military leaders, USGLC National Security Advisory Council’s Letter to Congress, March 30, 2011
These insightful statements have come straight from the mouths and pens of some of our nation’s greatest military leaders. Men and women who have dedicated their lives to defending our nation are able to recognize the vital role of diplomacy. And with the support of such highly qualified military experts, the USCLG continues to advocate for elevated diplomacy in the interest of a safer, stronger world.
– Dana Johnson

Source: USGLC
Photo: NY Daily News



Footage of children forced to join ISIS.


Improving conditions for the world’s poor is a cornerstone of the United States National Security Strategy.

The Pentagon’s “3Ds” for protecting the United States are: Defense, Development and Diplomacy.

The U.S. Military Wants Global Poverty Addressed

The Secretary of Defenses: Nearly every post-9/11 Secretary of Defense has advocated that Congress better fund the International Affairs Budget and development projects. Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates repeatedly said that the U.S. can’t win today’s national security challenges with force and military might alone. Former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel added the importance of using all of America’s tools stating, “America’s role in the world should reflect the hope and promise of our country, and possibilities for all mankind, tempered with a wisdom that has been the hallmark of our national character. That means pursuing a principled and engaged realism that employs diplomatic, economic, and security tools as well as our values to advance our security and our prosperity.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff: Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford explained the importance of the role of the State Department and USAID in defeating ISIS. He said, “I can’t talk to the adequate levels of funding for any other element of the government. What I can say is that in order for us to be successful against ISIS or any of the threats that we face right now, it will be important for us to fully leverage all the capabilities our nation has — diplomatically, economically, and militarily, and now in the 21st century in the information space as well.”

The Generals: In 2019, over 140 retired three and four-star generals called on Congress to increase funding for the International Affairs Budget. The Generals noted that investments, non-military tools of development, and diplomacy foster economic and political stability on a global scale. It also strengthens our allies and fights the spread of poverty, disease, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The Soldiers: Countless former and current U.S. soldiers have expressed concern that the United States is not doing enough to address global poverty. Others have been fortunate enough to be part of the increasing number of humanitarian missions aimed at weakening the influence of terrorist groups in poor regions. Retired General George W. Casey, Jr., former chief of staff of the United States Army and commanding general in Iraq from 2004 to 2007 explained that while he was in Iraq, he quickly learned that military force alone would not solve the problems the U.S. forces faced.  He explained, “Today our soldiers need strong civilian partners to sustain the military’s hard-earned gains. These civilian partners need resources to be effective, just like the military — which is why I’m on Capitol Hill today urging our elected officials to ensure the State Department and USAID have the resources they need to be effective partners in our country’s security.”

84 percent of military officers said that strengthening non-military tools, such as diplomacy and development efforts, should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.



1. Afghanistan
2. Iraq
3. Nigeria
4. Syria
5. Pakistan
6. Somalia
7. India
8. Yemen
9. Philippines
10. Democratic Republic of the Congo


After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Congressman Charlie Wilson unsuccessfully pleaded with Congress to build schools and improve conditions for people in Afghanistan. In a scene depicted in the Tom Hanks movie Charlie Wilson’s War, the Congressman foreshadows that no good can come from allowing a population of millions of young, hopeless people to live in squalor. In the following years, extremism engulfed Afghanistan and the Taliban took control of the country providing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda with a safe haven to operate and plan the 9/11 attacks.


“Millions of families, especially those with little money, send their children to religious schools, or madrassas. Many of these schools are the only opportunity available for an education, but some have been used as incubators for violent extremism. According to Karachi’s police commander, there are 859 madrassas teaching more than 200,000 youngsters in his city alone.” — 9/11 Commission Report.

“With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and math, the public education system [in Pakistan] has become a major barrier to U.S. efforts to defeat extremist groups.” —Washington Post, January 17, 2010

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“The more we cut the International Affairs Budget, the higher the risk for longer and deadlier military operations.”

– Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen

“Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

– Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates

“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.” 

– Former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis

“America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important… because many times diplomacy is a lot more effective — and certainly cheaper — than military engagement.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 

“I think this needs to be a comprehensive and not just military strategy. Foreign aid, development—these matter in terms of building the types of relationships that we’re going to need to build in order to protect ourselves and our interests in the rest of the world, and hopefully, work towards a more stable and peaceful globe. And that is in our best interests.ʺ

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)

The worst nightmare for al Qaeda is to come into a community that feels supported and has hope.

– Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)

The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.

– National Security Strategy of the Bush Administration

“In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much- over the long term- to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.”

– Lieutenant General John Allen, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan

“It’s a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative.  For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability.  And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production.  So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security — and that includes the national security of the United States.”

– Former President, Barack Obama

“I believe that the world will be a safer place if there is enough food to go around, that it will be a more stable place if children grow up with opportunities instead of frustrations. Furthermore, I can only assume that if the United States plays a role in helping to create prosperous societies, we will have friends to call on in times of need.”

– Bill Gates

“We are not saying that poverty causes terrorism, or disenfranchisement causes terrorism, but we can’t mistake there are certain phenomena that contribute to it. Terrorism needs to be fought against and certainly attacked, but some of the underlying grievances that might in fact lead individuals astray to terrorism cannot be ignored.”

– John O. Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism