Earlier this morning I spoke with the Lowy Institute's 2014 Telstra Distinguished International Fellow Stephen Hadley about the situation in Iraq and Syria. You can listen to the interview below. Hadley, who was President George W Bush's National Security Advisor from 2005 to 2009, will be in Australia in late October as part of his fellowship.

Some highlights from our discussion:

  • US strategy in Iraq and Syria will only work if local ground forces are willing to fight ISIS and other groups.
  • The President's stated goal to 'destroy' ISIS is a high bar. The US will degrade ISIS and defeat it in Iraq by taking back the territory it controls.
  • Obama was wise not to put a time limit on the operation. It sends the message that he is serious and will see it through. The US should see substantial progress in Iraq over the next year, but Syria is a longer term proposition; the President has said it will last beyond his Administration.
  • The strategy in Syria is two-fold: to degrade ISIS and other extremist groups; and buy time for vetted, moderate ground forces to be trained and equipped.
  • Last, I asked Hadley if America's return in force to the Middle East had dealt the final blow to the Asia pivot. His answer from 8:10.

You can listen here.