Chuck Hagel says ISIL is “beyond anything we’ve seen.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey went into detail Thursday about the threat ISIL (“ISIS”) poses not only to minorities in the Middle East, but also to American interests both at home and abroad.
Via Fox News:
“Jim Foley’s murder was another tragic demonstration of the ruthless, barbaric ideology of ISIL. ISIL militants continue to massacre and enslave innocent people, and persecute Iraq’s…minority populations.
Given the nature of this threat, at President Obama’s direction, and at request of Iraqi government, the United States military has provided assistance to Iraqi security forces in order to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, and support Iraq’s efforts to counter ISIL in addition to providing humanitarian assistance.”
Secretary Hagel said that he anticipates that more international forces will join the already-international efforts in the coming weeks. He also lauded the recent peaceful transition of power in Iraq, and promised assistance in exchange for political progress.
He did not, however, downplay the risk that ISIL still poses:
We are pursuing a long term strategy against ISIL, because ISIL clearly poses a long term threat. We should expect ISIL to regroup, and stage new offenses, and the US military’s involvement is not over.
Our objectives remain clear and limited: to protect American citizens and facilities, to provide assistance to Iraqi forces as they confront ISIL, and to join with international partners to address the humanitarian crisis.
When pressed about the possibility of additional, continued air strikes by the US military, neither Hagel nor Dempsey would confirm that this was part of the plan. They said that the battle against ISIL is “bigger than just a military operation,” and emphasized the importance of international partnerships and strategic military strikes, as opposed to a “scorch-the-earth” approach.
During the conference, the press took both Hagel and Dempsey to task about the declassification of details regarding the failed rescue attempt of American hostages held by ISIL. The recent murder of American Journalist James Foley has brought this mission into the spotlight, and the media’s questions did much to emphasize the difficulties of fighting an enemy like ISIL, without drawn battle lines or any hope of adherence to the rules of war. Confronted with the question of whether or not this mission was a “failure of intelligence,” Dempsey responded, “[i]ntelligence doesn’t come wrapped in a package with a bow… The enemy always has a say, and the fact is that you have to work that reality in.”
The press pool pressed the panel on the threat ISIL poses to American soil, and Hagel commented briefly that, in the days leading up to 9/11, no one would have said that the U.S was vulnerable to an attack of that scale. However, both men attempted to break the connection between the current threat, and that posed by Al Qaida more than a decade ago.
“Terrorism is not new to the world. The sophistication of terrorism…presents a whole new dynamic and a whole new paradigm of threats to this country.ISIL is as sophisticated and well funded as any group we’ve seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess, they’re tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything that we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything, and the only way you do that is you take a cold, steely hard look at it and get ready.”
Chairman Dempsey emphasized the risks posed by American citizens and foreign nationals traveling from home and into the Middle East to join the ISIL cause, and seemed to give a nod to the theory posed by Texas Governor Rick Perry that an open borders philosophy could contribute to the infiltration of repatriated ISIL adherents.