Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel addressing the press on Thursday said the threat posed by IS terrorism was imminent and that the group was “tremendously well funded,” and “as sophisticated a group as we have seen.” He said the US would thus have to “get ready” for the threat posed.
In questions and answers from journalists, Hagel said the US’ objectives were clear as “we continue to explore all options regarding ISIL and how we can best assist partners in that area against ISIL,” using an alternative name for Islamic State.
He added, “We will continue to stay focused on what we are doing now and we are looking at all options.”
When asked whether IS could be defeated without addressing the cross-border threat from Syria, where the terrorist group started, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, who sat next to Chuck Hagel and also addressed the press, answered that the group would have to eventually be defeated in Syria but that it was “possible to contain them” for now. But “not in perpetuity. This is an organization that has an apocalyptic vision and they will have to be defeated.”
He added that would come when the US had “a coalition in the region.”
Hagel said weapons were being provided to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in addition to US airstrikes, as “the defeat of ISIL is not only going to come at the hands of airstrikes.”
Answering the question whether the US public would have to start preparing itself for a “long slog,” such as the war on al Qaeda, Hagel said, “with regard to the ‘imminent threat’ [posed by IS] I think the evidence is clear when you look at what they did to Mr. Foley … they have no standard of decency … they are a threat.”
Dempsey answering the same question said there was no quick fix for the problem. He pointed out that the war was ideological and not political and that it would thus be “a long contest.” He said the strategy of the US would have to involve direct action, building partner capacity and ” enabling our partners like we are doing with Iraq security forces and Peshmerga.”
The press conference comes two days after the IS terror group released a video showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley, who had been held hostage for two years before he was killed.
Currently the US is carrying out airstrikes against ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which includes much of the Middle East. Dempsey at Thursday’s press conference said the military action was about defeating the ISIL vision. “If they were able to achieve their vision, it would fundamentally change the face of the Middle East,” which would pose a great threat to the US.
So far, the US has carried out 89 airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been driven out of their homes as the IS group and its Sunni militant allies continue to advance through much of north and west Iraq, leaving the country facing its worst crisis since US troops withdrew in 2011.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than half a million Iraqis have fled their homes since the Islamic State group began their offensive in June.
Last week, the United Nations declared the highest level of emergency for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
sb/av (AFP, AP, Reuters)