American security experts do not mince words when they talk about the threat posed by Islamic State fighters to American national security in the medium and long-term.
“This is a cauldron of future terrorist threats to the west,” CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate said in June.
Former acting CIA Director Mike Morell agreed. “One is to set up that caliphate and, it’s not just in Iraq and in Syria,” he said of ISIS’s near-term objectives. “Their second goal then is to use that as a safe haven to attack the United States.”
That threat ISIS poses to American interests has not dissipated in the ensuing weeks.
“Let’s be clear here: ISIS does not just threaten the region, it also threatens the U.S.,” CNN reporter Jim Sciutto, citing American security officials, said on Thursday. “We know that ISIS is planning and aspires to carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland.”
“I understand that ISIS can’t today perhaps launch terror attacks against the United States – key difference from al-Qaeda,” Fox News Channel’s Ed Henry observed on Friday during the daily press briefing in the White House. “Secretary of State John Kerry, short time ago in Afghanistan, had a news conference he was saying that the president believes ISIS is a threat in the region and could be a long-term threat to U.S. security.”
He noted that the White House’s strategy to neutralize the Islamic State threat seems to be to provide the Iraqi government with military aid and hope for the best. “Why is the goal not to defeat and decimate them?” Henry asked White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest on Friday.
Earnest inexplicably answered that a political solution in Baghdad – one that could “unify the country” – had to be achieved before ISIS could be successfully confronted by any group, Iraq or the U.S., militarily.
“That is the key to defeating the threat and reducing the potential that ISIL can’t attack the United States are allies in that region but eventually around the globe,” Earnest said. .
A political reconciliation can only be achieved when both combatants believe they have exhausted their military options. None of the parties engaged in combat in Iraq appear to be there yet.
In an extemporaneous moment at a press conference last week, while he said that the regional threat posed by ISIS is immediate, the threat they represent to the United States is purely “tangential.” While the president’s advisors may believe that ISIS presents a pressing threat to national security, the president himself may not fully agree.