News / Middle East

US Defense Secretary Calls ISIL Imminent Threat

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (C) departs the U.S. Capitol after testifying at a closed Senate Armed Services hearing, July 8, 2014.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (C) departs the U.S. Capitol after testifying at a closed Senate Armed Services hearing, July 8, 2014.

The top U.S. defense official says the world should not underestimate the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  
Speaking with sailors during a visit to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in the southern U.S. state of Georgia, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did not hold back when asked about renewed American involvement in Iraq.
“ISIL may not appear to be an imminent threat to the United States. It is a threat to the United States.  It is a clear threat to our partners in that area.  And it is imminent," said Hagel.

Hagel said Washington is doing everything it can to help the Iraqi security forces fight back against ISIL’s brutality, but he warned that defeating the group will not be easy.

“This is a force that is sophisticated.  It’s dynamic.  It’s strong.  It’s organized.  It’s well financed.  It’s competent," he said.

The U.S. has intensified surveillance flights over Iraq, now flying about 50 a day, and has opened joint operation centers in Baghdad and to the north, in Irbil, while nine ships, including an aircraft carrier, are positioned in the Persian Gulf.

But just how much farther ISIL can push remains a question. Tony Badran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies spoke to VOA via Skype.

“It’s successes mainly have been now against, weak, disorganized, demoralized or even subverted in certain cases, like penetrated groups, where you have a Sunni contingent deploying in a Sunni province," said Badran.

And while ISIL poses an imminent threat to the region, Badran says much of the group's talk may be nothing more than posturing.

“Understand ISIS as a local phenomena.  They may talk global but their objectives as we see them now in the short to medium term are very much local," he said.

The U.S. has six teams of commandos on the ground in and around Baghdad, charged with assessing the state of Iraqi forces and the overall security situation.  Pentagon officials say those assessments could be submitted any day now.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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Comment Sorting
by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, Texas
July 12, 2014 9:15 AM
I do friendly take 1worldknow........What our Pentagon, our sixteen intelligence agencies....... should reveal to our people, our press......... there do remain certain limits, secrecies and governmental and departmental legislations and principles that all our authorities are disciplined. For that official secrecies to be maintained, Mr Assange was arrested........ our Snoden takes assylum in Russia........ What our Pentagon should reveal to our American people..... we do have our two committees in the august ambit of our Senate relating to our defense and intellligence......... and, the chairpersons and the members of these two committees do come out of our two political parties....... the Democrats and the Republicans..........representating our all American people......... what our Pentagon plans, that is linked to our president, our top brass and Congress relating to our our own defense preparedness and our overseas operations. Our American people do also have constitutional obligations. It is admitable the very plans and the moves of our Pentgon always do not satisfy our people because - for the final decision making process, it is linked to the ratification of our Congress, our top brass as well as our president at the helm. Still the ISIL crisis in Iraq does remain in the august scanner of our president, government as well our Pentagon. It is certain, our commitment for Iraq would stand clear.

by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston
July 10, 2014 1:50 PM
What my fellow compatriot Meanbil has commented over the ISIL bedlam in Iraq does not come in the line of a problem solving process. The efficiency of the Noori al Maliki govt. has been the root cause of the current crisis and the rise of the ISIL. During the Bush administration, for a successful finish of our mission, while our govt. had proposed to forming a democratic govt. in Iraq and a new constitution should come up, that were accepted wholeheartedly by the majority Shiha community along wth the Sunnis, the Kurds......... Election dates were fixed for transitional as well as the national govts. But while al Zaraqi - the Middle East al Queda chif had threatened on the election day Jan 30, 2005; panickly, then interim premier Iyad Alwai had pronounced the election should go on for a month.

Our governmental persuadings had resulted in holding the election on the scheduled day. This particular example well signifies the confidence of the Iraqi leadership. Besides, while the new Iraqi defense was raised and they were directed to fight against the Sunni militia plus al Queda, they had suffered heavy casualties. Seeing that, our govt. had directed our defense mission chief David Praeteus to mixing up the newly raised Iraqi army with our as they should learn, habituate themselves in combat operations. Out of that Iraqi army, if the defense personnel of the Sunni community have joined the ISIL that is constituted of the previous Sunni militia and al Queda, it is really going to be very difficult for the Maliki regime to withstand without external defense supports.

by: Not Again from: Canada
July 10, 2014 1:42 PM
US Secretary of Defence C. Haegel has great insight and clearly sees the situation; no question about it, ISIL is probably one of the biggest threats to the ME and well beyond. Not so much the actual current force of ISIL, but the criminal ideology, that masacres all, friend and foe, for no good end; while at the same time, it manages to recruit tens of thousands into an extreme fanatical ideology; the biggest danger is that most of the recruits come from Western nations, and are not the typical uneducated fanatic, but many are well educted, with Western passports, and the will to go and kill/destroy people and countries they have never known. Sooner or later, they will return to their home countries, especially the EU, ready to continue their criminal work. We have seen what such educated fanatics are capable of, during WWII, it is not a good picture for the future.

by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston Texas
July 10, 2014 3:42 AM
The marauding moves of the ISIL has become an existenial commination not for the very stability of Iraq only but for the whole of Mlddle East and entire world. And that does have grave implications on our interests too. Under this sort of drooping conditions, smart decisions with practical actions are necessary. But that yet to come up. While the surgical actions are urgently necessary, there is no need of any homoeopathic pills should be administered. The urgency at this moment is to contain not the threat of the ISIL posed to Iraq but to clearly contain it. Our govt. has been playing still the defensive diplomatic cards instead of positive actions.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 10, 2014 11:55 AM
I for one... believe that Maliki will rise-up and become the great leader he was destined to be, (and without half of his Iraq army of Sunni Muslims that deserted, and joined with the ISIL)...... Maliki will lead his Iraq army to "victory" over the al-Baghdadi (ISIL) army, and form a new Iraq government..... guaranteed !!!

Victory is Maliki's... as long as he doesn't listen to the advice from the countries that arm the Sunni Muslims in Jordan and Turkey, to wage war on the Shia Muslim led countries of Syria and Iraq..... "Keep you enemy close, but don't take his advice" .. the Wise Man said it...... REALLY
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 7:12 AM
Well said. Like the name, by the way. At least Bush did take action. A true Texan, shoot first! Not my style, but at least he wasn't afraid of public opinion whenever force was necessary.

But we do have a President that lives and breathes public opinion about everything, including what shirt to wear! Obama likes to talk, and he does it better than Bush, sadly. Obama likes to pose, smile for the camera, talk, threaten with sanctions, pose some more, take selfies, and look at the polls to see if he is still a 'cool' president. Even as inactive this president is, he has managed to take action on America's wealth. Obama has created the greatest deficit that this country will never recover from. NEVER! So Obama did accomplish something, kudos to him.

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 10, 2014 3:32 AM
Really? Wow, that's great. Now, can the Pentagon tell us something that we didn't already know?

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