News / USA

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.
A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.
Cecily Hilleary

As the U.S. begins surveillance flights over Syria to track Sunni extremists who claim responsibility for beheading American journalist James Foley, there are mixed messages coming out of Washington over whether the Islamic State (IS) could attack U.S. soil.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel  called IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an “imminent threat.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned that the group is willing and able to “hit the homeland.” But are these threats overstated?  And what should be done to thwart them?

“Increasingly, I have seen stronger relations between the al-Qaida affiliate al- Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) with ISIS,” said Max Abrahms , assistant professor of public policy and terrorist expert at Northeastern University.

AQAP may be a smaller group, he says, but they are much better at making bombs. 

“AQAP have tried to bomb us numerous times, so the biggest fear, I think, is that ISIS is going to be influenced by a group like AQAP and then strike the West,” he said.

Nada BakosNada Bakos
x
Nada Bakos
Nada Bakos

Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst and targeting officer in Iraq who helped track down former al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,  points to the large numbers of Westerners who have joined IS ranks—and the large amount of territory IS controls.

“We already know how many Westerners are already working with them and have been recruited, ballpark,” she said. “I think that if they don’t already have their sights in the United States, the evolution of that organization would be that they would turn eventually to attacking the West.”

But other experts believe we’re jumping the gun in talking about threats to the “homeland.”

“At this point, this group is overwhelmingly an insurgent group focused on holding territory in Iraq, in killing Shi'ite and stoking the sectarian conflict in that region,” said Dartmouth College’s Daniel Benjamin, who formerly served as State Department counterterrorism coordinator during the Clinton era.

IS has no experience with what Benjamin calls “out-of-area attacks,” which are harder to carry out than people realize.

“It takes a great deal of training and practice and expertise,” he said.  “It takes people who understand how to deal with masking their identities, with exercising a great deal of communications security and other aspects of operational security.”

There is time, Benjamin says, for the U.S. to develop intelligence and come up with a long-term strategy for containing and diminishing IS capability.

Defeating IS

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) speaks next to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Aug. 21, 2014.U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) speaks next to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Aug. 21, 2014.
x
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) speaks next to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Aug. 21, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) speaks next to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Aug. 21, 2014.

The Obama administration stepped up airstrikes against IS in Iraq and has helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces regain territory won by IS militants.  Now, Washington is weighing its options for Syria. 

But this is where things get tricky:  Syria has said it welcomes U.S. help against the militants, but warned that bombing IS targets without its permission would violate Syria’s sovereignty and constitute an “act of aggression.”

The U.S. rejected the notion it is cooperating with the Assad regime, under which nearly 200,000 Sunnis have died and millions have been displaced

Joint effort

The Pentagon has said it’s considering expanding its support and training of the Free Syrian Army, but Bakos said that isn’t enough.

“I think it’s incredibly naïve to think that we can somehow effect regime change by effectively arming the moderate rebels that are left. They’d be up against ISIS and the Assad regime, which to me seems an impossible task without a major force on the ground behind them,” Bakos said.

“This is not just about us,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.  The fight against the Islamic State should come “from multiple directions.”

“That means that we’re going to have to have partners on the ground who are going to fight and are also going to help us collect intelligence,” said Dartmouth’s Benjamin. “And if we have that partnership in the region with Iraq and then ultimately with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan, then we could supplement what that alliance is doing with, for example, a drone campaign.”

But attrition alone won’t fix the problem, says Bakos.  “Typically you have to have something in place that gives an alternative to the local population – and that they aren’t forced to—or interested in--working with that organization.”

Terrorist groups thrive in chaos and war zones, she says, and the U.S. needs to look at options for ending the civil war in Syria and must do what it can to bolster the new Iraq government and help it bring Sunnis back into the political fold.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: andrew from: warthen Ga
August 27, 2014 11:46 AM
they don't want Americas military to get in this because then its gonna get ugly ha

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid