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‘Get Ready,’ Warns Hagel: ISIS ‘Beyond Anything That We’ve Seen’

Dempsey says terror group "can be contained, not in perpetuity" -- as ISIS threatens to exterminate Turkmen town under siege.

Bridget Johnson


August 21, 2014 - 5:10 pm

WASHINGTON — Pentagon leaders stepped before reporters today for the first time since the beheading of journalist James Foley, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warning that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) is “beyond anything that we’ve seen.”

“ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded,” Hagel said at the briefing alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. “…So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it and– and — and get ready.”

One thing that was lacking, as with President Obama’s Wednesday statement on the murder of Foley, was a hard game plan to move forward and defeat the terrorist organization.

“We continue to explore all options regarding ISIL and how best we can assist our partners in that area, the Middle East, and particularly in Iraq, against ISIL,” Hagel said. “…We will continue to stay focused, as I said, on what we’re doing now and exploring all options as we go forward.”

Hagel stressed that U.S. assistance, such as airstrikes in the Iraqi operation to retake Mosul dam and helping Kurds defend Irbil, “have stalled ISIL’s momentum and enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain their footing and take the initiative.”

Not long before the Pentagon briefing began, though, new reports emerged of ISIS offensives. Al Iraqiya reported that ISIS forces had launched an attack on Amerli, a Turkmen town that has been under siege and crying for help since June 18 — heroically holding off the terrorists until today.

Kurdish accounts on Twitter were also reporting a large convoy of ISIS fighters moving toward Mount Sinjar, now that international attention was turned away from the site of the Yazidi siege.

“The president, the chairman and I are all very clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. 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,” Hagel said, not mentioning any of the terror group’s latest moves.

Hagel returned a couple of times to the pre-Foley Obama administration mantra: that an inclusive government in Baghdad and ensuing political reconciliation would help stop ISIS.

“It’s bigger than just a military operation and our efforts, as we executed the president’s strategy on this, are specifically targeted, just as the president has said for the reasons he said,” he said of the limited airstrikes to address such a widespread threat. “…We are doing everything we can within the confines of our influence to assist and recognize, as we’ve said, to deal with ISIL there in the Middle East and also recognizing that it is a threat, just as we’ve all said.”

Dempsey said they think ISIS “can be contained, not in perpetuity.”

“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated. To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border,” Dempsey continued.

“And that will come when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task of defeating ISIS over time. ISIS will only truly be defeated when it’s rejected by the 20 million disenfranchised Sunni that happen to reside between Damascus and Baghdad.”

That, the chairman said, “requires a variety of instruments, only one small part of which is airstrikes.”

Today is the one-year anniversary of the sarin attack on the suburb of Ghouta in which President Bashar Assad killed more than 1,400 people — and the one-year anniversary of the crossing of President Obama’s “red line” on Syria. Strikes in Syria would force the administration to decide if it still thought Assad should go, as Obama previously declared. Complicating the White House’s determination if it should use Assad or not is mounting suspicion that the Syrian president — widely thought to have originally held Foley in custody — was handing American prisoners over ISIS, which enjoys safe haven and oil sales to the regime in return for helping keep Assad in power.

“Assad is very much a central part of the problem. And I think it’s well documented as to why. When you have the brutal dictatorship of Assad and what he has done to his own country, which perpetuated much of what is happening or has been happening in Syria, so he’s part of the problem, and as much a part of it as probably the central core of it,” Hagel said.

“He is absolutely part of the problem,” Dempsey added.

Hagel was asked if the U.S. was headed for another “long, hard slog” — in the words of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — in fighting ISIS.

“When we look at what they did to Mr. Foley, what they threatened to do to all Americans and Europeans, what they are doing now, the — I don’t know any other way to describe it other than barbaric. They have no standard of decency, of responsible human behavior, and I think the record’s clear on that. So, yes, they are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else,” Hagel said.

“The conflict against those groups, most of which are local, some of which are regional, and some of which are global in nature, that’s going to be a very long contest. It’s ideological. It’s not political. It’s religious, in many cases. So, yes, it’s going to be a very long contest,” Dempsey added.

“…The immediacy is in the number of Europeans and other nationalities who have come to the region to become part of that ideology,” Dempsey said of the threat to the West. “And those folks can go home at some point.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Hagel is incompetent and should be fired immediately.
We know that ISIS is Junior Varsity. Our Commander in Chief told us so, and his Director of the CIA said anyone who worries about them is delusional.
So, our Secretary of Defense is a delusional Chicken Little and needs to be fired.

Make Jimmy Carter our new SecDef, he would complement our SecState nicely indeed. And while we are at it, make Jesse Ventura the new Press Secretary.

Since we are determined to Decline and Fall, I want my circus, and I want all the clowns, dammit!
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems to me it's a fair bit late for such announcements; As if you just got to the party and retold a story that a friend just told. And please don't wonder why nobody's interested in what you had to say.

You're LATE, you &%$# dimwits!

Everyone else in the nation knows what ISIS is, what the 9/11 wake up call meant and why we need to obliterate the muslim hoards.

For a refresher:

They have been killing Americans for decades.

They have been using oil money to fund their armies.

They hate you, me, everyone and anyone that isn't a muslim (and many of the muslims too if they aren't like them)

They kill.

They kill.

They kill.

Hagel, it's like this: If you don't mobilize and decide to fully eradicate the threat, then step the hell down. If you plan on a "war of escalation" See: Vietnam, 1961-1966 (and onward).

If you plan Iraq war III with the plan of "nation building", forget it. Nation building only works after the enemy is soundly defeated, demoralized. So don't even think about it.

By virtue of a pathetic foreign policy, a ridiculous "reset" button and personal desires to make Bush look like a fool, you have cut your nose off to spite your face.

(Hint): It's time to stop all that--Cut it out.

It's gotten so bad that every faction of the US now is calling for attack on ISIS. Granted, the weak-kneed and the pathetic tree-huggers will withdraw their support the moment blood is drawn. But war is not one-sided. There has to be a winner and a loser.

I prefer and demand that the US is the victor, not the sand-people.

They may be organized, clever, persistent, unyielding, etc. But that's why decent nations with hefty military go in and do the jobs that are so unspeakable at dinner parties. Because we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be defended by people with guns.

It's time to stop pussyfooting around. Muslims want liberals dead as much as they want conservatives dead. Maybe you should'a thought of that before you allowed the middle east to become the sewer it now is.

One thing's for sure; It's gonna get a whole hell of a lot worse before it gets any better.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really? Are they harder than the Wehrmacht was in 1943? Are they resistant to field neutron bombs? Or are you trying to make a "useful crisis" to perpetuate the clown in chief and turn him into America's king? If for once you don't send the US Armed Forces to fight with an arm tied behind their backs they can delouse that territory in about 48 hours. Get your baIIs on and act like Truman or true men.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
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"Beyond anything we've seen"?
Khmer Rouge
Genghis Khan
Just to name a few. EVIL Human beings have been with us for ...ever.
And it's unlikely ISIS has developed any torture technique or uncivilized outrageous action that hasn't been thought of before.
Just another group, in a long line, that would improve the world by dieing.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
ISIS is no different than the Muslem Brotherhood and Its progeny Hamas, or Iran and it's puppet Hezballah, or for that matter Islam. Obama is not going to do anything about them. Bush had them all beat because he planted the American army in Iraq, smack dab in the heart of the Arab world. They were all shivering in their boots until Obama came along, threw away our hard won victory, and pulled US forces out.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
R2P was used by Obama as an excuse to invade Libya. Now, it's been forgotten and abandoned.
What else can you expect from a 'leader' with no foreign policy or strategy.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh yeah, Chuck. We're like waiting for you and Dempsey and Barack to stop with the "jayvee" stuff and tell us what ISIS is really all about.

Post 911, my parrot had a better understanding than all you guys huffing and puffing today.

Ok, my cat. I don't have a parrot.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
American leaders have made their decision. They will delay for only a few years, the success of the Caliphate. These "elite" scum really think they can isolate themselves and their families from the caliphate they are allowing to be established. Foley and Daniel Pearl most likely felt the same. SURELY journalists, they thought, would be granted life.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is nothing new here concerning an ideology. What is new is that ideology has moved beyond the constraints of Gaza where it has new victims and a freer hand. It is an ideology that has come clear of a murky picture and landscape in Syria where it can be seen more clearly. It is an ideology that has moved beyond the leavening hand of oil money that keeps most Wahhabists preaching jihad rather than indulging in it.

Wahhabism is the most dangerous and violent of all subsets of Islam.

Wahhabis have long viewed other Muslims, particularly rulers, as decadent and worthless - traitors to Islam. Men who described themselves as "mujahedin, ghazis and jihadis" came from the Punjab near Afghanistan to fight in the rebellion against the British in Delhi in 1857. They often self-defined themselves as men who would die killing a "kafir."

Because of its extreme radicalism, this Arabic inspired supremacist theology/ideology understandably only operates openly in times of chaos or in polities where no sovereignty or authority can act against them. Because of it's sectarianism and lack of ever having a central authority, Afghanistan or Yemen are the only places Wahhabism has really operated openly in recent decades.

A thing like ISIS only really understands naked violence to match their own, and that is how they will have to be put down, just like the Nazis, one man murdered at a time until their will is broken.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
FB - Wahhabism has existed it Saudi Arabia for decades, where it started.
The Kingdom exports aid/terrorism in the form of Wahhabist schools.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
"If for once you don't send the US Armed Forces to fight with an arm tied behind their backs they can delouse that territory in about 48 hours. Get your baIIs on and act like Truman or true men."

You righties...there you go again...all that bravado and bragaccio..what a waste...I understand Elizabeth Warren has said she would talk to them.

Hehe.he:)...I mean Stone the Crows, what in blazes would she say??
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just think of the benefits of a new Caliphate. Total war is put back on the table. Plus the UN General Assembly has Anti-Western Anti American votes reduced significantly as all Muslim countries votes are condensed into 1.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Guess the JV got good.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the ISIS is so bad, maybe Obozo should close the open border with Mexico since those ISIS head choppers look just like Mexican border numbers. Boycott Mexico, no vacations there, no fishing, spend no money in that country. Stop the illegals from sending money back to Mexico from illegal jobs.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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