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Defense Chief Ash Carter: 'Violent Extremism Is with Us to Stay'

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter today described Islamic terrorists as people of “aberrant” social estrangement who decide to act out as extremists.

Speaking in a Q&A at the JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard, Carter told students that “the question of violent extremism is with us to stay.”

“And I don’t mean ISIL. I do believe we will defeat ISIL,” he said. “…Because destructive power of greater and greater magnitude falls into the hands of smaller and smaller groups of human beings. And as that — and of course smaller groups and individuals exhibit more aberrant behavior, those of you who take statistics here know, than large groups do.”

“And so you’re always going to have somebody that’s out there that’s, you know, several standard deviations of estrangement from the rest of humanity. And if they’re able to get their hands, even in small numbers on huge, destructive weapons, that is a problem for society as a whole. And the institutions charged with protecting our people will be expected to do something about it. I think that’s part of our future, far into the future.”

The Defense secretary said they’ve “learned from our 14 years in Iraq and Afghanistan that in order to have a lasting defeat, a lasting defeat of ISIL, we need to think ahead to what comes after they’re defeated and to make sure they stay defeated.”

“A lot of people don’t think there’re boots on the ground, that we’re putting boots on the ground. And we’re doing a lot from the air, but there are, by the way, boots on the ground.”

Carter was asked by a Sikh member of the Massachusetts National Guard what religious accommodations the Defense Department is planning for service members.

“The new Canadian defense minister’s a Sikh, and by the way, extremely able and capable guy. And he, you know, worked with the Canadian forces figuring out how to accommodate the head, you know, to a helmet — it’s all possible,” Carter replied. “…Mission effectiveness is absolutely critically important. Mission effectiveness depends upon us having access to the largest possible pool of Americans. ‘Cause this is an all-volunteer force. I can’t go out and draft people, whoever I want.”

“They need to join, and I need the best. So I can’t afford to — unless I have a really good reason to hive off any part of our population and say, you can’t serve simple because of some — something that doesn’t truly have consequence for their ability to serve. Everybody who can contribute to our mission who — who — who can meet our high standards and contribute to our mission, we need them. It’s not just a matter of giving them the opportunity, it’s giving us the opportunity as a country to avail ourselves of their talent.”