State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf this morning defended her comments on not being able to defeat ISIS by killing the terrorists, telling MSNBC “there are a lot of different extremist threats we face and there are different tools we have to go after each one of them.”
“We are killing them and we will continue killing ISIS terrorists that pose a threat to us. We’re very good at that,” Harf said. “…But in the longer term, and this isn’t specific to ISIL, military commanders, politicians of both parties, counterterrorism experts all agree that if you’re going to prevent terrorist groups from spreading to other places and getting more recruits, you have to look at root causes that can lead people to extremism. You have to do it all of it. You have to take them on militarily, but you have to look at things like governance, like opportunity, so these groups aren’t able to get more people to their cause. Absolutely.”
Harf added it’s “not something the United States can do on its own,” referencing this week’s summit on violent extremism hosted by the White House.
“This is not just a threat in one place. If you look at the Lord’s Resistance Army and Kony, Josephy Kony — I don’t remember people talking about that much more — but that’s a Christian militant group,” she said.
She then claimed that the U.S. has “gotten countries like Egypt, like Jordan, others, on board with this effort against ISIL” — countries taking revenge militarily on attacks against their own people.
“In the short term, where we have to take military action and we’re very committed to that, it is extraordinary to see other Arab countries taking airstrikes in Syria against ISIL. That is a very extraordinary thing. We’ve really seen the region come together against this threat,” Harf continued. “But it’s not just military. They have to do more to cut off financing, the cut off the flow of foreign fighters. If you look at a country like Turkey, that’s a main route for people to get into Syria.”
Last night on CNN, Harf said she hasn’t read the criticism of her comments and was just echoing what others have said.
“Military commanders that we’ve had throughout many years here fighting this war on terrorism have said the exact same thing, that in the short term when there’s a threat like ISIL. We’ll take direct military action against these terrorists. We have done that. We are doing that in Iraq and Syria,” she said. “But longer term, we have to look at how we combat the conditions that can lead people to turn to extremism.”
Blitzer then challenged her assertion that terrorists just need jobs to turn then away from a life of jihad, noting that some of the most infamous terrorists have come from rich families. “So you suggested that maybe if you find these young men jobs, they might not become terrorists?” Blitzer asked.
Harf said Blitzer was making a “gross oversimplification,” and said her argument about getting to the “root cause” of terrorism “might be too nuanced an argument for some.”
Her original comments sparked the #JobsForISIS hashtag on Twitter. A sampling:
#JobsForISIS Abu Bakr we’ve reviewed ur cv, impressive, beheading christians AND muslims which shows ability to work in a diverse workplace
— Hesham Mansour (@Heshoz) February 18, 2015
— Wills™ (@WMissiery) February 18, 2015
#JobsForISIS Yes, indeed. Guantanamo graduates now occupy prominent jobs in U.S Thanks to brilliant Obama plan.
— نبيل الحلفاوى (@nabilelhalfawy) February 18, 2015
— Asian Conservative (@rightasian) February 18, 2015
— The People’s Cube (@ThePeoplesCube) February 17, 2015