The chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees said Sunday that intel services are losing track of burgeoning terrorist networks while the Obama administration still lacks a strategy to go after the Islamic State.
Appearing together on CBS’ Face the Nation, House chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and the leader of the Senate intelligence panel, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), agreed that containment is not an option.
“First off, you have a strategic failure on behalf of the administration on not having a real plan to fight ISIS,” Nunes said. “Secondly, I really think we should take to heart what FBI Director [James] Comey has been saying over and over and over again, and that is that we are losing the capability to track these terrorists around the globe.”
Burr added that “technology is going to be a tough thing to deal with” as terrorists communicate in the dark using encryption, “but we’ve got to redouble our efforts to make sure that we’re able to get the communications we need to give us lead time to give us a better understanding.”
“The president talked the other morning about ISIL was contained. America learned within 24 hours, it’s not contained. It’s rampant everywhere in the world that they intend to carry out these horrific acts,” Burr said. “It just so happens the United States is a target. But Paris was easier. And if we don’t get a strategy, tactics don’t make a strategy. So these pinpricks that we’ve had as far as a tactical effort in — in Syria, really is not a strategy.”
They joined other lawmakers calling for French President Francois Hollande to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Washington Treaty, which states “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
Hollande sent fighters to strike several targets in Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, on Sunday.
“You can’t fight ISIS unless you are willing to put a strategy together that deals with North Africa, the failure in Libya, the problems in the Sinai, Iraq and Syria, and the Afghanistan- Pakistan region,” Nunes said. “…What are the Europeans going to do now that it appears like ISIS has rooted themselves into Europe with a command and control structure?”
Burr stressed that “we’ve got to have individuals on the ground that are collecting intelligence.”
“We’ve got to have better intelligence about targets. We’ve got to make sure that we carry the fight to ISIL, which means probably more Special Operations efforts in that region,” he said. “You can’t do this with 3,500 Americans in an advisory role, 50 Special Forces, which we’ve just upped in the last two weeks. That’s not enough to — to make a big impact.”
“But mirror that with a global effort and we can take this fight to a very difficult and barbaric terrorist organization.”
Nunes added that “there’s no possible way to screen” Syrian refugees coming to the United States.
“It should be stopped immediately. Look, we feel for these refugees, but the bottom line, if you don’t want refugees, then you have to go into Iraq and Syria and defeat ISIS,” the House chairman said.
“And, you know, the challenge is — you know, people talk a lot about boots on the ground. Look, we’ve had boots on the ground there for over a year. The problem is, as Chairman Burr said, trying to use pinpricks with our — for airstrikes and, you know, having — you know, the first rule of war for the Obama administration is not to take collateral damage,” Nunes continued.
“Well, that’s not war. And if that’s what you’re going to — if you’re going to strap down the United States Air Force and our allies with these types of rules of engagement, we are never going to win and you’re going to see more and more refugees flood into Europe.”