News

Pentagon: Islamic State threat ‘beyond anything we’ve seen’

Pentagon: Islamic State threat ‘beyond anything we’ve seen’

ISIS: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Aug. 21. Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

By Missy Ryan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The sophistication, wealth and military might of Islamic State militants represent a major threat to the United States that may surpass that once posed by al Qaeda, U.S. military leaders said on Thursday.

“They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon.

Hagel’s assessment of Islamic State, which gained strength during Syria’s civil war and swept into northern Iraq earlier this summer, sounded a note of alarm several days after the group posted a video on social media showing one of its fighters beheading an American hostage kidnapped in Syria.

Asked if the hardline Sunni Muslim organization posed a threat to the United States comparable to that of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hagel said it was “as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen.”

“They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of … military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Hagel spoke as the United States continued attacking Islamic State targets in Iraq. In the past two weeks, U.S. drones and fighter jets have conducted 89 airstrikes against militant targets in northern Iraq.

So far, President Barack Obama has sought to limit his renewed military campaign in Iraq to protecting American diplomats and civilians under direct threat. Obama ended the war in Iraq that killed thousands of American soldiers and consumed U.S. foreign policy for nearly a decade,

Even after the gruesome killing of U.S. journalist James Foley, Obama is seen as unlikely to deepen his near-term military involvement in either Iraq or Syria as he seeks to avoid becoming embroiled in another messy Middle Eastern conflict.

But U.S. officials say they have not ruled out escalating military action against Islamic State, which has increased its overt threats against the United States since the air campaign in Iraq began.

‘APOCALYPTIC, END-OF-DAYS VISION’

“We haven’t made a decision to take additional actions at this time, but we truly don’t rule out additional action against ISIL if it becomes warranted,” Ben Rhodes, a senior Obama aide, told National Public Radio earlier on Thursday, using another name for Islamic State.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said officials were worried about the possibility that European or U.S. nationals, radicalized after fighting in Iraq or Syria, would return to their home countries.

Dempsey suggested Islamic State would remain a danger until it could no longer count on safe havens in areas of Syria under militant control.

“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of- days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated,” Dempsey said.

“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 non-existent border.”

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and David Alexander; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Recent Headlines

21 hours ago in Entertainment, Sports

You can stream the Super Bowl

superbowl50helmets

This year, CBS will broadcast the game on TV and stream it live on cbssports.com. The network will play the same commercials on TV and on the live stream.

2 days ago in Sports

The weekend sports schedule

superbowlball

Here’s a look at some of this weekend’s major sporting events.

2 days ago in Sports

The week’s best sports shots

Mark Macaspac leaps off the Super Bowl 50 sign inside Super Bowl City Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in San Francisco. The Denver Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A look at some of the biggest moments and best plays in sports this week.

2 days ago in Sports

Broncos, Panthers set to deliver Super finish to season

16-overlay-4

The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are primed to provide a grand finish worthy of a landmark Super Bowl 50 on Sunday and cap a season of celebration by the National Football League.

2 days ago in National

Making headlines this week

sb50

A look back at some of the biggest stories this week and the headlines you may have missed.