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

in National, World

Shrinking U.S. trade gap shows economy’s underlying strength

trade

The U.S. trade deficit fell in July to its lowest level in five months as exports rose broadly, signaling underlying strength in the economy amid concerns about a global growth slowdown.

in Local

Third UMass Gang Rape Defendant Found Guilty

Courtesy of Jerrey Roberts, Daily Hampshire Gazette. Adam Liccardi

A Hampshire Superior Court jury deliberated for 12 hours before yesterday afternoon finding Adam Liccadi guilty on three of four counts of aggravated rape.

in Local

West Springfield Police Probe Launched After Prisoner Escapes

news-polic

Jose Rubet of Springfield was arrested August 22 after allegedly leading officers on a high-speed chase into Agawam. He was arrested and taken to lockup, where he later produced a knife which he waved at officers before escaping through an emergency exit.

in National

Kentucky clerk jailed for denying same-sex marriage licenses

20-overlay2

The clerk has refused to issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, citing her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian.

in Local

Hotel Northampton Workers Plan To Unionize

Hotel Northampton workers march to unionize. Courtesy of Jerrey Roberts, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Around 50 Hotel Northampton workers marched through downtown Tuesday night to announce their intention to bargain collectively. The group attempted to present their union petition to hotel owner Mansour Ghalibaf, who refused to come out of his office to accept it.