from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

Officials on the ISIS Threat and U.S. Strategy

September 12, 2014

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room, U.S. Department of Defense, September 12, 2014.

Rear Adm. Kirby: “Destroying ISIL requires the ultimate destruction of their ideology, and that’s done through good governance and political reconciliation.”

(3PA: U.S. military doctrine defines ideology as: “The interpretation and propagation of a shared belief system that motivates individuals to support terrorist activities.” Doctrine further defines “destroyed” as “a condition of a target so damaged that it can neither function as intended nor be restored to a usable condition.” One thing the past thirteen years have demonstrated is that the Pentagon is unable to destroy jihadist ideology.)

Kerry: U.S. not at war with ISIS,” CNN, September 11, 2014.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it’s a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts.”

David E. Sanger, “Focus on ISIS Stirs Fears That Efforts to Curb Iran Will Recede,” New York Times, September 11, 2014.

We don’t plan to be Iran’s air force in this battle, any more than we plan to be Assad’s air force,” one senior official said on Wednesday, referring to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say,”  Washington Post, September 10, 2014.

Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

Julian E. Barnes and Siobhan Gorman, “U.S. to rely on Local Forces to Fight Islamic State,” Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2014.

“You’re relying on lots of different forces who are in some cases highly unreliable and highly divided,” said a U.S. official. “It’s a delicate balancing act. Unless we play it really smartly, it could really go poorly. There are real risks there.”

Adam Goldman, “Officials say the Islamic State is not an immediate threat to the United States,” Washington Post, September 10, 2014.

The Department of Homeland Security is “unaware of any specific credible threat to the U.S. homeland” from the Islamic State, said Francis X. Taylor, the undersecretary for intelligence and analysis.

A Conversation with Jeh Charles Johnson, Council on Foreign Relations, September 10, 2014.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Jonson: “We know of no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland at present.”

Background Conference Call on the President’s Address to the Nation, White House, September 10, 2014.

Senior administration official: “The President has constitutional and statutory authority to direct U.S. military airstrike operations to deal with the threat posed by ISIL…We want to methodically degrade this threat and build up the capacity of our partners, such that it will ultimately allow for the disruption of this organization...At the same time, look, I think it’s very clear with this President that he does not shoot first and ask questions later.”

Claudette Roulo, “Airstrikes in Iraq ‘Tremendously Effective,’ Pentagon Official Says,” U.S. Department of Defense, September 8, 2014.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren: “With every terrorist that we kill from the air, that is one less terrorist on the ground.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Interview and Audience Q&A at Naval War College in Newport, RI, CNN, September 3, 2014.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: “We will do everything possible that we can do to destroy their capacity to inflict harm on our people and western values and our interests.”