Military leaders: ISIS threatens US 'right now'

The Islamic extremist group that has seized large portions of Iraq presents a direct threat to the United States, a trio of top military officials told lawmakers on Thursday.

The group known as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) is already “posing a threat to us right now,” Army Lt. Gen Joseph Votel, the president’s pick to run U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
 
The insurgency also endangers U.S. regional interests, as well as those of European allies, he told the panel during a confirmation hearing.

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“The defense of the homeland starts with the away game,” Navy Adm. William Gortney told lawmakers.

“We have to stop it there before it comes to the homeland ... We’ll deal with the consequences if we fail in that regard,” said Gorney, who has been tapped to run U.S. Northern Command and NORAD.

Their comments follow similar remarks from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who on Wednesday said ISIS poses an "imminent" threat to the United States.

President Obama has ordered about 650 troops to Iraq to advise and bolster government forces in an attempt to combat the extremist group that has marched within miles of Baghdad.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) asked Votel if the U.S. should adopt a “Machiavelli[an]” approach and allow ethnic forces inside Iraq to fight each other, with America watching on the sidelines.

The three-star general said it was an available option, but he did not want to make any judgments until U.S. assessment teams on the ground in the country reported back to the Pentagon.

Army Gen. John Campbell, the administration’s choice to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, couldn’t give a “high, medium or low percentage” in terms of the risk, noting there hasn’t been a “9/11 type attack” in years but “not because people haven’t tried.”

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