By Alexander Bolton - 06/15/14 02:46 PM EDT
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) warned Sunday that extremist Sunni militants in Iraq pose the greatest national security threat to the United States since the 9/11 attacks.
“I talked to Ambassador Crocker yesterday and he said that this is the greatest threat, national security threat, since 9/11. Al Qaeda owns more territory, more resources. And what's happening in — in Iraq right now is a — really chaotic,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Ryan Crocker served as ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 under former President George W. Bush. He served as ambassador to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012.
McCaul said President Obama should convene the commanders and diplomats who stabilized security in Iraq before the U.S. withdrawal to plan his next steps. But McCaul did not explicitly endorse air strikes to support forces loyal to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“I think he needs to look at his options,” he said.
McCall labeled ISIS an “al Qaeda” faction and noted that Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of al Qaeda’s core group of militants, disavowed it for being too extreme.
Security experts worry ISIS will use occupied portions of Syria and Iraq as a staging ground for attacks against the United States.
“I believe it's one of the biggest threats that we see. When you look at the terrorist training ground operations in Syria and Iraq, I believe it is one of the biggest threats,” McCall said.
Intelligence officials think that more than 70 Americans and as many as 3,000 Westerners are thought to be training and fighting with Sunni rebel groups in Syria, according to The New York Times.
Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a U.S. citizen from Florida, participated in a suicide bombing in Syria last month, fueling concerns.
“They have half a billion dollars now in new cash infused. They have our weapons now. It's a highly good recruiting mechanism for them,” McCaul said of ISIS.