The head of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday accused President Obama of losing the battle against Islamic extremism and pushed for a dramatically increased U.S. role.
Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab Top Foreign Affairs Republican seeks declassification of Afghan intel House passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims MORE (R-Texas) said wants the U.S. to lead a global “coalition of nations” to thwart the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), among other steps.
“We need a combined air-and-ground campaign in Syria now,” McCaul said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. That coalition should be built around Western trainers, regional military forces and members of the Syrian opposition, he added, and should also be focused on bringing down Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Right now, I believe we are losing the war against ISIS and the wider war against Islamist terror,” he said. “The president’s strategy has failed — and the evidence of failure mounts with every terror plot in America, every attack against our ally and every emerging terrorist sanctuary used to radicalize and recruit foot soldiers willing to die in the name of a depraved ideology.”
While authorities have yet to connect ISIS to last week’s killing of four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tenn., McCaul called it another sign of extremists’ persistence.
“Radicalism is on the rise, and war is being brought to our doorsteps,” he said. “If it happened in Chattanooga, it could happen anywhere, anytime.”
The comments signal support for a much stronger U.S. role in the Middle East conflict and represent hawks’ lingering opposition to the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
During his speech, McCaul referred disparagingly both to Obama’s description last year of ISIS as a “JV team” and to an oft-maligned quote from an Obama advisor describing the president’s strategy as one of “leading from behind.”
“We have learned the hard way that leading from behind leads us into danger,” McCaul said. “Indeed, weakness invites aggression.”
Despite its continued insistence that Assad’s days in Syria are numbered, the Obama administration has been criticized for failing to pressure him into leaving. The chaos around the Syrian civil war — which has now stretched into its fifth year and is estimated to have claimed more than 300,000 lives — has created a vacuum that has led to the growth of ISIS.
Earlier this month, Pentagon chief Ash Carter told Senate lawmakers that the U.S. is training just 60 Syrian opposition rebels in its effort to fight the tens of thousands of ISIS adherents.
In addition to claiming sizable chunks of Syria and Iraq, the extremist group has also encouraged its backers to commit acts of violence throughout the globe.
In the U.S., officials are tracking down ISIS plots in all 50 states, FBI Director James Comey recently said, and have recently ratcheted up their scrutiny. ISIS’s ability to communicate with thousands of followers through Twitter, YouTube and other websites has made it an advanced threat unlike anything conceived by al Qaeda, officials say.
“This isn't terror as usual,” McCaul said on Wednesday. “This is terror gone viral.”
McCaul’s committee recently advanced legislation to increase the government’s focus on people who may be susceptible to extremists’ messaging. There were some initial concerns from Democrats that the legislation was overly focused on Islamic extremists — at the expense of white nationalists and other radicals.